"Steering Stem Bearing - Lubricate" This is one of those maintenance chores your owners manual tells you needs doing every two years or 24,000 miles. And when was the last time you disassembled and lubed yours? Yeah, well, you're not alone. This is a job many of us put off until we suddenly notice the steering has gotten notchy or stiff or noisy or all the above and then it's also expensive usually requiring bearing replacement.
Note: If you've gotten to the point where your bearings need replacement (forks not turning smoothly, sticking, grinding, etc.) then do yourself a favor and check out Delboy's Garage for some extremely clear and helpful videos like this one.
Next time you have your front wheel off the bike for a new tire or you've removed your forks to change the oil (another of those biennial chores we keep putting off) remove the top tree nut and the tree and the serrated nut under it. Pull the steering assembly out from below the bike, remove the top and bottom bearings, clean them, lube them and put everything together again.........OR
Follow Harpos simple instructions and lube the bearings when needed with a pressure gun via a zerk fitting. Now 'that' was easy.
Here's Harpo's way
What You'll Need
1- Metric M6 zerk fitting available at any auto supply store
1- M6-1.00 tap to cut threads for the zerk
1- Small drill for pilot hole and sharp 13/64" drill for the zerk
1- Pipe cleaner or similar that you'll put grease on to clean all shavings from the hole
1- Grease gun oops, wrong kind that's better
How To Do It
You can (and maybe should) disassemble the steering head to drill the hole noted below if you're worried about metal shavings getting into the steering assembly. If you follow the procedure below and work slowly with a sharp drill bit this shouldn't be a concern.
- Turn your steering all the way to the left or right, whichever side you have more clearance on. Some vulcans have a wiring harness on the left side of the headlight bucket while others are on the right.
- Mark a spot on the steering head near the middle but easy to reach. Eventually you'll be filling the entire cavity with grease so it doesn't matter much where the fitting is located. Note on the Drifter shown the hole was drilled and zerk fitted just above the lower frame tube. Just select an easy spot where you'll be able to get a grease gun nozzle in and away from any welds.
Note from "TTE" on RiderForums.com: it might be a good idea to put the zerk fitting about midway between the top and bottom of the neck.
- Center punch your mark so the drill won't skip around then drill a pilot hole just deep enough for a larger drill to follow. Don't punch all the way through.
- Using a 13/64" drill bit work very slowly until you just punch through. You'll know this is happening when your bit tries to grab. We're trying to avoid any bits of metal falling inside the steering stem.
- Clear all metal shavings from the hole and use a metal punch or nail to enlarge the hole on the inside.
- Using the M6-1 tap and some oil (to trap shavings and make cutting easier) very slowly and carefully cut your threads, pausing occasionally to remove cuttings with an oil soaked pipe cleaner.
- Screw your zerk fitting into your newly threaded hole and pump in grease until it just begins to exit the seal (usually at the bottom as shown in the picture)
This simple mod will greatly enhance the life of your steering head bearings and will certainly make maintenance simpler in the future.