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Thunderbird Twin - Technical Talk Technical talk for the big Thunderbird twin

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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-10-2010, 08:15 PM Thread Starter
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steering head bearings

Hey all,
I've been having an odd sound coming from what sounds like my stearing head. I think the bearings have to be changed. The manual calls for these 38mm spanner Triumph tool to torque down the bearings and lock nut. Is this really necessary? Are there any tricks I can utilize?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 12:20 AM
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Raise the front wheel off the ground just enough so as to spin the wheel.Take a hold of the works and try to move them back and forth.There should be no movement.Now move the handle bars SLOWLY lock to lock.There should be no roughness or binding.If the bike passes this test,then the noise you're hearing is elsewhere.If you fell any roughness when turning the bars lock to lock or have any play in the bearings,then they need to be addressed. Dave!!!
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 12:26 AM
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No, you can do it w/o. I did. I heard that on new bikes it's not uncommon for them to loosen up early on. I can't recall exactly what tools i used, but just crescent wrenches as i recall. It's been a while so i'm afraid i won't be a lot of help, but i'll tell you what i can remember. I had to take the top triple clamp off. A rubber hammer will be a necessity, or at least it was for me. Have the manual handy, as you will need it. I removed the chrome dome nut then the triple clamps. I believe i removed the bars first tho. I loosened the pinch bolts that secure the forks to the clamp and used the rubber sledge to pound it off. That was a bit of a chore. Once off you find 2 nuts, one to adjust the pressure on the bearings and the one on top of that to lock it and keep it from loosening. So you loosen them both with the bike up on a jack so the front wheel is off the ground. Then you tighten the bottom one down to a torque rating i cannot recall. But i used a crescent and just tightened it down to what felt right. You are only doing that to push the bearings down tight in place. Then you loosen that nut and re tighten to a very low torque. Something like 6 Lbs. So what you just did was tighten it down hard enough to insure the bearings are pressed down solid, then backing the nut off till it's loose and re tightening it to 6 lbs just to keep the bearings in don't want to tighten it much, just enough to hold the bearings where they are, hence the low 6 lbs of torque.

Now realize that i went by feel because theres no way to use a torque wrench with sockets which is all i had. And the 6 Lbs of torque is just a guess, as i don't recall exactly what the spec is but you can go by feel as long as you understand the theory behind what you are doing as i explained. (hopefully well enough !) Anyways, once thats done you must tighten the top bolt down on top of the one you just adjusted to 6 Lbs in order to lock it there. So you need to hold the bottom one from turning as you turn the top one. What i used to do that i can't recall, as i don't think my crescents are thin enough for the bottom nut. Just use your ingenuity and you'll figure it out as i did. Sorry i can't recall !

anyways, if it seems too involved or you don't have the manual it may be far easier to just take it in. I think it's probably a $50 job. It took me only about 30-40 minutes and i had no idea what i was doing till i was into it ! So at $80 an hour they should be able to do it for $50.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 05:37 PM
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Here's the procedure for torqueing steering head bearings on the T Bird:Remove the top chrome assembly so ya can access the steering head bearing nuts.With the machine standing as straight as possible and the full weight of the machine on the front tire,remove the lock nut.Now torque the bottom nut to 40Nm [29 ft lbs.] to seat the bearings.Then loosen that nut and retorque it to 6Nm [4.4 or 5 ft lbs.will surfice].Then,while holding that bottom nut so it doesn't move, torque the lock nut [top nut] also to 40 Nm [29 ft. lbs.]. You're DONE! Now put everything back together.It's actually pretty simple to do. Dave!!!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 07:15 PM
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I tightened the steering stem bearings on my Speedmaster last weekend. I do not know for sure if your bike has the same size nuts on the steering stem but if this helps they are 1-1/2" in size. I made one out of a flat piece of steel because the nuts are really thin. I used a regular 1-1/2" wrench.You need two wrenches to break the nuts loose and to tighten them or lock them together again.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-27-2011, 12:20 PM
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Thats what i just did the other day....took a flat piece of steel about 1/16" thick and cut a 1.5" piece out to use to hold the adjuster nut while tightening the lock nut with a torque wrench and a 1.5" socket i found at pep boys. (found the 3/8" to 1/2" drive adapter at autozone)

By the way, Dave makes a very good point about this procedure i think everyone who's going to do it should be aware of. The triumph manual says to lift the front wheel off the ground to do it. WRONG! It is definitely a mistake in their logic and i can attest to this. The way the procedure is done is to tighten the adjuster nut to 40Nm then back it off till loose, then tighten to 5 or 6 Nm. (i think it's 6) That 40 Nm seats the bearing. Then when you loosen it and the seated bearing stays where it is you then apply 5 or 6 Nm to keep any slack out but allow free movement w/o binding. Heres where thier logic is wrong.....If you have the wheel in the air, after you seat the bearing with 40 Nm of torque and then loosen it, the weight of the front end will pull it down a bit and unseat the bearing. So when you retighten it there will be too much slack and you are back where you started with a loose headstock. I did it per the manual so i know because it was still loose when i rode the bike. And when i redid it the proper way with the wheel on the ground, as soon as i undid the locknut i saw the adjuster nut not only was no longer torqued to 5 Nm, it was totally loose to where i could turn it by hand? Why? Because like i said, with the wheel in the air when you loosen the nut after seating the bearing, the front falls down creating slack that is exactly what you were trying to get rid of ! The nut will SEEM tight because the weight of the front end is pulling it down against the nut, but as soon as you let the bike down to the ground it pushed the head rod and all back up creating the same slack you had tried to get rid of. keeping the wheel on the ground as you do this eliminates that from happening.

Why triumph detailed it like that in the manual is beyond me. But when talking to Dave he said he had owned models with the same procedure and same setup that said to leave it on the ground. I believe triumph screwed up somehow. Someone along the chain of people on up to the ones who actually chose the words in the manual was wrong and that made it into the manual wrongly.

By the way, if like me you go out to buy a 1.5" socket, heres something to consider....i found i could NOT use it to torque the adjuster not. All i could use if for was to tighten the locknut. The reason is that it wasn't a deep enough socket and the threaded headstock tube was too long so the socket wouldn't reach the bottom nut, only the top one. (and yes, i had taken the top nut off when i tried) So before you buy one consider that and look for a deeper one, which may be all but impossible to find. I intend to try and ream mine out a bit with a dremel and some grinding tips, but it will be a long hard process with a lot of broken tips, and even then i may well not be able to do it.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-30-2011, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by dazco View Post
I intend to try and ream mine out a bit with a dremel and some grinding tips, but it will be a long hard process with a lot of broken tips, and even then i may well not be able to do it.
If you have the time to visit a couple of machine shops, I'm sure one would machine the socket out for you for a couple of buck in their coffee tin.

Find one with a Triumph parked outside, would be even more of a bonus.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-30-2011, 12:16 PM
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Maybe it's different in the UK, in fact i'm sure it is. But here, at least where i am in the L.A. area it's not generally that easy. Now and then you will run into a shop where someone is cool and will just do it for you and say "eh, just gimmie a couple bucks". But i find very little of that nowadays. The last time i tried something like that i just asked to have a few 2" holes put in some aluminum sheet metal and they wanted $50 for about 2 minutes work !
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-28-2012, 02:55 PM
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-20-2012, 04:41 PM
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Great thread and helped me adjust my steering head bearing. I found a couple of cheap 38mm spanner wrenches online that work. You just have to cut off the end to make it open-ended instead of closed. Band saw worked great.
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