Tinker Talk January 2019

Playing Matchmaker with Motorcycle Parts

With it being the middle of winter I am certain that many of you are embarking on significant projects pertaining to your motorcycles. In order to complete these projects in time for riding season, efficiency is key. One of the things that challenges efficiency is downtime. During the off season many motorcycle related businesses are minimizing stocking orders to offset reduced revenue. This can often add a degree of difficulty to obtaining parts, which may lead to downtime. Luckily this downtime can be minimized or eliminated if you know how and where else to look for parts. This edition of Tinker Talk is aimed at providing you with some insight that can help keep things rolling when you are faced with this type of problem.

Bolt grade chart provided courtesy of Top-Line Industrial Supply. Charts like this one will help you to determine the grade of bolt you are seeking.

I know I have said this in previous editions of Tinker Talk and I will say it again. Auto parts houses, hardware stores or agricultural supply outfits are great resources to obtain motorcycle compatible parts. Items such as fasteners, spark plugs, bulbs, relays, fuses, o-rings, grommets, hoses and much more tend to be readily available at these places at any given time. Some items are easier to match than others. A fuse will generally have the amperage rating stamped right on it. Spark plugs can be easily cross referenced on a given manufacturer’s webpage or in their catalog. Other items, such as fasteners, may take a little more effort to ensure you get a correct replacement.

When matching a bolt, you will need to know the diameter, thread pitch/count and length. Investing in a thread pitch gauge will help eliminate any guesswork.

Matching a part that is not very straightforward will require you to understand specifications and take measurements. When matching fasteners, you will want to account for style, grade, material, diameter, thread count/pitch and under-head length. You should not utilize a grade 5 bolt in an application that calls for a grade 8. Black oxide fasteners aren’t normally found on a bike for a reason. Avoid their use unless you have a rust fetish. If you are searching for things like grommets, bushings or o-rings, it is important to know the length, inside diameter, outside diameter, thickness and material. Know that different “rubber” items may have varying colors and different compositions depending on the application. Always strive to make an exact match.

One of these plugs is a genuine HD plug (made by Champion) and the other is a Champion (also made by Champion). The only differences are the packaging and where you can go to get them. Note that even the casting marks and numbers are identical.

The benefits to knowing how to match up a part are not just limited to the off season. This knowledge also comes in handy when you are broken down or reside in a rural area where there is no motorcycle shop nearby. Keep in mind, these are just a few examples of what can be obtained at places other than motorcycle shops. The potential extends far beyond bolts and o-rings. In the past I have purchased compatible sensors, fuel injectors, filters, tools, bearings, piston rings and even complete carburetors from stores that had nothing to do with motorcycles. This approach to sourcing parts may be a bit unconventional but it can often result in spared time, expense and frustration. Find out for yourself and give it a shot when you have the chance.

The items labeled in this photo can normally be found hanging on the shelf in the electrical aisle at almost any auto parts house. The key to obtaining a proper replacement is to ensure the prongs/studs and ratings match.
One of these bushings is a motorcycle handlebar riser bushing and the other is an automotive suspension bushing. The reason you can’t tell the difference is because there is none. The composition, diameters, thickness and length are all identical.

Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat

-Justin James (follow more of my Tinker

shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)