Essential Tools for Dirt Bike Maintenance

Essential Tools for Dirt Bike Maintenance

Part of dirt bike ownership is maintaining and working on your dirt bike.  Unless you are fabulously wealthy, you will need to perform basic maintenance on your dirt bike on a semi-regular basis.  When you look at the manual for your dirt bike, you should find a maintenance schedule towards the front that can seem overwhelming.  These 5 dirt bike tools will help you get it done!

For example, the maintenance schedule on a dirt bike may include changing the oil every 5 hours.  That could mean that you need to change it every weekend!  Unless you learn to do this simple task yourself, you are going to end up going broke taking it to the shop.

This article is going to give you a list of the top 5 essential dirt bike tools for working on your dirt bike.

The most important tool

This is not included in the top 5 essential tools, but if you do nothing else, make sure that you get the shop manual for your dirt bike.  A shop manual is not the same as the owner’s manual that came with your dirt bike. 

eBay is a good place to find these shop manuals.  Some of the more unreputable dealers on eBay will send you a PDF of the service manual.  eBay has been cracking down on this, but it still exists.  It is up to you if you want to get the PDF or an hard copy manual, just realize that the PDF manual distributors are distributing copyright information without the manufacturer’s permission. 

I tried the PDF route, but now I just use the physical copies.  They cost more, but I like being able to have a page open to the item I am working on instead of having to constantly open my phone and refind the information.

A shop manual is a wealth of information.  It will show you how to perform the easiest functions (think an oil change) as well as some of the most complex (think rebuilding a transmission).  I would not think about owning a dirt bike long term without a shop manual.

Top 5 Dirt Bike Tools

Dirt bike stand

A dirt bike stand is different from a kickstand.  There is a pretty lengthy debate about whether or not a dirt bike should even have a kickstand, so I will stay out of that here.  The tool I am talking about is the stand that you put your dirt bike on to perform maintenance, or simply keep your bike upright at the track.

Dirt bike stands come in all types, from an upturned 5-gallon bucket to a fully hydraulic lift with casters.  I have tried the upturned 5-gallon bucket method and eventually gave up on it because the buckets were always getting crushed.  You might be able to get away with the bucket method on a kids dirt bike, but you can forget about it for a 450 4 stroke.

I ended up getting a static dirt bike stand.  No frills or features, just a stand with 4 legs and a rubber top.  This will keep both wheels off the ground and provide a stable base for work.  If your balance is good enough, these stands are strong enough for you to stand on them and start the bike (although you should have someone out there to help you in case your balance is not as good as you think!)

The downside to a simple dirt bike stand like this is it can be pretty difficult to wrangle the big on the stand in the first place.  It takes some practice, but the fact remains that you still have to pivot 200+ pounds of metal onto the stand.  Over time you will develop the muscle memory and find your own technique that works for you.

If lifting the dirt bike onto the stand isn’t for you, there are also dirt bike stands that are mini scissor lifts that go under the dirt bike and you raise the dirt bike via a pedal.  These are more advanced and thus cost more.  But, if you are fighting a lingering injury then this might be a safer and easier method for you.

You should plan on getting one dirt bike stand for each bike that you own.  This will keep your garage more organized when you have a place for the dirt bikes instead of just leaning them up against whatever wall is free.

I recommend a dirt bike stand by Pit Posse, found here.

Screwdriver Set and Allen Key Set

The next essential thing that you will need is a good set of screwdrivers.  You more than likely already have one of these.  Make sure that you have a wide variety of sizes in both Phillips’ head and flat head.  You will need sizes ranging from the #2 Phillips’ head down to precision screwdrivers (for carb jets).

Many parts on a dirt bike are going to require a set of Allen keys.  These are the hexagonal head tools that you find when you are assembling furniture from Walmart.  Go ahead and buy a complete set of Allen keys and make sure that you put them back right after you use them.  My garage seems to have a black hole that only attracts Allen keys.  I have several sets, none of them complete.  So, do yourself a favor and get a new set that you take care of.

