Quickie 4.148: Replacing My Fork Seal

On Monday I visited a family friend who’s built a couple of custom motorcycles to learn how to replace a fork seal on my V-strom. Of course, my repair manual tells me how, and we used that for torque figures, but it’s always nice to have someone who knows what they’re doing for your first time doing anything.

The first steps were easy as I’d done them before countless times, that is, removing every plastic piece from the front of the bike to expose the triple tree that mounts the forks to the bike. So I did that part myself reasonably quickly. This is where things got a little bit difficult. Neither of us figured removing the axle on the wheel would be as difficult as it was, nor that he wouldn’t have the specific 12mm hex socket to do the job. He’d assumed it would be a nut like on the rear of my bike. This meant none of his wrenches or sockets would fit, and the largest hex socket he had was 10mm. So he began fabricating a tool out of a bolt with a 12mm head and some nuts.

This however is where we found out the Suzuki shop in Denver Colorado, where I got my tyres changed, way over torqued well, pretty much everything. The bolt snapped in half, we tried again with another thicker bolt, but the same result. So we scoured around his shop looking for something else that might be stronger and came across a sturdy hex shaped metal punch, but unfortunately it was too large to fit. So he ground it down to size.

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Once we got the axle out, the next steps were pretty simple. Taking off the brake calipers, the wheel speed sensor, the wheel fairing, and removing the fork tubes from the mounts on the bike. Taking the forks apart was also pretty simple, though keeping everything in order is very important. We dumped the oil out into a cooking pan (lol), cleaned and inspected everything, and then it was time to fabricate the next tool required.

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To seat the seal properly around the fork, you need a tool to hammer it down, without damaging it, or the forks. So once again we scoured his shop looking for something that could do the trick, and found a section of a metal cylinder, however it had threading through the inside that wouldn’t fit over the fork, and would damage the fork. The idea was to lathe out the threading, and then tape the interior so it wouldn’t scratch my forks.

This process however was taking too long and our patience wore thin. Not to mention that noise. So we visited the hardware store and found a short piece of plastic ABS pipe that would be easier to fabricate into the dimensions we required and wouldn’t scratch or damage my forks. Unfortunately I didn’t record any of that and it was much more interesting to watch than the above video, but more or less the same process. Here’s the simple tool when it was finished. Doesn’t look like much.

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All this tool had to do was side over the fork and give you a surface on which you can hammer/drive (with a soft hammer) the seal down into place, and it did that job quite well. Amusingly, looking up how much a tool like this cost, cheapest I can find is $35, this one cost a buck. Ok, plus a lathe.

And that’s about it. The bike went back together super easy and rode excellently all the way home. Wish I’d made more of a howto, but honestly the job isn’t that hard with the right tools! It seems I find that out with many jobs relating to the bike, they seem more technical than they really are. On to the next task, replacing the forward O2 sensor in my Saabaru, also a simple task.

-Aka