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Old 12-31-2008, 08:39 PM   #1
dorkpunch OP
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Joined: Aug 2006
Location: Blackfoot, ID
Oddometer: 4,941
Honda XL: A how-to. Fork Seals!

Makin progress! Figured since I got the headgasket done and its running again, I would start on the forks.

Tools needed:

Sockets
10mm
12mm
14mm
Crescent wrench
6mm Allen wrench
Snap ring pliers
Stout flat bladed screwdriver
Flashlight

Step 1

Jack the bike up so the front end is off the ground. I ended up tying the back end down and jacking under the skid plate. Kinda precarious, but it hasnt fallen over. Yet...

Step 2

Once the front end is off the ground, crack the two large nuts on the very top of the fork loose with the crescent wrench.



You can remove the 10mm bolt from the side of the fork to drain some of the oil. This will still leave a fair bit of oil in the bottom of the fork, which you will be draining anyways. Now remove the 4 14mm nuts and the cap on the bottom of each fork leg.



Once the nuts are off, the front tire should fall free. Notice the allen bolt in the bottom of the tube that is now exposed. Sometimes it is easier to crack this loose with the fork still attached to the bike, but it wasnt working to great for me.




Step 3

Pull the forks off! Loosen the 6 12mm bolts on the fork clamps (2 at the bottom, 1 at the top, on each side).






Note to self- clean the tubes off before trying to slide the shock out... The top clamp was tight, so I tapped a small flat bladed screw driver in to widen the gap. If you do this be VERY CAREFUL not to overdo it as you can crack the clamp. Both tubes slid out easily.

Looks a little funny...



Step 4

Fork dissassembly! First order of buisness- remove the 6mm allen bolt from the bottom of the shock. This can be tricky- I think the damper(?) its attached to spins. After twisting the bolt for an eon I finally just hit it with the butterfly and it came right out.

Stand the fork up in an oil catcher. Oil should drain out of the hole. Carefully remove the large nut on the top while holding the shock up to keep pressure off the spring. Once the nut is off, let the slide collapse into the leg a bit until you can get the top spring, washer, and bottom spring out. Pump the shock a few times to get the oil out of the damper. The slide should now just pull right out of the bottom fork tube. Tip the slide upside down to get the damper out of the slide.

Time to remove the seal! Pop the dust seal off (should be able to twist it off with your hand). Use the snap ring pliers to take out the snap ring. Stout screwdriver time! Carefully pry the seal out without scratching anything! I used a large tire iron and it worked great. Lay all the parts out and start cleaning!



Thats as far as I got tonight, but one note on cleaning the bottom fork tube: There is a pocket at the bottom that doesnt drain out of the bottom hole, it drains out of the 10mm side bolt hole. Shine a flashlight down there to make sure you got the 30 year old crud out!
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:52 PM   #2
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SO. Time for re-assembly!

Step 1

Spend some time getting everything cleaned out good. As I mentioned, get the crud out of the pocket at the bottom of the fork tube. I used carb cleaner and compressed air along with a clean shop towel, and it seemed to clean everything up nicely. I also took the time to polish the lower fork legs a bit. Just used a wire wheel on an angle grinder, and then shot them with clear coat. I should have used a little finer wire wheel, but it turned out nice.

Step 2

Install the new seal. Coat the outside of the seal lightly with oil. I'm not picky, just about anything will work, but its probably easiest to drible a bit of whatever you'll be filling the forks with on the seal and smear it around. Getting the seal in is simple if you have a large socket or a piece of pipe to push the seal in, but you can work it in with just about anything. I used a flat bladed screw driver and gently worked it back and forth. Just be VERY CAREFULL you dont cut the seal or scratch the fork leg if you do this! *NOTE*- the seal does not go all the way to the bottom. You only need to push it down far enough to get the circlip in. In my manual, it shows a spacer under the seal to prevent you from driving it in to far, but my bike did not have one. There were a few other differences in the forks so I wasnt overly worried about it.

Once you've got the seal in, pop the snap ring on.

Step 3

Upper fork leg- lube the dust cover and slide it on to the leg. Lower the damper rod into the leg until it pokes out of the bottom. Time to join the two pieces! Lube the inside of the fork seal and carefully work the upper fork leg into the seal. Push it inside far enough that you can put the allen bolt back in the bottom of the lower fork leg. The manual recommends using loctite on that bolt. You will likely be able to get the bolt started, but unless your threads are very clean the damper rod inside that the bolt threads into will start to spin. Slide the upper tube up, drop the springs in, and screw the cap on. The spring should give you enough tension to tighten the allen bolt the rest of the way. Once you get it tight, remove the cap and springs.

