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Spanner wrench substitute for steering nut / crown

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Hey folks, I've read through a few pages of posts regarding substitutes for spanner wrenches but most are old and I'm wondering if anyone has a method they like. My bike is a 12 yz450F and I'm replacing the steering stem bearings and races. I believe you could use channel locks, vice grips, hammer and punch, etc. Is there any reason to hold off and wait to order a wrench? I'm curious why they even use this type of nut / crown. Anyway, I could order one and let the bike sit for a week but I'm impatient. If it won't do any harm, I'm looking for a reliable substitute to the spanner wrench. Thanks for any ideas.

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1 hour ago, jamiemm18 said:

Hey folks, I've read through a few pages of posts regarding substitutes for spanner wrenches but most are old and I'm wondering if anyone has a method they like. My bike is a 12 yz450F and I'm replacing the steering stem bearings and races. I believe you could use channel locks, vice grips, hammer and punch, etc. Is there any reason to hold off and wait to order a wrench? I'm curious why they even use this type of nut / crown. Anyway, I could order one and let the bike sit for a week but I'm impatient. If it won't do any harm, I'm looking for a reliable substitute to the spanner wrench. Thanks for any ideas.

I always used a channel lock pliers that would open up wide enough to grip the stem nut squarely.  Then I tightened down the nut until the front end just stopped flopping from side to side  when suspended off of the ground.

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Just don’t want to over tighten it and damage the new parts. Bearing kit was 45 and it was another 25 to have the bottom bearing pressed on. 

Thank you everyone for the replies. I was thinking of hand tightening a different nut somewhere and then taking a torque wrench to it to see how many ft lbs I can get a nut, by hand. Maybe an axle nut. Crank it as hard as I can with gloves and then take a torque wrench to it with 5,10,15 lbs until it starts moving again and I know I was able to provide the amount of torque just before that...

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7 minutes ago, jamiemm18 said:

Just don’t want to over tighten it and damage the new parts. Bearing kit was 45 and it was another 25 to have the bottom bearing pressed on. 

Thank you everyone for the replies. I was thinking of hand tightening a different nut somewhere and then taking a torque wrench to it to see how many ft lbs I can get a nut, by hand. Maybe an axle nut. Crank it as hard as I can with gloves and then take a torque wrench to it with 5,10,15 lbs until it starts moving again and I know I was able to provide the amount of torque just before that...

With the bearings seated top and bottom just tighten the bearing nut until there starts to be a bit of resistance when you move the front tire from side to side.  That's all the torque you need.  When you install the top triple clamp and the retaining bolt for that is when you need some torque!

Edited by GlennRay

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So I should put the forks back on, wheel, etc... then put the castle nut on and leave the top clamps and bars off... then keep tightening the castle nut until it moves freely from side to side but doesn’t hang up.... then put the top clamp on, torque it, and then the bars?

 

One thing I heard at the shop is that a good rule of thumb is that the steering should flop to the left or to the right as soon as it’s moved off center but it shouldn’t bounce when it hits the stopper on either side. Sounds logical but will just be a bit tricky becuase your can’t really test it until the top clamp and bars are on.... but you can’t really put the top clamp and bars on until  the castle nut is correctly tightened. Catch 22

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4 minutes ago, jamiemm18 said:

So I should put the forks back on, wheel, etc... then put the castle nut on and leave the top clamps and bars off... then keep tightening the castle nut until it moves freely from side to side but doesn’t hang up.... then put the top clamp on, torque it, and then the bars?

 

One thing I heard at the shop is that a good rule of thumb is that the steering should flop to the left or to the right as soon as it’s moved off center but it shouldn’t bounce when it hits the stopper on either side. Sounds logical but will just be a bit tricky becuase your can’t really test it until the top clamp and bars are on.... but you can’t really put the top clamp and bars on until  the castle nut is correctly tightened. Catch 22

Actually, I wouldn't put the forks and the wheel on until you have gotten the steering stem and lower triple clamp tightened up.  I'm sorry if I made it sound that way earlier.  What i would do is put the steering stem and its bearings into the head stock of the frame and screw the castle nut down until the bearings are seated.  Then rotate the lower triple clamp by hand and see if there is any resistance to the rotation in either direction.  If not then tighten the castle nut down another 1/4 turn and rotate the lower triple clamp again.  Keep going until you start feeling some resistance to the rotation.  If you feel that the last 1/4 turn was too much then back it off 1/8 turn and install the rest of the front end.  Like you said you don't wan't it flopping over so easily that it bounces off the steering stops with the front end installed so make it a little bit stiff when you are rotating the lower triple clamp by hand.

