Everyone likes to think they know best and provide advice to others...


Obviously, I am no exception to that rule and thought I would share with you some of the things I have learnt over the years. Of course, I am still learning so will add more to this as I think of them or people send them in.


I have also included some of my favourite tools in the section, not just generic items, but those I wouldn’t like to be without.


Here are some of the things Ive tried to record in the hope they may help someone.

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My top tools... The tools I would hate to be without when working on my vehicles


I have a friend who doesn’t have a bench, has only a simple socket set and a few screwdrivers yet builds great bikes. He impresses me as I cannot do without my creature comforts. This is a list of some one what I feel has become essential to me being able to do bike work, after many years of collecting these tools.


I started buying tools when I realised that if I did the work myself it would often be cheaper than taking the car/bike to someone else and I got to keep the tools and the knowledge when the job was done. I’ve kept true to that ethos on most of my projects over the years.


  1. Ratchet spanners. I bought a set of these Blue Point ratchet spanners years ago when they first came out


  1. Multimeter with continuity tester. I mostly use it for its continuity testing and can quickly test wiring and bulbs.


  1. Copper and rubber mallets. I have an old knock-off wire wheel copper mallet for heavy work and a range of rubber hammers for lighter work, none will mark steel or ruin threads on reluctant parts.


  1. WD40/RP7/GT85/etc etc - you can pretty much never have enough penetrating fluid on hard to remove parts


  1. Gas soldering iron with piezo ignition - instant wiring repairs anywhere in a pen shaped unit. perfect when coupled with self adhesive heat shrink tube.


  1. Small / short spanners with flats. the 8mm Mac spanner I found in the bottom of a used tool box i bought is perfect for removing brake nipples intact.


  1. Compressor - Air tools are sometimes the only way to shift crank or clutch nuts. Be careful on small bolts, especially those in alloy.


  1. Welder - I have a MIG and I am no expert, but it works for rough parts, repairs and tacking parts for taking to a professional for full welding, saving time (and money) having them come to you or taking large parts to them.


  1. Toolbox. I have a Snap-on Roll cab or two and love them, nothing else comes close on quality. Tools are heavy when in a big box and the Snap-On units cope well with that weight, other brands work but not all will.


  1. Set of seal picks - simple and effective hooked and straight tools that are cheap as chips to buy and invaluable in use.


  1. Torque wrench - needs to go to low torques and be of good quality.


  1. Breaker bar - for use on bolts that just wont move and need a long lever.


  1. Screwdrivers - you just can never have enough different sizes and shapes of screwdriver


  1. Socket set - buy the best you can afford and then get as many different sizes and shape sockets as you can find.


  1. Exhaust spring puller - I made one of these once, it worked, but $3.99 is all it takes to buy one and avoid skinned knuckles.


  1. Vice - get one with soft and hard jaws. I also have a Jaw Horse, its great for many bike uses.


  1. Parts washer & Blasting cabinet - you can scrub all you can, wire wheel all you like, you can sand all day; but for a really clean part you need to use a parts washer and a blasting cabinet. Try the Chinese sourced units off ebay, they work well for cheap tools. Dishwasher powder in hot water in the parts washer will eat oil, grease, mud and even overspray, just keep checking it as it can eat some alloys.


  1. Simple wheel aligning tool - made from two 1.5m lengths of L shaped angle alloy and some coach bolts with wing-nuts can be used to check frame and wheel alignment.


  1. Brake vacuum bleeder - it is possible to bleed brakes without one, but I cant see why you would - these just work.

Advice... My pearls of wisdom, some of which may on occasion prove helpful


Plenty of little things can make a build or restoration easier and less stressful, here are some of the things I feel may help you on your project(s).


  1. Buy parts when you see them, not just when you need them - there are always parts that are hard to find with older bikes and customs bikes or specials. It is always a good idea to buy parts like bodywork or spares of parts that are no longer available (NLA) new when you see them. The same goes for mod/custom parts like modern forks and wheels as they infrequently become available in some countries, i.e. Australia!


  1. When stripping a bike, always put the bolts back where you removed them from, this will help when you come to put the bike back together. Starting from a huge box of random bolts makes life much much harder.


  1. Always tighten up an assembly properly when you have fitted it, as even if you promise yourself that you will remember to tighten it later you might forget and leaving a few nuts and bolts loose is an easy way to have a nasty accident.


  1. Restore parts in sub-assemblies that you can then store away. i.e. Wheels, bodywork, engine etc. That way you will have a faster build up later, and also you have some parts completed which will help your morale!


  1. Use the forums! Join and become active on the forums for the bikes you are riding and building. The community will save you time and money every time as there is always someone who has done a task or has a hard to find spare part and are willing to help you out with advice and links to cheap parts.


  1. Special tools can often be made. Seal drivers from old plastic pipe, fork stanchion removers from broom handles, old clutch plates bolted together for hold tools, and many many other hick inventions! Don’t let the lack of a tool stop you, search the ‘net and someone will have an idea to help you do the job. Failing that check ebay, sometimes NOS tools are cheaper and easier to find than you might have thought.


  1. RTFM... Yeah, Read the manuals... Seems simple, and many OEM ones are downloadable these days and there is always the Haynes to take into the garage with you.


  1. Depending on the type of plastic used in the bodywork you may be able to repair it with the glue plumbers use to ‘weld’ plastic pipes, you don’t always need to weld or use a fancy glue.


  1. Bodywork can often be welded with a soldering iron and filler rod of either old body panel parts or cable ties. Practice on an old spare panel first.


  1. Always renew the forks seals... If you don’t they will probably leak with a week of you finishing your build... yes I speak from experience... it’s much quicker to do them when the bike is apart than stripping a bike you would rather be riding.


  1. Always renew bearings and seals. I could say ‘Especially if the parts came to you from an unknown source and are dusty’, but just do them anyway, you will save having to redo them later.


  1. Test all electrical items you have in your spares stash using the tests and values in manual, this will save you struggling to locate the electrical problems with any faulty units you have fitted later.


  1. Always solder joints or repairs in the loom. twisting wires and taping them is not a permanent repair and will leave you stranded later, when you forget to go back solder them properly.


  1. Speak to the experts - Don’t be afraid to seek advice from those who have sold you parts or you will buy from, but do spend money with the helpful ones to keep them on the scene, spending time advising you means they are not working.


  1. Fit new brake seals and pads when fitting new brakes. Sounds obvious, but brakes will save your life.


  1. Check staple depth when stapling seat covers. if you staple through the cover it can rip at those pin holes later.


  1. Beware of water and magnesium parts. Water can collect in the lower edges of clutch covers inside old engines that sit unused and unloved, this can oxidise the magnesium and put a pin hole in the outside of an engine cover, with a crater on the inside. Always remove and check old covers you buy even if they look fine.


  1. Always put bolts or plugs in threads on parts going for powdercoat even when the ‘coater says he will do it for you... they often lie it seems. If they have coated the threads you will need to tap them with the right size taps, you cannot just jam in the bolts as they will break off.


  1. Check bearing size charts when building specials, you may be able to get a bearing to fit a parts like a wheel and a different sized axle from standard, by buying a different sized bearing rather than having an axle made or a sleeve fitted.


  1. A cheap and effective bearing remover is a Rawl bolt. do it up tight as you can and bash the bearing out from the other side once you have heated the surrounding part.


  1. With silicone hoses use clamps that have a smooth underside as the type with the slots or the worm drive showing through will tear through your sexy and expensive silicone hoses in seconds.

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