Basic Tools for Bike Maintenance
I am not a mechanic or a representative of any motorcycle or tool manufacturer or anything else official. This page is only my notes on doing this procedure myself. Although I believe what I have documented here is correct, I make no promises and you do this at your own risk.
Some maintenance tasks require specialized tools. But there are certain tools common to almost all maintenance tasks, including a few that, while “optional”, I’ve found to be indispensable and highly recommend. Note: some of these tools are included in the tool kit that came with your bike — you should inspect those and see if you’re satisfied with them (I wasn’t).
Neighbours in non-metric countries: Japanese bikes use metric fastener sizes. Don’t try to make your imperial tools do the job — you’ll round off bolt heads and cause yourself grief. Get metric tools.
There are endless arguments about tool manufacturers and I’m no expert. For mechanics hand tools, I used to be very happy with the high-end Mastercraft tools from Canadian Tire. In recent years, I’ve noted the quality of these products degrading, and I tend to buy new tools from specialty tool shops now. In Ottawa, Ottawa Fastener Supply has a good selection of high-quality hand tools.
Buy a “swingarm stand” — the stand that supports the rear wheel of your bike off the ground with the bike level — when you buy your bike. This small investment makes chain adjustment and practically every maintenance job much easier.
Buy the service manual for your bike from your dealer (or you can often find them on eBay these days). It’s invaluable, containing all the instructions, diagrams, and technical specs you need for every job. The Clymer and Haynes manuals are also good, but they don’t tend to appear until a given model is several years old. For example, as I write this in 2010, there isn’t one available for my 2009 ZX-6R.
One of my most valuable tools, if among the least sexy: a small “parts box” with a lid and divided compartments. As I take the bike apart for maintenance, all the removed fasteners go in here, in order (top to bottom, left to right). Then when I am ready to put the bike back together, I not only can find the fasteners, but I have a reminder of the sequence in which things go back together. This has saved me many times.
A very handy tool — a Silver metallic permanent Sharpie felt pen. This writes legibly on black surfaces like tubes and fairings (inside). Label things as you explore the inside of the bike and you’ll never be unsure where to reconnect something.
You need a high-quality set of 3 Phillips screwdrivers. Get the kind with hardened steel tips cut to the appropriate star shape — not the cheap ones with the star shape stamped into the soft metal shaft. You won’t need slot-heads or Robertson-heads. (Except a cheap slot-head is handy for prying things.)
Metric Hex Keys
You’ll need these for removing bodywork and other parts. You use these a lot with this bike, so I like the comfortable “T-handle” kind more than the simple bent rod.
Metric Socket Set
You’ll need a good socket set with a 3/8″ ratchet handle and sockets from 8 to 20 mm or so. Any good hardware store set will cover this range. A second, small, set based on a 1/4″ drive is also very handy.
This is a bit expensive, but necessary if you want to be sure you have your fasteners reinstalled tight enough but not too tight. Tightening critical bolts — especially engine parts — “by feel” is risky.
Although you’ll use your socket set for almost everything, you’ll find it handy to have a few metric wrenches in certain sizes. For example, there are a lot of 10mm fasteners on your bike, and a couple of wrenches of that size in various configurations will be handy. Combination wrenches have an open face on one end and a box end (closed circular wrench) on the other end, and are the most versatile.
Consider getting a specialty tool for any fastener that is very common on your bike. For example, since there are so many 10mm fasteners on the 2000 ZX-6R, I made a lot of use of a 10mm nut driver — a “screwdriver” with a 10mm socket at the end. On the 2009 ZX-6R, there are a large number of screws with 4mm hex heads, so a screwdriver-style hex driver in that size is a great help. Such a tool is optional, but it’s very convenient and you’ll be glad you have it if you do much work in the bike.
You’ll need a set of “needle-nose” pliers, and a pair of diagonal cutters. Don’t bother with everyday household pliers — you don’t need them and you might be tempted to use them on a bolt (don’t!).
Get a big bulk package of nylon zip ties. They’re useful for all kinds of things.
Many fasteners on your bike call for application of a “non-permanent thread locking agent”. This means Loctitle #242 (Blue – even though the container is Red). This is a viscous slow-drying cyanoacetate glue that you put on the threads of a bolt or nut before installing it. It hardens inside the joint to make it vibration-proof. Make sure you don’t confuse #242 with other Loctite products like #271 (Red) as they can be very hard to remove without special tools. A tiny tube, from any auto supply shop, is all you need.
A small, powerful magnet mounted on the end of a telescoping handle will save you time and frustration many times. You use it to retrieve the bolt or washer that you dropped and that found its way down into the deepest, darkest recess in your bike. It can also be used for starting bolts and screws in remote or awkward locations (like inside the air filter).