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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just picked up a 2005 Bonneville with 8,000 miles on it. It has been dealer serviced every year previous to my purchase--but the dealer only changed the oil and checked the chain and brakes. They did not regrease the steering head bearings, so I'm looking to do that.

The steering head bearings look like a pain, and require a special tool. From looking around this forum, it doesn't seem like many people are messing with them at all, let alone at 6k miles as is listed in the manual. Is 6k overkill for this? I can understand the "if it ain't broke" mentality, but an unbroken motor will eventually explode catastrophically if you do not change the oil, so I don't want to let anything go.

I have a Haynes, but would love a real-world writeup with photos, or just someone's experiences with doing it.

Anyone know where to get the "tool" for cheap? Will any (synthetic) grease do?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, that begs the question: How important a service is this for every 6k miles? If they'll go 36k+ miles without the bike feeling terrible, should I simply leave the bearings, wait until there's an obvious issue, then replace them with better bearings, synthetic grease, and forget about them for another 40k miles? Will it muck up my steering head if the bearing grease turns to molasses?

So far, the steering feels fine, no play in the forks, easy "flopping" of the wheel from side to side, though I do feel a slight "detent" when slowly moving the bars from left to right and the front wheel is elevated. Is that a real issue? Would it be there if the grease was repacked twice in the last four years?

From what I've read, tires should be replaced in pairs every 6k miles and the steering head bearings left alone...I guess I'm just waiting for someone to tell me not to bother, and then I'll just do them anyway...
 

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Call me crazy but this was one of my early mods. Removing the ball bearings and replacing them with tapered roller bearings. I always felt that ball bearings were the wrong part for that application. I cannot say that one mod improved my bikes handling and am pretty certain any perceived improvement was as much imagined as felt but fixing that which ain't broke is part of my condition.

The lower bearing can be replaced with an off the shelf tapered roller but the upper bearing ID needs to be 1mm larger than any off the shelf bearing. I pressed out my steering stem and turned it down to fit the shelf bearing. I had sourced my bearings from All Balls because they listed their kit as being for the Bonneville but the upper bearing was too small, thus a shelf bearing. I called to let them know as an FYI and they seemed glad to know. Not sure if they changed their kit so it actually fits but if they did I would recommend it. Comes with dust seals which is nice and the kit was not that spendy.

If your ride hard probably not a bad idea to upgrade if you are sane regreasing every few years can't hurt. 6K miles..... a tad bit early unless you keep you bike out in the weather, ride in the rain a lot etc.

That was my 2 cents.
 

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Steering head bearings

At 24,000 miles I bought the tool, pulled the forks, disassembled the steering head and was shocked to see ball bearings on my 01. Oh well... lubed with trailer / marine bearing grease and reassembled. Installed progressive springs, fresh fork oil and gators at the same time.

With your front tire off the ground check for a sticky feel at the handlebar. A notch when centered up is probably a dented race. Stickyness in general is likely corrosion.

I have replaced one set of ball bearings and one set of tapered in other bikes. Both had more than 30,000 miles showing. Triumph advises to check and adjust every 12K and clean / regrease every 24,000. Following that schedule would have prevented the above two experiences.

If you don't like maintenance then ride as long as you can stand it. Nothing will fall off.... but smooth steering will gradually become more difficult as the miles mount.

Currently my steering is smooth at 47,000 but the clean and lube is just around the corner. I will try to have a camera handy when I do the work. July or August maybe. Also plan to add a cartridge emulator valve kit, fresh fork oil and a fresh brake line while its down.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Triumph advises to check and adjust every 12K and clean / regrease every 24,000. Following that schedule would have prevented the above two experiences.
My manual says check/adjust free play every 500 miles and regrease every 12k/2yr. My '01 to '07 Haynes says check/adjust free play every 6k/1yr and regrease every 12k/2yr.

So 12k/2yr or 24k/4yr?

Brake fluid will go bad over time with no use. Will grease? If not, I'll ignore the simple passage of time for steering head bearing maintenance.
 

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not really a big deal...

