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Tired of the crap
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A lot of us V-Rod owners like to do a little light wrenching on our bikes. We are often the sort of folks who always let Mr. Goodwrench look after our automobiles, and call the plumber to fix a leaky faucet - but there is something about owning a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that arouses the inner mechanic in all of us. Maybe it has something to do with the phone-book sized parts and accessory catalog, and the burning desire to install that shiny new doo-dad ourselves, rather than waiting two weeks for a service appointment. So, based on my two years experience with the V-Rod, I've put together a little list of the tools and supplies that make up the ideal home workshop for the V-Rod owner.

Note: This guide is for the owner who wants to do light wrenching on their bike - installing common accessories, change the oil, etc. If you are planning on installing high-performance cams or doing the valve adjustments yourself - you really don't need the advice of an amateur like me....

The first tool you'll need is a good quality tire pressure gauge. Anything you bought at Wal-Mart for $1.99 doesn't count here. I personally like the kind with a flexible hose (to reach valve stems hidden behind brake calipers, etc.), as well as a dwell feature that allows you to read the pressure after you've removed the gauge from the valve. You'll also need some means of getting high pressure air in your tires - a bicycle floor pump or a compressor. Don't try riding your bike to the gas station with low tires - they'll heat up along the way, and you'll get an incorrect reading.

Next up are tools for an oil change. A good funnel
that can reach the oil fill hole. I like the Red Line Oil Curved funnel (shown here.) You'll also need a wide, shallow drain oil pan. I prefer the ones that have a removable top, so that when you're done with the oil change, you can drive right down to the nearest recycling facility to properly dispose of the old stuff. Note: The EPA estimates that home oil changes account for almost half of all US groundwater contamination. Don't contribute to the problem by tossing the old stuff in a dumpster. You'll also need an oil filter wrench - I've had the best results by buying the H-D one (HD-42311), but there are other alternatives.

To get the drain plug off, you'll need a metric socket and ratchet. Presumably most of us already have a socket set, but if you don't, make sure the one you buy is good quality. For us American riders, that usually means Sears Craftsman. Craftsman tools aren't as high-end as Snap-On, MAC, etc. - but for most of what you are going to do, they are plenty good enough. More importantly, they are easily available. Most (but not all) of the fasteners on the V-Rod are metric - so make sure you have a wide range in metric sizes. You'll also want a good set of metric combination wrenches (the kind with an open end and a closed, or box end).

There are a couple of V-Rod fasteners that will require some larger-sized hand tools. The stock exhaust clamps, for example, need a 15mm deep socket. Buy one of these if you ever want to get your exhaust pipes off. You'll also need a 24mm wrench (or socket) to tighten the front axle bolts. Early model V-Rods had an alarming tendency for these to come loose.

One luxury item you need to consider is a bike lift. Most people I know swear by the Sears motorcycle lift - it is relatively inexpensive, good quality, and works well. Other people like cheaper models made by Larrin, Harbor Freight, etc. - the choice is up to you. In an earlier life I owned a company that made industrial machinery, and our experience buying cheaper brands such as these was mixed. You'll need a lift if you ever want to remove the wheels (for cleaning, belt replacement, etc.) - as well as for a number of seemingly minor accessory installations - i.e. rear axle covers, chrome lower belt guard etc. A lift is also ideal for accurately checking your oil level. So buy one, already!

Another luxury (that really isn't) is the VRSC service manual. I know that there are .pdf versions available online - but since most of our work will be done in the garage, rather than sitting in front of the computer, it sure is nice to have an oil-stained copy to grab whenever we run into a problem. They cost $50; and are well worth it.

Next up are the dynamic duo of a torque wrench and a tube of "Blue" Loctite. The most frustrating things us home mechanics encounter are stripped fasteners. And the most common causes of stripped fasteners are overtightening and galling, or cold-welding, of threads. A decent-quality beam-style torque wrench, 3/8" drive, 75 ft/lbs range will handle most items on the bike. Buy a bigger one if you plan on doing serious engine and transmission work. The rear axle nuts take 95 ft/lbs - but these are the only such high-torque fasteners most of us will encounter. Blue loctite is ideal for preventing fasteners from buzzing loose, and also acts to prevent galling. The only caveat is that since Loctite lubricates the threads, it can also throw off your torque reading - in other words you'll put more preload on a fastener than you should if you use a torque setting. In addition to the Blue Loctite, you might as well pick up a tube of anti-seize. Anti-seize is good for things like the mufflers, sparkplugs, and the oil drain plug. Besides, it looks really macho having it lying in your toolchest.

