Firearms Friday: Resurrecting a $79 Rifle, Part II -- Range Report
August 21, 2014
"Learner" Licenses Coming to Your State? They Should.
July 29, 2014
Rules for Buying a Motorcycle on Craigslist, Part 1: The Hunt
September 1, 2014
Winter Workshop: Get Your Kit Together
October 13, 2014
Back in August I harped on, uh, I mean, encouraged people to learn to work on their own bikes. The cold weather will be here soon, and that's when the maintenance and repair season begins. If you're just diving into the wonderful world of motorcycle repair, now would be a good time to gather your tools.
When people say "I don't have any mechanical aptitude." I say bullshit. It's more likely that they never had the right tools. I grew up in a house with a few screwdrivers, some crescent wrenches and some crappy old pliers. My father's attempts at mechanical repair
or maintenance always ended with him pouring sweat, shouting and cursing, and us kids hiding in our rooms until the storm passed. I didn't discover things like socket wrenches and Vise Grips until high school, when my friends and I tinkered with our cars. The right tools can turn a miserable task into a fun learning experience. You can also skin your knuckles and paint yourself into a corner, but hey, it's all about working within your skill level (and expanding it) with the right stuff.
Even the best-maintained bike will yield a list of winter tasks. Many of these you can do yourself. Don't have many tools? That's not much of an excuse. Consider Harbor Freight's 301-Piece Mechanic's Tool Set, for two reasons. First, at $199 it's cheap as hell, and second, the quality is absolutely sufficient for a home mechanic. The general rule for Harbor Freight purchases applies: The higher the number of moving parts, the lower your satisfaction is likely to be. A screwdriver does not have many moving parts. If you can afford a bike, you can afford a $200 tool set.
If you want to buy elsewhere, you can still use the Harbor Freight kit's Product Overview to give you an idea of what you need. Pay special attention to items that turn fasteners, like sockets, hex heads and Torx drives. Here are some other things that will make your garage life easier.
If your home WifFi signal does not reach your garage, you'll want either a hardwired connection, a signal booster or another wireless router for your home network. There is a world of information on your bike out there, and you'd be nuts not to access it. Your free how-to video library awaits.
Haynes or Chilton Manual
Along with Youtube, your shop manual will be your new best friend this winter. Usually the photos aren't the greatest, but that's what Youtube is for.
If you're spending in the garage during the winter, you'll probably want a heater. Check the big box stores or Amazon, but pay special attention to the reviews because some of them are junk.
Magnetic Light and Lighted Mirror
Someday you will drop a bolt somewhere beyond your reach, where it could damage the engine. A lighted magnet on a telescoping rod or on a flexible goose neck will save the day. Same for the lighted mirror, which you can use to locate the dropped fastener or peer into the bowels of the machine.
Someday you will get up from the floor and accidentally kick your tray of tiny fasteners across the garage. Your day stays better with a magnetic one.
Either the rubber surgical-glove type, which keep nasty fluids off your skin, or the fabric type with knuckle protectors. There's a reason professionals use these things.
Lift or Center Stand
My wife got me a motorcycle lift for my birthday, and it has been fantastic. You could probably get by with a center stand, but you'll definitely need one or the other.
Spark Plug Socket
This is often some weird size that doesn't come in standard socket sets. Check your bike to see what size you need, and make sure it's a thin-wall socket.
When you need it, you need it. Comes in handy for tight spaces.
Did you tighten that cam holder too much, or not enough? Either way you have a problem. Get it exactly right with a torque wrench. This is one time you might not want to go to Harbor Freight.
The oil and other fluids you drain out have to go somewhere! Get a sealable, purpose-made oil container, not just a plastic tub. That way you can easily transport it to your local gas station for disposal.
The cheapest trickle charger will do the trick. This will keep your battery in good shape for the spring.
No doubt there are others I'm forgetting. But this list will get you going. You can probably get the Harbor Freight kit plus the above tools for $400, which is the cost of, say, a comprehensive 12,000-mile checkup for your bike, valve adjustments included. After that it's pure savings, which you can apply to your accessories or road trip funds. There's also the pleasure of listening to guys complain about how much the shop charged them for this, that and the other, and being able to say casually, "I just did it myself."