Author Topic: Removing and installing steering head bearings  (Read 8979 times)

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Offline berniebee

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Removing and installing steering head bearings
« on: October 29, 2012, 12:21:37 AM »
I removed the head bearings today.  I've removed the headlight , brakes wiring, front wheel and forks for restoration.
Note: I'm not paranoid! The VIN is masked over because the highly reflective label was causing the the flash pics to be underexposed.
First I tied the the lower clamp to the fork lock. Retaining it this way also caused the clamp to go to the left lock position, which is also helpful.

Then I tie-wrapped a bucket to the frame.

Using a punch and hammer, I loosened and removed the top nuts. This is where forcing the clamp to left lock pays off. You don't need a third hand to steady the clamp while you tap on the nut.

Lifting the upper race half,  ball bearings are visible, almost dry, and is that brown/red colour rust?

Looking at the top race, we can see the dark areas- indentations! (Arrows) That explains the notchy feeling.

Cutting the retaining tie wrap allows the lower clamp and bearings to be lowered gently into the bucket. Better than chasing them under the toolbox!  ( Don't ask how I know.)

Interestingly, the grease on the lower bearing seemed much newer and cleaner then that of the top bearing.
Using a punch slightly longer than the head tube, I knocked out the races at the top and bottom of the tube by tapping on opposing sides of the bearing , back and forth. They came out fairly easily. Sorry, no pics heare.
Finally, the lowest race needs to come off the lower clamp tube.
I held the lower clamp in a vise, protected by scrap wood.

Using the same punch, I gently but firmly persuaded the race to loosen, with taps on opposing sides , back and forth.
The soft rubber dust seal above the race is sort of in the way, but I just squished in with the side of the punch to get a better shot at the race.
After tapping the race down about a quarter inch, it was loose.

I ran into one more minor issue. The race slid easily until it arrived at the fork lock hole. Beyond that it would not budge, because of a sizable burr. Looks like someone was testing the fork lock!

A few strokes of a file cleaned up the tube surface, the race was slipped off, and the lower clamp was ready  for repainting.

When my new bearings come in, I'll continue.

Offline berniebee

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Finally: Removing and installing steering head bearings
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2012, 12:23:38 AM »
OK, I've received the tapered bearings and the paint has cured on my lower clamp!

Tools and materials required:

-A Freezer
-Piece of hardwood about 1"x3" x 2 feet , dimensions not critical.
-Drill bit 1 ' diameter. A Forstner type bit is best for a clean hole, but a spade bit should do.
-Wheel bearing grease.
-1 lb frozen butter
-1 "ABS drain pipe, about 4 inches.
-And of course steering bearings.

I ordered XS650 tapered steering bearings from / ($43) with some trepidation, as I was not 100% sure they would fit the XS500:

But reading the side of the box put me at ease.

The box contains one top and one bottom bearing. They are easy to tell apart, as the top bearing has a smaller ID.

BUT the outer races are loose, are the same OD and can easily be mixed up. The top race is slightly taller.

Freeze the steering stem , top and bottom outside races for about an hour.

While your parts are cooling, grease the bearings. They are factory coated with a light grease, but that's just a preservative. You need to add wheel bearing grease.

To grease them, just put a lump of grease into your left palm.

 Then force grease into the back (The wider end) of the bearing by pushing down and scraping into your grease covered palm. Using this method, you should be able to push grease right through and out the front of the bearing. A surprising amount of grease will fit in between the rollers and the inner race.

Yes, there are two bearings somewhere in that grease pile...

Drill a 1 1/4" hole near one end of your hard wood.

Now slide the bottom dust seal, groove down, to very bottom of the steering stem. I reused the original dust seal because it was still pliant and crack free.

Slide the bearing as far as it will go on to the well chilled steering stem. Seat the bearing by sliding the hole in the wood board over the stem tube until it contacts the bearing, and tapping the board until the bearing is home.

Use the same board to tap the cold top race into place. A light coating of grease on the head tube makes installing the upper and lower race easier. I like to look inside the headstock all around to make sure that the race is completely home. (no gap)

Meanwhile the other race is kept cold by the Lactantia butter.

Push the lower race up by hand into the greased headstock as far as you can. Using the 1 " drain pipe and light hammering, seat the bearing completely. Again check the race carefully, ensure it's completely seated all around.

You can now install the steering stem, after greasing the lower race. I lightly greased the whole stem to prevent rust here.

The top bearing drops into the greased top race.

Slip the metal cover over the top bearing, then hand tighten the nut-for now.

There are a lot of opinions
about how to and how much to tighten the retaining nut for tapered steering bearings. Bearing specialists list 6 or 7 methods for tightening tapered bearings.
No wonder some people treat this as either rocket science or voodoo.

Don't sweat it. Essentially, with tapered bearings in this application, you want a  slight or no preload, but more importantly NO play.

Here's a 3 step method.
You will be tightening/loosening the nut and locknut with a hammer and a punch. (Unless you have the correct tool- does anybody have it?)

1: Tighten the nut until there is no bearing play.
2: Further tighten the nut and swivel the stem, gradually until you get slight binding.
3: Loosen the nut just enough to have no binding.

Details of 3 step method
Tighten the nut until there is no play in the bearings. To do this, check play at the bottom and top by grabbing the stem/nut / lower bracket and pushing and pulling.

Tighten the nut a little, then check for play. Repeat. The exact point is not critical, you just want no play.

Tighten the nut an additional eighth of a turn. Swivel the steering stem back and forth lock to lock about five times. Do you feel that you need more force to swivel the stem? That's preload. If it swivels with the same force, you don't have enough preload, so tighten an additional eighth of a turn. Repeat until you feel that the stem is harder to swivel. Then tighten it another eighth until you are sure that the stem is binding.

Loosen the nut almost a turn. You should now have no binding, and no play.
If there's still binding, loosen a little more in 1/16 turn increments. If there is play, tighten the nut again to where there is binding, and then loosen the nut in smaller steps than the first time. At this point you have a correctly set tapered bearing.

Now Install the lock nut and tighten somewhat. It doesn't have to be very tight, just a bit past contact.
Why not very tight? Because both the nuts are under the triple clamp and the triple clamp will be retained by a large and very tight bolt. So the stem nuts will not come loose. If you do happen to spin the lower nut when tightning the lock nut, then tap the lower nut back where it was. Always check for binding/play after this, just in case.

It's better to err on the side of a little more preload than to have ANY play for two reasons:
ONE -the bearings will settle in a little over the next few rides, so the preload will diminish somewhat.
TWO- Any play allows the bearings to slam together with every ripple in the road- they will fail prematurely.

It can happen that a race settles deeper into the headstock and  a bearing assy settles with use. Check the steering bearings for play after riding five hundred miles or so, just in case!

Offline galagmosh

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Re: Removing and installing steering head bearings
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2013, 12:38:37 PM »
Excellent step by step instruction.

Offline Jramos13

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Re: Removing and installing steering head bearings
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2015, 04:00:36 AM »
Thanks for that write up!! Just wondering now if a xs500 clamp would fit a xs650 front end!