As often reported on the Message Board, the F sometimes came with a less-than-desirable amount of Grease from the Factory, resulting in "Notchy" bearings after about 20-25K Miles, but sometimes earlier.
Check FIRST however that your tires aren't just worn.Typical Q. "My recently acquired '97 feels as though it is falling into turns, especially left handers. I did note the front Trail Wing is showing cupping and edge wear, but is that the cause or the result? I can't see anything else visually that would cause this effect."
That is typical of worn tires. Be sure to check the tire air pressure. I recommend at least 34 pounds in the front and 36 to 38 in the rear. Richard #230
I've been doing a bunch of maintenance to my '94 classic in preparation for a trip and I'm struggling to decide if the steering head bearings are on the way out. The bike has done 22000 k's and has a very small amount of play in the bearings. The thing that's got me thinking something's 'amiss' is a 'click' sound close to the end of the lock each side when I turn the bars with weight on the front wheel. The FAQ suggests a notchy feeling in the middle, but mine is smooth in the middle. I did tighten the handle bar rubber bushes. Cam
If you do feel that there is a notch in the middle you could just loosen the locking nut under the bolt a bit. This is what the guy before me did, which made me not discover that it was bad until many weeks after I bought it. They say it is a common trick, before selling, to loosen it up a bit, so that it is difficult to feel that the bearing is bad. Spakur
Put the bike on the center stand. Either have someone push down on the luggage rack or else use a jack (and a board) to jack up the front end just so the front wheel is off the ground. (Note: jack too far and you'll raise it off the centerstand and it'll go thump.) Squat in front of the front wheel and grasp the ends of the axle, one in each hand. Pull the axle toward you and push it away. If you feel ANY play, your steering head is too loose. You want to tightening your steering head with the wheel similarly off the ground. You want to tighten it so that with the wheel facing forward, knocking the handlebars in either direction will cause the wheel to turn to its stop, just barely. If it goes BUMP, that is too loose. If it feels like maybe the cables are what is keeping it from going all the way, it is juuuust right. Be aware that when you tighten the top nut, it will generally tighten the steering head up ever so slightly more. After the steering head is properly tightened, THEN you can feel for the notch, again with the wheel off the ground. If you feel the notch, replace the bearings. Flash 412 (CO)
The clicking can be just a cable flicking past an obstruction. Kristian#562
Whats a C-Spanner ?
TIMKEN 30205M #90KM1 Bearings (The box for a
Timken 30205 will read as 30205 #92KA1 or 30205M #90KM1.
The "M" stands for through hardened steel as
opposed to case hardened steel that the 30205 #92KA1 is.
Both are valid part numbers with Timken however the 30205
is currently superseded by the 30205M. (Ref & many
thanks to Mark #403 for supplying email details from
Timken.). Jean #636 "got his parts from
A&W Bearings at www.awbearings.com part # NSK HR30205J made in Japan,
Jean #636 "got his parts from A&W Bearings at
www.awbearings.com part # NSK HR30205J made in Japan, cost US$22.50."
Or you can use another
good quality bearing company e.g. SKF
or whoever you know to be a good bearing manufacturer.
The Generic Number is 30205. Mine were SKF from a
Bearing Shop. -IMPORTANT:! Put the OUTER
RING (the part without the Bearings Attached) in the
Some HIGH Temperature Bearing Grease.
Doesnt need to be BMW but MUST be High Temp. Also from the Bearing Shop.
The steering bearing problem is caused by a combination of low temperature grease AND (in many cases) inferior quality bearings. The grease you want is not just plain wheel bearing grease. Look for disk brake wheel bearing grease. It's always rated to a higher temperature. Any grease that is usable for Volvo disk brakes will be suitable.
Types of grease used by inmates:
BMW #10 grease - Richard #230
SKF LGHQ 3/0.4 which is able to go to 175 centigrade with regular re-lubrication and up to 150 centigrade otherwise. It says on the grease tube that over 120 C. heat stabilised bearings must be used. Pat #1210
Grease stability is different than the DROPPING POINT. In simple terms, the dropping point is like a melting point...the temperature at which the grease will flow by gravity. It could "drop" out of the top bearing at a low temperature, but still be a perfectly good lubricant to a much higher temperature (it has to stay put to work). The SKF grease is rated to 482F in dropping point, and also has good water resistance (important ion the bike as well). More tech data on SKF website. (Marty's (#436) comments on LGHQ3/0.4: Excellent choice.
