Turn the correct wrench and set yourself free!

Many people think that they must have some level of skill before embarking on an adventure (restoration) with an old car or motorcycle.  Having my own adventure with a 1968 BMW 2002 and a 1956 BMW R50 in my life time I don’t think that a high level of mechanical skill is required for the simple tasks. But, I do think there is one thing that is required to go forward into the garage and find peace working on your dream ride…

It is having the correct tools! I have seen the best mechanics turn into crazed tool tossers when the tool they are using just doesn’t “do the trick” like the correct tool would have. (Also using the correct tool can keep the user from hurting oneself. Since the incorrect tool can have disastrous out comes… knuckle mashing, elbow splitting and finger pinching painful reminders that the “I shouldn’t use this tool” thought right before you did, was certainly  a recall from past experiences AND the correct answer).


Knowing what tools you use, how to use them correctly, the correct size, quality, cleanliness of the tool, and the extra adapters that make the job easier are all things to consider when you finally decide to start a restoration project. That being said, when you do use the correct tool you find a peaceful connection to the project. It makes me feel like I am part of the history of a well designed, well maintained, and appreciated motorcycle that I hope to have a chance at riding and pass on in another 45 years. (OK… if you really know me, you know I would never pass the “Scooter” on to anyone).

Sure! I can fix it!
Sure! I can fix it!

A well organized, clean, and trash free environment to work in is key and is rarely found in my garage… so I try to clean up before and clean up after. I try to wipe down all my tools and clean with WD40 every now and then… I try to place old parts in the parts bin with a mark in sharpie of the date it was removed (10/23/13), what model (R50), and a basic reason of why it came off (broken) and/or why it was replaced (better functioning used one) on a ribbon of masking tape.  I take plastic baggies with nuts, bolts and washers and do the same thing. All this make me think one day I will go back and have a treasure trove of parts that will bring excitement to my eyes…. but I really know when I am looking for a quick fix I will have a junk bin, which of course will have nothing close to what I need.

But I did say “try” in that last paragraph… it happens about 50% of the time, which I feel is better than nothing.

Opening up the front cover to the R50 allows a tight and uncomfortable access to the regulator/relay for charging the battery, timing components, generator and a small wiring harness. All of these items in this cover are part of the electrical and timing of the motorcycle. Plain and simple I keep my fingers off this stuff… I use a digital multi-meter to measure the voltages and check relay operation with my eyes and ears, I use a few Q-Tips to clean off dirt and grime with isopropyl alcohol and try to keep any and all tools away from the timing cap and rotating advance.

Front cover removed… regulator on the right side next to the generator.

My regulator is the Item of my concern this winter and will revisit this component repair/replace in a later post.  This post is the joy using the correct tool for the job… it really makes sense then, that BMW has provided a tool tray/roll with the required tools to conduct the right level of repair/maintenance for every vehicle produced (that I have owned).

The one thing I always do when looking to buy a used BMW is to ask to see the tool kit… if it is gone, I ask for it, if the owner does not have the tools, I don’t buy the used BMW. Just that simple… it is not because I am a cheapy… and don’t want to buy another replacement set… what I am really doing is asking to see if the tools were ever used in the weekly/monthly/yearly maintenance of the engine.

No tools, then someone didn’t care enough to do the basic care. (Sure someone can say …. “Well I took it in to my favorite shop, and they did the work!” Great! Let’s see the receipts… or “sure… they must be Master BMW technicians?” Jiffy Lube?  I think not…and really… the older the BMW car or motorcycle the less likely someone was REALLY taking care of it by spending money at a repair shop… therefore at least looking at the condition of the tools can provide a small sense if the owner cared. (Perfect and clean = watch out! OR oily with grease and worn surfaces = great, someone looked at the level of the oil in the rear drive!)

Tools! Tools! Everywhere!
Tools! Tools! Everywhere!

So, be bold… open your tool box, look at the owners manual, find a repair book or general maintenance book on your favorite web site, change your oil, replace a bulb, see what it is to work on an old classic and turn a wrench on it. The wrench you turn will just maybe make you feel a connection to history, a history you are continuing to preserve for the future.


One thought on “Turn the correct wrench and set yourself free!

  1. What a great read! Would love to have an old 50s/60s BMW bike to mess about with. I remember when you could get them for relatively cheap, not now of course.

    Agree with you on having the correct tools. Definitely makes the job easier. But it brings to mind a possible blog on how to adapt when you are out there in the middle of nowhere with just the tools you have.

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