Garage essentials for a basic motorcycle toolkit

Build a basic yet useful toolkit for a home motorcycle mechanic with these garage essentials, plus tips on the best emergency tools.

Tool chest in a home garage

by Jim Blackstock |

Whether you strip and rebuild bikes from spindle-to-spindle, dabble in home servicing, or simply adjust your bike’s chain, tools are a bike and man’s best friends. But not those bits of cheap tat laughingly known as ‘the standard toolkit’ kept in a plastic pouch under the seat. Quite simply these are mass produced, cheap, easy to bend/break bits of nastiness made of soft metal – with the exception of BMW toolkits. Most of the spanners are open-ended and prone to ‘opening out’ where the jaws don’t grip precisely and round off the fastener heads. If they have to be used, make sure it’s only in an emergency.

What tools should I be looking for?

To keep your bike’s nuts, bolts and other fasteners in good condition and to ensure they can be undone and removed with ease, nothing but decent tools will do. The temptation to spend a fiver on a big shiny do-everything toolkit is huge, but this is likely to prove a false economy. Cheap tools, although better by being tougher and more precise than the stock crap under your seat, aren’t that precisely made, can deteriorate fast and will eventually damage fasteners, eating into the value of your machine. And what’s the point in paying for tools you’ll never use? If your bike has metric fasteners, then buy a metric-only toolkit. Better still; build a kit specific to your bike, and go for reputable top quality brand names that won’t cost the earth, like Teng, Draper or Halfords.

Is it seriously worth paying that much more?

Yes. Apart from making home mechanics a damn sight easier, there’s also the delight in handling something so precise and perfect. Having splashed proper cash on a toolkit fit for a GP pit crew, don’t then ruin it. Using screwdrivers as chisels or spanners for hammering will knacker them. Either buy the proper stuff, or buy some cheapies you don’t mind blunting and bending. After use, clean tools with a clean, oil-tainted cloth to remove grit and corrosive fluids before storing. And don’t lend them out – more friendships have been ended over the ‘loss’ and damage of tools than poker games or loose women.

Related: Best motorcycle lifts and maintenance benches

Here's some of the essential kit we reckon will get you going in your garage at home.

Socket sets

A socket set is an essential and for most jobs on a bike, a 3/8in drive set will suffice. However, there are larger jobs that will require a meatier 1/2in drive set, such as removing and replacing wheels, for example.

Do-everything combined imperial and metric 384-piece socket sets for £30 look attractive, but will you use it all? Only Harleys have a smattering of old imperial nuts and bolts. A recognised brand of 3/8in drive ratchet (the size of drive-to-socket union), with 8-19mm sockets and a couple of extension bars will tackle most tasks. The Draper set below, for example.

Draper 18 Piece Metric Socket Set 3/8

Draper 18 Piece Metric Socket Set 3/8
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Six-point sockets (8-22mm), 72-tooth reversible ratchet and extension bars, chrome vanadium steel.

For anything over 19mm, such as swingarm spindle nuts, or even smaller engine and suspension mounting bolts but which require a high torque-tightening figure, a heftier 1/2in drive ratchet should be used. Cost can be kept to a minimum by buying specific-sized individual sockets. Alternatively, you can get your 3/8in and 1/2in sockets in one with a bigger set.

Gedore Socket Set

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Gedore Socket Set
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It may seem expensive but bear in mind that this set from Gedore is all the socket-based tools youu2019re likely to need. It has a huge 172 components, covering 1/4in, 3/8in and 1/2in drive sets to cover every need and eventuality and comes with a selection of traditional six-point sockets as well as deep sockets, spark-plug sockets and a host of drive bits, including hexagonal, torx and E-drive.

You also get three ratchet handles with quick-change thumb direction levers and several tools, including universal-joint drives and extension bars. It all comes in a plastic case with metal clips for storage and transport. I’ve used this and it’s seriously impressive.

Find more socket sets here

Spanners

A good set of spanners is also essential and combination style – with a ring at one end and open-ended at the other - offers great flexibility.

Spanners are used when there’s no room to fit a socket. Combination spanners – open-ended one end and a ring spanner (like a flat socket) the other – are the best bet. After buying a quality 8-19mm set, it’s a good idea to back up with a cheaper set of the commonly used sizes as it’s often necessary to hold a bolt as you undo the nut.

