How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings


Step-by-step tutorials on how to maintain and fix your GL1500
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How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:36 pm



The steering head bearings are a perpetual weak spot on Goldwings, simply because of the massive weight they must support. Honda recommends an inspection every 8,000 miles - and in a lot of cases, they need to be tightened. This is particularly true for newly-installed bearings, which take some time (and miles) to fully seat in, and must be re-tightened several times.

Checking your steering head bearings is a fairly simple task. Use a trolley jack or motorcycle lift to lift the front wheel off the ground when the bike is on the center stand. Have someone hold the bike steady, and while sitting in front of the wheel as shown, attempt to push the wheel forward and backward, as well as rocking it from side to side. There should be no movement of any kind. If you are able to move the wheel, the bearings are in need of attention.

In addition, turn the handlebars from side to side while the front wheel is off the ground. The wheel should turn smoothly, with no binding or "clicks" felt.

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Your bearings need adjustment? It's not a huge job. You will need:

- New lock washer, Honda part number 90506-425-830 (you can sometimes get away with using an old one, but this is a major safety item - do you want your steering stem loosening off on you unexpectedly because you didn't want to buy a $5 lock washer?)

- 30mm socket

- Honda Steering stem socket, part number 07916-3710100, or a modified 36mm deep socket (see below)

- Torque wrench. This one is a must - correct torque is critical on the steering bearings, it's not something you can just guess at.

- Cheap 30mm socket - this can be found at a local automotive store or Harbor Freight for around $20 or so.

The Honda steering stem socket is around $80 - which of course, you don't want to spend. So, being cheap, I manufactured my own out of a cheap Chinese-made 36mm deep-well impact socket. The cheaper the better - you want something made out of really nasty, cheap Chinese steel, because you're going to be grinding some of it away - and you really don't want to attempt grinding a high-grade high carbon steel tempered socket!

1. Start with your cheap Chinese 36mm deep-well impact socket.

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2. Note that the socket walls are somewhat thicker on impact sockets.

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3. Trace around the socket, draw center lines as shown, and add small lines 2.5mm on either side of each line as shown.

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4. Transcribe the lines onto the socket head.

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5. Using a file (not so good), dremel tool (better) or bench grinder (best!), grind away about 5mm of metal everywhere except between the lines you scribed.

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6. Grind/file the insides of the remaining tabs so that they are 4-5mm wide from inside to outside. You may need to adjust this as required when fitting your tool on the locknuts.

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7. On to the actual procedure: Remove the ignition switch cover by gently pulling up at the bottom as shown until the posts disengage from the rubber grommets. Then release the tabs at the top and remove the cover.

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8. Remove the left top inner cover by pulling the tab free at the rightmost edge as shown.

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9. Follow by pulling each tab free in sequence until you get to the front tab.

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10. This tab locks in place - be careful not to break it. Next, remove the right top inner cover the same way as you removed the left side.

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11. Looking up from the front wheel into the front of the fairing, you will see the stem under cover.

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12. Remove the screw on the left side. This screw also holds a bracket that holds the brake line in place. It's tight to fit a screwdriver up in this space, so I find it helpful to use a small philips bit mounted on a small socket wrench, so that the socket wrench turns the philips bit that is inserted into the screw.

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13. Remove the screw on the right side. Like the left side, it also fastens the bracket that holds the brake line in place.

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14. Once both screws are removed, the stem under cover can be pulled down. The speedometer cable goes through the slot in the front, so it cannot be fully removed, but it can be pulled down out of the way.

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15. Remove the handlebar cover by pulling straight up. Set it aside.

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16. Underneath, you will find the stem cover, a round rubber piece with a wire coming out the side.

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17. Gently pull the cover loose from the top of the stem.

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18. Several inches of wire need to be pulled through the cover in order to give enough free play for the next step. To avoid excess strain on the cable and the cover, use soapy water to lubricate the cable before pulling it through the cover.

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19. Locate the turn signal cancel control unit at the bottom of the steering stem, and remove the three screws holding it in place.

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20. Gently pull it down out of the steering stem.

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21. Pull the cable down until the connector emerges. If you don't have enough cable to get to the connector, make sure the cable is pulled all the way through the stem cover.

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22. Disconnect the connector and pull the turn signal cancel control unit free.

