Essential Motorcycle Specialty Tools
Most motorcycle projects can be done with a basic set of tools, however some jobs will requires some specialty tools. Now what do I mean by specialty tools? These are tools that are less common and definitely not included in any kind of pre made tool kit. If you plan to do engine rebuilds or major engine work of any sort then I suggest you give this list a look. Many of these tools I considered to be essential motorcycle tools.
1. Torque Wrench
A torque wrench is a ratchet that allows you to know or limits the amount of torque you are applying on fastener. This is essential for most internal engine work. You can find the torque specifications for the fasteners on your motorcycle in a service manual. Torque wrenches can be simple beam style or a fancy digital style wrenches. The click style torque wrench is the most common. This type allows you to set the desired torque and it will "CLICK" and break away when the set torque has been reached. They come in in different drive sizes just like ratchets. It only takes braking something once because you over torqued a bolt to buy a simple torque wrench. I highly suggest you invest in one.
2. Breaker Bars
Sometimes you're going to need to apply more torque to a fastener than what you can get out of your ratchet or combination wrench. Of course you can out a piece of pipe or something on your wrench or ratchet to give you more leverage. However, if you don't want to do that, you can pick up a set of breaker bars. Breaker bars are like ratchets with a square drive end that fit into a socket but they do not have a ratcheting feature. They are built to take abuse. They are typically longer than standard ratchets as well because the whole idea is to increase the moment arm which allows you to apply more torque safely.
3. Oil Filter Wrench
Another useful tool is the oil filter wrench. There are many different types of oil filter wrenches but they all are supposed to do the same thing. They assist in removing stubborn external oil filters. Please never use one to install an oil filter as you risk getting the oil filter seized onto the engine. If your bike has an internal oil filter like the KLR 650, then obviously you will not need one of these but most modern bikes have external oil filters. You could always find some creative way to get an oil filter off but why bother when these tools are so cheap and effective.
4. Clutch Basket Tool
If you are going to be replacing your clutch then you'll want a clutch basket holding tool. These are sometimes also called a pinned spanner tool. This tool clamps onto the clutch basket to hold it in place while loosening the crankshaft nut. Sometimes you do the job without one of these tools by using an impact gun but I still prefer to have one on hand. They can also be used to hold sprockets, flywheels, and other large cylindrical things in place. If you’re going to work on clutches of any type I highly recommend you have one.
5. Digital Multimeter
Modern motorcycles have many electronic gadgets and gizmos, but even older bikes have enough to warrant having a digital multimeter as part of your tool arsenal. Multimeters can be used to trace down electrical shorts, test voltages, current, resistance, continuity, and more. You could chase an electrical bug for days without a tool to help you locate the problem. Multimeters are pretty inexpensive these days and learning to use one is not difficult.
6. Heat Gun
A heat gun can be used in a myriad of ways. Shrinking heat shrink, removing stickers and labels, softening plastic that needs to be formed, heating up a bearing or case when a blow torch is too much heat, removing paint and adhesive, or gaskets, and much more. You’ll want to get one that has adjustable heat and blower settings. This allows you to dial in your heat settings so you can use it on heat sensitive materials without applying too much heat.
8. Snap Ring Pliers
Snap rings, circlips, or c-clips, are retaining rings that are used to keep cylindrical things like bearings retained. There will be a groove on a shaft or in a casting that the ring snaps into. There are 2 holes in these clips and you will need a set of these pliers to grab the clip in these small holes and decompress the ring for removal. Trying to do this without a set of snap ring pliers is difficult at best and impossible at worst. The little holes in the snap rings can be different sizes based on the size of the snap ring. So be sure to get a kit of pliers that have different sizes or pliers that have interchangeable heads like the one shown in the picture.
9. Compression Test Kit
If your motorcycles just wont run and you have fuel, air, and spark then you very well may have low compression. The only way to test that is with a compression test kit or a leak down tester. Low compression is common on used bikes and can be caused by worn rings, a bad head gasket, worn valves and seats, or any number of combinations of these issues. So being able to test the compression is important. You'll need to be able to see if you have the cylinder PSI called for in your service manual. These kits are not that expensive and are easy to use. They'll come with a variety of spark plug hole adapters to accommodate different engine sizes.
10. Leak Down Test Kit
Another way to check the compression level of your cylinder is to use a leak down test tool. These types of compression testers work by filling the cylinder with compressed air that you must supply via an air compressor and then the tester measure the % of compression loss within the cylinder. This means you don’t have to turn the engine over, you just have to make sure the valves are closed (TDC). You will need a compressor for this to work so using these kits in a mobile type application is more difficult than a simple compression test kit. However, these types of compression tools are more accurate and can still work if your engine has an auto-decompression mechanism.
11. Brake Bleeder Kit
If you’ve bled brakes before, you know how much of a messy pane it can be. Pump the level/pedal, hold pressure, crack the bleeder nipple, then close it quickly, and then hope you didn’t let air back in the line. Okay, so there are a lot of tricks to make this process easier and less messy. However, nothing is as easy as having a good brake bleeder kit to help with the process. It makes the process straightforward and much cleaner. Brake fluid is nasty stuff and it will deteriorate paint, decals, and all sorts of other things. So anything that can keep the good ol’ DOT fluid where it is supposed to be, is a win in my book.
12. Flywheel Puller
Almost all motorcycle flywheels/rotors are pressed onto the crankshaft. So if you find yourself in a situation where you need to pull the flywheel, then you’ll need some way to remove it. Most manufacturers will be happy to sell you their highly specialized flywheel puller tool for your specific make and model. However, a generic flywheel puller like the one pictured will work 90% of the time. They work by having bolts that screw into the flywheel in two, or three locations, then those bolts pass through a puller hub. The center hub then has a large bolt/leadscrew that passes through the center and will push against the crankshaft when screwed in. These pullers can be used for other applications as well.
13. Case Separator
If you tackle some more in depth mechanical repairs, like servicing the transmission or your motorcycle, then you'll need to split the crankcase, in most instances anyway. There is there a lot of friction holding the two halves of a crankcase together. Sealant/adhesive, bearings pressed into the case, and alignment pins. All these things make it difficult to split a case even when all fasteners have been removed. Similar to a flywheel puller, a case splitter fastens to locations on one side of a crankcase and pushes against the crankshaft or an output shaft. Hopefully you don’t find yourself needing these too often, but when you do they are nice to have.
14. Bearing Splitter/ Puller
So you’ve split your motorcycles crankcase and pulled the transmission but now you have a stubborn bearing stuck on a transmission shaft. You apply heat, and do everything you can but you just can't pull the bearing from the shaft. I’ve had this happen a few times and there are some tricks you can try but having a bearing puller is the easiest way to go. The principle is similar to the case splitter or flywheel puller tool. They are easy to use and this tool can be used for different applications as well.