Tech Tips

Servicing Your Steering Stem Bearings

Written by  May 31, 2007

If you want to know how to adjust the steering bearings on your motorcycle, this article will help you get a better grasp of the fundamentals.

Most of us worry about many items when it comes to maintaining our motorcycles but we probably never give the steering a second thought! If you don’t have the appropriate tools or reference material on the torque values or the procedure described below, you should take your motorcycle to a dealer or reputable repair station.

When you determine that your steering bearings require some attention, the procedure is not that difficult. It just takes some tools and patience. Taking the fuel tank off so you don’t damage the paint can be quite easy on most bikes, but others are a different story. When bikes are new, the steering grease is new and clean, but after many rides in the rain and after several power washings, the grease eventually dries and become useless, which then creates dry areas on the bearings and eventually rusts the steel. There are many different types of bearings. Tapered roller bearings are the common type, and the stand-alone ball bearings with cups need to be serviced and replaced according to the periodic table in the service manual.

When it comes to the newer cruiser models you may need to remove the top tree to gain access to the bearing nut, which is pictured in the photos below. Some models can be adjusted by simply loosening the stem nut and adjusting tension on the stem nut, which is spelled out in the procedure in the manual.

Goldwings; however, requires a different procedure with different level of torque, and may be more difficult than you want to tackle. The actual components in the steering system are one bottom seal, bearing and race, and the same for the top of the stem and the spanner nut that needs to be adjusted.

In the flat-rate world, this procedure can be two hours and below to have these bearings serviced or replaced. If you’re not up to tackling this task on your own, call a shop you feel comfortable with and get all of the specifics on the actual procedure.

When it’s time to have the steering bearings on your bike serviced, remember to use waterproof grease and replace any part that looks bad. Steering is the most important factor between you and the road. This is an item that requires no room for error and is considered a dangerous situation if improperly installed and adjusted incorrectly.

Make sure you address your steering as part of your normal routine maintenance schedule and think of the level of success you will feel once you’ve accomplished this procedure done!

I would also like to thank Larry James and Stewart Basey of Donnell’s Motorcycles in Independence, Missouri for allowing me take these photos on a busy Saturday morning. Thanks guys!

B-safe out there!

Dave Miller