Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles

Tools and tricks to make hard jobs easier

By Tricia Szulewski, Associate Editor

Women who ride motorcycles are on the rise, as are more women working on their own bikes. We are doing everything from basic pre-ride inspections such as checking the air in the tires to installing accessories to performing maintenance services that take more time, tools, and know-how. There are more women technicians working at shops and dealerships, and I’ve met some amazing young women who are designing and building some incredible ground-up custom motorcycles.

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles
Krystal Hess and Sofi Tsingos are two of today’s hottest female custom motorcycle builders. Here, they show women how to perform basic maintenance at the Revved Up Women Motorcycle Expo using an Indian Scout Krystal customized.

No matter what your skill level is or how simple the task at hand may be, you’re going to run into some snags once in a while. I always joke about how a simple job that should take 5 minutes to complete can sometimes take me 5 hours. From installing something upside down, to not having the right tool and rigging together an assortment of household items to “make” what I need, I’ve run into my fair share of issues. And I’ve learned more than a few things along the way.

Here, I’ve compiled a short list of tips to help you tackle and prevent some common problems women have when working on their bikes. While all of these tips can be helpful for both men and women, some of them specifically address the problem of not having enough strength to loosen or tighten something, an issue I’m faced with more often as I get older.

We would love to hear about how you may have overcome a challenge while working on your motorcycle too. Please use the comment form after reading our list to share your DIY garage tips with our readers. Let’s learn (and laugh) together!

1. Magical Zip Ties

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Zip Tied Wrench
If you are working alone and need 3 hands, zip ties can sometimes be your best friend. Here, I needed to have a firm grip on the wrench I was holding to loosen a very tight screw, but there was a nut in the back that needed to be held still. I asked my daughter to help, but she wasn’t strong enough to hold the wrench firmly. So instead of using one hand on each wrench, I was able to zip-tie the wrench holding the nut in place so I could use all my strength to loosen the bolt.

2. We Need Torque!

Top_10 Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Hollow Torque Bar
I have a heavy hollow bar that I can slip a wrench into. This adds more torque to the wrench for when I don’t have enough strength to loosen a tight bolt. It works great for loosening axle nuts and in this scenario as well.

3. The Right Tools

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Stuck Screw
Having the right tool for the job is non-gender-specific, but for women who struggle with having enough strength to get tight nuts and bolts free, it’s even more important. I struggled and sweated with a simple screwdriver on this seat screw for about 10 minutes. Then, when I decided to try a Phillips head bit on a ratchet, the screw immediately loosened. Again, it’s a matter of torque, but having the bit and ratchet was essential in this case for getting that torque.

4. Get Comfortable

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Racedeck
Consider installing plastic flooring like this or use a thick rubber mat for when you need to sit on the floor to work on your motorcycle. OK, so it turns out that the old wives tale of getting hemorrhoids from sitting on concrete is just that. But no one can argue that it’s not comfortable to sit on cold hard cement for any length of time. I installed this snap-together RaceDeck flooring years ago and have been extremely happy ever since. Besides it being easier to stand, sit, and jump on (my garage is also my gym), when I drop a nut or bolt (which happens more than I care to admit), it’s really easy to find.

5. Find A Helping Hand

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Vice
I rarely have a helping hand nearby, so I rely on my vice. I installed this inexpensive tool to my sturdy workbench and use it for all kinds of things when I just need another hand to hold something. It’s helpful when I need some extra strength or if I’m cutting something and want to make sure it’s not going to move.

6. Prepare

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Manual
Before there was YouTube, figuring out how to do something mechanical meant you might have to read a maintenance manual. I still swear by them, but also get great ideas from seeing what others have done online. I definitely recommend preparing for every installation by reading the instructions that came with the parts.

7. Lay Out Parts

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Lay Out Parts
Most of my installations are for magazine articles, so I’ve gotten used to laying out the parts neatly for a photo. But doing this also allows me to organize myself and think about the install before I begin.

8. Take Your Time

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Tools
If you are new to working on your motorcycle, it will take time to acquire a thorough toolkit and get the job done. I’ve been working on bikes for more than 25 years and still have to run out to Harbor Freight Tools in the middle of a job every now and then, but over time this is how I acquired all my tools—one project at a time.

9. Stay Organized

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips Women Work on Their Own Motorcycles order reinstall
I like to lay out all the pieces I take off in order so when I reinstall the parts I can easily backtrack my steps. As an example, look what I found when I removed a bolt from my BMW R 1200 RS in order to install a MachineArt Moto cylinder guard. Because I had to reuse some of this hardware, it was important to note the exact order of the washers.

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips Women Work on Their Own Motorcycles order
Because I’d stored it in order, when it was time to reinstall the bolt, I knew the correct order to put everything.

10. Use Gloves

Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles Gloves
Finally, consider investing in a box of throw-away technicians gloves. Wearing them while working on the bike makes cleaning your hands and nails a lot easier and will save your manicure.

Now it’s your turn. Using the comments box below, share your tips on how you solved a problem while working on your motorcycle.

