How to replace your steering head bearings


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

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:10 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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If there is a binding, it's possible that the bearings need just a repack and adjustment, which can be read about in How to repack and tighten your steering head bearings.

However, if you feel a "click" or detent as the steering passes through center, or the steering wants to remain in the center more than it does on either side (as demonstrated in the video), then your bearings are worn, and need to be replaced.

Parts you will need for this job:

- New bearings. I recommend the All-Balls tapered bearings in that link over the OEM bearings - they last longer, are smoother, and are easier to adjust.

- 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 $129 - 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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Now that we have the parts and tools required, on to the actual procedure:


1. To begin, the procedure, the motorcycle needs to be lifted so that the front wheel is in the air. To do this, I use a motorcycle lift, positioned so that it is lifting the motorcycle frame. If you don't have a motorcycle lift, you can leave the motorcycle on the center stand and put a standard automotive trolley jack under the engine block, near the front of the bike. This will lift the front wheel into the air. Be careful when working with the bike this way, as it is not as stable as it normally is!

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2. Lifting a heavy bike like a Goldwing with a bike lift can make it somewhat wobbly and unstable. For safety's sake, always strap down your bike when it is on a bike lift.

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3. When lifting the bike on the lift, it can become slightly unstable in the longitudinal axis. Once the bike is lifted, I slide some pieces of wood under the rear wheel, then gently lower the bike until the rear wheel touches the wood. This stabilizes the bike and keeps it from rocking from end to end while you work.

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4. Once the bike is lifted, the front wheel will be several inches in the air. For this procedure, we want the front wheel only an inch or two off the ground.

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5. Pull the rear of the front fender cover to release the post from its grommet. Carefully release the two tabs from the front of the cover (next to the fork) - these tabs are easily broken, so be careful! Remove the cover. Repeat on the other side of the wheel.

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6. Remove the allen bolt holding the top of the wheel cover. You may have aftermarket accessories such as the wiring and light bracket shown in this picture. If that is the case, keep in mind how they fasten, so that you can refasten them when reassembling.

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7. Remove the two allen bolts from the bottom of the wheel cover.

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8. Note that the two allen bolts on the bottom of the wheel cover have a collar - don't lose the collar!

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9. Remove the wheel cover. Repeat the process on the other side of the wheel.

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10. Note the brake line stabilization bracket that goes on top of the wheel cover. The top allen bolt goes through both of these brackets, then through the wheel cover, then screws into the fork. There are two brackets on each side, and both of them are stamped "L" or "R" to identify which side of the wheel they are from. The two brackets on each side link together at the back, go around the brake line, and then go together at the front, where they are fastened, along with the wheel cover, into the fork. The inside bracket has a small flange that fits into the hole in the plastic rotor cover.

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11. Remove the lower allen bolt holding the brake caliper bracket to the anti-dive piston.

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12. Remove the upper caliper bracket bolt.

Helpful note: When removing the left caliper, remove the LOWER bolt first, then the upper bolt. On the right caliper, remove the UPPER bolt first, then the lower bolt. When installing, do the reverse. This prevents the calipers from rotating when trying to remove/install them.

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13. Pull each caliper back off the brake rotor, and then away from the wheel. Once the calipers have been removed from the wheel, do NOT depress either the brake lever or brake pedal, as this will move the pistons out, and you will not be able to fit the calipers back over the brake rotors.

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14. Using a bungee, rope or wire, hang the caliper so that it is not suspended using the brake line.

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15. Using a Philips screwdriver, remove the screw holding the speedometer cable into the speedometer drive.

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16. Pull the speedometer cable rearward out of the speedometer drive and free it from the front wheel.

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17. At this point, the Honda service manual has you remove the front wheel and disassemble the front fender to isolate the forks before removing them from the triple tree. We will skip this whole process, however you can do so if you wish - follow the instructions under How to rebuild your front forks.

18. 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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19. Pull the handlebar cover free.

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

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

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22. Gently pull the inner cover free. Repeat the process to remove the right inner cover.

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

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24. 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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25. Once both screws are removed, the stem under cover can be pulled down. The speedometer cable goes through the slot in the front. Make sure during reinstallation that the cable goes back through this slot.