If your riding includes a lot of two-up as well as solo work, then you'll need to adjust the rear shock preload. Harley sells an expensive (~$80) tool that does the job (HD-94700-52C.) There are other alternatives - however some of these may end up scratching the chrome. Another specialty tool you might consider is the belt-tension guage. This is a little spring-loaded plunger device that you press against the belt to measure how much it deflects. There aren't too many good alternatives for accurately setting belt tension - and incorrect tension is the leading cause of premature belt failure.

I consider the next item a necessity, rather than a luxury, for general bike maintenance and cleaning - a good sit-on creeper. Even when it's on the lift, most of the things you'll be working on are at knee level. Spend much time bending over, or kneeling on a cold garage floor - and you'll begin to appreciate how nice a good rolling sit-on creeper is. They can be bought for $60-$100.

You might think that your screwdriver collection is sufficient to do everything on the V-Rod. Guess again, Grasshopper! There are two (2) different sized Torx fasteners on the switchgear (T27 and T25) - the T25 is also used to secure the chrome trim pieces on the exhaust.

Replacing or working on either the footpegs or the handbrake/clutch levers may also require a trip to the hardware store. These items are secured with small retaining rings. Buy a small pair of retaining ring pliers, as well as a few spare retaining rings of the appropriate size, since you'll probably mangle a couple along the way.



The presence of so many socket head cap screws (SHCS) on the bike might convince you that a good set of metric "Allen" keys or wrenches would suffice. I would say - maybe not. There are a lot of fasteners whose correct installation (i.e. with a torque wrench), or location is such that they can only be accessed by means of a long ball hex bit socket. SK Handtool makes a good 8 piece set, but it is expensive ($134). You can probably get by with just the 5mm and 6mm sizes - they are about $18 each. The 5mm is the most useful - you'll need it for all of the fasteners on the water pump, clutch cover, etc., as well as to remove and reinstall the velocity stacks. The other common sizes are 4mm (holds the front fender to the chrome bracket) and 8mm - the shock bolts. For these you can probably get by with regular length hex bit sockets, available at Sears, etc. If you upgrade your footpegs, you will also need a 3/16" hex wrench - since these accessories come from the old Harley world they are in fractional sizes. Oh, well.

Next we come to the wonderful world of electrical stuff. Most owners can probably get by with an inexpensive digital multimeter. This is useful for easy stuff (checking the charge on a battery), as well as the more sublime - testing amp draw for a new component. Its also good for checking continuity when troubleshooting a non-functional turn signal, suspected blown fuse, etc. A decent wire stripper/crimper tool is good to have, as is a heat gun for fixing shrink tubing in place.

The DOT 5 hydraulic fluid found in the V-Rod's brakes and clutch is pretty good stuff. It doesn't absorb water like previous fluids did. However, it is still a good idea to flush and bleed your fluid every couple of years. If you work alone, a good vacuum break bleeder (like the Actron model shown below) will come in very handy. It will pay for itself the first time you use it (compared to having your H-D dealership do the work). They cost about $50 at Sears, Pep Boys, etc.



Lastly we come to generic items, not necessarily V-Rod related, but which are a good idea to have around the garage. First is a good pair of safety glasses. Retaining rings have a nasty habit of popping off pliers, and ending up with one in the eye is not my idea of fun. Mechanics gloves are useful for keeping your fingers from getting torn and/or filthy; and are essential when working on hot items. A stainless steel parts dish, with a magnetic base, is ideal for keeping loose fasteners and small parts from rolling under your spouse's car.
 

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Yeah, but what if...
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Holy crap! Great post! Thanks for all that information.
 

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backcracker
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735 Posts
Nice post!! A box of rubber/latex gloves helps keep the chrome clean when you are playing with everything as well.
 

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Banned
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12,582 Posts
Good Stuff!ll take a set of the Shortie Allen's Please! :thumb:
 

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ctvrod said:
Sears:
10% off saturday 9-12am with free shipping.
Thanks You Guys! :thumb:
 

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Pete K
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192 Posts
Along with loctite, Anti-sieze and liquid teflon (made by permatex) are , in my opinion, must haves. Anti-sieze lets things come apart in the future and liquid teflon is the best sealant I have used. When other sealers fail this one fixes the problem.
 

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nice post have to get my 2 cents in or is that 200 in HD world. for lol you need a left handed muffler bearing wrench, but for real the other day i was at my local ace and i dont know what made me think of it but what works great for adjusting shocks is those plastic handles belt pipe wrench you seen the package with a big and lil one on the cheap. another thought would be a thread dedecated to lil shortcut and tips for everything from vrod to how to get the stain out of your undies after asshole cut you off at 40 mph
 

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Posting From The Pub
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