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13 thoughts on Top 10 DIY Garage Tips for Women Who Work on Their Own Motorcycles

  1. I’m always dropping screws or small nuts or pieces and waist time hunting all over the garage floor. Now I lay an old towel under and around the bike (for dry work) and I have no more parts bouncing all over! I also use a magnetic reacher or a small mirror for those tight areas.

  2. Learn why screwdrivers are different lengths. It affects the torque. Also, some screwdrivers have a square area up by the handle. You can slip a wrench or even vice grips on this square part to give you leverage for more torque.Also, a headlamp can make a big difference. Even in a well lit shop there are dim areas on your bike. A bright headlamp will light up your specific work area while leaving both hands free to work.

  3. Speaking of “proper” tools, for those with Japanese bikes, do yourself a favor and pick up a set of JIS screwdrivers. Japanese bikes may have what look like Phillips head screws, but they are JIS screws and just a bit different.You can really mess up the ones on your bike if they are tight and you use a Phillips driver on it.

  4. Great article on tips!I never work on any motorcycle without the service manual or electrical manual specific for that bike, year, make, and model. Another great tip you had mentioned in your article. Keep the tips coming!

  5. Breaker bars, lubes for loosening things, for snugging things, and permanently tightening things. Learn how to use a torque wrench. Can’t afford nice flooring? Use inexpensive exercise mats. Get a motorcycle jack. Have a service manual, good lighting, and a couple good mobile shop lights (LED daylight). Maybe a hands free magnifying glass. Youtube AND don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most guys will be glad to help out and show off their knowledge.

  6. A hollow bar (“Cheater Bar”) is usually a length of pipe. They can shatter when being used. Wear goggles to stay safe.

  7. Great article, nice advice for DIY owners. Although the lead photo is trying to be cute, a crescent wrench is hardly appropriate.As a professional technician for several decades, mainly on antique cars doing restoration and customs, my best advise is:1. Invest in quality tools. Cheaper, junky tools truly don’t perform as well but non-pros may not notice. They tend to round the hexes on bolts, are more likely to strip screws whether TORX, Phillips, Allen, etc. Quality torque wrenches start off and stay in spec.2. Invest in a shop manual, you won’t be sorry. Use proper recommended fluids, torque specs, etc.3. Yes! Be organized and don’t get in a hurry. Start your project in a place where you won’t have to relocate everything before it’s complete.4. Have good lighting and an appropriate sized work space available.5. Inspect components at disassembly, look for damage, cracks, stripped threads, etc. Clean, repair, or replace anything before you start reassembly.6. If you get quite a few things taken apart or you won’t be able to reassemble in a short time period take a LOT of digital photos of which fasteners came from where and even the sequence of disassembly. It could save you a lot of time and mistakes later. Especially at home, it’s easy to get called away or distracted—kids or pets can upset your parts.In my restoration shop that, of course, was crucial but reassembly became so much easier once I started taking pics. Otherwise the “which screw went where” mystery could only be trial and error. On modern vehicles, especially bikes, an extra 1/8″ of a screw could poke into your electronics, fluid lines, and more, and is not worth the risk.

    1. Thanks for the excellent tips! Yes, you are right about the crescent wrench. It was a last minute, “I need to take this photo, what do I have laying around?” mistake in judgement. In reality, I never use crescent wrenches unless I physically can’t get a socket wrench around a nut.

  8. I have to say that doing your own work saves lots of money. I did my own complete oil change last year and I wished I had a picture of what I looked like afterwards. I was drenched in oil (because I didn’t have the right oil pan) and ended up laying in the oil trying to get it all done. But I did it!! Now I know I need a different oil pan for this.I have also used YouTube for several things. You would be surprised how helpful it can be. I take my tablet with me so I can follow along with the video. Very helpful. I’ve learned how to master several things in fixing my bike.I highly recommend that you get all your tools ahead of time (like the right oil pan). Many of the maintenance things you can do yourself if you know how to read a recipe. No need to pay $95 per hour for someone else to do it. Plus, you are doing things a lot of the male riders do not know how or do they want to do.I always carry many tools with me when I ride and most of the male riders know this so they come to me for help. LOL! Gotta love it!

  9. When I come across a complicated series of parts, I like to take a picture of it first and then place it in the order of removal.I love the idea of the zip-ties—I will be stealing that idea!

  10. For the zip tie idea, it’s hard to see the black zip tie at the top of the wrench in the torque photo. I’ve been “mechanicing” my whole life and never thought of using zip ties. Good job—I’ll be using your idea the next time I get in a bind. You can use the same principle for tightening bolts, but please don’t over-torque!

  11. Before somebody invented those roller stands for wheels, I used a hydraulic floor jack and a small block of wood under the kickstand area on my Honda cruiser to lift the back wheel off the ground so I could lube the chain. Beat rolling the bike halfway down the block or parking lot just to lube the chain. Not having a center stand on a bike makes doing simple things difficult. And cruisers don’t really fit on wheel stands like sportbikes do.

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