Vee steering bearing replacement/upgrade notes - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 26 Old 07-13-2019, 04:34 PM Thread Starter
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Vee steering bearing replacement/upgrade notes

First off, thanks to Barry Buchanan for his excellent and famous walkthrough found here:

https://blacklabadventures.com/2012/...ement-upgrade/

He's doing a DL650, but from what I can tell, the job is identical for a DL1000, down to steering head geometry.

I'm at the point of torquing the steering stem nuts to spec & adjusting steering tension force (aka how hard it is to turn the handlebars). About to take a break for lunch, so here are some notes about how I did it. I don't have a workbench, vise, or most of the other tool-making setup Mr. B did, so I did some things a bit differently:

-I bought the special steering stem nut socket off eBay right away (DHS 4131). It was a worthwhile purchase. There simply is no substitute, if you're not set up to make your own such tool out of pipe. None of the automotive spindle nut sockets/4WD spindle nut sockets commonly available will work - they're too large, have wrong number of teeth, etc.

-I didn't care to install cheap Chinese bearings (e.g. AllBalls). I bought genuine NTN 32006x bearings from a local distributor. Dust seals came from eBay.

-I started trying to get the lower steering bearing's inner race (the part that's pressed onto the stem shaft) off with a chisel, as in the service manual. However I only moved it maybe 1/2" before I got tired of accidentally dinging the stem shaft, triple clamp member, and generally marring the heck out of things.

-I don't own a Dremel, so I bought an automotive bearing separator & puller kit (specifically this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MRZLZ6J). That kit made it pretty easy to get that bearing race off, safely and without causing more damage.

-Since I already had the bearing puller kit, I used it in reverse to install the lower bearing inner race on the stem shaft (as well as a new lower dust seal). As it turns out, the leftover inner race from the factory ball bearing is an excellent tool. I turned it upside down to drive the new tapered roller bearing down on the shaft without damaging its cage.

One difficulty with this method is that you'll only ever be able to use one of the legs of the puller, because the triple clamp body is in the way (this will make sense when you try it). I used a large G-clamp as a stand-in for the other puller leg, alternately tightening the central screw of the puller and the G-clamp. I felt like I needed 3 or 4 hands to get everything to line up & stay in place. Eventually, I got the new bearing pushed all the way down the stem shaft.

When you're done, you'll need the bearing separator again to get the old inner race off the top of the new lower bearing, but it doesn't need to move far to come loose.

-It was not too difficult to tap the old outer bearing races out of the steering head, using a long, cheap Harbor Freight flat-blade screwdriver as a punch.

-PVC pipe & coupler proved totally inadequate as a bearing race driver. Even with freezing the races for a couple of hours to make them as small as possible, and greasing them up, the new outer races would only go about halfway in to the steering head. No matter how hard I pounded on the PVC pipe, all I was doing at that point was flaking off pieces of PVC.

-That being the case, I finished up the bearing race install with an OEMTools Bearing Race and Seal Driver Installer kit (27119) via AutoZone's loan-a-tool program. This tool is made entirely of aluminum, so it's pretty much impossible to damage your (steel) bearing races during installation.

-I likewise used a mechanic's mirror to check that the new races were fully seated in the steering head. Great tool to have.

In sum:

So far I've spent about $70 on special tools, and $50 on the bearings & dust seals. Sure beats paying a shop ~$400 to do the job, and that with the cheapest bearings they could find, vs. knowing that I've installed high-quality NTN bearings.

I've taken some photos along the way, but it's a lot of work to edit and post them, so may be a while before you see any.

Anyway, I hope these notes help anyone who's about to do or contemplating doing this job. IMO it is do-able by anyone mechanically inclined, within a reasonable budget, even if you don't own a Dremel, vise, or workbench.
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post #2 of 26 Old 07-13-2019, 08:35 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to give us the real world details, its insights like this that make wrenching on your own ride so much easier.
Only thing missing were few pics of the tricky bits.
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post #3 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 12:01 AM
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I took apart a BMW that had funky bearings. What I found was that they needed fresh grease. As the bike ages the grease get dry. The bearings were fine, just dry.I need to check the bearings on my 04 Wee at 100K miles. PITA. But fresh bearings and grease isn't a monumental task.
When i used the Black Lab tutorial I realized that the fork rebuild was the same as i did on my BMW years ago.
There is only so much science in the bike we ride.
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post #4 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 10:01 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by notacop View Post
I took apart a BMW that had funky bearings. What I found was that they needed fresh grease. As the bike ages the grease get dry. The bearings were fine, just dry.I need to check the bearings on my 04 Wee at 100K miles. PITA. But fresh bearings and grease isn't a monumental task.
When i used the Black Lab tutorial I realized that the fork rebuild was the same as i did on my BMW years ago.
There is only so much science in the bike we ride.
Good observation. As well as a little visible wear, my original ball bearings were no longer very greasy.

I could have re-greased, reassembled, & retightened. Could have got a few thousand miles more out of the old ball bearings, before they got seriously notchy.

