Steering Head Issue - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
1987 to 2007 Wrenching & Mods For maintaining, repair or modifications of Generation 1 KLR's. 2007 and earlier.

 
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-14-2013, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
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Steering Head Issue

Howdy!

Today on my way from one job to the other, I took a slow sharp turn and noticed some "looseness" in the handling. Some more testing indeed confirmed my suspicion, that something was up.

So I babied her home to find the steering head looking like this:


The gap and misalignment piqued my interest, so I started disassembling everything. And this is what I have right now:


Is that gap below the clam washer supposed to be there? Right now I am about to pass the point of no return, where I need to start removing press fit bearings and stuff. I have never taken a steering head apart before, so I wanted to ask some people who know what they are doing (i.e. not me) if I should go ahead and do a complete rebuild (with my Clymer Manual). If so what should I look out for?


Also, possibly relevant:
A friend apparently unknowingly backed into my motorcycle the other day. I haven't spoken with the witness yet (a mutual friend), but I think all that happened is that the fender was bent a little. Not much was affected cosmetically, and the description I've gotten seems that it was all gentle....I'm wondering if it is related.


Thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Thanks!

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

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post #2 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steferf View Post
Howdy!

Today on my way from one job to the other, I took a slow sharp turn and noticed some "looseness" in the handling. Some more testing indeed confirmed my suspicion, that something was up.

So I babied her home to find the steering head looking like this:


The gap and misalignment piqued my interest, so I started disassembling everything. And this is what I have right now:


Is that gap below the clam washer supposed to be there? Right now I am about to pass the point of no return, where I need to start removing press fit bearings and stuff. I have never taken a steering head apart before, so I wanted to ask some people who know what they are doing (i.e. not me) if I should go ahead and do a complete rebuild (with my Clymer Manual). If so what should I look out for?

...
Is the ring that the washer's tab fits into (on your pic) the adjustment ring for the bearings? (I have a gen2 so mine doesn't look like that). Kinda looks like that the top tripple clamp was not loosened from the the forks when the stem nut was tightened down so the clamp couldn't seat onto the washer.

Do you have the front end up off the ground? If so grab ahold of the forks and see if you can feel play in the bearings. I adjust the bearings so the front wheel will slowly flop over if given a good nudge.

You've gone this far might as well pull out the tripple clamps and regrease the bearings.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor 2:9
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post #3 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spec View Post
Is the ring that the washer's tab fits into (on your pic) the adjustment ring for the bearings? (I have a gen2 so mine doesn't look like that). Kinda looks like that the top tripple clamp was not loosened from the the forks when the stem nut was tightened down so the clamp couldn't seat onto the washer.

Do you have the front end up off the ground? If so grab ahold of the forks and see if you can feel play in the bearings. I adjust the bearings so the front wheel will slowly flop over if given a good nudge.

You've gone this far might as well pull out the tripple clamps and regrease the bearings.
Yes, that is the adjustment nut.

I don't feel any play. Wheel is off and forks are in the air. Everything feels silky smooth -- absolutely no noticeable play. ~9k miles. I am the second owner and I doubt the first owner did anything to it. I guess it is possible that it came from the Manufacture this way.

Also, what is a triple clamp? the clamp that attaches the forks to the upper and lower bridges? (If so mine only has two clamps)

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

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post #4 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 04:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steferf View Post
Yes, that is the adjustment nut.

I don't feel any play. Wheel is off and forks are in the air. Everything feels silky smooth -- absolutely no noticeable play. ~9k miles. I am the second owner and I doubt the first owner did anything to it. I guess it is possible that it came from the Manufacture this way.

Also, what is a triple clamp? the clamp that attaches the forks to the upper and lower bridges? (If so mine only has two clamps)

Those are the triple clamps. I think they are called that because they're 3 attachment points.

Anyway the top clamp has to have the fork bolts loose before you tighten the steering stem bolt.

If it doesn't feel loose your probably OK. The tab was holding the adjuster enough to keep it from rotating.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor 2:9
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post #5 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Spec! You've always been very helpful throughout the years.

I'm going to take your advice and grease the bearings while I'm in this deep -- I'm currently working on sourcing a spanning wrench for the adjustor nut. In the meanwhile I'll take this opportunity to install the second Motech crash bar (First one got RMA'd).

However your last comment raises the question -- if the steering head is okay, then what was was causing my handling issues?

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

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post #6 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 08:13 PM
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What does the steering feel like? Be as specific as you can. It could be ???




"In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV." R. Pirsig

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post #7 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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Loose is the best description. I didn't test it hard. Only at slower speeds >25mph.

It felt like the time I had a flat rear tire, where the back was floating around laterally. Except with two differences:
1) It felt like the looseness originated from the front. It messed with my vertigo a little bit.
2) The flat tire was a constant strange sensation. This was only when I did strong turns. Then everything felt normal.

Does that help?

Also worth noting: I have a Fork Brace. This really keeps things tight. It was installed correctly -- no worries there.

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

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post #8 of 10 Old 09-15-2013, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steferf View Post
Thanks Spec! You've always been very helpful throughout the years.

I'm going to take your advice and grease the bearings while I'm in this deep -- I'm currently working on sourcing a spanning wrench for the adjustor nut. In the meanwhile I'll take this opportunity to install the second Motech crash bar (First one got RMA'd).

However your last comment raises the question -- if the steering head is okay, then what was was causing my handling issues?

I use a punch/screwdriver with a hammer to turn the bearing adjuster.

Has the gen 1 got pinch bolts holding the axle? If so make sure those are tight. Also check you spokes.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor 2:9
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post #9 of 10 Old 09-16-2013, 06:05 AM Thread Starter
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Negative on the pinch bolts. The nut for the front and rear axle both have cotter pins, so there hasn't been any loosening there. Will do a spoke test.

I will post a picture of strange tread wear on the OEM front wheel when I get a chance. I just noticed this. Related? Probably not -- but interesting the same.

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

See profile visitors post for details and planned mods.
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post #10 of 10 Old 10-05-2013, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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As in update, I reassembled everything and it seems to be handling normally now.

Maybe I'm delusional...maybe I have the midas touch....I donno anymore, but what I do know is that everything works now and I got the chance to learn a little about the steering head.

Thanks again everyone!

2006 Red KLR 650

Modifications:
1)Doohickey Planned and purchased 2)Aftermarket Grips 3)Grip Heaters 4)Happy Trails Hard Luggage Rack 5)20 mm ammo cases planned soon 6)Aftermarket Exhaust 7)Thermobob 8)Happy Trails Fork Brace 9)Stainless Steel Oil Filter 10)Magnetic Drain Plug

See profile visitors post for details and planned mods.
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