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Question about adjusting steering stem bearings

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I just greased my steering stem bearings and am in the process of putting everything back together. I tightened the castle nut to seat the bearings, backed it off about a half turn as per the manual and tightened it until the play just disappeared. After I torque the head nut to the required 65 ft/lb, the bearings are clearly too tight. Obviously, there should be some play left in the bearings when adjusting the castle nut. My question is, how much?

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I've never done the DRZ steering but on others I adjust 'till the fork swings smoothly but not loosely from lock to lock. I hope this makes sense.

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Explain too tight? your not able to turn the forks at all?

when i changed my bearings, tightening the castle nut was probably the trickiest part of putting everything together. It took me longer than i expected to get everything snug. you shouldnt feel any drag, stiffness or resistance turning left to right. I went for a test ride down the road and when i thought i had everything tight and i realized half a mile down the road i didnt get the castle nut deep enough on the steering stem threads.

After readjusting, I made sure i had no play, pulling up and down with the bars and pushing up from the lower triple clamp. I had my father push up on the lower clamp and i would tighten a quarter turn at a time. I Went a thread or two more than finger tight like some people mentioned was all that was needed, i couldnt get it snug so i went a little further and i have no resistance. youlll probably need to pull the clamps out and make sure that the bearings are functional (not damaged) if you keep feeling a strange tightness.

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By too tight I mean that there is resistance and it feels notchy when you turn the steering from side to side. I tried putting it back together again with just some slight play in the bearings. It feels much better now, so I guess I will just go with that.

The bearings are fine as I cleaned, inspected and greased them. I am 100% sure that they are properly seated in the races. It seems that torquing the head nut increases the pre-load on the bearings and that you have allow a bit of extra play for that.

Thanks for your input. It is much appreciated.

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I think I found the problem. It seems that the castle nut was turning slightly as I installed a fork. I ended up installing a fork through the bottom clamp and then lowering the top clamp in to place. You have too keep an eye on the castle nut when aligning and tightening everything. A bit of a turn, and it changes the bearing pre-load.

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I think I found the problem. It seems that the castle nut was turning slightly as I installed a fork. I ended up installing a fork through the bottom clamp and then lowering the top clamp in to place. You have too keep an eye on the castle nut when aligning and tightening everything. A bit of a turn, and it changes the bearing pre-load.

Their always seems to be some sort of trick to get everything liined up. i was in your shoes about 3 weeks ago. I actually had to load my bike up and take it to a shop with the front wheel and forks off with a busted wrist. (315 pound bike) loading it was not fun. but one of my races would not come out at all! so the shop had to weld a bead on there to get it out. What a pain!...

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Lakeside - This is a much misunderstood process. Manufactures have developed several different ways of dealing with adjusting steering head bearings. The DRZ400 is old school, no special tricks. Tighten the 1st nut to seat the bearings, loosen for free turning, loosen about 1/4 trun more (there will be some obvious slop in the bearings) tighten the top nut, check the feel. If too tight, loosen the top nut and loosen the 1st nut, retighten the top nut and recheck. If too loose, loosen the top nut tighten the 1st nut, retighten the top nut and recheck the feel. The top nut always reverses the thread clearance in the 1st nut which is why the bearing preload changes as the top nut is tightened so you have to guess where to set the 1st nut and check the bearing preload with the top nut tight.

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Hi Noble,

Thanks for the info. In searching this topic, I saw on one of your previous posts that the bearings will have some play in them once they are seated and the castle nut is backed off. I just wasn't sure how much...

The procedure you just described is what I ended up doing once I figured out that the top nut changes the pre-load and that you have to watch that you don't move the castle nut when installing the top clamp. I think I have it just right now as there is no play in the steering and it rotates freely, but also does not feel too loose.

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