Making a custom tool kit for your motorcycle is a simple thing to do and can save you a ton o’ money vs buying an off-the-shelf custom tool kit for your bike.
By design, motorcycles have minimum different sizes and types of fasteners (screws and bolts); meaning you don’t need to search through 24 different socket sizes when your bike only uses 6. Refining a tool kit to include only the specific wrenches, sockets, and other tools your particular motorcycle needs simplifies maintenance, keeps the size and weight of your tool roll to a minimum, and makes taking needed tools with you on the road that much easier. There’s also a great sense of pride that comes from having done the work and customized your tool kit yourself.
Great tool kits are built over time
Technically speaking it’s possible to read through the OEM owners manual for your motorcycle and make note of every tool needed for every maintenance task there is, then buy the whole lot of them at once. However — in our experience — the best, most efficient, and most complete tool kits are pieced together gradually, one maintenance task at a time, with their content constantly being refined as they are used.
Whether you already own every tool there is to own, or you own none at all and are starting completely from scratch, here’s our simple step-by-step guide for how to make a custom tool kit for your motorcycle.
How to make a custom tool kit for your motorcycle
Get a Haynes Manual
OK, this isn’t for in your tool kit per se, but everyone who works on their own motorcycle should own the Haynes Manual for the make, model, and year of their bike. These how-to maintenance guides are written by pros, contain some great bike specific maintenance tips, and for the purpose of assembling your tool kit they list the OEM specified size and type of every nut, bolt, and screw there is on your motorcycle (along with their torque specification) as well as every specialty tool and other supply you may need while working. In short, all the information you need to help make sure your selection of tools is correct.
Get a tool roll
If you’re going to build a custom tool kit you’re going to need somewhere to keep your tools. Something compact and easy to take on the road: a motorcycle tool roll.
Toll rolls are small, inexpensive, easy to use, and can be carried on any motorcycle. They easily fit in a pannier, top case, tail bag, or other luggage, can be strapped to your fender, your seat, or even worn around your waist.
As your tool kit grows more specialized and complete you might find your tool roll becomes a source of great pride (not to mention peace of mind), and that it’s you who your fellow riders always turn to when something goes sideways and needs fixing out on the road.
Make your tools and tool roll identifiable
A great habit to get in to right from the start is marking your tools and tool roll in a unique way to make them easily identifiable.
When working at the side of the road among other riders each with their own assortment of tools, every wrench and socket can start to look the same. It’s easy for tools to get mixed up or disappear. You are well advised to mark your tools in a unique and easily identifiable way.
One simple way to identify your tools is to wrap a strip of colored duct tape around them. Seeing a bright band of red, green, or whatever color tape you prefer, immediately identifies that tool as belonging to you. It also makes a convenient way to carry your supply of duct tape.
Another option is to use a dab of paint or nail polish to identify your tools. Put a colored dot or some other recognizable mark on every item in your tool kit. This method often works better than duct tape on smaller items.
A quick note about tool weight
Tools can get heavy. Unfortunately the lighter a tool is often the more expensive it is too — titanium wrenches vs steel wrenches for example. But as your budget affords, pay attention to the weight of what you buy. Ounces quickly add up to pounds, grams to kilograms.
As a general target, you should be able to keep a very complete budget tool kit, including tool roll, under 8 lbs (3.6kg). Less if you can afford titanium.
Start with the basic hand tools
Every motorcycle requires the same basic tools — a set of wrenches (metric or SAE), a socket set (metric or SAE), and most often various extensions. What varies from motorcycle to motorcycle is the particular sizes of these things they use. Also, in the case of sockets, the type of sockets (Hex, Torx, etc).
Check your OEM Service Manual or your Haynes Manual to learn the specific tool types your brand of motorcycle requires.
Always work from your tool roll
Whatever motorcycle maintenance you do, always work from you tool roll. This is the best way to confirm that your tool kit includes every tool your motorcycle requires, or learn exactly what it is missing so you can add, subtract, and otherwise refine as needed.
Add whatever you use to your tool roll
Start with an empty tool roll and build your tool kit one maintenance task at a time. Adjusting your chain slack? Add the tools you used for that job to your tool roll. Removing your plastics and gas tank? Add the tools you need for that job to your tool roll. Every tool you use while working on your motorcycle — basic tools, specialty tools, supplies — it all goes in your tool roll after it is used.
After you’ve done a few jobs you’ll find that many if not all of the tools needed for other jobs are already part of your tool kit.
Keep adding what you need
Any time you need something not already part of your tool kit, grab it, put your identifying mark on it, and add it to your tool roll so you have it for the next time. Keep repeating this process until eventually your tool roll holds everything you need. Eventually only the most infrequently used items will remain outside of your tool roll.
Many specialty items that are an indispensable part of motorcycle maintenance should also have a home in your tool roll. This list is by no means complete and will vary from mechanic to mechanic and bike to bike, but here are a few common ones to ponder:
Emergency Repair items:
Oil Change items:
Tire Repair items:
- Tire Repair Kit (tube or tubeless)
- Spare Tube(s)
- Tire Spoons / Levers
- Air Pump
- Axle Nut Wrench or Socket
- Axle Grease
Chain Service items:
Tools too big or too heavy
Some tools or other maintenance items might be too big or heavy for your tool roll (a breaker bar and torque wrench come to mind). Or perhaps they are only used infrequently. You’ll have to decide whether they warrant traveling with you (stow as needed) or if they can be left in the garage.
Share the load
If you are traveling with friends a great way to lighten the load and have less to pack is to share tool carrying duties. For example, there’s no need to carry multiple sets of wrenches or sockets. So for tools such as these that the group has in common create one communal tool kit to be divided up and carried among the group members. This leaves only those specialty tools needed for each of the various motorcycle brands in the group to be carried in addition.
Enjoy the process
Making a custom tool kit for your motorcycle is a hugely rewarding project. All more so after it’s saved your butt out on the road! So enjoy the process. When the time comes you’ll enjoy using it that much more.
Ride safe. Have fun.
Products mentioned in this article
- screwdrivers or screwdriver bits
- metric or SAE wrench set
- metric or SAE socket set
- HEX socket set
- Torx socket set
- torque wrench
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