I recommend a Screwdriver Set which can be found here and an Allen key set found here.

Socket Set and Wrenches

A good set of sockets and box wrenches is the core of your dirt bike tool set.  The vast majority of dirt bikes that you are going to encounter will use a metric socket.  The most common sizes being 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, and the occasional 17mm.  Axle nuts are larger, some of them are around 22mm.

Dirt bikes have a lot of hardware packed into a small frame, so some of the nuts and bolts are difficult to get to.  To combat this, I recommend either getting a set with several extensions included or buying the extensions separately.  Additionally, a swivel will help a ton as well.

Make sure that whatever set you select has both standard and deep sockets.  Spark plug sockets are a plus as they help remove a spark plug without damaging the ceramics.

I use sockets and wrenches with equal frequency.  Sometimes you just can’t get a socket to fit where you need it to.  So, make sure that you get a complete set of wrenches as well.

Most of these items are going to be found in a mechanics tool set type kit.  Make sure you get a decent brand with a good warranty.  Typically, what separates a Snap-On or Matco (too expensive in my opinion) from a knock-off chinese set is going to be the quality of the socket wrench.

Crescent makes a nice complete set, found here.

T Handle Sockets

As you spend more time wrenching on your dirt bike, you likely will get tired of swapping sockets.  I know I did.  So, I invested in a set of t-handle sockets.  Each t-handle has a differently sized socket on it.  Put some tape on the t-handle part for easy identification (i.e. 1 piece of tape is the 10mm, 2 pieces is the 12mm, etc).

T-Handles are great because they have a super long neck.  This allows you to easily get into deep sockets and spin them out.  When adjusting the position of your controls or trying to reach an exhaust flange bolt T-Handles shine.

The downside to t-handles is that they should not be used for bolts with a critical torque spec, or bolts that are too hard to remove.  The t-handle does give you quite a bit of leverage, but I find it harder to get a feel for how tight I am making the bolts.

T handles are what the pro mechanics use because they are so quick.  You can spin them and quickly remove a bolt or nut.  The first time you replace a set of plastics with a t-handle you will completely understand.

Pit Posse makes a good T Handle Socket set which can be found here.  It is the set I use!

1/4 inch Impact Driver

A ¼” impact driver is the pinnacle of efficiency when working on your dirt bike.  Originally designed for driving screws in at a specific torque, they are used frequently in dirt bike maintenance.  A ½” drive impact wrench is used quite often in auto mechanics, but they are bulky and overkill for a dirt bike.

Most ¼” drive impact drivers will have a spot for a hex bit.  I struggled with this at first, until I realized that they make hex bit to socket impact adapters.  So now my ¼” impact driver lives with the socket adapter in it at all times.  I just switch out the socket I need as I normally would and get to work.

I can say that this was the single purchase that I have made that completely changed the speed at which I get my dirt bike maintenance done.  My time for removing the subframe went from it taking 5-6 minutes to about a minute. 

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.  When reassembling your bike, don’t try and use the impact driver to get the bolts started.  This is a recipe for cross threading bolts and causing major headaches.  Also, if you are aren’t certain about the integrity of a bolt, overeager usage of an impact driver can snap the head right off.  Again, this will be a major headache.

Just ease into the power with your impact driver.  Don’t just put it on a bolt and fully depress the trigger.  Just slowly ease into the trigger.  Impact drivers will make a decent amount of noise when they are trying to break a bolt free.  Learn your tool and you will be just fine.

I recommend a Dewalt for a good impact driver.  However, if you are already bought into a system (i.e. all your tools are Dewalt or Kobalt and use the same battery), then find the bare tool for that system to keep things consistent.

Wrap Up

So we have gone over some of the top dirt bike tools that you will need to make sure your bike is functioning in tip-top shape.  Some of them you probably already have, so you can save money there.  For the rest of them, just buy as you need them.  I think that at a base level you need to have at the very least the screwdrivers, Allen keys, and mechanics tool set.  The other tools are going to help you become more efficient, but if you are trying to save money, plenty of people go along just fine with those three items.

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