Classic Motorcycle Build

Motorcycle Repair Tools And Equipment

Most classic bike owners like to do their own repair work. If you're new to the hobby, learning to do maintenance and repairs is worth your time.

motorcycle repair tools

Tools and equipment for motorcycle repair are often the same as those used for automotive repair. Besides hand tools that you probably already have, here's some must-have tools for proper motorcycle repair and restoration.


Gear Pullers

Removing gears usually requires a gear puller. There are two-jaw and three-jaw gear pullers, and they're offered in different sizes.

motorcycle tools

Having several gear pullers in your tool box gives you more versatility.


Snap Ring Pliers

If you're rebuilding an engine or a transmission, snap ring pliers are a must-have tool.

swap straight tips for right-angle tips on snap-ring pliers

Convertible snap ring pliers can be used for either internal or external E-clips. Most good brands (like Channellock) come with an assortment of tips.


Tap And Die Set

If you're rebuilding an old engine that's been neglected, I would rate a tap and die set as a necessity. With proper technique and lubricant, taps and dies will cut mild carbon and alloy steel, cast iron, aluminum, brass, and bronze.

tap and die set for engine build

Shop: Tap and Die Set


Torque Wrench (Foot-Pounds)

For those who haven't used a 'click-style' torque wrench before, you set the desired value on the handle scale, then begin tightening the fastener. When the preset torque value is reached, the wrench will emit a "click" that will be heard and felt.

torque wrench for engine build

Shop: 1/2" Torque Wrench (10-150 ft/lbs)

A 1/2" drive torque wrench will generally cover your needs up to 150 foot/pounds. It is recommended to torque bolts in increments; example, first pass 20 ft/lbs, then 40 ft/lbs, then 60 ft/lbs, etc. until desired torque value is reached.

Stay away from beam-style torque wrenches. Most are inaccurate, and all of them hard to read while you're using it.

Torque Wrench (Inch-Pounds)

On the lower end of the scale are 1/4" drive torque wrenches. These are nice to have for smaller bolts that require less torque.

torque wrench in inch-pounds

Shop: 1/4" Torque Wrench (20-200 in/lbs)


Feeler Gauge

A feeler gauge, or gap gauge, is needed for checking valve tolerances, ignition point gaps and other critical measurements. They're made up of thin metal blades. Each blade is a different width of precise thickness, and will be marked in either thousandths of an inch, or millimeters, or both.

feeler-gauge to measure engine clearances

The blades usually range from .0015" to .035" (.038 to .889mm) in width. And if needed, you can also pair two blades together.

Long feeler gauges may be required for valve adjustments on some engines.


Digital Caliper

Digital calipers are more expensive than vernier or dial calipers, but they are easier to use and quicker to read.

best digital caliper for engine building

Read: Best Digital Caliper For Engine Building


Piston Ring Expander

Don't be tempted to install rings into the piston grooves by hand. It's a bad idea, because rings get deformed by the twisting action, which may cause sealing problems. Besides, a piston ring expander is an inexpensive tool.

piston ring tool for engine building

Piston Ring Installer

To install pistons back into the cylinders, a piston ring installation tool is needed. A clamp-style ring compressor is the least expensive style, but consider investing in a piston ring installer set. Most sets includes a half a dozen popular sizes you can use for other engine projects.

piston ring installation tool for engine building

Shop: Piston Ring Compressor Set


Cylinder Boring and Honing

If you're restoring an old motorcycle engine, boring a cylinder back to round may require removing anywhere from .003" to .010" or more of metal. Professional machine shops have large, expensive, dedicated machines to perform all kinds of cylinder boring.

motorcycle cylinder boring

The same process can be done in your home garage, but will take considerably more time. By using a rigid honing device and a slow-speed drill, high-quality motorcycle engine cylinder boring is possible.