Werx Spanner Set

Werx Spanner Set
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This set of metric combination spanners from Werx gets good reviews online and is Amazonu2019s Choice for u2018Spanner setu2019. It features 15 spanners in metric sizes for almost all modern motorcycles (though you may need imperial for older or classic machines) from 6mm to 21mm and comes in a storage roll.

Formed in chrome vanadium steel for durability and strength, they are drop-forged and are a combination design, with open-ended jaws at one end and a 12-point ring design at the other.

Hilka 11 Piece Metric Combination Spanner Set

Hilka 11 Piece Metric Combination Spanner Set
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Reliable and affordable nickel chrome plated, 6-19mm.

Find more spanner sets here

Screwdrivers and allen keys

It’s essential to use the right type of screwdriver, in the correct size. The type you’re looking for will have hardened tips to prevent premature wear (screw heads soon chew up) with large rubber, easy grip handles. Pozidrive (crosshead) sizes #1, #2 and #3 are the minimum required, plus varying sizes of slotted (flat-bladed) drivers.

Recessed (Allen) bolts for bodywork etc, are easily damaged by worn, cheap or ill-fitting Allen keys. Quality keys fit better and last longer, and T-handle keys are easier to use and better for stubborn bolts. Over 10mm, or with a high torque figure, it’s best to use a 3/8in drive ratchet with Allen socket attachments, such as those in the Gedore socket set.

Draper 44 Piece Screwdriver Set

Draper 81294 44pce screwdriver set
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Consisting of 17 screwdrivers, bit driver, 10 insert bits and 16 hex keys, get it all in one. Made from chrome vanadium steel with the screwdrivers having a grippy handle and a sand-blasted tip.

Siegen by Sealey 10 Piece T- Handle Hex Key Set

Siegen by Sealey 10 Piece T- Handle Hex Key Set
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Sealey quality, 2 - 10mm. Chrome vanadium steel.

Silverline T-Handle Wrenches

Silverline T-Handle Wrenches
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Amazonu2019s Choice, this set contains a selection of hexagonal and Torx drive bits, all with a T-handle, making use both comfortable and easy. The long ends of the hex drive bits have rounded heads so you can use them at an angle and both the hex and torx drives have long and short handles for reach or additional torque.

This is a perfect set for removing a bike’s bodywork for example and will cover fasteners with hex or torx bolts (some bikes use both on the same bike).

Find more screwdriver sets here

Pliers

There are few jobs on a bike that invite the use of pliers these days, but they’ll always be handy (freeing off stuck clutch adjusters, removing fuel pipe clips etc). Look for the type with rubber handles so you can hold them with greasy hands. Long-nose pliers are good for inaccessible areas (dropped nuts a speciality); flat-nose offer good grip.

Draper Redline Pliers

Draper Redline Pliers
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A set of pliers will always be useful and this basic threesome from Draper has all you need to get you going. You get a pair of standard square-jaw pliers with serrated grips, a pair of long-nose versions for more delicate or inaccessible jobs and a pair of side-cutters for wires.

They feature soft-grip hands and shoulders to prevent them slipping out of your hands and the jaws are induction hardened for longevity and performance.

Find the right pliers for any job here

Torque wrench

A torque wrench is one of the most frequently used and most important tools you can get. In a nutshell, it’s a ratchet-like device with an adjustable clutch that stops turning the nut/bolt when a predetermined torque figure has been reached. This prevents nut and bolt threads from being over-stretched or breaking off.

Silverline Torque Wrench

Silverline Torque Wrench
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The most common fasteners that need torquing up are rear-wheel spindle mounts, after chain tension has been adjusted, for example. These are generally fairly high figures and this 1/2in drive torque wrench from Silverline is just the job, reading up to 210Nm which should be plenty.

Find more torque wrenches here

Oil filter tool

Oil is an engine’s blood, just as important is the oil filter to strain the oil to capture particles generated by internal wear. To remove a filter when there’s limited room (eg, if you have exhaust pipes in the way) and to install a new one correctly, a chain wrench or filter socket is a must.

Oil Filter Wrenches

Oil Filter Wrenches
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Despite looking like something from a film adaptation of an HG Wells novel, this set of two three-pronged oil filter wrenches could prove invaluable come oil-change time. The three legs tighten on the filter body and grip it to undo the filter so you can change it.

There are other versions available, using straps or chains but these two will cope with filter sizes from 68mm to 130mm and make whipping that old filter off a doddle.

Sealey AK6409 Oil Filter Chain Wrench

Sealey AK6409 Oil Filter Chain Wrench 60-140mm Capacity

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60-140mm capacity, chrome vanadium.

