How-To: Homemade Spanners

If you can't buy one you make one

This tip comes from reader Joe Chumlea, of Knoxville, Tennessee. It seems Joe was trying to adjust the rear spring preload on his 2002 Yamaha V-Star. He was able to get a spanner wrench onto the collar, but found to his dismay that he didn’t have enough room to swing it. Rather than resort to bashing the adjuster with a long punch or screwdriver, which is at best a desperate, inefficient way to rotate the collar, Joe decided to make a tool that would allow him to adjust the collar using a ratchet and long extension.

Spanner wrench, how-to, maintenance, diy
Stuck in a tight spot and can't find a small enough spanner wrench or maybe want to save some money? You can make it yourself if you feel obliged.Photography of Mark Zimmerman

Joe first drilled a 3⁄8-inch hole in the spanner handle, about an inch and a half from the end. He then used a file to square the hole so it’d accept a 3⁄8-inch square extension, which allowed him to easily reach and adjust his rear spring.

Sensing that he was on to a good thing, I decided to build one myself. Yes, I know there are commercially available ones out there, thank you, but like our cavemen ancestors, I take great satisfaction in making and using my own tools.

The whole job, from locating a donor shock spanner to completion took roughly 45 minutes, a good portion of which was spent using a 1⁄4-inch x 1⁄4-inch flat file to square up the hole. This part of the job is a bit tedious, but bear with it, checking the fit of the extension as you go. When you’re done, saw off the handle, about a half-inch short of the hole. What you’ll have is an extremely useful hook spanner that can be used with any 3⁄8-inch ratchet or extension to adjust everything from shock collars to steering heads.