Read: DIY Motorcycle Cylinder Boring



micrometer for engine building

Common micrometer sizes for engine building include an Outside Micrometer with 1-2" Measuring Range and Outside Micrometer with 0-1" Measuring Range.


Dial Indicator With Magnetic Base

Having a dial indicator allows you to check end play, flywheel run-out, up-and-down movement on connecting rods, and many others. Most have increments of .001" on a 0" to 1" scale. They can be mounted by clamp or magnetic base.

Checking thrust clearance on a Harley 45 Flathead with magnetic-base dial indicator.

motorcycle engine tools

Shop: Magnetic Base with Dial Indicator

Engine clearances are crucial, and learning to correctly read precision instruments takes some time. Experienced mechanics always double-check their specs. First-time builders should measure a dozen times (or more) before trusting their readings.


Small Hole Gauge

To accurately measure the inside diameter of valve guides and other small bores, a small-hole gauge is needed. These are also called telescoping or small-bore gauges, and come in varying sizes.

small hole gauge set

Shop: Small Hole Gauges


Dial Bore Gauge

To accurately measure the inside diameter of a cylinder, a bore gauge is needed. The one I use has a range of two to six inches, a depth of six inches, and the round dial has .001" increments.

motorcycle cylinder dial bore gauge

Shop: Dial Bore Gauge

dial bore gauge engine tool

NOTE: Micrometers, dial indicators, and dial bore gauges are precision measurements, and need to be treated as such. For consistent and reliable results, keep them clean and out of harm's way.

Read: Motorcycle Engine Tools


Valve Spring Compressor

This is the tool you need for removing and installing valves and valve springs. Although it was designed to fit pre-Evo Harley Big-Twins and Sportsters, it's really a universal tool.

valve spring compressor tool for motorcycle engine

Shop: Valve Spring Compressor

The one in the picture is a V-Twin 16-1788. It's a copy of the Harley-Davidson tool #96600-36.


Harley Pinion Shaft Honing/Lapping Tool

Honing/lapping motorcycle engine cases assures precision alignment of flywheel shafts.

Ironhead pinion race lapping tool

This tool fits Harley Big-Twins 1955-1998 and Ironhead Sportsters 1957-1976. Also fits Harley Flathead UL models 1937 through 1948.

Read: Harley Crankcase Lapping Tool and Usage


Specialty Tools

Every type of motorcycle engine will require a specialty tool or two.

piston lock ring installation tool for Harley 45 motorcycle engine

The tool in the above picture is for installing piston lock-rings in early Harley-Davidson 45 flatheads. It lightly stretches the lock ring just enough to fit into the groove. The factory part number for this tool is 12052-32, and it's primary use is for 1932-1956 Harley-Davidson 45 models, but works for some other models as well.

Cannon Plug Pliers

installing motorcycle fork collar without scratching it

Cannon plug pliers come in handy when removing or installing round things without damaging or scratching them.

install fuel valve on custom motorcycle gas tank


DIY Motorcycle Tools

fork bearing installation tool

Read: DIY Motorcycle Tools


After a Harley flywheel assembly is rebuilt, it needs to be trued before being reinstalled in the cases. For this, you'll need either a lathe or a flywheel truing stand. A $900 truing stand is a nice luxury, but homemade units work just as well.

DIY flywheel truing stand

Read: DIY Flywheel Truing Stand


Getting tired of crouching down on your hands and knees while working on your classic bike? Having a motorcycle lift stand saves you time and space, and makes working on your old scoot more enjoyable.

air powered motorcycle lift stand review

Read: Motorcycle Lift Stand Review

If a lift stand is not in the budget, consider making a work stand.

Read: DIY Motorcycle Work Stand


Ironhead Sportster Tools

Tools for Ironhead Sportster engine build

Read: Ironhead Specialty Tools



Taking pictures before and after is extremely helpful during re-assembly. A digital camera is nice to have, but a smart-phone works just as well.

screen protector for mobile phone

TIP: Put a with a screen protector on your phone!