For some people, motorcycle maintenance is a natural and integral part of their hobby, for others something best left to the professionals.
Yet you can do many simple bike maintenance tasks yourself and quickly install some accessories without expensive trips to a workshop, if you have three things: your bike's repair manual, some peace and quiet, and decent tools.
Inexperienced DIY mechanics often do not have the latter (yet). A random collection of unprofessional screwdrivers, a much too soft, cheap slip-joint pliers, blunt nippers, and a few poor-quality wrenches are not a great starting point. Nobody can do a good job with tools like that. Without a doubt, working with bad tools is a nightmare you don't want to experience. A few useful, high quality tools, however, can make working on your bike a real pleasure, and can also save money.
Costing little more than the hourly rate charged by a workshop, your first purchase should be a good-quality, reasonably extensive socket wrench set with a large (1/2 inch) and a small (1/4 inch) ratchet, lots of sockets, bits, bit holder, universal joints and extension bars. This will enable you to undo the vast majority of screw connections on your motorbike, including in hard-to-reach places. They don't have to be the most expensive professional tools, but definitely go for chrome-vanadium steel. Also useful are sockets with flank-drive, which will even undo many a damaged hexagon bolt. For example, the Rothewald socket wrench set 1 – or Rothewald complete set 2 – with combination wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and additional 3/8-inch ratchet. If you own a Harley or a British classic, you will, of course, need imperial tools. Rothewald imperial tool set 3 – incl. combination wrenches and ball end Allen keys.
You often need a second tool to hold nuts, so a large combination wrench set is also essential, unless included in the socket wrench set 4. You should also have a pliers wrench set; e.g. from Knipex 5, a medium hammer (300 g), a caliper gauge for measuring bolts etc. 6, a voltage tester 7 – for tracking down electrical faults, a set of cable terminals with a suitable crimping tool 8, a roll of self-amalgamating insulating tape 9 and a set of brushes for removing dirt and corrosion 10.
Now you have the basics covered!
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Although the bits in the socket wrench set will also work for slotted, cross-head and hexagon socket screws, sometimes you will probably prefer to use conventional screwdrivers because they are sturdier. So unless they are included in the socket wrench set, you will want a screwdriver set 11. If there are lots of cross-head or slotted screws on your bike, an impact screwdriver 12 is a great help, as they are often really tight and get damaged easily. The ideal tools for hard-to-reach hexagon socket screws are ball-end hex keys because they can be inserted at an angle. They have come right down in price nowadays, 13 – not needed if included in the socket wrench set. A tap with the Variohammer rubber or plastic hammer 14 can often help to loosen parts on your bike that are stuck fast. A standard steel hammer would often do more damage than good in such cases...
At some point you will probably have to remove a bike part that is fastened with a circlip or Seeger ring, for which you will need two special pliers, one for internal and one for external rings: Seeger ring pliers set 15. Next you should purchase a battery charger suitable for your bike battery (see all chargers at Louis). If your motorbike doesn't have a centre stand, you should also get yourself a suitable paddock stand, for example, so that you can safely park your machine when working on it, or for the winter. A stand will also enable you to turn the rear wheel to lubricate the chain.
Experienced DIY mechanics who plan to do engine repairs, but also any biker who doesn't have a knack for tightening bolts correctly, depending on their purpose and size, should own a small 16 and a large 17 torque wrench. But don't forget, as solid as these wrenches look, they are only used for tightening, and not for loosening stubborn screws, as this may damage them internally.
With that lot, your DIY workshop would be pretty well kitted out. You only need further tools if you are doing special work. For regular brake servicing, tools like a disc brake piston spreader 18 and a brake bleeder 19 are very practical.
To change oil filter cartridges, you use a suitable oil filter removal attachment for the 1/2 inch socket wrench. If you're going to synchronise a multi-carburettor system, you will need a synchroniser; e.g. from Rothewald, 2 gauges 20, or 4 gauges 21. To track down faults in the ignition without risking damage to the electrical system, you use an ignition voltage tester (which does not cost much at all) 22.
Nor does a multimeter 23 cost a fortune. You use it to find electrical faults in general, and you can even download comprehensive instructions for how to use it on motorcycles at www.louis.de (for further product information, go to the product in the Online Shop). If you own a vintage motorbike, or if you enjoy customising your bike, you will have to repair threads every now and again or cut a thread on parts you make yourself. Not a problem with a good thread cutter and tap set 24.
If the thread of a bolt is damaged, it can often be repaired with a thread file (metric) 25. Unlike a thread cutter, it restores the existing metal rather than removing metal and further weakening the thread. Working in comfort will increase your enjoyment of bike repair. A comfortable creeper seat 26 for working on your motorbike is a useful addition to your workshop. And is certainly no unnecessary luxury, as good posture at the motorbike is not only more comfortable, but also helps you to stay focused on the job you're doing.
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The Louis Technical Centre
Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.
We will get back to you as quickly as possible!
So: send us your technical problem!
- by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
- or by letter to Louis Technical Centre, 21027 Hamburg
These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.
Thank you for your understanding.
Louis DIY Mechanic Manual
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