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Another top priority for your old bike project will be making sure you have the right kinds of tools and an organized workspace.
If you use the wrong tool for the job, you are only increasing your chances of causing permanent damage to your bike.
Sure you can risk it, but it’s a time-tested fact that using the correct size and types of tools will make rebuilding your old motorcycle easier and quicker.
If you don’t have any tools or don’t have anyone to borrow them from, you might find this to be one of the most expensive parts of your motorcycle project.
Fortunately, if you make the investment in quality tools now, they’re bound to last you for into your motorcycle projects far down the line.
Check under the seat of the old motorcycle you bought, if the original tool kit is still there, hang onto those, they’ll definitely come in handy for the project.
Preparing Your Motorcycle Project Workspace
Next up on your getting started list is to get your workspace set up for your motorcycle restoration.
Detailed requirements, like heating, locks, and lighting are going to depend on when and where (geographically) you’ll be planning on working on your old bike.
To ensure your motorcycle rebuild is a success and to avoid some unnecessary frustration/hiccups down the road, you can make sure your space meets the following general criteria:
- Make sure there’s enough room for you to safely and comfortably move around your bike.
- Ensure there’s enough space to store and organize removed parts.
- Find an area where you can clean/repair removed parts.
- Have a clean space for you to disassemble and rebuild the engine internals.
With those general tips in mind, almost anywhere can be a suitable place for rebuilding an old motorcycle – half of the garage, the basement, the porch, your living room if your wife allows it.
As long as you can keep parts organized and get to the areas of the bike you need to get to, you’ll be okay. More space definitely makes things easier, but it’s not a project killer.
A motorcycle jack or lift table is going to help make working on your bike a whole lot easier too.
Stocking Your Motorcycle Workspace
Stocking your workspace with some general materials/items will help prepare you for different phases of your build.
For parts cleaning and soaking, having a few different buckets or plastic tubs makes things easy. Additionally a place where you can scrape off hard dirt and grime without getting it everywhere is useful. You’ll also want an area where you get wipe parts dry and leave them setting to dry completely.
Some other items that may be helpful in your workspace include:
- Low stools so you can avoid hunching over while working on the bike.
- Engine stand.
- Ratchet straps.
- Stool or table for quick access for the necessary tools for a particular job.
- Rubber/nylon gloves for cleaning parts.
- Eye protection for cleaning parts.
- Rack of shelves for easy part storage and organization.
Motorcycle Parts Storage & Organization for Reassembly (How to Figure Out Which Bolts Go Where)
Since you won’t always be able to reassemble things after you’ve broken them down and cleaned them – waiting for parts, parts in a larger system, etc – you’ll need a place to organize parts for storage so you don’t get confused during reassembly later.
It helps to take pictures along the way – take pictures of the parts when they’re assembled and a few throughout the disassembly process.
Take disassembly notes of your own as you’re following the instructions in your motorcycle’s service manual. Sometimes it’s helpful to describe the process in your own words so you’re not confused by the sometimes vague language in the OEM manual.
Note position and direction of things like gears, shift forks, and washers – sometimes their orientation is critical to the proper operation of your motorcycle. Improper installation can lead to failure or excessive wear.
It’s useful to make notes of any bolts or parts that are broken or missing so you don’t drive yourself crazy later.
In addition to pictures and notes, use plastic bags or boxes with labels to store parts, bolts and nuts that go together. You can store bolts loosely in the holes and positions in the part they came from to make assembly easy.
Loosely assemble components when they’re off the bike can help during reassembly too – i.e. the clutch basket or the transmission gear cluster and shift forks.
Keeping Engine Case Bolts Organized
For engine covers, parts with lots of holes and bolts, and parts that need thorough cleaning or inspection, the follow will help ensure you place the right bolts in the right holes when you put them back on the motorcycle:
- Trace the gasket or outline of the part on a piece of cardboard
- Poke holes around the trace of the part that correspond with the bolt holes.
- Place each bolt in the hole in the cardboard that matches the hole on the motorcycle engine.
Secure the bolts with some tape and another piece of cardboard on top and store it somewhere where the bolts won’t come loose.
When you’re ready to reassemble, you’ll be able to quickly tell which bolts go where.