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

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27. 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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28. 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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29. Gently pull it down out of the steering stem.

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

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32. Pull the cable free of the steering stem.

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33. 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.

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34. Remove the clamp nuts and clamps.

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

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

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

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

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39. Remove the nut and set it aside.

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

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

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42. Loosen the pinch bolts on the lower triple tree, holding the forks in place. Gently lift the bike, to allow the the forks to drop out of the triple tree. This will allow the forks, front wheel and fender assembly to be removed from the bike.

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

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44. 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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45. 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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46. 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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47. Using a socket wrench, loosen and remove the locknut.

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

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49. Using the locknut socket, loosen the steering adjustment nut. As you do so, the steering stem will lower down. Don't let it fall out - keep a hold of it, so that when the adjustment nut backs off fully, you keep it from falling.

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50. Remove the steering adjustment nut from the stem. Hold the lower triple tree clamp and stem in place, as there will now be nothing holding them in the bike. Don't allow them to fall out and hit the ground!

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51. 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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52. The steering stem, attached to the lower triple tree and front wheel assembly will come free.

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53. The lower bearing and its race are pressed onto the bottom of the steering stem.

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54. The upper bearing can be easily removed from the upper triple tree.

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55. The lower bearing is pressed on the shaft. Use the end of a blunt chisel, pressed against the seal at the bottom of the bearing.

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56. Tap firmly on the end of the chisel with a hammer.

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57. Move the chisel around the bearing as you work - a tap on one side, then a tap on the other, to make sure the bearing comes off evenly. If you tap it too much on just one side, it will bind and jam on the stem, and could even damage the stem.

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58. Eventually the bearing will work free of the stem. Note the enlarged area of the stem on the left side, where the bearing presses into place. Clean the grease and dirt off of the stem.

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59. Pry the bearing apart - we will be using the inner race to help install the new bearing.

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60. I cut the bearing fence legs apart, lifted them up as shown, then removed the roller bearings.

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61. Once you have pried the bearing apart, clean and retain the inner race.

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62. Place the new lower bearing seal onto the steering stem.

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63. Push the seal all the way to the bottom of the stem.

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64. Separate the outer race from the new lower bearing.

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65. Pack the bearing well with a quality bearing grease. Take time to work it well into the bearing to make sure it is completely packed full of grease.

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66. Apply the bearing grease to the inside of the bearing seal as well as the stem.

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67. Place the new bearing onto the stem, making sure the wider part of the bearing is on the bottom, up against the seal. Place the old inner race on top of the new bearing as shown. This allows us to press the new bearing onto the stem applying pressure only to the inner race of the new bearing. We don't want to apply force against the new bearing, or mark or damage it.

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68. With your chisel, gently tap the edge of the old bearing to press the new bearing into place. Use very gentle taps, moving around the bearing 120 degrees after each tap. This will allow the new bearing to press evenly onto the stem. If too much pressure is applied to one side, the bearing can bind on the stem, so it is important to do this gently.

It is not required, but will make the job much, much easier if you first allow the stem to cool in a deep freezer for half an hour. Just before installing the bearing, heat it gently with a heat gun (not enough to burn the grease!). The cold causes the stem to contract, and the bearing to expand - and with the tight tolerances when pressing the bearing into place, it makes the job much easier.

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69. An alternate method of pressing the new bearing into place is to invert the assembly and place it over a firm platform. As shown, I have set up two tire irons next to one another, with the stem going between them and the old bearing race resting on top of the tire irons. A vise with enough room to do this will also work - just be careful not to nick the steering stem. Firmly rapping the bottom of the steering stem pushes the bearing up onto the stem.

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70. Press the bearing onto the stem until it is fully pressed into place.

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71. Apply more bearing grease liberally over the bearing.

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72. Removing the old outer races from inside the steering tube frame is the toughest part of the job. Some people use a drift or screwdriver, trying to angle it to catch the small groove just above the race, in order to push it out.

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73. I built my own custom tool. I took a chisel and ground it in a radius to match the radius of the inside of the steering tube. I sharpened the edge of the chisel so that it would hook the groove above the bearing race.

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74. I then heated and bent the end of the chisel, so that I could insert it into the steering tube, push it up against the bearing race, and push the sharp edge of the chisel into the groove.

