Steering Head Bearing Adjustment

By Scott Conary
January 2000

Tools I use:

How to do it:
  1. Prop front of bike up (jack under oil pan with bike on centerstand)
  2. Remove crash pad
  3. Loosen upper triple clamp pinch bolts
  4. Lay heavy towel on tank
  5. Remove two Steering damper bolts (located middle front of steering head column)
  6. Loosen locknut on top of triple clamp.
  7. Loosen clamping nut on top of triple clamp.
  8. Tighten or loosen the big knurled nut until there is only a tiny bit of drag when you move the bars from side to side.
  9. Carefully tighten everything back up. Making certain to *not* move the knurled nut when tightening the clamping nut.
  10. Take the bike for a ride.
  11. Re-adjust if needed.
NOTES:

I've never been able to turn that knurled nut by hand (as described by Tom C. in the K-bike tech pages). I use a vise-grip designed for use on oil filters. It fits nicely around the knurled nut. With a bit of firm padding between the it and the nut, it is kind enough to the bike and MUCH easier than trying in vain to move it by hand.

The towel is to help protect the tank from wandering tools. I also keep a hand between the wrenches and the tank as an extra precaution. If you're not certain of your ability to not put a dent in your tank(Seems that this is a popular way to hurt your bike), pull the tank back.

Make certain that you remove the steering damper bolts, the damper does work and you won't be able to get a sense of 'drag' from the bearings with the bolts installed. And of course, be certain to re-install them before you take the bike for a spin.

The first time that I tried to loosen the locknut, it wouldn't budge. A liberal dose of a penetrant (e.g. Liquid Wrench) left to sit for quit a while got it to move.

I also mark the relative position of the nut to the triple clamp before I start to help me see what I've done.

*The source of the symptoms spurring your desire to adjust the steering head bearings might be elsewhere.* e.g. a Head-shake. It might be the steering head bearings (in need of adjustment or replacement), the forks, the rear shock, the wheel bearings, etc.

Adjust the steering head bearings 'properly' (it might take a few tries). If the problem is still there, keep looking. DO NOT keep tightening the bearings further and further trying to eliminate the symptoms. Even if the problem is elsewhere, you could eventually mask the symptoms this way. Unfortunately you will kill the bearings, the bike will handle oddly (and unsafely?), the original problem will still be there and possibly getting worse (e.g. wheel bearings closing in on death - not a good thing), and so on. Only adjust until you feel a wee bit of drag.

And as always, when in doubt have someone who knows better take a look at what you've done. :-)))

hope this helps,
Thanks to Tom C and Brian Curry for getting me through my first adjustment,
Scott Conary . 1991 K75S . Reno, Nevada
http://home.reno.rmci.net/fercon
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