I "adjusted & lubed" the headstock bearings at 12K per the manufacturer's suggestion. I used synthetic grease, can't see why not? You can get the "special tools" from bikebandit.com for $50 per. You could probably get by with one of these 38mm spanners and a large adjustable wrench if you have one laying around. I bought two of the 'special tool' which are basically thin, 38mm spanners (pic). The job was quick and simple - pull the seat, tank, front wheel, forks, handlebars. Open the neck (you'll need a 30mm socket (an adjustable wrench will only round off the aluminum cap) loosen, grease, tighten (don't overtighten and 'pre-load' the bearings, slap the bike back together. Should take an hour or two.

special tool (there should be two):


What the naked neck looks like:


I was surprised to find bearings on the bottom as well:
 

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Yeah, I couldn't find any pics of the headstock bearings being lubed. I figured it would be cool to take some when I did the job so the next guy could see what it will look like before he started pulling his bike apart.
 

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nevr done the job. Check for free play and notches regularly and if not present leave it alone. 58,000k on my Sprint ST and never been touched. Wonder if they are plain bearings or needle type? Any one know? Thruxton will receive the same amount of neglect errr love
 

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grease zerk?

has any body looked at a way to fit the head with 1 or 2 grease zerks so that disassembly is not required on a regular basis? I have retro fitted swing arms for grease zerks before, it should be possible for the head bearings to be converted to external greasing. Probably would be best to convert to the tappered roller bearing at the same time.
 

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I am wondering why steering head bearings need service so much more than say for example wheel bearings on a car. Wheel bearings have a much tougher life
 

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You can't use grease Zerks; it'll just fill up the hollow area of the headstock on the frame.

Wheel bearings in automotive applications are tapered bearings; they can stand more radial loading than the ball bearings used on the steering head.

I cleaned and repacked my bearings at 12,000 miles. It's not a big job; just a bunch of little ones. The whole job is easy if you take it one step at a time! It does require two thin adjuster wrenches (sold at a high dollar price for what they are) to do the job properly; they both have a 3/8" square hole to accommodate a torque wrench. This is for torquing the top/lock nut; the lower/adjuster nut is held in position with the other wrench. The only tough part is to get the proper adjustment; not too loose, not too tight. Keep fiddling with it until you get it right; it takes a few tries to get the "feel" for it.

The advantage is that you can clean and inspect the condition of the bearings themselves. In my experience, fresh grease makes the steering action much smoother. I plan on servicing my bearings again at 24,000 miles; if they are worn out (most unlikely), Bella Corse offers a set made by All Balls.

While we're on the subject; the wheel bearings on the Bonneville and it's variants are sealed and require no service except replacement when they're worn out.------James.
 

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I'm in the middle of this job right now on my '02 America and ran into a problem. I had a pretty good head shake that I was hoping the new tapered bearings would cure. I ordered the kit from All Balls Racing. The bottom bearing, the larger of the two doesn't seem to fit all the way down onto the stem.

In this picture, from the bottom is the
- original cup for the ball bearing race (which at 30k didn't have any grease on it.
- just above the cup is the holder for the tapered bearing (not sure the technical term).
- the All Balls bearing just won't slide past the point pictured. My stem is 30 mm, the All Balls Bearing appears to have an ID of 29 mm.

I'll call All Balls tomorrow Am and see if they can sort this out. Their bearing has KYL 32006X marked on it.




What I don't know - does the bottom cup/seal come off for the tapered bearing? If so, it seems to be on the neck pretty solidly. I tried prying it off, but it just starts to bend. If I have to go back to the ball-bearing race, I don't want to bugger that up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
As I was researching this, I stumbled on a thread that said the tapered bearings from All Balls were sized incorrectly...I imagine if you search you'll find it.
 

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As I was researching this, I stumbled on a thread that said the tapered bearings from All Balls were sized incorrectly...I imagine if you search you'll find it.
I saw that post, definitely calling All Balls in the AM. In that photo, I had the bearing upside down. I popped out the neck race, but the new bearing/race still doesn't quite fit.
 