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75. This is my tool, inserted from the bottom of the steering tube, and hooked into the groove above the upper bearing race. This is the view from above.

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76. The tool works exactly the same way, inserted from the top of the steering tube, to hook the lower bearing race. This is the view from below.

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77. A couple sharp raps on the end of the chisel with a hammer, and the bearing race comes free of the steering tube. Remember to move from place to place around the circumference of the race as you do so, to avoid pivoting the race in the tube.

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78. Clean the inside of the steering tube well.

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79. Apply a light coating of grease to prevent corrosion, and to assist in the installation of the new bearing races.

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80. Just like installing the bearing on the stem, it makes the job much easier to first heat the steering tube, and freeze the new outer race. Position the new bearing race to press into the tube.

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81. A piece of wood and a hammer can easily knock the new bearing race into position. Be careful to keep the wood perfectly parallel to the tube, to make sure the race goes in straight. It will not push the race in all the way, it will go only flush with the steering tube.

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82. Place the old bearing race upside down against the new one as shown. We will use it to press the new bearing race all the way into the tube.

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83. A few more raps on the old bearing race, and the new bearing race is now fully seated into the steering tube.

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84. Repeat the process so that both the upper and lower races are installed.

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85. Notice a bit of wood particles from pushing the race into place - I cleaned these out before proceeding with the next step.

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86. Apply a coat of grease to the inside of the bearing races.

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87. Gently insert the stem with the new bearing up into the steering tube. Be careful not to nick the new race as you do so.

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88. Strap the lower triple tree in place to prevent it falling out while we work on the upper bearing.

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89. Grease the new upper bearing, and push it over the stem and into place in its race. Apply more grease on top of the bearing.

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90. Install the new seal over the stem.

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91. The old bearing adjustment nut will be coated in dirt.

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92. Polish the interior clean before reinstalling it.

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93. Apply a substantial coating of grease.

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94. Screw the adjustment nut into place, finger tight.

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95. Lift the bike up, roll the front wheel under the front end, and guide the forks back into the lower triple tree. Lower the bike to move the wheel near to its correct position, allowing the forks to slide up in the triple tree. Snug up the lower triple tree clamps to prevent the forks from sliding.

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96. With the front wheel on the ground, finger-tighten the adjustment nut again, then turn the front wheel fully from side to side.

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

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

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

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100. Repeat the previous two steps two more times, except the last time, 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.

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

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102. 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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103. Screw the locknut down over the lock ring, finger tight.

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

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

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107. Screw the upper stem bridge nut finger tight, then snug it down.

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107. Loosen the lower triple tree fork pinch bolts and slide the forks up or down so that the top of each fork tube aligns with the top of the upper stem bridge. Tighten the lower pinch bolts to 40 ft-lb.

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108. Tighten the upper pinch bolts to 16 ft-lb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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122. Do the same with the brake line.

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123. Replace the handlebar cover and press into place.

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

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125. 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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126. Insert the front tab of each inner cover into the dashboard.

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127. 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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128. 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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129. 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.

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130. Remove the roller bearing collar from the upper caliper bracket mount on each side.

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131. Pack the roller bearings with grease, then reinsert the roller bearing collar.

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132. Using brake cleaner, fully clean the brake calipers, pads and rotors to remove any grease or oil residue.

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133. The caliper mounting bolts need to have high-temperature brake lubricant applied.

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134. Apply the lubricant to the non-threaded portion of the bolts.

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135. Making sure the brake pads straddle the brake rotor, slide the caliper into place. Start the bolts in by hand, then finish using a torque wrench. The top caliper bolt is torqued to 17 ft-lb, the bottom caliper bolt is torqued to 9 ft-lb. Repeat the process with the other caliper.

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136. The speedometer cable has a slotted end that rotates within the cable.

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137. The speedometer drive has a flat drive that rotates with the front wheel.

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138. Rotate the front wheel so that the drive rotates and properly engages the slot in the cable. Push the cable fully into the drive until the bottom screw retainer butts up against the drive.