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That sounds good, I appreciate it. I just need to make sure I get it tight enough to “suck in” the bearings into the races and make sure they are seated. I think that’s why the manual has you go 32 ft lbs or so and then back it off. I think you need to go right to pull everything into place and I’m not sure of hand tight will do that. Guess I’ll give it a shot 

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10 minutes ago, jamiemm18 said:

That sounds good, I appreciate it. I just need to make sure I get it tight enough to “suck in” the bearings into the races and make sure they are seated. I think that’s why the manual has you go 32 ft lbs or so and then back it off. I think you need to go right to pull everything into place and I’m not sure of hand tight will do that. Guess I’ll give it a shot 

32 ft lbs is a bit more than hand tight, but I bet you could get pretty close to the if you tightened it down as much as you can with a big channel lock pliers.  Then work it backwards from there until you get a good feel like I tried to explain earlier.  It's a feel kind of thing and I think you will know it when you feel it.  If you really wan't to torque it precisely, I have seen sockets that were made to drive that kind of nut.

Edited by GlennRay
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If you think it's necessary, you can insert two pieces of square key stock into two opposite notches in the ring nut to improve the grip the Channel-locks have.  This will also allow the use of a large crescent wrench.

Bear in mind when setting the finish torque on the nut that however much tension is placed on the bearings by the ring nut, there will be more when the crown nut is tightened against the top clamp. The threads have clearance in them, and running the ring nut down on the bearings forces the nut up against the underside of the threads on the stem.  When the crown nut is torqued down, it forces the ring nut down the stem against the top side of the stem threads, adding tension to the bearings equal to however much clearance exists in the threads.  That's why the final torque of the ring nut is so light.

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Thanks for the help. I put duck tape around  the biting surface of my channel locks to soften the grab. I tightened it down as much by hand with the channel locks as possible. I think this pulled everything in tight together - bearings, etc. I then loosened the nut and hand tightened it with a towel and no tools. I moved the bars side to side to and used a punch and rubber mallet to very slightly loosen the nut until the steering would drop to each side but not bounce when it hit the stoppers. I got it to a good spot and then tightened the top crown nut which got the steering too tight. I loosened the crown nut and then used the punch to loosen the ring nut and steering a little more. I did this a few times until when the crown nut was torqued at 105 ft lbs, the steering was still flopping gently but not bouncing. Thanks for the help to everyone who responded. If someone needs more details on what I did, let me know 

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One question, when I move the bars back and forth, the seal moves with the bars - it rotates left and right as well, should it? The seal that goes over the top bearing and under the ring nut does not stay stationary. It rotates in union with the bars. Is this normal?

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Yes, it's supposed to move with the triple clamps.

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I really feel like the manual needs something qualitative for the tightening of the bearing/stem nut under the clamp, since nobody anywhere really has the ability to tighten that spline nut to an exact torque...really makes that whole process a crapshoot.

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Agreed. Or they should state that it comes down to "feel" and how you like the steering but should let you know what the risk is if it is too loose or too tight. I think I got it dialed in good by using the comment from my shop that it should drop to each side by not bounce when it hits. Still, for it to drop, it has to be pretty loose and anything that drops will bounce a little. How much bounce is too much? I over analyze things for sure. But if you have it tight enough that it wont flop over, and then go JUST loose enough to let it flop, it bounces a little when it hits the stopper, just because it travels a bit and picks up momentum. There are other factors too. The wires in the area of the forks and even the metal wire holder were slightly rubbing my clutch side fork when the bars turn. This will cause the steering to stop and not flop. You need to look closely to see if anything else is obstructing the flop. I used a twist tie on the kill switch cable, loosely, to hold that out of the way. And I also had to slightly bend the metal holder out of the way that holds the other wires. Finally, I have an aftermarket plastics kit on my bike as I'm saving the OEM plastics for when done racing. It is by Polisport and close to an exact fit but not exact. The back of the front fender scrapes a little bit on the frame of the bike which can also affect the flop. I just took all of this into consideration, moved what I could out of the way, and made it too tight... and then loosened it little by little from there until I had a flop. I have to have one handlebar clamp on and one off. You need one on so you can rest the bars on it to determine a good flop. But you need one off so you can get a 32mm socket on the top nut because that one I did torque to 105 ft lb per the manual. So I placed the bars on the one holder, checked the flop, moved the bars out of the way, loosed the 32mm nut, too a punch and hammer to the ring nut and loosened it about 1/8th of a turn, tightened the 32mm nut back to 105, placed the bars on the one holder... and tried the flop again. I did this 5 or 6 times until with the top nut at 105, the handle bars had jut the right flop. I did this with everything on the bike except the front # plate and the second handlebar holder and the handlebar pad. Thanks.

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