Sunday, April 1, 2012

Preparatory Maintenance Fork Oil Change and Speedometer Cable Lubrication

Well hello, Ed here.

It's been quite a while.  Devon and I have been quite busy over the past several weeks with family.  We had multiple visits from family and I had to complete some time consuming auto repairs which ate up a few Saturdays.  I was also able to ride back to Colorado for my uncle's birthday party.  It was a very quick trip.  While in Colorado, I was able to visit with family that I do not get to see very often.  It was quite an enjoyable time and it was really nice to reconnect with them. 

We are almost 60 days out from our departure date, so it's time to start going through the Wing.  I want it to be in tip top shape when we leave, so I am going to do a bunch of maintenance to it.  I also have an appointment scheduled to have the tires changed out in the middle of April (this will give me some time to scrub them in before we leave).  This weekend starts my maintenance run on the bike, so check back often to see what is going on with the bike.

This week, I completed a fork oil change.  This is the first time I have attempted this service on a Goldwing, so a few rookie mistakes were made and there were definitely a few lessons learned.  Hopefully, you will learn from my mistakes and your fork oil change will go quick and smooth.  Let's go out to the garage and get this done.

Welcome to the garage.  There she sits ready to be worked on.  I already put it on the center stand.

The rotor covers need to come off.  Let's start with the left one.
At the top rear of the front fender just behind the fork is a plastic cover that needs to be removed.  This cover pulls off a grommet at the rear.  There are two tabs which fit under the front half of the front fender.  Be careful not to damage these tabs when removing this piece.  I usually pull out on the front half of the front fender a little, then slide the piece out.
Next it's time to remove the caps on the rotor cover which cover the screws that hold it on.  Here is the removal of the front one.
And the removal of the rear one.
Under the upper cover, there is a bolt that needs to be removed. 
Take the bolt out, but be ready, there is a small bracket behind it which may fall.
Here is the bracket I was talking about.
Next, remove the two lower bolts that hold the rotor cover on.  On my bike, these are hex head bolts.
I have lights in my rotor covers, so I disconnected the wires.  The cover then pulls right off.
Here is what the left side looks like with the rotor cover off.
Whenever I have the rotor covers off, I always like to check the brake pads.  As you can see, my pads on the left side look good.  I am going to take an extra set of pads with us to Alaska.  I know that is probably overkill and we probably won't use them, but I figure better safe than sorry.  Besides they won't take much space.
Time for the removal of the right side rotor cover.  The removal procedure is exactly the same as the left side, so I won't bore you with the details.
Here is what it looks like with the right rotor cover removed.
The right brake pads look OK also.  It was more difficult to get a good angle for this shot, so it looks more worn than it actually is.  This photo reminds me of abstract art, I like it!
Both right and left fork caps have to come off.
They simply screw on over the schrader valves.
Time to lift the front wheel off the ground a little.  I used a scissor jack and a short 2X4 to lift the bike.

The object is to get the front wheel just slightly off the ground allowing the forks to fully extend.
Time to remove the Schrader valves (both sides).
Here is the right Schrader valve removed. 
And here is what it looks like with the left valve removed.  So here is where I made my first rookie mistake.  My original plan was to take a small wooden dowel and stick it in the valve holes to determine how much fork oil I would need to put back into the forks after I drained them, sort of a dipstick method.  When I stuck the dowel in, it went in about three inches, then stopped.  I thought, ah crud, there is a solid spacer or something in there stopping the dowel from going all the way down.  My revised plan was to measure the volume of fluid that came out of each fork so I could replace the exact amount of fluid.  In retrospect, I wish I would have been more patient with the dowel dip stick measurement method.  I later found out that if you wiggled the down around slightly, it would go down all the way in the tube. 
It's time to drain the old oil.  There is a small bolt towards the bottom of the fork that needs to be removed to drain the oil.
The bolt is a 10mm bolt.  Be ready to catch the oil when it comes out.  I was using a mason jar to do this.  I placed it directly under the bolt ready to go.  So right now, about a third of you are laughing, another third are gasping, and the other third are wondering what is going to happen.  Please keep in mind as you read on that this is the first time I have done this procedure on a Goldwing.
Ahh crud, oil everywhere except in the mason jar.  The oil came out with more force than I expected. Either be prepared for it, or have a catch tray larger than a mason jar.  After cleaning up my mess, I realized my plan to measure what I took out so I could put the exact amount back in was no longer going to work.  When researching how to do the fork oil change, I remembered this thread on a forum I frequent.  Based on this thread, The measurements are as follows:  "measuring from the TOP OF THE FORK NUT (schrader valve removed) looks more like this --

