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Steering Head Bearing Service

The Yamaha factory service manual calls for servicing the steering head bearings every 12,000 miles or 18 months. At 23,000 miles and 22 months, this second service was a little early.

Jim Fortner hosted this wrenching session at his house in Plano. When I arrived, he was putting his bike back together after R&R his steering head bearings. I had the torque wrench and spanner.

Yamaha sources their spanner from K&L. Both part numbers are clearly shown in the photo. Once we buttoned up his bike with those critical tools and rolled it away from the pipe stand, we rolled mine into position and attached it to the "sky hook".

Using a Pipe Stand: AKA: The Sky Hook

Everything went by the book for both bikes. According to pages 3-59 through 3-61 of the 2003 Factory Service manual. Since this is just a service, the inner races were not removed. If, during inspection, parts of the lower assembly or the outer race of the upper assembly needs replacement, you'll need to drop the fork assembly (along with the associated tasks of dealing with the brake lines, removing the old races, installing the new races, etc.). However, access to the upper bearing components for replacment is possible without further disassembly.

It took about an hour and a half from the time we pulled it in to the time we backed it out. Since this was it's first bearing service, we were glad to see that Jim's 2004 assembly showed signs of being well-packed from the factory. My 2003 had already been serviced at 12,000 miles. It was clear that the shop doing the first service didn't have the spanner and had used either a flat bladed screw driver or chisel to tighten the lower ring nut.

During the inspections, all the components on Jim's bike looked like new while my 2003 (2,000 fewer miles but 1 year older) had an upper, outer race that showed signs of the plating wearing off. All the other components (bearings, seals, etc.) still looked great. Since the races I had ordered hadn't arrived we reassembled everything appropriately. I'll plan on a complete dissassembly and replacement at the next service since there was no indication of rust, denting, or other damage. If I had the parts or if I had the bike apart at home, I'd have replaced the outer race before reassembly even if it meant waiting for the part to arrive.

The lower right half of the outer race (between the arrows) shows signs of the plating wearing off after 23,000 miles and 22 months of service. The place you are looking at is the inner most ring, closest to the main shaft. The discoloration on the outer rings is old grease that we had yet to completely clean away.

This is a photo of the same race taken from the right side of the bike. The wear is clockwise from the arrow. The large black area (upper left) is from rotating the image so that it would be oriented the same as the first picture. No signs of rust, dents, or other wear were present. Even when "felt" with the edges of sharp tools there were no rough spots.

Jim and I went for a test ride afterward and we both agreed that we could tell that this was time well spent. The front end felt much tighter and the feedback from the road was improved.

Some extra points of interest.

1. Even though the shop manual shows the bearing assemblies as 3 distinct parts, Yamaha sells them as a single assembly. Each bearing package (outer race, bearing, inner race) is sold as a single part. Part number: 93399-99932-00. Yamaha's telling you to replace both races and the bearing as a set. To replace both bearing sets (upper and lower) you'll need 2 each of that part number.


2. VTCornerCarver, on the FJR Forum, did some research and learned that All Balls Racing offers a replacement steering head bearing as a tapered bearing! This would be the replacement part of choice for those wanting a more robust bearing. Kevin, at All Balls Racing, said the kit # (22-1003) and price ($31.97) includes both the upper and lower tapered bearing seats and seals. The web site shows the kit only matching a 2003 FJR. Please check with All Balls Racing for other model years and current pricing.

3. Bike Johnny now sells the spanner and the front/rear axle hex adapter as a pair.

Summary of Service Steps

Park the bike on a level surface Raise the rear of the bike up using the center stand on top of a 1x4 piece of wood. Secure the front of the bike with the sky hook.
manual reference numbers
Loosen the upper bracket pinch bolts  
Remove the steering stem nut

Socket Size:
Up to 2003 = 32mm
2004 and later = 36mm

Remove the washer and upper bracket With handle bars still attached for simplicity
Remove lock washer, upper ring nut, and rubber washer  
#7, #8, #9
Using the spanner and a standard ratchet, remove the lower ring nut while supporting the front wheel A 1x4 board "ramp" under the tire provides a way to move and control the front wheel more easily
Remove the upper bearing cover, the bearing inner race The bearing outer race (#16) can now be seen for a visual inspection
#12. #13, #14
Access the lower components from underneath the front cowling Inspect all components for wear and replace as needed
#13, #15, #17
Thoroughly clean all the upper and lower components If replacement is required, remove the front wheel and forks to remove the lower components
Pack all the assemblies with the appropriate grease Yamaha recommends a lithium soap based grease - A good synthetic is also acceptable
Reassemble all the components in reverse order Insure the main steering shaft is centered when installing and seating the bearing components
Seat the bearing assembly: tighten the lower ring nut to its initial torque specification 52 Nm / 37 Ft. Lbs
Loosen the lower ring nut then tighten it to its final torque specification 18 Nm / 13 Ft. Lbs
Reinstall the rubber washer  
Reinstall the upper ring nut Finger tighten

Reinstall the lock washer, upper bracket,

stem nut washer,

stem nut

Stem Nut torque = 115 Nm / 85 Ft. Lbs for all model years

#7, #4

pg 3-60 #3



All material on this site (c) 1995 - Present, Mark Johnson. All rights reserved.
Photos shb04, shb
05 and shb06 courtesy and copyright Jim Fortner