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I'm a computer systems engineer (we did a lot of embedded systems and some electrical at university) and I own a Suzuki SV650S. I am considering doing several upgrades to it (e.g. replacing the front with a GSXR one etc.)

I've seen this post about motorbike maintenance and while that would be a good starting point, I'd like to get on a learning track that would allow me a) understand my bike better on all levels and b) allow me to do upgrades myself or with a little help from someone with more experience.

Ideally, there would be material to study on the modern motorbike electronics (fuel injection etc).

EDIT: To be clear, I am interested in a semi-formal educational track with references. Like, if there was a "do-it-yourself: become a mechanic" course on Coursera, what modules would it have and what books/other resources would each module reference?

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I think the best solution for you is likely the Haynes/Chilton tear down manuals http://www.amazon.com/Suzuki-SV650S-Haynes-Service-Repair/dp/1844257673. I have used these for years as an amateur mechanic and they have given me a much better understanding of mechanical repair. Most of them include detailed instructions for most any repair that you might need to make, as well as pictures of what you might be looking for if you are lost. They also mention specialty tools which can be a big help when you're wondering why a particular bolt isn't wanting to come loose.

That being said, if what you are wanting is less self-study oriented, then I would suggest looking into some of the larger online colleges that have sprung up in the last few years. A number of them offer online certification courses in different types of auto repair, but personally I would be concerned with the cost if all you are wanting is the skills to handle small to moderate tasks for your own vehicles.

Start with the tear down manuals and their periodic maintenance and go from there. You will likely be surprised with the amount of things that are supposed to be to motor vehicles that owners are unaware exist.

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I'm sure others can provide their own viewpoints, but here are my guidelines:


  1. Define your objective(s)

    Know what you want to learn or master as it will set the tone for what learning areas to focus on, as well as what resources you need.

    Examples could include:

    • general maintenance (plugs, filters, fluids swap)
    • body repair
    • engine tuning
    • problem diagnosis
    • cosmetic upgrades
    • electronic upgrades
    • getting familiar with the design quirks of your motorcycle

    Also, it helps to have real problems to solve or needs to address, as they force you to remain engaged.

  2. Equip your garage

    You'll need tools. I'd say a 3/8"-drive ratchet set and screwdriver set are essential. Adequate lighting and space to work as well

  3. Learn by doing

    Getting your hands dirty is a must. Theory and example videos will only get you so far.

  4. Ask when in doubt. Stay curious.

    Question the status quo.

    No question is too dumb.

    We all make mistakes.

  5. Budget some time

    Wrenching takes time, especially if you're doing this without prior experience; I remember it took me hours to perform my first ever spark plug change.

    Just remember that this is not like software where mistakes can be overwritten with a couple of clicks and keystrokes; some things will be irreversible.

  6. One project at a time

    Don't bite off more than what you can chew.

    I'll speak from experience. It can take months to execute a seemingly simple task because there are other priorities in life and only 24 hours in a day.

  7. Expect the unexpected

    Try to have a backup. And a backup to the backup.

    A car out of action for months because of a stripped thread in a timing chain cover or the absence of anti-seize? Been there, done that.

    This tenet is not intended to discourage prospective amateur mechanics, but the reality is that Murphy's Law strikes when you least expect it.