Oil fill with forks fully extended and springs installed (measured from the top-plane of the fork nut with the air valve removed):
400mm / 15.75" for 88-94 (Progressive springs installed tight end down)
406mm / ~16" for 88-94 (Progressive springs installed loose end down)
408mm / ~16.1" for 88-94 (OEM springs installed)

  355mm / ~14" for '95+ (Progressive springs installed tight end down)
  361mm / ~14.2" for  '95+ (Progressive springs installed loose end down)
408mm / ~14.3" for  '95+ (OEM springs installed

I did the same thing on the right side, this time without the mess.  I have Progressive springs in my Wing, so I am going to set the fluid level to 14 inches. 
While I let the forks drain, I serviced our lawn equipment.  I really cannot sit still when I am in the garage.  I like wrenching on things.  Servicing the lawn equipment took about an hour which was just about the right amount of time to let the forks drain.
It is amazing how dark the old fluid is.   
In contrast, here is the new oil.  I purchased Maxima 10 weight fork oil.  This oil is clear, but most fork oil is red in color.
I put the drain bolts back in.
OK, so what is important with fork oil is that you get the level the same in both tubes.  So to accomplish this, I took an old spray head and attached a tube to the bottom.  I marked a spot on the stem of the spray head and measured down from it 14 inches. 
I then stuck a syringe in the schrader opening to act as a funnel and poured the new fork oil into the forks.  I put 380 ml in each fork.  Remember that the volume is not as important as the distance from the top of the cap, we are looking to get the level to 14 inches from the cap to the top of the fluid, so we are going to drain some off.
Next put the schrader valves back in and take the bike off the jack.  Then get on the bike and take it off the center stand.  Grab the front brake and start rocking back and forth vigorously.  The object is to cycle the forks about 15 times to move the fluid through all the valves in the forks.  Once you have completed this, put it back on the center stand and remove the schrader valves again.
Stick the tubing into the hole where the schrader valve goes.
Stick it all the way down to the mark where you measured down and cut the tubing.  In my case, I measured from the white label, so there is 14 inches of tubing in my fork.  Now I squeeze the trigger to pump out the excess fluid in both forks.  After completing this on both forks, I realized my second rookie mistake.  I forgot to jack the front of the bike back up again.  Crud, I jacked the front back up and added more fluid back in, then repeated the procedure.  To confirm I took the level down to 14 inches, I took my wooden dowel and measured two points on it 14 inches apart from each other.  I then used this as a dipstick to confirm I set the level correct.
I then put the valves back in.
I then figured since I had the left side cover off that I would lube the speedometer cable before putting the rotor cover back on.  If your speedometer is bouncing, this is the first thing I would do to try to correct it.  I lube my cable once a year.
There is a phillips screw that holds the cable.  Take this screw out.
Pull the cable off.  In this shot, you will see a flat piece where the cable attached.  This is what turns the cable.
Here is the bottom of the cable.  The slot on the cable is where the flat part that turns the cable fits.
Simply pull the cable all the way out of the housing, then wipe it down.
Here it is completely out.
Lube it with a good quality graphite oil
Once you have lubed the cable, slide it back into the housing.
Line the slot in the cable back up with the flat drive piece and reinstall the cable.
I decided to do one more thing, next to the alternator, there are two tubes with drain caps on them.  These tubes need to be emptied from time to time.  I decided to empty them.
Move the retainer clips up, get a container ready to catch the fluid that comes out (it's usually not much), and pull the plugs (do this one at a time).

Put the fork cap covers and rotor covers back on, then take the bike off the jack and center stand.  It is now ready to ride.
Some folks like to use 15 weight fork oil.  From what I have read, it appears most are using 10 weight.  The ride seems smooth and I am happy with the results.  I learned quite a bit from doing this job, and I hope you did also.

Talk to you soon,



  1. Don't you have to put 6lbs of air into the shocks after the change?

  2. Brian,

    Thank you for the question. There are a lot of opinions out there on this. The book does indicate a max pressure of 6 PSI. You will find folks running 0-21 PSI in their forks.

    Since I have Progressive Springs in my front end, I choose to run 0 PSI as the front end does not sag. I have never had any problems. Many Goldwing 1500s don't even have schrader valves in the caps.