This is the bare minimum set of basic workshop tools that we recommend you have for work on motorcycles.
This is in addition to the motorcycle-specific tools that we mention in that other post. Those are just (or mostly) for motorcycles. These ones you’re likely to use on a car, truck, home maintenance, or a variety of other places.
Of course, if you’re going to maintain a car, you’ll need additional things — specialty jacks and so on.
But this tool kit will get you pretty far, too.
A lot of this may seem obvious. But when I started out, I had to buy all my own tools. Before this, I had been just using my Dad’s tools, or borrowing sets from friends, or using bits and pieces that I had. When I spent about $500 and invested in a complete set of tools a wave of calm washed over me. I’d recommend it to anyone!
By the way, this post contains affiliate links. If you buy from them, I get a commission from Amazon. It doesn’t make what you buy more expensive, and there’s no way you can save the money (e.g. I can’t get discounts). I’d appreciate it if you use the links to support this site and the really time-consuming archive work I’m doing.
General Workshop Tools — Summary
The following is a brief summary of the general workshop tools you’ll need to do motorcycle maintenance.
Click through to get more information on each one.
Metric/Imperial Socket set — Essential tools
Actually, most of the time I use a metric-only socket set, as nearly every motorcycle I’ve owned has been metric.
But I do eye some imperials… I really do think the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight is a looker and I want to own one one day!
So it’s good to have a large, high quality combined metric and imperial socket set. It’s OK to have just one driver size, and I’d recommend 3/8 inch drivers (drivers are always in imperial, even in metric sets) for a happy medium and maximum versatility.
The reasons I like the Milwaukee set are that a) it’s beautiful (it’s like opening a box of jewellery every time) and b) the sockets have a square edge which make them really easy to grab with a big wrench if you need extra torque. Awesome!!
If you want to get something functional (but less functional than the Milwaukee) and a lot cheaper, get the AmazonBasics set which also comes with Allen keys and wrenches.
Allen keys/Hex keys — More essential tools
You need a hex set. With some motorcycles you need star drivers, but you’ll still end up needing hex keys.
Many a home mechanic feels like they probably have a set of hex keys from all the times they’ve assembled Ikea furniture. But there’s a lot of pleasure in having a COMPLETE set, labelled, so you can find each piece every time you need it.
Wrenches — To Open Anything
It goes without saying you’re going to need wrenches for wrenching…
There are many other kinds of wrenches worth owning, like ratcheting wrenches, ones with flexible heads, low-profile wrenches and so on. But a basic set is a great starting point.
Screwdriver set — Get a complete set
You only need one screwdriver at a time… but you’ll end up using the entire set.
It’s very interesting how different lengths provide different sense of leverage, even though the motion we’re using is torsional.
The Craftsman set I recommend is super high quality — I’ve used them to bludgeon things open and the things still stand up to everyday use.
You might not think you need a hacksaw, but here are a few times I’ve found them incredibly useful:
- Making a groove in a snapped bolt so that I could pull it out with a screwdriver
- Cutting down unnecessarily long bolts
- When removing an ugly extra bit of metal that was holding on a piece of fairing that I removed (on a Ducati Multistrada 1000DS that I was modifying)
It’s not the tool you’ll use most often, but you’ll be glad you have it one day. Again, it’s not expensive!
Locking pliers — Extremely useful, like extra pair of hands
I only found out what locking pliers were in the last few years, when one came in one of my tool kits. Since then, I’ve sworn by them.
You use locking pliers to
- Hold on to something as you solder or weld it
- Clamp down on a hose that’s leaking
- Lock on to a nut as you undo the bolt on the other side
- Get a bit of extra torque on something you’re trying to undo
You can just use pliers, but when you use a pair of locking pliers, you can use the energy you otherwise would have used on clamping to twist instead.
Plier set — General tools
Lastly, everyone needs a good set of pliers.
I find it odd that pliers tend to go bad every 5-10 years. They don’t “rust”, they just lose the ability to move freely. That’s despite buying very high quality ones.
So, these are the highest-quality ones I can find at an affordable price. I don’t mind replacing them every 10 years, but see if you can go further by maintaining them well.