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23. Set a towel on the top of the false "gas tank" to protect the paint finish. Loosen the handlebar clamp nuts, allowing the handlebars to "flop down" as they come loose. Remove the clamp nuts and clamps.

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24. Unhook the clutch and brake lines from the clamps on the upper stem bridge.

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25. Lift the handlebars free of the clamps and pull them back. Route the wires as required.

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26. Rest the handlebars on the towel on the false tank.

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27. Using your 30mm socket, loosen the upper stem bridge nut.

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28. Remove the nut and set it aside.

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29. Loosen (but do not remove) the upper stem bridge fork pinch bolts on each side.

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30. Lift the upper stem bridge up and out of the motorcycle.

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31. You can now see the upper lock nut, the lock ring, and the adjustment nut.

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32. There are four tabs on the lock ring - two that go down into the adjustment nut, and two that go up into the lock nut. Bend the two tabs that are bent upward into the lock nut down, so that the lock nut can turn.

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33. As you can see, this lock ring had been reused, and as a result this tab was mangled and not really doing its job.

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34. Place your locknut socket over the locknut and ensure the tabs fit into the slots in the locknut. This is the point where you may have to fine-tune your homemade socket with a file, to make sure the tabs fit into the slots correctly.

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35. Using a socket wrench, loosen and remove the locknut.

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36. Pull the lock ring up off along with the locknut.

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37. Using the locknut socket, loosen the steering adjustment nut.

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38. Remove the steering adjustment nut from the stem. At this point there is nothing left holding the stem in place - if you were to lift the bike up, the front wheel would fall out!

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39. Pull the bearing seal up off the upper stem bearing. **Note: This is shown on a 2000 GL1500SE. Some earlier versions of the GL1500 do not have this seal - so don't panic if yours is missing!

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40. Place a wheel chock against the front and back of the front wheel to prevent it from moving on the ground. Alternately, you can tie a piece of rope around the right handgrip and brake lever, holding the front brake on to prevent the front wheel from rolling.

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41. Place a trolley jack under the engine block and very carefully lift the front of the bike. It doesn't need to be lifted much - an inch or so will do. This is just to drop the stem enough to gain access to the bearings.

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42. Pull the upper stem bearing free.

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43. The lower stem bearing will drop out the bottom of the stem shaft, as it is press fitted to the stem.

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44. Using high-quality grease, pack the lower stem bearing and the race (the part in the shaft that the bearing sits up against).

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45. Apply grease to the stem and the bearing race.

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46. Pack the bearing well with grease and reinsert it into the top of the stem shaft, making sure the stem comes up through the bearing, and that the bearing is fully seated in its race. If you can't get the stem to align in the shaft to allow the bearing to fit, move the front wheel slightly forward or backward in order to move the stem into place.

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48. Fit the bearing seal in place over the top stem bearing.

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49. Coat the underside of the bearing adjustment nut in grease, and screw it finger tight into place. Lower the bike so that the full weight is on the front wheel again.

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50. Finger-tighten the adjustment nut again, then turn the front wheel from side to side.

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51. Using a torque wrench, tighten the steering adjustment nut to 29 ft-lb.

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52. Turn the front wheel fully from left to right and back five times to seat the bearings.

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53. Loosen the steering adjustment nut to finger-tight, then re-torque to 29 ft-lb.

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54. Repeat steps 52 and 53.

55. Repeat steps 52 and 53 two more times, except instead of torquing to 29 ft-lb, torque to 14 ft-lb. This will fully seat the bearings. The last time you perform the process, do NOT loosen the adjustment nut after turning the wheel back and forth. This leaves the steering adjustment nut torqued to 14 ft-lb, which is the correct amount.

WARNING: Improper adjustment of the steering stem adjustment nut (too loose or too tight) may cause handlebar oscillation, cornering instability, or excessive noise during braking.

56. The new lock ring comes sealed from Honda.

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57. The lock ring comes with two of the outer legs already bent down.

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58. Place the lock ring into place over the steering adjustment nut so that the bent legs fit into the slots in the steering adjustment nut.

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59. Screw the locknut down over the lock ring, finger tight.

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60. The slots in the locknut should align with the tabs in the lock ring. If they do not, remove the locknut, flip it over, and reinstall it.