Step 4

Oil. Manual says ATF or 10W fork oil. I'm a cheapskate- ATF it is! Recommended amounts:

Simple drain using side bolt: 150cc / 5.1 oz.
Full drain/rebuild: 170cc / 5.8 oz.

It varies slightly from 250/350 and a bit depending on year, but those numbers should work well for all of them unless your a bit anal...

Re-install the 10mm drain plug on the side of the fork if you havent already. Dump your measured amount of oil in. Work the fork back and forth slowly a time or two just to make sure its doing what its sposed to do!

Step 5

Finish re-assmbling! Drop the long spring in first, then the spacer (flat washer), and then the short spring. Check the o-ring on the cap, and then thread it on. I like to check the shock again by placing one end on the ground and bouncing it like a pogo stick, just to make sure there is no binding and that the dampening is working as it should.

Step 6

Put the bike back together! Slide the fork legs in from the bottom. There are several notches near the top allowing you to line the two shocks up accurately at different levels. Get them lined up and lightly tighten all 6 fork clamp bolts. Roll the wheel under there and let the bike down on the axle. Install the two axle clamps and 8 nuts and tighten them up-

Axle clamp nuts: 18-23 N-m or 13-17 ft-lbs.

Now that the axle is tight, tighten the 6 fork clamp bolts. The torque is the same as the axle clamp nuts for all 6 bolts. Almost there! If you took the brake cable or speedo cable off, time to re-attach those and anything else you took off in the process. Once you've got it all together, grab a handfull of front brake and rock the bike back and forth. Are the shocks working? I hope so! Never hurts to go back over everything and just double check that you didnt miss a bolt somewhere. Take it for a ride and see how it does!





I dont know much about forks/suspesion, but you can stiffen or loosen the fork some by varying the amount and type of the oil you put in the shock. If you dont like it, try experimenting!
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:54 PM   #3
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Just for fun, here's a before shot of the fork tubes:



and here's the after.



Looks a lot better. Would have been super nice if I wasnt in such a hurry and polished out the scratches a bit more...
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:25 PM   #4
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Thanks for the lill' write up,, I need to do the forks on my 76 xl 2fitty an' they're prolly very similar..
Actually have a long way to go on that project,, maybe even need to take the head off.. Bummer, and again I've seen the 350 version thanks to you!
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Old 01-06-2009, 09:09 PM   #5
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FWIW, the 250 and 350 are virtually identical. There were some changes in '76- new style head and slightly different frame and styling, but from '72-'78, what I call the first generation, are practically the same.
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:21 AM   #6
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Oh, and I have a '74 xl175 that (like so many others) needs a kick starter shaft.. I have a parts bike with a good shaft (at least the outside looks good).. Are you the guy that posted pix of a tear down of the engine cases and the retaining bolt? How'd that job come out? Is the lill gem working now?
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:10 AM   #7
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Yup, that was me... What a royal pain that was! Had to do a similar job on a friends XL200. Yuck. Not fun. It seems to be working great, although I must have buggerd up the counter shaft seal because it has a pretty good oil leak.
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Old 01-07-2009, 09:53 AM   #8
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Very cool, so it is repairable...
Where'd you get gaskets and stuff?
The bandit doesn't list much for the 175,, not a headgasket anyway.
The bike came to me fairly complete, I added several little bits (turn signals, levers, etc) and new tyres and am at the stage where I think the next step is to confirm everything really works by checking tune-up settings and push starting it.
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Old 01-07-2009, 10:04 AM   #9
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I'm pretty sure I got a set off of ebay. I kind of cheated on the dissassembley- the 175, 250, and 350 engines split horizontaly, not vertically like most new bikes. This means you dont have to take the top end off to get the case apart. I took the engine out, flipped it upside down, removed the bottom half of the crank case leaving the crank/transmission etc in the top half, replaced the kick shaft, and put it all back together.

Thought I had more pics, but you can see the bolt and how the crank case splits in this one:

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Old 01-07-2009, 01:53 PM   #10
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Glad I asked,, that's a great idea.. Assuming mine doesn't need a top end ovh,, Ja, why take that stuff all apart..
There's been a couple of questions from folks on xl board under 175/185 about exactly the same topic..
It would prolly encourage them if they heard your story and saw the pix/s.
Just an idea.
Thanks man!
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:59 AM   #11
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A foot note:
While doing the fork seals on my 175 I found it's a real good idea to tether the handle bars to the rafters (I used a come-along, but a rope or anything would be prudent).. A dinky bike balancing on a cheap floor jack, side stand and rear wheel is very unstable.. Nuff said?
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