  • Thank you - it is indeed a helpful list but I was looking more of a half-formal education track with references. I'll edit my question to make this clear. – georgiosd Oct 6 '15 at 14:56
  • @georgiosd : So you're looking for material that you can go through at your own pace to become more familiar with motors? – Zaid Oct 6 '15 at 15:02
  • the problem as with any other "newbie", is that I don't know what I don't know :) I presume that a course would have some material on general motor theory, then specifics about modern bikes, then examples of modifications/repairs and so on. – georgiosd Oct 6 '15 at 15:04
  • @georgiosd : I can understand. Your Coursera example clears things up some. The trouble is that DIY - Become a Mechanic will mean different things to different people. Imagine if the course title said DIY - Become a Doctor. You can't expect a neurosurgeon to study exactly the same material as a pediatrician or a dentist. I guess I'm trying to say that you have to decide what kind of "doctor" you want to be before asking for details to be fleshed out on what topics are reasonable as self-study. There are resources out there, but you have to tell us if you're interested in breadth or depth. – Zaid Oct 6 '15 at 15:15
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    When "equipping the garage" comes into play, this doesn't mean you have to buy everything you'll ever need in one fell swoop. Buy a basic set of hand tools (wrenches/ratchet/sockets/screwdrivers/etc), then add to the set as you discover tools you need. I have been wrenching for over 30 years and still find tools I need to purchase ... some get lost, but others are more along the line of ... Oh, I could use that!!! ... Oh, and you don't need Snap-On tools to wrench, Craftsman tools will work just fine ... at much better price factor. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 6 '15 at 18:11
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I think the other answers cover most of the bases, but I will just chime in as a current 'semi-professional' mechanic and someone who worked previously as a professional auto mechanic for a number of years (before moving on to a less sweaty job).

You can watch youtube videos, read diagnostic manuals and do lots of research about fixing and maintaining your vehicle, but the very best way to learn is by doing.

Research helps, but not as much as some other professions. You need to know what you are going to do, but you also need the tools in your hands and need to build the motor skills to properly use those tools.

I don't think it would be wise to pop your hood and start ripping around in your engine bay; rather my best advice is to hang around a friend or family member who fixes things with motors and watch and help out.

Before I even attempted to work on a vehicle I spent countless hours shadowing a mechanic and helping out where needed. Also, I asked a lot of questions.

  • That's fair @Quoid. However, I'd need to attack the problem both way by e.g. also learning what a piston is :) – georgiosd Oct 7 '15 at 14:23
  • @georgiosd for sure, I just wanted to stress the practicality of actually doing:P I remember back when I went to a tech school for auto mechanics, the guy in the class who knew the most off the top of his head was also the guy who screwed up his own car so bad he had to get it towed from the shop and never showed back up for the rest of the year!! – justinw Oct 7 '15 at 19:43
  • LOL - definitely a learning experience for him :) – georgiosd Oct 8 '15 at 11:20
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Watch lots of Youtube videos. What I found works best is if you have a specific problem and search for a video tutorial on the solution. Start with simple things like changing the brakes, then work your way up from there.E.g. There should be literally millions of videos showing how a four stroke engine works.

  • Hm, yes - but the point of a "learning track" is that you also get to know what you don't know. – georgiosd Oct 6 '15 at 12:15
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    Have you considered taking night classes at a college? – Captain Kenpachi Oct 6 '15 at 13:41
  • This is the method I use. I learn much better by doing, so I use a combination of my repair manual, Youtube, and other websites to figure out how to make specific repairs or modifications that I need or want. – Poisson Fish Oct 6 '15 at 14:27
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    Get a Haynes manual for your bike if they have one. – Captain Kenpachi Oct 6 '15 at 15:42
  • @JuannStrauss I don't think there are mechanic classes around but I'll look, good idea. I've order the Haynes manual though it's not exactly what I'm looking for - see my edit. – georgiosd Oct 7 '15 at 14:21
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You just need to do it. Find a forum dedicated to your vehicle, you will find DIYs there, find one you are comfortable with and go for it. Understand torque specs as well as what will kill you. Nothing ever goes as planned so make sure you have another mode of transportation, and don't give up. You shouldn't have a problem. Keep track of what you took apart using pictures, but the diy should cover that. Keep everything organized. Don't study anything theoretical until you do one upgrade yourself on your bike. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can do based solely on common sense and effort. Good luck.

  • Agree with your assessment. One of my favorite things to say about wrenching is you need to be anal about what you are doing. If you don't keep track of everything, things will either not go back together right, you'll lose something, or something will break because of it. +1 for mostly sound advice. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 8 '15 at 22:34
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    @Paulster2 agreed. The worst is when you don't notice until everything is reassembled. It's annoying doing the same job a second time for no reason! – DavidR Oct 9 '15 at 0:29

protected by Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 9 '15 at 0:36

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