The Most Common Roadside Emergencies
Failure to Maintain Your Bike
Preventing a bike failure before you take off is the most effective tool to prevent an on-the-road breakdown. Check all fluids, brakes and disc alignment, filters, tire treads, the chain, and battery life before taking off. Maintain a regular maintenance schedule for your bike and replace worn cables, chains, filters, and sensitive components that are subject to failure. But even regular preventative maintenance can’t predict real-time breakdowns on your Harley.
This is the least predictable and most common roadside problem for motorcyclists everywhere. It’s not possible to miss every pothole, nail, curb, or road debris on the street, and many riders let their treads get thin to save a few bucks. But having a toolkit with tire repairability is crucial.
If you don’t use a trickle charger, float charger, or battery tender when storing your bike, you’re leaving yourself open to a roadside emergency. If your alternator isn’t working well, or if you’ve left your home with a weak battery, your bike is a ticking time bomb that could change your plans from riding to walking very quickly. Your toolkit needs the wrenches and screwdriver to remove your battery to jump it or charge it on the go.
The liquid-cooled engine is more prone to a breakdown than the air-cooled one because of the complexities of the water pump and radiator. In 2014 Harley dropped a bomb on tradition and produced a “precision cooled” engine that used liquid for the heads and oil and air for the block. Hoses can get damaged, radiators can fail, and oil and water pumps can go out. Harleys are hot bikes, and your tool kit needs to be able to wrap and repair hoses on the road.
Your front and rear brakes are the most important component of your Harley. It is your only and best defense on the road, so keeping them in good working order is imperative. When they fail on the road, it’s usually a broken line or brake fluid leak. The tool kit may not be helpful in this case, but you should still be able to check and fix leaks quickly.
While this is the least common roadside emergency, it still is good to be prepared with a few master links, inner links, and clips in your tool kit as well as cutting pliers and nose pliers. It takes expertise and practice to repair a chain on the road, but it’s a useful skill to have when you have the right tools at your disposal. However, repairing your chain could be the least of your problems when losing a chain on the road. As the chain comes undone and whips around the sprocket for the last time, it could do major damage to anything it comes in contact with including the crankcase and transmission.
The 12 Most Useful Tools In Your Harley-Davidson Tool Kit
Everyone will have a different opinion, and an argument can be made that I’ve left out an important tool, but in my experience, these are the must-haves to every motorcycle tool kit. I’ve left off the tools for repairing the chain because unless you know how to repair chains those tools will just take up space. You don’t have to be a motorcycle mechanic to do quick on-the-fly repairs, and having the right tools makes all the difference.
- Utility Knife: for cutting hoses, cables, and ties.
- Tire Gauge and Inflator: CO2 cartridge to get you to a tire repair shop safely.
- Tire Repair Kit: Puncture repair for temporary sealing of any tire issues.
- Screwdrivers: Flat & Philips with short and long handles to disconnect covers and wires.
- Wrench Sets: Allen, Ratchet, Socket, in SAE or Metric to match your bike.
- Hex Keys: Both in SAE and Metric angled to connect to hard-to-reach areas of your bike.
- Vice Grips: Adjustable with a narrow nose to reach more parts that need repairing.
- Flashlight: If your phone light is too weak, you’ll need one to see inside your frame.
- Zip Ties & Duct Tape: To safely wrap wires and repair tubes.
- Spare Fuses: They take up little room and can easily replace blown fuses on the road.
- First Aid Kit: Immediate help to repair not only your bike but your body in an emergency.
The Best Tool Kits For Your Harley-Davidson
If you actually get the Harley-Davidson Tool Kit which comes with some bike models, you will still want to add to it or just buy another one altogether that is more comprehensive. The H-D kit isn’t bad, just basic, and seems like not quite enough if you buy it on your own for about $90. This compact, carryable tool kit includes:
- One Screwdriver (with multiple bits)
- One Spark Plug Gap Tool
- One Spark Plug Socket
- Several Cable Ties
- One Double Open-Ended Wrench
- One 5" Round Nore Locking Plier
- One Combo Wrench (w 1/4, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, and 3/4 inch) - 10mm
- Five Hex Keys (5/8, 1/8, 3/16, 7/32, 5/16, 3/8 inch)
- One Nylon Pouch (black)
Other options that are recommended by many Harley riders who’ve experienced roadside emergencies will include aftermarket kits. The best tool kits are very compact and can fit on any bike but are comprehensive enough to take care of most breakdown issues.
One strong choice is a tool kit recommended by TheDrive.com as the best overall kit made especially for Harley bikes called Biker's Choice Roll-Up Tool Kit 151522 which goes for about $60. It includes:
- One Flashlight
- One 6-in-1 Screwdriver
- One Pliers (Locking)
- Five Cable Ties
- One Tire Gauge
- Ten Piece Hex Key Set
- One 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench
- 1/2, 7/16, 3/8, 5/8, 3/4, and 9/16 inch Open end wrench
- One 10mm Combination wrench
- One 3/8" Drive ratchet
- Electrical and Mechanics wire
- 13/16 and 5/8" Spark plug socket
- One Electrical tape
- One Spark plug gap gauge
- One Storage pouch
Getting the Best Value recommendation is the CruzTOOLS SKHD Speedkit Tool Kit for Harley-Davidson which includes:
- Combo Spark Plug Wrench (both 5/8 inch and 18 mm) with a lever
- One Nut Driver (8 mm)
- One Combo Wrench (10 mm and 12 mm)
- One Open End Wrench (14 x 17 mm)
- One Screwdriver (5-in-1) with Torx bits (T20, T25, T27, T30)
- Four Hex Keys (6 mm, 5 mm, 4 mm, 3 mm)
- One Pair of Locking Pliers
- One PSI Tire Gauge (0-20)
- One Zip-up pouch
About THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Rathbun has been hooked on motorcycles since 1987 when he bought his first bike, a 1973 Honda CBR450 for $300. Since then he has been through countless bikes and continued his two-wheeled hobby passing it down to his 21-year-old son who rides with him on the weekends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Benjamin believes that nothing clears the mind faster than flying 26 inches above the asphalt on his Harley-Davison.Read More About Benjamin Rathbun