Steering swap - Bearings too? - 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 7 Old 05-08-2019, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Utah
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My 2004 has a slightly bent fork tube, so rather than spending $250 for a new tube, I bought a full fork assembly used for $130 which included an Eagle Mike's brace.

I've started to get a hair of wobble if I take my hands off the bars, which leads me to believe that my steering bearings are going out (my bike has 24k miles). This new steer tube has bearings on it that feel to be in good condition, but I also don't know much about the history of them. I know new bearings are cheap ($30), but I've heard horror stories about getting the races out and I don't have a welder or a Dremel tool.

Can I use the races which are currently installed in my bike? Does it need to be a matched pair? Am I being penny wise and pound foolish?

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post #2 of 7 Old 05-08-2019, 01:17 PM
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Personally, I'd reuse the races if they are in good shape.

There are many potential causes of wobble post:

Way too many people think that addressing the symptoms by dealing with handguards, fenders, fork braces, etc. are the answer rather than dealing with the real issue which is related to suspension setup and loading. I'm not convinced that the KLR is any more susceptible to instability than any other bike with long travel, lightly damped suspension and the Owner's have a propensity for severe and uneven loading.

There are some problems that need to be checked;
- bad/lose head bearings
- condition of wheel bearings and suspension bushings
- wheel and tire condition and appropriate tire pressures.

.....beyond that, It's settings;
- proper sag settings and adequate damping
- proper bike loading
- avoiding inappropriately un-aerodynamic loads

addressing the symptoms rather than the cause can help but IMO shouldn't be done until all the aforementioned items are checked and corrected if necessary. Nonetheless these can help stability;

- fork brace
- smaller fender or lowered fender (I use a polisport as I hate both the supermoto and low mounted fenders)
- consider tank bags instead of putting everything in huge panniers which affects both weight loading and aerodynamics.

My 2001 had some high speed issues that went away as soon as the sag was set properly....and after my Cogent suspension was installed, both my KLR's have been rock steady.....even with full knobbies and low tire pressures (20 - 22PSI). Lastly, as others have mentioned, the rider also plays a part; keep a relaxed light grip on the bars and don't tighten up. Changing your position (move forward/lean forward) can help too.

2 cents,
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-08-2019, 01:18 PM
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From Patman;

Steering Stem Nut
By The Patman

The upper t-clamp sits on top of the spanner nut that adjusts the bearings.

The front wheel should be off the ground, so you can adjust it properly. The spec is: the bars, when pushed with your back of your pinky finger should not flop over to one side or the other, if they do, the bearing is too loose. If you can't push the bars from one side to the other with your eyelid, the bearing is too tight. Now that a narrow range.

It's also the difference between headshake, and the ditch. Too loose and you'll ruin the bearings, and be prone to headshake and a crash, and too tight and you'll be prone to the bearings getting hot, swelling up, and not turning...generally this happens exactly when you need too.

Loosen two right and two left upper t-clamp fork tube pinch bolts.
( the t-clamp wont move down if the fork pinch bolts are tight, it needs to slide down on top of the spanner nut after you adjust it, in order to KEEP it tight ...the steering stem nut is what will pull it down...provided that you loosened the pinch bolts on the fork tubes uppers only of course. The dealer often misses this stem and the bearing adjustment comes loose again in about 450 miles )

Mark the bars down at the clamps so you can put them back to a position that will never feel exactly like they were yesterday.

You may have to loosen or remove the bar clamps and lay the bars down on the tank ( use a big fluffy towel to prevent scratches, and to keep the bars from flopping around )

Loosen the top nut a turn or two ( steering stem nut )

Use (the Kawasaki tool) to turn the spanner nut ( under the t-clamp ) to tighten it.

Go a little at a time until a slight resistance is felt when moving the front wheel side to side ( don't screw around and knock the handelbars off the tank ! )

I use one clamp and stick the bars back on for a second to check the bearing tightness.
You should have to push the bars from one side to the other with the bearing at the proper tightness.
But just barely.

In other words, the bars shouldn't FALL from one side to the other when you give them a slight push. If they do, tighten it some more and try again. When it gets to where you have to use the pressure of your pinky finger to push the bars from one side to the other ( I use my eyebrow to push with ) but it wont FLOP over, you've got it.

Note: one side will have enough "cable drag" to make it a little harder to push than the other. I set mine so that NEITHER side ( that is going left or right ) will flop over on it's own. WARNING: If ya get it too tight you WILL crash. Remember JUST TIGHT ENOUGH TO NOT FALL OVER TO THE SIDE BY ITSELF.

At this point use the steering stem nut, to pull the upper t-clamp down on top of the spanner nut and washer assy. ( the washer has two little "teeth" that when squeezed by the upper t-clamp, will hold the bearing adjustment ( spanner nut ) where you put it.)

As you tighten the steering stem nut, tap the two pinch clamps on each side of the t-clamp to help it slide down the fork tubes, and on top of the spanner nut.

Check it again for "not too tight but wont flopedness".

If you find it's too tight. loosen the upper steering stem nut a half a turn, use the screwdriver and mallet to knock the spanner nut loose by about one half of one quater of one millionth of an inch... ( an eigth of a turn...or less ) then retighten the steering stem nut to specs and try it again for the "not too tight, but wont flop over" test.

It should WANT TO flop over, but it's just a bit to tight to fall over on it's own.

Tighten the pinch bolts on the fork tubes.

Adjust the bars back to where you think you had them before.

Tighten the bar clamps.

Ok I added a bit to the post above so ya might wanna refresh and re-read.

Also I just thought of this, if you can hear it twice, indicating an "in and out" movement of the bearings, then you can often feel it in the bars as well and that's almost always a dead giveaway.
Also if you're still not sure that steering bearings are the problem, get the front wheel off the ground, and sitting in front of the front wheel, grab the fork legs close to the bottom, and push 'em forward and back and you may be able to duplicat the noise that way in order to verify.

Make sure you hold the wheel straight as you do this and don't confuse any turning movement that you might be allowing...just straight back towatrd the engine, and straight out toward your ...crotch.
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-09-2019, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DPelletier View Post
If you can't push the bars from one side to the other with your eyelid, the bearing is too tight.
When you say "eyelid" do you mean press it with your closed eye?? Or do you mean "eyebrow?"

2017 KLR in black
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-09-2019, 01:57 PM
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I read eyebrow but you'd have to ask Patman; I just copied and pasted. :-)

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post #6 of 7 Old Yesterday, 06:16 PM
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Whatever happened to the “Patman”? The guy wrote some hilarious stuff.

My Kaw Barn - 2004 KLR, 2006 Concours (sold), 1997 Bayou 400.

"It's a friggen motorcycle, it's not supposed to be comfortable, quiet or safe. The wind noise is supposed to hurt your ears, the seat should be hard and riding it should make you shit your pants every now and then. "

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post #7 of 7 Old Today, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by klr4evr View Post
Whatever happened to the “Patman”? The guy wrote some hilarious stuff.
moved on to brand X, I believe

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