However I felt an upgrade to tapered rollers was in order. No better time to do it than when you've already got stuff apart.

It's much less work to simply re-grease the old bearings vs replace them, of course. That could be done with only removing the upper triple clamp member and stem nuts. Then slip the lower member and forks down enough to access the lower bearing.

On grease: I slicked up the new bearings with the same Mobil One Synthetic Grease I've been using since I bought the bike. It's the red stuff that comes in a silver and blue 16 oz can, or smaller tubes. I know some folks will go for a no-kidding marine grease, but the Mobil One is supposed to resist dispersal by splashing at least. Seems to be good stuff, and stays where I put it.
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post #5 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 10:11 AM
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I built a bicycle from pieces once. Seems I remember a tube of red grease. GW was a fan of not too much grease in the steering stem bearings. I used to do wheel bearing on my Jeep. Sit at stuff the grease in by hand until it oozed out all over the place.
At 15 years and 100K miles I should do the swing arm bearings but I imagine its a PITA task.
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post #6 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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Further notes:

-if you use the bearing separator and puller tool, sit a discarded banjo bolt with crush washer or something similar in the stem shaft end to give the central screw something to push against (as the shaft is hollow).

-I feel my major innovation - aside from use of the automotive bearing separator and puller kit - was the use of the old inner bearing race upside-down as an installer tool for the new bearing. You can still pound the new bearing on, but you only need a capped section of 1-1/4" steel pipe nipple as a driver. No need to modify it, other than perhaps chopping off the threaded lower portion. Needs to be at least 10 inches, since the stem shaft is over 9" tall.

-the downside to this method is that the old, inverted inner race will then be installed above the new bearing. But, if you've got the bearing tool kit I bought or similar, no prob to pull it back off. The stem shaft is tapered there, so you might be able to tap the old race back off with a punch and hammer - carefully.
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post #7 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 11:21 AM
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Honestly, I can't fathom why Suzuki used ball bearings for the steering stem on such a large, heavy bike. They're absolutely doomed to fail quickly.

Or any bike, for that matter. It's just plain design malpractice, but Suzuki does love their ball bearings.


For the record, I Dremel a slot in the lower inner bearing, then crack it with a shot from a big chisel. Once it cracks, it's loose and easy to tap off, then I use it to push the new bearing into place. (I use my hydraulic press with a chunk of pipe, but not everyone has a press handy.)

You can get screwdrivers with metal caps that are meant to be struck. I just use a long punch to remove the old races from the frame. Please don't hit normal screwdrivers with hammers; great way to shatter the handles.

To install the races in the frame, I use aluminum bearing drivers -- it's a set from Harbor Freight. To get the bottom race started, I've found it's fastest to use my giant copper hammer. Copper and aluminum are hard enough to deliver a mighty thwack but can't mar the steel.

If you don't have the socket, you can carefully use a long thin punch to turn the nut. However, this is a little tricky, especially if the tank is still installed, and setting the right tension requires more trial and error. I have a punch with a brass tip that's a lot gentler on these.

Another trick if you have this available is to suspend the top clamp with the bars and cables and wires still attached from the ceiling. Just lift up a little and let it hang. Far less disassembly that way.
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post #8 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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There is so little slack on my handlebar wiring (due to use of 3.5" Rox risers) that it was a major pain in the butt to secure the handlebars out of the way for this job.

It was so bad that I got fed up and finally ordered a bunch of Eastern Beaver stuff, so I'll never have to deal with that again.

I use LED headlamps, but having them on a relay harness can't hurt. Speaking of poor design decisions, it's a bit disappointing how seemingly every OEM chooses to route a high-current circuit (headlamps) through marginally adequate wiring.
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post #9 of 26 Old 07-14-2019, 08:11 PM
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Good work DesertBike,

That's a mighty fine job. The feeling of self accomplishment and peace of mind can't be understated.

So wow, that looks like a pretty intense job, that has to be done in a meticulous manner, special tools and some brute force.

Those seem like some wimpy OEM ball bearing that are equipped on these Vees from the factory.

With your new quality tapered needle bearings, you are one and done.









.
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post #10 of 26 Old 07-15-2019, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks!

Yeah this should be the last set of steering bearings I ever have to install.

There is nothing wrong with ball bearings, in the correct application. Steering bearings is however not one of the correct applications.

It's hard to understand why Suzuki did what they did. Cost savings? I don't know the bearing biz, but I wouldn't be surprised if ball bearings were usually cheaper than tapered rollers. I only priced the NTN's.

FWIW the original bearings were Koyo. Cages (the thing that actually holds the balls) were plastic. Nothing wrong with that, on a low-speed bearing that will never make a full rotation. The cage is really only there to hold the balls in place during installation.

I can post photos, if anyone's curious what a ball-type steering bearing looks like after ~47k miles.
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Last edited by DesertBike; 07-15-2019 at 12:09 PM.
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