Tools For The Beginner Home Mechanic
Along with the essential tools, these will allow a beginning home mechanic to perform most basic repairs and general maintenance.
- Open-end Wrenches (Metric)
- Cone Wrenches
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Adjustable wrenches (8″ and 12″)
- Chain Tool
- Cable and Housing Cutters
- Spoke Wrench
- Hand Cleaner
- Bicycle Soap
- Sponges and Brushes
- Cable Ties
Continue reading for more details on each item…
Open-end Wrenches (Metric)
Open-end wrenches, in metric sizes, come in handy for a few bicyle repairs and adjustments, especially on older bikes without quick-release wheels. Grab a set at the hardware store.
Cone wrenches are like open-end wrenches, but they are much thinner. They are required mainly for hub adjustments, because regular wrenches will not fit. I highly suggest the Park SCW-x series of cone wrenches in 13-19mm sizes (16 and 17mm will be the most used.)
Needle Nose Pliers
Needle nose pliers come in handy for holding brake cables in place during adjustments, and for other random adjustments. Grab a nice pair from the local hardware store.
Adjustable wrenches (8″ and 12″)
Sometimes you just need a big wrench that fits whatever bolt you’re working on, and for that, adjustable wrenches do the job. They’re not the right tool for delicate adjustments, but they come in handy, especially with BMX bikes.
If you need to replace your chain or just fit a new one, you’ll need a chain tool, also called a chain breaker. You do not want to attempt breaking a chain by any other means, so do yourself a favor and get a quality tool like the Park CT-3 chain tool.
Cable and Housing Cutters
Believe it or not, regular wire cutters don’t work for bicycle cables. Go ahead and try. After you do, you’ll be happy to spend the money on slick cable cutters like the Park CN-4, which makes quick, clean cuts to bicycle cables and housing.
For minor wheel truing, you need a spoke wrench. This is another time when you do not want to use an adjustable wrench! They are pretty cheap, so grab a few for various spoke sizes. Park Tool and Spokey make nice, comfortable spoke wrenches.
If you are installing any new parts with threads, or doing anything where metal contacts metal, you need grease. You can get some white lithium grease at the automotive store, or get some bike-specific grease. I like Phil Wood.
While not a chain lube, WD-40 has a few uses, mainly for freeing rusted bolts and preventing steel frames from corroding inside. It’s good to have some around the shop.
Your hands will inevitably get dirty, and regular soap won’t stand a chance against bike grease. There are a few heavy-duty soaps out there, but the best one is Boraxo powdered hand soap.
Stick with degreaser for the drivetrain, but grab some soap for the rest of the bike. I’m a big fan of regular Dawn dish soap (although any dish soap will work.)
Sponges and Brushes
To get your bike truly clean, you need to give it a good scrubbing. Stock up on a variety of sponges and brushes from the hardware store, or grab a Pedro’s Super Pit Kit which has everything you need for bike cleanings.
From makeshift truing stands to holding brake cables in place, there is always a use for cable ties. Stock up on a few different sizes in colors that match your bike.
That should keep you on the right track. Along with more basic adjustments and maintenance, you can move on to hub adjustments, chain replacement, and more. If you will be doing even more repairs, move on to the Intermediate Tools List.