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61. Bend the tabs up so that they engage the slots in the locknut. The locknut is left finger-tight!

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62. Fit the upper stem bridge over the forks and the steering stem.

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63. Screw the upper stem bridge nut finger tight.

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64. Tighten the fork pinch bolts to 16 ft-lb.

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65. Using a torque wrench, tighten the upper stem bridge nut to 72 ft-lb (yes, that's very tight!). This jams the lower part of the bridge up against the locknut that was left finger tight and prevents it from turning. Because it is locked in place to the steering adjustment nut, it prevents the steering adjustment nut from turning, without applying the massive pressure of the upper stem bridge nut against the bearings.

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66. Feed the connector for the turn signal cancel controller down the top of the steering stem.

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67. Using some needle nose pliers, gently pull it through from the bottom of the stem.

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68. Reconnect the connector to the turn signal cancel controller.

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69. Carefully feed the wires back up into the stem, as the controller is pushed up into place.

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70. Refasten the controller in place with its three screws.

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71. Relubricate the cable with soapy water, and pull the stem cover down over the cable.

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72. Place the stem cover in place over the top of the stem.

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73. Looking at the handlebar clamps, you will see a small circular impression on one side. This indicates the front of the clamp (goes closest to the front end of the bike).

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74. Place the handlebars back in place and snug (but do not tighten) the clamp bolts. Snug the front bolts first.

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75. Adjust the angle of the handlebars to your preference. Ensure there is sufficient clearance between the brake and clutch reservoirs and the windshield.

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76. Tighten the front handlebar clamp bolts to 18 ft-lb, then repeat the process on the rear clamp bolts.

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77. Reroute the clutch line through its clamps and stays.

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78. Do the same with the brake line.

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79. Replace the handlebar cover and press into place.

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80. Position the brake line clamp bracket over its mount point.

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81. Position the stem under cover in place, and fasten the screw in place that holds both the one side of the stem under cover and the brake line clamp bracket. Repeat the process on the other side to fasten the stem under cover in place.

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82. Insert the front tab of each inner cover into the dashboard.

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83. Gradually work around each inner cover starting at the front and working your way around to the inner back, putting each tab into its slot.

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84. Replace the ignition cover by inserting the front tabs into their slots, then rotating the back down into place, pushing the posts into their grommets.

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85. Lift the front wheel off the ground and turn it repeatedly from side to side, checking for any binding. Do the initial free play check - there should be none. Test ride the bike, checking for oscillating tendencies at different speeds to ensure the bearings are torqued and operating properly.



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Sidcar
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Stem nut socket

Postby Sidcar » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:14 am

When I fitted EZ-Steer triple trees I could not lay my hands on a 36mm deep socket as advised on this website. However a 42mm will do the job. This engages on the lock tab lugs on the nut and gives suffient purchase to apply the correct torque and a bit more if you want. It does need to be 44mm deep. Mine wasn't but, as it was a cheap socket the metal was soft enough to machine out.

Hope this helps someone.

Sid

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Re: Stem nut socket

Postby WingAdmin » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:56 am

Sidcar wrote:When I fitted EZ-Steer triple trees I could not lay my hands on a 36mm deep socket as advised on this website. However a 42mm will do the job. This engages on the lock tab lugs on the nut and gives suffient purchase to apply the correct torque and a bit more if you want. It does need to be 44mm deep. Mine wasn't but, as it was a cheap socket the metal was soft enough to machine out.

Hope this helps someone.

Sid


What a great idea! Thanks for mentioning it.

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aznyaz
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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby aznyaz » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:21 pm

I found this article very informative, as is the case with most of the DIY's. Is there a similar article that would apply to a GL1100I, the area in particular that I'm interested in is removal of the upper stem bridge as far as removing the cross-over air line from the top of the fork tubes. Or is there adequate information in the Service and Clymer manuals? Everything else seems to apply.

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Stem Socket

Postby Richman2000 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:06 pm

I agree that using the proper socket is best, but in a pinch a 1 11/16" socket will work. It may be a little large, but if you can't find the right size, it will have enough bite to remove and also torque the nut. Using the proper tools are always recommended.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:23 am

While putting a new set of rear shocks on my wife's Pacific Coast tonight, I noticed that the front steering head bearings were shot. So I took the opportunity to make a quick video. Fortunately, it takes the same steering head bearings as the 1500, so I've already got a set of All Balls replacements on hand.