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139. Replace and snug the screw in the speedometer drive. This screw is tough to get exactly right - too tight, and the plastic screw retainer will split, causing the cable to back out of the drive when under way. Not tight enough, and the screw will back out and fall out, causing the cable to back out of the drive when under way. I used blue Loctite on this screw to encourage it to remain within the drive, without having to tighten it too much. Don't use the screw to pull the cable into place - make sure it is fully inserted before you tighten the screw.

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140. Place the two brake line stabilization brackets around the brake line and link them together. Make sure you get the correct brackets on the correct sides.

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141. Fit the wheel cover into place, making sure it fits under the brackets, and that the flange of the back bracket fits into the hole of the wheel cover. The back of the wheel cover also needs to fit into the back of the wheel fender. Screw the top bolt into place, but do not tighten.

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142. Replace the two bottom bolts - don't forget to use their collars. Tighten these bolts, then tighten the top bolt.

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143. Fit the two tabs at the front of the front fender cover into the back of the front fender, then push the rear of the front fender cover into place, inserting its post into its grommet.

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Any time you work on brakes, wheels, suspension or any other safety-critical system, it is beholden upon you to TEST RIDE thoroughly at slow speed in a controlled area, to ensure that everything is working correctly. Check for oscillating tendencies at different speeds to ensure the bearings are torqued and operating properly.



CaptLen
Posts: 39
Joined: Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:39 am
Location: Norwalk, Connecticut
Motorcycle: 2012 GL1800A

Re: How to replace your steering head bearings

Postby CaptLen » Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:20 pm

Thank you so much for the very thorough explanation and many photos. That is a real service to is

wingwrench
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:03 am
Location: New Braintree Ma
Motorcycle: 1983 gl 1100a

Re: How to replace your steering head bearings

Postby wingwrench » Sat Jun 27, 2015 12:32 am

Excellent wright up..! I just finished replacing the steering head bearings on my 1983 gl1100.. The only real difference on the gl1100 is the top nut that goes on top of the top tripple tree is not a regular 30 mm nut... It's another round nut with the 4 notches just like the adjustment nut and lock nut.. Only it's smaller... so on the gl1100 you need to make two speical tools...One for the adjustment nut and lock nut... and then another tool for the smaller nut on top of the upper triple clamp...I used 1 1/4 pipe to make the tool for the adjustment nut and then I used a 1 inch socket to make the smaller tool for the top nut... One other thing worth mention is the wires go through the weight and will need some fiddling with to get enough slack to get around the steering stem for removal... also the allballs bearing races where extra snug fit in my gl1100 and needed an extra good cleaning of the inside of the steering tube and bottom of the stem... I used a DreMell , tool with the barrel sander attachment to get it clean enough to fully seat the bearing races... I will reinstall the forks,wheel , brakes and trim tomorrow....I will post again after a good test ride.. I have had this bike for 6 years and it has always had front end wobble that I thought was normal for these old /heavy bikes..... Until I found this site..! Great info Great site...! Thank you all..

User avatar
702scottc
Posts: 252
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 12:12 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Motorcycle: 1980 GL1100 Interstate (sold)
1990 GL1500 Aspencade (sold)
2005 GL1800

Re: How to replace your steering head bearings

Postby 702scottc » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:07 pm

I just finished replacing the bearings on my 1990 and I have to say your instructions are precise and easy to follow. I made a couple of deviations from your instructions, I added a piece of electrical tape to the bottom of the fork tubes where they meet the lower triple clamp, easier to reassemble having a reference Mark. My 1990 didn't have a seal on the top bearing, it does now. Seemed prudent to use it. I never realized how bad those bearings really where until I took the front end off, you could really feel how rough they where. The weight of the bike really masked how worn they where. I was starting to feel the bike follow the road grooves a lot more even with a new tire, should be sweet now!
I have replaced head bearings on other bikes I have owned but your step by step made this job easier than it would have been otherwise, thanks....

millerized
Posts: 167
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:33 am
Location: Inwood, WV
Motorcycle: 99 GL1500SE
Contact:

Re: How to replace your steering head bearings

Postby millerized » Sat Jul 09, 2016 6:30 am

This weekend is steering and wheel bearings, new brake rotors and braided lines, as well as a full fork rebuild. There's a new front ME888 tire waiting to go on as well. In for a penny and all that.
Interesting look with all the front guts off.




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