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Common Tread

Five tools you might not know about (but will probably make your life easier)

Aug 13, 2019

Ready for another shop article?

Today I’ve picked five tools (sort of at random) that I have and use that not everyone knows about. They vary in motorcycle specificity, but let’s face it, if you fix motorcycles, odds are good you fix a lot of other stuff, too. These have gotten me out of a bind before. Maybe they’ll do the same for you. And don't give me any guff; we only sell one of these products and I bought all mine with my own money. They're just here because they're helpful and I like the tools.

LockNLube
Give your grease gun some hotrod parts. Photo by Lemmy.

LockNLube

Normally, grease gun coupling tips are adjustable to fit different sizes of Zerk fittings. (You’ll find Zerks on some Harley necks, a few makers’ swingarm bearings, British brake arms, Japanese and Brit brake pedals, Harley seat pogo tubes, and old wheel hubs from a couple different manufacturers, to name a few.)

You have to loosen the fitting, push the coupler on, snug the coupler down, grease, then loosen the fitting and pull it off. And if you don’t tighten the coupler enough, you get a mess. And don’t get me started on the non-adjustable ones. Those just rip the Zerk out as you attempt to wrestle and twist and tug the fitting off the Zerk, then you wind up replacing it with a drive-in style. Just pray it's in a fairly accessible spot. Ugh.

UpcloseLockNLube
See? Just clip it on. Easy-peasy. Photo by Lemmy.

Enter the LockNLube. This is the only item I’ve ever bought from a late-night infomercial. (Me and a bunch of chopper buddies were drunk as skunks and up late one night and all thought this sounded like a great idea, as drunks are wont to do, so a few of us whipped out our phones and picked some up.) Turns out, though, it really is awesome. LockNLube fittings contain a spring-loaded set of jaws, so you simply clip the coupler onto the fitting, add grease, then uncouple. It’s just like using a clip-on air chuck.

Brilliant. Send me a thank you note if you own an old tractor.

Delrin block
Protect your clutch basket's teeth. Protect your teeth, too. Photo by Lemmy.

Delrin primary chain locking block

If you’ve ever worked on a Harley and needed to lock up the transmission so you could spin off the compensator nut (to remove the primary or the clutch or stator or what have you), maybe you used a jam bar, which is both a bit dangerous and potentially detrimental to your sprockets. There’s an easier way… a locking block. This works for loosening or tightening, and is way kinder to your bike parts and will prevent the need for an unplanned visit to your dentist.

Tap sockets and ratchet
I like /r/tippytaps better, but only by a little. Photo by Lemmy.

Tap sockets and tap ratchet

If you build or repair old motorcycles, sometimes you need to chase threads or cut fresh ones. The tap handle that comes with all the stupid kits everyone buys sucks. It’s huge and wide and never fits anywhere and they lose their grip on the tap as you back it up every now and again to break the chips.

I got some tools to deal with that. First up is a tap ratchet. These grab a tap way more solidly than those kit junker things. The ratchet action and sliding handles really open up your options when trying to tap somewhere where space is tight and allows you to use a reduced swing.

Tap sockets
Just pop your extension right in. Photo by Lemmy.

And then we come to tap sockets, which allow you to run a tap with your normal 1/4 inch- or 3/8 inch-drive tooling. (Ever had to repair threads on something with multiple protrusions very close to one another, like an exhaust flange stud or rocker-box-to-head surface? This is the tool you want.) Breaking chips is a bit of a pain because it loosens the tap in the tool, but I can live with that because if these had a chuck, they wouldn’t be so low-profile.

UV Dye
You can try the ol' baby powder trick, but I promise this is way easier to clean up. Photo by Lemmy.

UV Dye and a blacklight

There are UV-reactive dyes made to be blended with oils and coolants so that leaks may be found, especially on very leaky or dirty motorcycles. Pour in your dye, fire up the bike (or don’t, depending on exactly what and where the leak is), turn on your UV flashlight, and start snooping. As a bonus, the UV light is helpful for curing some resins. And also finding stains in your carpet or hotel rooms. Protip: Don’t try that.

Rim guards
Dismiss dinger danger. Photo by Lemmy.

Rim guards

I’ve seen a lot of rashed wheels. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about their wheels getting scarred when having tires mounted at a shop. It’s everyone’s pet peeve. My wheels all look nice, because when I mount tires, I use rim guards. As a kid, I would cut up laundry detergent jugs and make these, but the premades are better and cheap and last way longer. And I rarely worry about a wheel's condition any more, even when I'm reefing on it, because I have these awesome... wheel condoms. 

Try a few of these out. Maybe you’ll like them.