Standard Tools Checklist
Before you start shearing any bolts or stripping screw heads, here are some of the basic tools you’ll want to have in your workspace before you start working on your old motorcycle:
- OEM Motorcycle Shop Manual
- Metric sockets – 8mm to 27mm
- Socket wrench & socket extender
- Torque wrench – ft-lbs & in-lbs.
- Vice-locking wrench – a pair can be useful
- Needle-nose pliers
- Metric Allen wrench set
- Flat head screwdriver – various sizes
- JIS screwdriver
- Small flat & JIS screwdrivers for carburetor parts
- Metric open wrenches – 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 19mm, 22mm, 27mm
- Feeler gauges
- Manual impact driver – for removing frozen screws
- Breaker bar
- Spark Plug socket
- Circlip spanner
- Extending magnetic pickup tool
- Digital voltmeter/ohmmeter
- Crescent wrench
- Spoke wrench
- Box cutter/razor blades
- Wire brush
- Scrubbing pads
- Rags & Paper Towels
- PB Blaster/WD-40
- Cleaning solution – for dirt, engine grime
- Dish Soap
- Berryman’s Carb Cleaner Spray & Dip
- Wire Stripper/Crimper
- Thin guitar wire/Carb cleaner wire kit
- Oil pan
- Gasket scraper/remover
- Air pump
- Air pressure gauge
- Battery tender
- Gasket maker
- Assembly lubricant
Read more about some of the most important standard tools for your motorcycle project.
Specialty Tools Checklist
In addition to the basic tools above, there will be certain jobs on your vintage motorcycle that will require the use of specialty tools.
These are often tools that are designed for a very specific and single purpose.
Some specialty tools you may need to rebuild and tune your motorcycle include:
- Bearing press/puller – for wheel bearing and engine case bearings
- Valve Spring Compressor – for removing valves from engine head
- Valve seat grinder & grinding paste
- Tire irons – for installing and removing tires
- Spoke Wrench
- Truing Stand – for truing spoked wheels
- Stem nut wrench
- Clutch holder
- Rotor puller
- Vacuum Gauge set – for tuning and syncing carbs
- Timing light – for setting ignition timing
- Thread tap set – for fixing stripped threads
- Piston ring compressor
- Piston pin puller
- Compression tester – for testing cylinder compression
- Auxiliary/supplemental gas tank for easy access to carbs while tuning and syncing
You can certainly find cheap versions of these tools at discount suppliers like Harbor Freight – depending on the specific tool, they can actually work pretty well. Alternatively, you can try your local motorcycle shop, as they often have rental or loaner programs for specialty tools like these.
Read more about specialty and advanced tools for your motorcycle project.
Lift Tables & Jacks
Whether you’re working on a basket case motorcycle project or are performing some routine maintenance, a proper motorcycle lift is going to help make the work easy and help protect your back and knees from constantly bending and crouching.
Working on your bike – especially big projects – can be hard on the body.
Getting the bike up and off the ground makes accessing and seeing what you’re working on so much easier.
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Operating your motorcycle jack is pretty simple.
- Position the jack under your motorcycle along an even lifting point that’s unobstructed by the exhaust, kickstand, or anything else.
- Use tie down straps to ensure the bike stays secure.
- Operate the jack’s lever or lifting mechanism.
- Confirm that the lifting points are solid and continue.
- Lift the bike up to where you want it or to the jack’s limit.
The best lift for your motorcycle really depends on your workspace, the type of bike your have, and the type of work you’re doing.
If you’re got a smaller bike, or only need to jack it up ever once in a while, a simpler lift like a scissor jack stand will probably do the trick.
If you’ve got a larger motorcycle, perform some more involved maintenance, or are working on a restoration project, a bigger lift or even a lift table might be a better choice.
If you’re looking for some ease of organization for your motorcycle, a rolling garage dolly is the way to go.
Simply roll on in, lock the front wheel to the chock, and move your bike around the garage with ease.
If you’ve ever run into storage or organization problems in your garage, a motorcycle dolly is going to make your life a whole lot easier.
It’s also a great thing to have if you’re working on a motorcycle project where you may not be able to easily move the bike around on its own.