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Steering bearings keep you handling straight and under control. If your motorcycle feels wobbly or hard to control, it’s probably time to replace your steering bearings. However, your wheel bearings or fork internals may be the culprits too.
Your motorcycle will either be equipped with:
- Loose ball steering bearings.
- Caged ball bearings.
- Tapered roller bearings.
Your steering stem has bearings at the top and bottom. There will be lower and upper bearing races pressed onto the stem.
The steering stem is held together with a series of large nuts and washers. They should be tight enough so there is no play in the bearings and the triple tree can move freely.
When replacing loose steering stem balls bearings, be sure to count the correct number of balls you need. Pack the ball bearings with grease to keep them in place and carefully install the steering stem.
Removing Old Steering Bearings
If you need to remove your bearing races to replace them or if you want to change out to a different type of bearing:
- Carefully pry the bearing race off with two screwdrivers or a bearing puller.
- Use a heat gun if the race is really tight to the stem.
- Drive the bearings out of the neck of the motorcycle frame with a drift and heavy hammer.
- Really stuck races can be carefully removed with a Dremel tool.
How to Install Motorcycle Steering Bearings
To install the new lower bearing race, drive it on with a large pipe that is just bigger than the outside diameter of the steering stem. Be sure to only drive on the inside edge of the bearing/bearing race (closest to the steering stem).
Drive the bearing races into the frame neck with a large socket or a press.
If using a socket, select one with the same diameter as the bearing. Gently and evenly drive the bearing into its seat.
When the bearing races are installed, grease your new bearings and install them on the steering stem neck and into the frame. Refer to your motorcycle shop manual for the exact installation sequence and the proper torque values for the steering stem nuts.
If you’re having trouble driving near bearings or races onto the stem or into the frame, you can try sticking them in the freezer for a while.