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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Adventure Motorsports


Project Checklist

Tips for the do-it-yourself wrench head

With labor rates hovering around the three digit per hour mark, anyone who is comfortable with a basic tool kit has likely contemplated doing much of the work on their bike themselves. My personal rule is if it requires proprietary tools and specialized training, such as a level two or level three service on a modern bike, I'm better off spending the money to have the dealer perform it using a certified and reliable tech.

Above: A set of socket hex heads and ratchet closed end wrenches make a nice addition to any motorcycle tool kit.

But when it comes to adding on an accessory like an extended windscreen, heated grips or a simple 12 volt adapter plug, that's something a lot of us can handle in our own garage. Nonetheless, with the design of many modern bikes today, there is a hefty amount of puzzle work to do concerning the removal of body work and parts and the order in which parts must be removed and reassembled. So before you get into the first project or the next project on your beloved two-wheeled wonder, read through these tips to make it a simpler task.

  1. Clean out your tool box. If you've been wrenching since you were a child, you have no doubt amassed a great collection of tools. In fact, you may have a number of duplicates that are needless, but they are taking up space in your tool rig and making it harder to locate the tools you need without a lot of digging. Take a cloth sheet or painters tarp and lay it out on the living area floor of the house and deconstruct your kit, placing the things you want to keep on one side and the unwanted on the left. Put the kit back together in a more organized manner (sockets here, wrenches there) and take the rest to the pawn shop or metal recycling outlet. If you have both Metric and SAE tools, consider having two tool boxes to separate them.
  2. Restock your tool box. With all the space you just opened up, you probably need to add a few useful items. A socket set of Hex heads is nice. A set of 3/8 to 1/4 inch and 1/4 to 1/2 inch socket adapters are also nice. If you're working with any Japanese OEM bike, add a set of JIS head screwdrivers or driver bits too. Make it the tool kit that works for you and provides all you need to access various areas of your bike properly with minimal hassle.
  3. Build an electrical kit. At some point we all want to add on an electrical accessory or two - or more... A heated seat, heated grips, GPS, USB phone charger, LED lights... the list goes on. Using a simple plastic organizer box, you can build up a useful kit with several choices of quick-connects - male and female, mini fuses (ATC/ATO/ATM), mini fuse housings, fuse jumpers, a few small rolls of wire and so on. Add to it as needed (great excuse to go to your two favorite stores - the auto parts outlet and the hardware store).
  4. Get an organizer box - or two. I used to recommend people use a simple egg carton to organize screws, bolts, nuts, washers etc.. in the order they are removed so it would be easy to work backwards on the re-install. Until I tripped on that egg carton one day... Simple organizer boxes at the hardware store can provide the same service and you can latch them shut at anytime, to insure you don't spill the contents. You can use a grease pencil to mark the see-thru top with what parts came from where and when you're all done simple wipe the grease off for a fresh start of the next project.
  5. Get the shop manual. As the technology of bikes has advanced, so has the thickness of a shop manual. The days of the 100 page Clymer guide have passed and today shop manuals for most bikes run 500-1000 pages. Get one. Despite their seemingly high price, they are worth their weight in gold for guiding you and cautioning you as you work through your project. A shop manual is also a nice go-along when you get ready to sell the bike. New ones are available at list price from your dealer, but used ones can be had on eBay and Amazon for less.

    So far we've talked about the tools aspects. Now let's talk about the physical and mental aspects of doing your own wrenching.

  6. Enjoy the Moto Yoga Workout. While the young set is over at the gym doing their haute' yoga, you're gonna be on the floor of your garage doing your moto yoga workout. It can't hurt to stretch a bit before you start and every hour or so that you work. Funny how just walking around your bike a lot, accessing tools and taking a trip to the loo now and then can really work up a sweat. Working on your bike actually is good exercise and probably counts as a good cardio workout in a lot of physicians' thinking. 
  7. Drink Water. It's easy to get wrenching and neglect that all important liquid - water. It doesn't mater if it's 30 or 90 degrees in the garage, you're going to break a sweat, so replenish that liquid often. Grab a liter bottle of fresh water on the way from the house to the garage and refill as needed. Imagine working 8 hours and not drinking water. That's what makes the next day even more painful.
  8. Get Ready for Failure. It always happens. you get it all back together and you think you are done, but you're not. Turn the key and a fuse pops, twist the handle bars and they don't move freely. Whatever it may be, you may end up going backwards and finding a solution to the problem. Because we're humans and we don't wrench every day of our lives, this simply comes with the territory. When it happens, take a break, make a trip to the hardware store for no good reason, catch a cat nap. It's funny how a lot of times, the answer comes to you when you have a moment to clear your mind.
  9. Utilize your resources. When you get stuck, consider your resources. The internet is the first that comes to mind and you must keep in mind there is some good and some bad information on the web. Much of what you'll read in forums should be taken with caution. Good friends who know how to wrench are often the best resource. Everyone can teach you something you didn't already know and it's fun to get a fix solved by way of a good compatriot. Knowing a certified tech for your OEM is nice too - especially if you have their cell phone number. Just don't abuse that.
  10. Take a test ride. Any tech worth his or her salt will always take the bike for a test ride after completing a task. If you just added heated hand grips, take the bike for a spin of more than 15 minutes to be sure the fuses are up to the load and nothing is loose and working intermittently. That way when you make that trip over a cold mountain pass the next day or next weekend you'll know it's solid, instead finding out the hard way during your next adventure.

Tom Mehren/Spring 13

Tom Mehren is the author of Motorcycle Restoration 101, available in paperback from the Sound RIDER! store or as an Amazon Kindle downloadable e-book.


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