A simple toolkit can sometimes save a long wait on the side of a road.
In the post-AMF ownership era, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have undergone a reinvention that has primarily been aimed at bringing the design and onboard technology up to a par with European and Japanese market rivals. This has resulted in a far more technologically advanced machine than that which initially made the marque so popular. Nonetheless, basic user maintenance is still possible, for which a relatively simple toolkit will suffice.
The HD Tool Kit
New Harley-Davidson motorcycles — usually referred to by the contractions “Harley” or “HD” — are delivered with a basic toolkit sufficient for most of the user maintenance tasks recommended by the owner’s manual, and even a few roadside repairs. If your machine is not new and the toolkit is no longer attached, it can be replaced at a dealership; Harley sells a branded kit with tools by Snap-On. As riders bitten by the branding bug know, any item with an officially endorsed HD logo is likely to be far more costly than the unbranded equivalent.
Assembling a Toolkit
Carry a flashlight; modern ones with light-emitting diodes rather than incandescent bulbs use only AAA batteries and can be as small as a pen, yet are invaluable — for instance — for tracing a loose wire under a fender or seat even in daylight. To save space, buy only combination wrenches; they have a differently sized jaw at either end. For most Harley models, the wrenches and sockets should be SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), often called U.S. Standard. Only the single-cylinder, two-stroke AMF-Harley-Davidsons manufactured in the 1970s — which became Cagivas — use primarily metric sizes as standard.
A spark plug tool is a practical necessity: Sparks plugs must be regularly replaced as part of routine maintenance, and fouled plugs are behind a fair percentage of all breakdowns. A basic socket set should include a 5/8-inch spark plug socket and a bar to turn it. While a full-size socket set is impractical to carry, mini sets are available with small ratchets and full-size sockets; as with the wrenches, these should be SAE U.S. Standard. A set of star-shaped Torx keys is needed to remove some of the fasteners used on most HD models. Monitoring tire wear is vital to safe riding; have a tire tread gauge in your toolkit. A tire pressure gauge should be used before any long ride.
A number of companies that are not endorsed by Harley offer toolkits assembled with the marque in mind. They typically include a set of wrenches; an adjustable wrench for heavier tasks such as retightening an axle; locking pliers for holding one end of a bolt while tightening a nut onto the other; needle-nose pliers for tricky tasks such as picking up a dropped washer from awkward locations; and a multi-head screwdriver. Hex, Allen and Torx keys are a necessity for all models, old and new.
Ensure the toolcase material and closure are waterproof — “water resistant” is not the same thing — especially if it is designed for strapping to the motorcycle itself, for instance to the frame downtubes, forks or the rear fender. Although not strictly a tool, an aerosol can of lubrication oil can be an asset. A few plastic cable ties are also recommended. Electrical insulation tape can solve a multitude of issues that arise when the machine is ridden in wet weather. Spare bulbs take up little space and can be invaluable.