Basic Tools

Below you will find a list of basic tools for do it yourself motorcycle repair and maintenance. I have tried to explain a little about why they are important and my personal preferences for each. The basic tools on this page should get you through most regular maintenance and some simple repairs.

More complex repairs will require Advanced Tools. I am working on that page now.

Hand Tools

  • Allen Wrenches
  • Feeler Gauges
  • Flashlight
  • Hammers
  • Impact Drivers
  • Locking Pliers
  • Multimeter or Test Light
  • Picks
  • Pliers
  • Ratchets
  • Screwdrivers
  • Sockets
  • Spark Tester or Spark Plug
  • Telescoping Magnet
  • Wrenches

If you know what it is that you are looking for and want to do some bargain hunting, shopping online can save you time.

Locking Pliers

10 in. Professional Curved Jaw Locking Pliers
Locking pliers are commonly referred to as Vise Grips, like tissues are called Kleenex. Most tool companies make locking pliers. They make them, but they do not always make them well.

Vise Grip™ brand is my first choice for locking pliers. They make a high quality product that works well. After trying several versions, most of which I threw away after one use, I always bet my knuckles on a Vise Grip.

That being said, not everyone has the budget to purchase the top of the line tools. Especially if you are not going to use them often. There are many places you can get pliers and other basic hand tools on a budget.

Multi-Meter or Test Light
When diagnosing electrical problems, a multimeter is required. When used on the voltage setting you can test battery, charging system output, taillight, blinkers and test points for power.

When used on the Ω or Ohms setting, the meter will test individual components of the ignition system. For example: coils, ignitor, computers and CDI boxes. Ω is used for continuity testing of wire harness.

We have found that a reasonably priced meter from Harbor Freight often works just as well as our Snap On meter when testing for continuity.

7 Function Digital Multimeter With Backlight

When working on Japanese motorcycles, I have found that SnapOn™ and MAC Tools™ are the clear choice to work with for several reasons. First, the handles are carb clean and chemical resistant. Caution: the handles on most Craftsman™ screwdrivers will simply melt and become gooey in the presence of some chemicals.

Also, I have also noticed that the SnapOn phillips screwdrivers always fit bikes best. They turn without slipping, due to the tip shape.

If I were doing carpentry work I would use a Craftsman screwdriver because their pointed tip holds best in lumber screws.

Also, some screwdrivers are equipped with a hex shaped shank. This is so you can put a wrench on the shank to give you more twisting leverage.


Sockets come in 6pt (6 point) and 12pt, shallow and deep. Six point or 6pt sockets are hexagonal shaped inside. Meaning they have 6 sides.  12 points sockets have 12 sides, but are still used on a hex nuts. This allows easier access in cramped spaces, because the socket will go on a nut quicker.

Six point sockets are still preferred though, as not to strip a hex head.

Deep sockets are used to remove a nut deep down on a stud or bolt.  For example a spark plug or exhaust nut.


Wrenches also come in 6pt and 12pt and various styles and configurations. There are box, or closed style, open end, offset, ratcheting and adjustable. They come in metric & SAE sizes.

Unless you require a specialty wrench, most are purchased in sets that contain a range of sizes. I find that the best time to purchase basic wrench and screwdriver sets is during pre-Christmas sales. US stores usually put them on sale for Father's Day also.

7 Pc Metric Universal Combination Wrench Set

Other Basic Tools

  • Carburetor Cleaner
  • Drain Pan
  • Electrical Tape
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Heat Shrink Tubing
  • Lubricant
  • Parts Tray
  • Rags or Paper Towels
  • Safety Glasses
  • Yamabond or other sealer, "not silicone"
  • Thread lock

Carburetor Cleaner

Is carb clean really a basic tool? Yes it is. We use it to clean not only carburetors, but surfaces that need to accept a gasket or sealer, handlebars that have grip glue or tape residue, greasy chains caked with grit, etc.

After years of using different products I find that SuperTech, the WalMart brand, works really well. It does not melt most forms of plastic and rubber as other brands can. It also works well for starting bikes.

Occasionally, I do run into plastic that smears in contact with the SuperTech carb clean, so always test it in an inconspicuous area.

Drain Pan
Please buy a real drain pan or use an old metal pot. Do not use a plastic dish from your last barbecue or a cat litter pan just because its cheaper. Many plastics are not chemical resistant. They are not designed to contain gasoline and other engine fluids. If you drain engine fluids into a non chemical resistant pan it will soften and could collapse when you try to pick it up. Carb clean or gasoline could eat a hole right through the pan and then you will have a mess on your hands.

Drain pans designed and sold for the purpose of automotive and power sports repair will not soften or fail under normal conditions. Many also have spouts for pouring the fluids out at your local recycling center. The best pans have lids so you can cover it and transport it to the local automotive store or township recycling facility. You also do not have to worry that the dog or kids will get into the antifreeze.

Most are probably too tall to fit under your bike unless you have it on a stand or work table. Measure your bike's clearance before purchase, it will save you a headache later on.

Waste Oil Storage Container

Heat Shrink Tubing

Don't forget to seal your wire splices with heat shrink.  It adds tensile strength to wires, is flame retardant and protects them from fraying. 

Heat Shrink Tubing tubing forms a protective, insulated, water-resistant covering over wiring splices, crimp terminals and solder connections.  It conforms to objects of nearly any shape.  You can cover a number of wires to form a mini harness.  

It gives your wiring repair a clean, professional look. Which can be a plus when selling the bike.  No one wants to see a bunch of wire splices in the harness.

127 Piece Heat Shrink Tubing Set
If you are working on a personal watercraft or a quad that you know will see serious water and mud, you may want to look for tubing labeled marine or water proof.

Safety Glasses
Don't risk your vision because you think you do not look cool while wearing safety glasses. Many places sell some really nice styles that look more like sunglasses. No one will ever realize that they are not regular sunglasses.

UV Safety Glasses with Grey Lenses

Yamabond or other sealer, not silicone!

Silicone is a wonderful product. RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone is most commonly used as a gasket maker or sealant. It works very well under wet, or water contact, conditions.

However, the problem with using RTV on motorcycles is that when used on engine side covers small globules of silicone will break off inside. Eventually clogging oil pump pickup screens or completely blocking bearing oil passages.

We find that when repairing engines, side covers with excessive amounts of silicone usually have 50% or more of the oil pickup screen clogged.

There are many products that are designed for engine use and are a wiser choice. Most manufacturers recommend that you use their proprietary product. These include:

  • Hondabond
  • Suzukibond
  • Kawibond
  • Yamabond

Over the years, we have found that Yamabond has a better viscosity which prevents dripping. It also has superior sealing capabilities and is designed for the intense heat of motorcycle and ATV engines.

After installation is complete, it is easy to remove the excess from the outside of the engine. Giving you a cleaner look.

You can purchase Yamabond at your local Yamaha dealer or thru many online retailers. It is carried by Chaparral.
Yamalube Yamabond 5 Liquid Gasket

Just make sure you get the correct one. It comes in a form 4 that is semi drying. That one doesn't give you the same seal as the regular form 5.

These basic tools should get you through most regular maintenance and some simple repairs. Each Repair Advice Q & A page includes a list of any necessary tools required for that repair.

More complex repairs will require Advanced Tools. I am working on that page now.

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If you do not agree with our advice, are not capable of performing the repairs as described or doubt the reliability of our sources, please consult a local mechanic, service manual or someone else more knowledgeable than us before tearing your bike down or buying parts.

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