Ruler

One of the best universal tools ever is a steel ruler. Available in various lengths, use it to accurately measure any pre-load adjustment on the rear shock, amount of slack in the drive chain, the tops of the fork legs protruding through the top yoke; the chain adjuster blocks’ position in the swingarm. Or as a guide to cut a line.

Faithfull 300mm x 25mm Steel Ruler

Faithfull 300mm x 25mm Steel Ruler
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Stainless steel, made by a reputable brand, permanent etched measurements, metric and imperial.

C spanner (hooked spanner)

C-spanners are used for adjusting pre-load on rear shock absorbers whose adjustment is via threaded locking rings. Standard C-spanners are prone to wear and there’s only ever one in the toolkit when you need two to lock them after adjustment. Match the original to a quality aftermarket item, with a hinged lever for better purchase.

Other useful items

Oxford Premium Paddock Stands

Oxford Premium Paddock Stands

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At some point, you will need to raise the bike off the ground to carry out some work u2013 removing the wheels for new tyres, for example, or even just changing the oil and you need the bike upright and you donu2019t have a centre stand.

These Premium paddock stands from Oxford get great reviews and won a Best Buy triangle from sister magazine RiDE when it tested paddock stands in the past. Basic but well-made and do the job they are meant to do.

Find more paddock stands here

Hilka Tool Chest

Hilka Tool Chest
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Once youu2019ve assembled your toolkit, you need to keep your tools safe and sound. While many here come in storage cases, you may prefer to decant them into a toolbox or chest to keep them handy in one location.

This top-box from Hilka has numerous roller-bearing drawers to house all your tools reliably and smoothly and comes with lifting handles so as long as it’s not too heavy, you can transport it around easily.

Emergency tools to get you out of anything

Essential tools for motorcycles
©Photo: MCN

Apico Compact Chain Breaker And Riveter

Apico Compact Chain Breaker And Riveter

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This is an important bit of kit when you are far from assistance. This chain breaker tool is small and compact - opt for one of these as most breakers on the market are big, heavy and chunky things best suited for your garage, not your bikeu2019s tool roll. It also pays to carry two spare chain links.

Motion Pro T6 Combo Lever

Motion Pro T6 Combo Lever
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You only need one lever because you can use something else u2013 such as a ratchet u2013 to hold the tyre in place while you lever it off with this. Practise changing tyres with one lever and a ratchet, once youu2019ve done a few youu2019ll realise you donu2019t need 20 tyre levers under the rim. My lever also doubles up as my rear spindle spanner. This Motion Pro lever is alloy and super light. Itu2019s not going to be as strong as steel so make sure you're the one to do up the spindle bolt before you set off.

Araldite Rapid Syringe Epoxy 24 ml

Araldite Rapid Syringe Epoxy, 24 ml
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You can just about fix anything metal with this little syringe of magic. Two-part epoxy is a life-saver if you need to fix cracked metal, especially if itu2019s something containing fluid and you have an oil or coolant leak. We once patched-up a smashed clutch with this and a couple of zip ties in an emergency repair. It is fantastic stuff and weu2019d never leave it out of the on-board toolkit. Mix it up and youu2019ll soon get yourself out of trouble when you are a long way from base.

Leatherman Skeletool

Leatherman Skeletool
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You could get away with just a pair of pliers instead of one of these if you want to be really strict. These really are just boyu2019s toys, but they do come in handy and can save you taking extra and unnecessary tools. If youu2019re going to use one then just make sure itu2019s not overflowing with superfluous stuff.

We particularly like this one as it’s light and there’s not too much on it. It pays to keep it closer to hand than the full toolkit as it saves getting the whole set out if something minor breaks. It comes with a bit drivers, a knife, wire cutters, and pliers. Oh, and the most important part is a bottle opener… for the end of the ride, of course.

Black Nylon Cable Ties 100 Pack, 300mm x 3.6mm

Black Nylon Cable Ties 100 Pack, 300mm x 3.6mm
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Very handy items, as many of us can testify. It's also very useful to carry a pair of stronger tie downs too.

Other useful items

Take a ratchet and the few sockets and hex bits you need, rather than the entire set.

Duct tape is also handy. But to save space, and instead of a big, wide roll of duct tape, wrap some round your tyre lever. But you can wrap it around anything, it could even be a pencil, just to keep the size down. The key is packing small.

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