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The lower innner race aught to be a tight fit. MEasure the ID of the race and OD of the stem to make sure their close. You should be able to knock the race on with a punch working around the race so that it goes on evenly not .... unevenly.

It may well take some force but with finesse......... oxymoron.... sorry but it makes sense to me.
 

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Hi ssjones-

I think you have the right size lower bearing. That part number indicates a 30 x 55 x 17 bearing. In the picture you posted, you have both parts of the new tapered bearing upside down - sorry if you already know this and were just posting the picture to illustrate the tight fit. The part with the tapered rollers is the part that gets driven down around the stem, thick end down, maybe using a piece of metal pipe with an I.D. just a little over 30 mm. It is a tight press fit and will not just slide on. The outer race must also be driven into the frame's steering tube, after you knock the old one out with a drift.

You also have to remove the old inner race from the stem first - that is what is trapping the thin dust seal in place over the lower triple clamp. To get the old inner race collar off, you have to break it apart. On my dirt bikes, I have in the past used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to cut several slots into the old part, as deep as I dared without damaging the stem (much), then used a chisel and hammer to break it apart. The dust seal, which sits between the inner race and the lower triple clamp, with most likely get ruined in the process, so you might have to get a new one. Or maybe the bearings came with new dust seals.

The other option you have, which would be my second choice, is to press out the entire steering stem from the lower triple, which will free the inner bearing race and leave the dust seal unharmed, then press the stem back in (bring it to a machine shop - you need a strong press). Whenever I have gone that route, it has taken all that a 20-ton press could do to free the stem, which breaks free with a loud boom when it finally starts to move. I watched a guy at a shop press out one of my stems once, and his press was starting to leak hydraulic fluid from working so hard. For a minute, we thought it might not go. If you do this method, scratch some alignment marks in the bottom of the steering stem and lower triple clamp before pressing out the stem, so that when you have it pressed back in, your steering lock slot will be in the correct orientation.
 

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Thanks JG. I didn't know the bearing was upside down when I posted that pix, but learned thru some research the correct orientation. I found this site, which pretty accurately describes the process:
http://www.dansmc.com/steering_bearings.htm
I appreciate your description of the lower race removal process. I'm losing sleep over this... and will have to determine the best way to get it off. Might trying getting it off with a cut-off tool, that failing, take it to a shop. The Triumph Haynes manual describes this removal process:

I've also read on other web pages to heat the stem and freeze the race to make it go in easier.
To press the new upper/lower races in place the website shows this tool using a piece of threaded rod, washers and nuts:





Hi ssjones-

I think you have the right size lower bearing. That part number indicates a 30 x 55 x 17 bearing. In the picture you posted, you have both parts of the new tapered bearing upside down - sorry if you already know this and were just posting the picture to illustrate the tight fit. The part with the tapered rollers is the part that gets driven down around the stem, thick end down, maybe using a piece of metal pipe with an I.D. just a little over 30 mm. It is a tight press fit and will not just slide on. The outer race must also be driven into the frame's steering tube, after you knock the old one out with a drift.

You also have to remove the old inner race from the stem first - that is what is trapping the thin dust seal in place over the lower triple clamp. To get the old inner race collar off, you have to break it apart. On my dirt bikes, I have in the past used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to cut several slots into the old part, as deep as I dared without damaging the stem (much), then used a chisel and hammer to break it apart. The dust seal, which sits between the inner race and the lower triple clamp, with most likely get ruined in the process, so you might have to get a new one. Or maybe the bearings came with new dust seals.

The other option you have, which would be my second choice, is to press out the entire steering stem from the lower triple, which will free the inner bearing race and leave the dust seal unharmed, then press the stem back in (bring it to a machine shop - you need a strong press). Whenever I have gone that route, it has taken all that a 20-ton press could do to free the stem, which breaks free with a loud boom when it finally starts to move. I watched a guy at a shop press out one of my stems once, and his press was starting to leak hydraulic fluid from working so hard. For a minute, we thought it might not go. If you do this method, scratch some alignment marks in the bottom of the steering stem and lower triple clamp before pressing out the stem, so that when you have it pressed back in, your steering lock slot will be in the correct orientation.
 
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