Saturday, 10 March 2012

Unnecessary complexity

Life used to be so much simpler for the average backyard mechanic hack. And I’m not talking about the electronic this and automatic that on the modern motorcycle. No, I’m talking about the basic mechanic’s toolset needed to do even the most basic maintenance.
Exhibit 1: my ‘07 FXDLI.

I just had new tires installed which entailed removing the saddlebags, front and back wheels, and brake calipers. By almost any measure this is a simple task well within the technical skills of anyone with even a modest interest in wrenching.  But the job is made unnecessarily complicated by the mix of SAE and metric-dimensioned bolts, heads, and tools required.
wrenches2_291Not that long ago a decent, comprehensive toolkit would consist of a good 6-point socket set (SAE if you worked on US bikes such as Harleys or Indians, metric if European or Japanese, and British Standard Whitworth if your ride was vintage Brit iron) and a set of wrenches to match. A mechanics hammer, a few screwdrivers, and a mass of hex keys (again SAE or metric) rounded out the kit.
No more. Just to complete the relatively simple task of removing and reinstalling the front and rear wheels I encountered: SAE hex-head bolts, metric hex-head bolts, 12-point-head metric bolts, and Torx-head metric and SAE bolts. Four different sets of sockets/wrenches were needed.
There appears to be no obvious advantage to the use of one type of fastener over another, so one must question why the MOCO allows this degree of non-standardisation in its assembly processes. It certainly isn’t to make servicing their products any easier.


  1. Not for the home mechanic, perhaps. And maybe that's the point. Remember the days when you could service your car yourself, before you had to visit the dealer for an expensive 'reading' of all the stored fault codes in that computer you never asked for? Same thing, I reckon. Dealers can afford multiple toolsets. Many backyard bodgers would give up at the sight of the first non-standard fastener. Ker-ching!

  2. > It certainly isn’t to make servicing their products any easier.

    you've answered your own question. Engineered complexity will drive most owners to hire a mechanic, rather than be one themselves.

  3. The metric and SAE sizes are sometimes so close I'm not sure which one fits better! Nearly everything on an American car is metric these days, except for the wheel lug nuts.

    I like Torx better than flat or Phillips heads, but I don't know that it's so much better than an Allen head that it needed to be invented. I think maybe GM invented that for their robots.

  4. Richard/NoName - I'm not so sure it's a matter of trying to curtail the backyard mechanic as it is simply that maintainability is so low on the design priority scale. Either way the result is the same.

    Alan - And that's part of the problem, the mingling of standards. And some of them are close enough it's easy to make a mistake if you're not careful, leading to an even more expensive repair. Also, what I find with Torx is that, like Phillips head, nominally identical bits can vary considerably in size/fit. Never found that with Allen heads, so whenever I have the opportunity I swap the Torx bolts out.

  5. That's one thing that drives me nuts when I'm working on the bikes or cars. Ford is pretty bad, my mustang had all sizes mixed up, you might as well just roll the toolbox right next to you.

  6. It sucks! I don't undertsand whyall the different bolts at all. It makes no sense! I give the MoCo a big thumbs down on this. I have an '07 FXDL also, but it usually has it's wheels on.

  7. RC - LOL. Mine actually has the wheels back on now. Just waiting for the good riding weather.


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