Through the years we’ve worked on just about every ATV or Side x Side ever built. In that time we’ve also collected quite a few tools, but there are a few that we use all the time. If you’re planning on doing much riding you can expect to use a few tools also, and we’ve put together our list of the “dirty dozen” tools we recommend you include in your tool box. Own these and you can do just about any job in the off-road world.
TORQUE WRENCH (lb./ft. and lb./in.) – Most bolts have a torque spec to make sure they’re tightened down fully, but engine bolts are in a league all their own. It’s critical to make sure head bolts, cylinder bolts, and many internal bolts are at the correct torque spec to avoid warping the part, and to make sure even force is applied across the two parts being clamped together.
There are three styles of torque wrenches, “click,” “break,” or “slip,” and each signals the user when achieving the preset torque you dial in. The “click” style wrench is the most popular. On all types though, the wrench is preset to the required torque value. An alternative style of torque wrench is called the “beam” type which features a small rod that acts as a measuring tool against a sale fixed to the handle when force is applied. Usually the “beam” type is a little cheaper, but also more difficult to obtain precise, repeatable measurements. Whatever type of torque wrench you choose, remember the torque wrench is a precision tool and must not be abused.
6-POINT METRIC SOCKETS – If you’re only going to buy one set of sockets, buy metric. The reason is many will fit standard bolts as well, and 6-point sockets get a much better bite on bolt heads with less tendency to round off nuts. A good set will have both a 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch drive ratchet, and a selection of deep-well sockets is handy as well. Most mechanics love high-end Snap-On tools, but Sears Craftsman sets will get the job done, they have a guarantee, and they come in several kits, usually with box end wrenches also. Watch for Sears tool sales for the best pricing.
SNAP RING PLIERS – When you need a snap ring pliers, there is no other tool that can get the job done. There are a lot of cheap snap ring pliers available, but the best have hardened prongs for grabbing the ring groove. Snap ring pliers are available in kits with different sized pliers also. Go for a quality kit with a couple different sizes. It’s a must have tool for easily removing snap rings.
BLOW GUN – This is great for blowing dirt out of tight areas you’re working on, and for scaring away the pesky cat.
3/8” CORDLESS IMPACT WRENCH – This tool saves a lot of time when removing or installing nuts and bolts. A cordless impact is the only way to go, but just be sure not to over tighten nuts and possibly strip threads. Use it snug bolts up, but finish by hand with a torque wrench.
HAMMERS – Hardly a precision tool, sometimes a hammer is the best tool for the job. A medium-sized ball-pein hammer is handy for general work, but a dead blow hammer can work wonders on a stubborn part. A claw hammer will work also, but you don’t need a big 28oz. framing model.
QUALITY SCREWDRIVERS – You need a quality set of screwdrivers with several sizes of both straight blade and Philips heads. Use only for removing screws - not for changing tires, prying, gasket scraping, or as garden or tent stakes, etc. Possibly the most misused tool in the box.
COMPRESSION TESTER – A compression tester can tell you a lot about what’s happening with your engine long before the bad noises begin, and let you know when it’s time to consider a rebuild. Listen, watch, and learn.
TORX SOCKET SET and ALLEN WRENCH SET – A quality Torx socket set is a necessity for practically any vehicle these days. Torx fasteners are a favorite of some manufacturers, and they’re almost impossible to remove without the correct sized Torx bit, but a poor quality tool will make matters worse.
Allen wrenches are like Torx sockets in that they are designed to work on specialized fasteners, and we use both a standard, and a metric set. We like Allen wrenches with a ball end, but again buy a hardened, quality set.
KNIPEX COBRA PLIERS – The Knipex Cobra pliers grip like a pit bull on a burglar’s leg and won’t slip out of adjustment when you reef on it, pinching your hand!
VICE GRIPS – One of the best tools ever for gripping just about anything. We use them all the time for everything from precision assembly work to welding. Available in several sizes and styles.
The Wish List
12 Volt TEST LIGHT and DIGITAL Volt/Ohm Meter – Helps you hunt down electrical problems.
EXTENDABLE, FLEX-HEAD Magnet – The only way to fish out that washer, wrist pin ring, or whatever else you dropped into the bottom of the motor cases and wish you hadn’t.
LED PEN LIGHT – Puts a ton of light into tight spots in a pinch and works off AAA batteries.
SOLAR POWERED TRICKLE CHARGER – Because most ATV and UTV batteries barely hold a charge these days.
EZ OUT & TAP SET – Sooner or later, you’re going to break a bolt off in a hole, and when that happens, you’re in a world of hurt. The only way to relieve the pain is to remove the offending part with an EZ OUT. If the threads are screwed up, you can fix that with a tap set. We prefer 2-fluted taps which are a little easier to use and do a better job than the 4-fluted variety. DO NOT bottom any tap in the bottom of a hole which can bind the tap into place. Use a little WD-40 or similar light oil as cutting lube as well.
SHOCK SPANNER WRENCH – Hopefully your machine came with this tool to adjust the shocks, but if not you’ll need one for easy shock adjustment. Just be sure to get one that fits the shocks on your machine.