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Fatwing Chris
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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby Fatwing Chris » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:00 am

Thanks for the excellant tutorial.If I could just add one small suggestion I would suggest cutting a 1/2 slot up the side of your 36 mm socket an 1" or so.Like an auto O2 sensor socket.That way if you just want to go in and retorque the brgs later you don't have to remove the signal controller to get the harness out of the way.The harness will just ride in the slot and there is enough movement to set your torque as long as you don't try to do more than say 90* at a time.You'll be able to tell by watching the harness if you're stretching it.cheers.
If I'da known it would last this long,I'da taken better care of it.
Chris
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WingAdmin
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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:06 pm

Fatwing Chris wrote:Thanks for the excellant tutorial.If I could just add one small suggestion I would suggest cutting a 1/2 slot up the side of your 36 mm socket an 1" or so.Like an auto O2 sensor socket.That way if you just want to go in and retorque the brgs later you don't have to remove the signal controller to get the harness out of the way.The harness will just ride in the slot and there is enough movement to set your torque as long as you don't try to do more than say 90* at a time.You'll be able to tell by watching the harness if you're stretching it.cheers.


That's an excellent idea!

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Fatwing Chris
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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby Fatwing Chris » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:53 am

WingAdmin wrote:
Fatwing Chris wrote:Thanks for the excellant tutorial.If I could just add one small suggestion I would suggest cutting a 1/2 slot up the side of your 36 mm socket an 1" or so.Like an auto O2 sensor socket.That way if you just want to go in and retorque the brgs later you don't have to remove the signal controller to get the harness out of the way.The harness will just ride in the slot and there is enough movement to set your torque as long as you don't try to do more than say 90* at a time.You'll be able to tell by watching the harness if you're stretching it.cheers.


That's an excellent idea!



Actually you have to slot both sockets.Was out in the garage after I posted here and saw the sockets laying on the bench.The old mind isn't as sharp as it used to be.
If I'da known it would last this long,I'da taken better care of it.
Chris
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MDRanger
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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby MDRanger » Tue May 21, 2013 8:00 pm

Is this procedure the same for my buds gl1200 aspencade?

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Wed May 22, 2013 11:50 pm

MDRanger wrote:Is this procedure the same for my buds gl1200 aspencade?


It's very close, yes. The overall idea of the bearings in the head, with races, and the lock ring with the two nuts is the same.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby aznyaz » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:19 am

I had asked the question awhile back if this tutorial would work for the GL 1100. I did notice that it was affirmed that this would work for a 1200, so it seems likely that it would work for the 1100. Is this true?

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:43 pm

aznyaz wrote:I had asked the question awhile back if this tutorial would work for the GL 1100. I did notice that it was affirmed that this would work for a 1200, so it seems likely that it would work for the 1100. Is this true?


Correct. The torque values will likely be different, but the system is the same.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby aznyaz » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:57 am

thanks, I'll check the manuals for torque values.

One last question. Is there anything tricky or something I need to know about removal and installation of the fork air lines? Are they pipe threads? Do they need Teflon tape? Etc.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:06 pm

They don't need teflon, they have small rubber O-rings that seal them when they are tightened in place.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby Chickenlegs » Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:02 pm

Im replacing the bearings on my 97' 1500 with the ''ALL BALLS RACING'' kit. the stock set up does not have a top "seal" and the new kit does. do i use that top seal or not. thanks guys in advance. Rob

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:18 pm

Chickenlegs wrote:Im replacing the bearings on my 97' 1500 with the ''ALL BALLS RACING'' kit. the stock set up does not have a top "seal" and the new kit does. do i use that top seal or not. thanks guys in advance. Rob


That is exactly the kit you see me installing in these pictures. Yes, use the seal.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby Chickenlegs » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:25 am

thank you, i will use the seal. I have seen other methods and home made tools (some where) on getting that bottem race out,but i can't seem to re-find them, can someone point me the right way or an easier way. thanks again.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby Chickenlegs » Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:01 pm

welded two small beeds (1/2'') on the lower race, about four taps with that curved ''rod'' and on the floor it went. :D

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:22 pm

Chickenlegs wrote:welded two small beeds (1/2'') on the lower race, about four taps with that curved ''rod'' and on the floor it went. :D


I took a 1/2" of bar stock, heated it to bend it to an angle at the bottom, and ground a little lip at the bottom - just enough to grab the top of the race. I put it in from the top, hooked the lip over the top of the race, and gave the end a tap with a hammer. I did this on each side of the race, and it popped out. I did the same thing to get the top one out (tapping it up from the bottom).

