DIY – MOTORCYCLE FRONT END MAINTENANCE – Part 1 of 2
Most of us like the idea of doing things on our own but are not really sure what to do, where to look, or even what to search for! That is where I come in. My name is Chris Holland and I am a trained and certified Motorcycle Technician. I attended school in the lovely city of Phoenix, Arizona. I have a special certification for Harley-Davidson and Buell Motorcycles. I have been working on all types of motorcycles since the late 1990’s; as long as I have been riding them. I love helping people in any way I can, from the fellow DIYer to the beginning motorcyclist that has no idea if the mechanic has been able to find their real issue or not. I served in our great nations Army as a Mechanized Infantryman, Designated Marksman, and Intelligence Analyst for 7 years until a small injury put me out of service. I was stationed in many countries around the world and I currently reside in Germany, my last duty station, where I live with my family. I love to help so if you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Question: How do I know when my front end needs maintenance? I know that my service manual and motorcycle dealer make recommendations but I would like to know how I can tell when I have an issue that requires servicing.
If your bike has been around for a while you may notice that either your front end “feels funny” or you may just be curious regarding what kind of maintenance you need to do for your front end. In this “Quick Tip Help Guide” for Motorcycle Front End maintenance, I will be covering Forks, Steering Head Bearings, Triple Trees, Hand Controls, Front Brakes & Front Tires.
Checking your forks is easier than you may think.
1. Check them over to make sure everything is bolted securely. No loose screws, nuts, or bolts
2. Then check the fork tube for pitting in the chrome or rust.
3. Make sure the forks are installed at the same height in the trees, this can cause uneven damping (shock absorbing quality) and make taking turns (curves) a bit scary as the front end will shake.
4. Where the fork tube goes into the fork leg there is a rubber dust cover. For some this rubber cover is under a chrome cover. Check the fork tube for any residue like oil. If you see oil on the forks that means your fork seals are bad and you MUST right away get this repaired. Leaking forks will leak oil down the fork leg and onto your brakes. The brakes will not squeak anymore, but they will not stop your bike either!
5. Check where your brakes are mounted to the forks making sure that all the bolts and nuts are there and tight.
6. Last is the wheel axle, making sure it is tight.
STEERING HEAD AND BEARINGS
The steering head is a part of the frame for the motorcycle. It is located between the fork trees and it houses the steering head bearings and steering head shaft. If you have a grease nipple on it, using a grease gun, pump it up till old dirty grease comes out the bottom tree area. Then keep pumping until it comes out clean.
To make sure your bearings are in good order we will need to push the bike forward at walking speed and then squeeze the front brakes very hard. You will be listening for a loud knock and a feeling for a slight bump in the bars. Now you may hear and feel a slight click as well. That slight click is normal as the forks work. What we are listening and feeling for is loud enough to cause you to take notice. If you are uncertain, please take your motorcycle to a local shop and ask them to check your findings. Your safe ride depends on it
Luckily, there is not too much to check. Unfortunately you may have housing that prevents you from easily checking the bolts (that you will need to remove) in order to perform these checks, assuring that all bolts are tight. You have a top and a bottom Triple Tree.
- On the top Triple Tree, make sure the bearing cap and the top tree bolt/nut are tight. Check the risers that attach the handlebars to the triple tree to be sure they are tight.
- On the Lower Triple Tree check the pinch bolts that are holding the forks in place. If there are 2 bolts next to each other, tighten them both equally; going back and forth between them to make sure that tightening one did not relieve pressure on the other bolt.
Have a great day and remember to keep the shiny side up
Written by – Chris Holland
ROAD GUARDIANS DISCLAIMER: Chris has agreed to be our Road Guardians Member “personal mechanic” and service guru. While Chris is located in Germany and is unable to service your ride, he is available to answer questions and give common sense advice. If you have a question that you would like Chris to comment on please let us know. Note that Road Guardians does not employ Chris and is in no way responsible for advice given or implemented. This information is intended as informational only and is not intended to take the place of regular maintenance by a certified mechanic.