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How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby wingone01 » Sat Sep 06, 2014 7:02 pm

OK...sorry but you guys lost me here? Are you talking about using a tool to pull the bearings although it kept mentioning races? I looked at the pics and watched the attached video and did not see any reference to tools being used to pull the bearings?? Second question: did you replace the bottom bearing also? It seemed the top bearing gets most of the stress but I was wondering why both bearings were not replaced since your were this far into it.

Can you recommend a "high quality" grease. There are lots of types of grease out there and I would want to use one suitable for this purpose.

Thanks for all of the great articles and pics. My laptop (with a wireless connections) has become an essential tool for me in my garage. I use to browse other sites but find myself always coming back here. Keep up the good work.

Regards

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Sep 08, 2014 1:32 pm

wingone01 wrote:OK...sorry but you guys lost me here? Are you talking about using a tool to pull the bearings although it kept mentioning races? I looked at the pics and watched the attached video and did not see any reference to tools being used to pull the bearings?? Second question: did you replace the bottom bearing also? It seemed the top bearing gets most of the stress but I was wondering why both bearings were not replaced since your were this far into it.

Can you recommend a "high quality" grease. There are lots of types of grease out there and I would want to use one suitable for this purpose.

Thanks for all of the great articles and pics. My laptop (with a wireless connections) has become an essential tool for me in my garage. I use to browse other sites but find myself always coming back here. Keep up the good work.

Regards


This article is just packing the bearings with grease and re-torquing them correctly. The bearings do not need to be pulled with a tool - they can be removed with your fingers once the stem nut torquing them in place is removed. The races require a tool for removal.

As for grease type, I like to use a white lithium grease, GC-LB type. I think I currently have Mobil grease in my garage, although there are several excellent greases made by different manufacturers. Look for a label like this:



What the letters mean
G - Certified for use in automotive wheel bearings
A - Good
B - Better
C - Best

L - Certified for use in automotive chassis
A - Good
B - Best

A grease marked "GCLB" is the best possible grease, acceptable for use in both wheel bearings as well as general lubrication duties.

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How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby wingone01 » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:46 pm

Many Thanks Dr. Admin.... :D

I am going to check the bearings per the recommended method; hopefully they are OK but wanted to make sure if I have to perform this task (bearing replacement) I have the proper materials (and tools/parts) on hand.

I already know I have to replace the seals in the fork tubes, they will not hold air and I am not sure of the condition of the fork oil (assuming there is any left). There does not appear to be any oil residue on the forks but the bike is 19 years old. If the oil leaked out it may be long gone. On a ride this past weekend, it seemed like the front end would hit bumps pretty hard even at relatively slow speeds.

Thank you also for the lubrication training. I know from experience that using the wrong lube can be disastrous.

Regards

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby aznyaz » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:22 am

I will be doing this project soon on my GL 1100 and just wanted to check on one simple thing. It appears the grease used in the photos is Moly paste. If this is true, and my bearings are packed with something else, if I choose to use Moly paste how much or how thorough do the bearings need to be cleaned of the old grease before I can pack with Moly? Or do I even need to be concerned at all? Just curious about possible interactions between dis-similar products that could cause some kind of chemical breakdown.

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Re: How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings

Postby WingAdmin » Sun Oct 19, 2014 3:30 pm

aznyaz wrote:I will be doing this project soon on my GL 1100 and just wanted to check on one simple thing. It appears the grease used in the photos is Moly paste. If this is true, and my bearings are packed with something else, if I choose to use Moly paste how much or how thorough do the bearings need to be cleaned of the old grease before I can pack with Moly? Or do I even need to be concerned at all? Just curious about possible interactions between dis-similar products that could cause some kind of chemical breakdown.


It's not Moly, it's lithium grease. Not sure about mixing Moly with regular grease - I've always cleaned off grease completely before replacing it, so I haven't had the opportunity to mix them.




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