You MUST also get the Lower "Rubber Washer" with the Metal Backing Plate that sits underneath the bottom Bearing.
either get cooked with the heat or you will damage it
getting off the bottom bearing. The washer is to
protect the bottom bearing, but is not intended to be
really tight seal. It's called a "Gasket Ring", only costs US$3 and is BMW
part # 31 42 2 345 287. NOTE:!! My bike and Jean
#636 had a Gasket Ring ONLY under the Bottom
Bearing. However Mark #403 notes: "There are
definitely two rubber/metal washers (Gasket Rings), one upper and one lower. the
drawings only show a lower one, but the parts list for
the drawing notes a qty of 2....and my bike definitely
had 2, plus the rubber cover. If I were you, I'd buy
another one and install it when you can. Shouldn't be too
difficult, since you only have to remove the upper triple
clamp to get at it. Even WITH an upper seal, I ended up
sitting on the lower bearing, which is obviously why they failed (rust). I wonder if originally they were only using one, and changed to two later....".
The rubber boot/cover on top is part # 31 42 2 345 290. (Again many thanks to Mark #403 for supplying parts details). However the old one can be reused!
(Under Black Covers)
Note: Spakur's 1995 F Manual says 32Nm on the 2# Allen Bolts Front Brake Calliper to Fork Leg so Check the year of your Bike.!
Feeling Whether its really needed:
The Wheel Bearing Tip "Feeling for Worn Bearings" doesnt work with the steering head bearings because you cant get your finger in there to feel them. The Manual describes grabbing the front forks at about the hub of the front wheel and pulling them horizontally back and forward, which might work if they are terribly loose, but I reckon "notchy" is another feeling. The thing is its NO GOOD just taking the weight off the front wheel and testing your steering back and forth because the load then goes only on the Upper Bearing and the UPPER bearing doesnt normally get that much load. If you think about these bearings, because they are tapered, its the bottom one that gets most of the hammering. So you need to devise someway of being able to turn the front forks WITH the weight on the forks, i.e. over the bottom bearing. I did this by putting the front wheel on a slippery surface and with the weight over the front wheel, turning the steering. DEFINITELY notched. So where do you expect to feel the Notch.? Well unless youre driving around in CIRCLES all day my guess is that your bikes steering spends most of its time IN THE MIDDLE and thats where the Notch is.
Give the steering head bearings the "Ouiji board" test. Bike on centerstand, support the bike with front wheel off the ground. Put ONLY four fingertips of each hand on each handlebar grip. Slowly turn the bars from lock to lock, paying particular attention when you pass through the "straight ahead" zone. That's where you'll likely find a "notch". Use your fingertips (like Ouiji board) to feel any notchiness through the grips. This is exactly how my bike felt before I replaced the (BAD) steering head bearings last winter (haven't got it out this year yet). BTW, check the Jesse bags for tightness of mounting to the rack...they can be adjusted to make them snug, if necessary. Marty #436
One thing no one else has mentioned - if you squirt some wd40 into the head bearings and the wobble goes away or changes then you probably have dried grease and need to re-pack mike410(Iowa). (This only tells you about the Grease, not the wear).
You will need to remove in order, The Tank, The Front Wheel & Attached Brake Line & Odometer Cable, the Handlebar (Unless you have the BMW tool), the Triple Tree Fork Clamp Bolts, the 30mm Triple Tree Nut, The Triple Tree, The Upper Bearing Slotted Nut (Using C-Spanner), the Front Forks and FINALLY the Steering Head Bearings (Outer Races (2# in Frame), Inner Race, 1 # on Shaft. Sounds a lot but it goes fine if you work your way slowly through it.!
This will allow MUCH better access to the steering head. To do this you should first turn OFF the GAS petcock. Also remove the SEAT. Preferably done with an almost empty Gas Tank.
See theGas Tank Removal-Replacement FAQ for photos and detailed procedure for the Gas Tank Removal
Front Wheel (& Attached Cables & Lines) Removal:
You need to do this because otherwise you cant get the forks LOW enough to get the Steering Head Shaft out of the Frame. You could conceivably drop it into a pit, but front wheel removal is so quick and you really dont want to be putting bearings onto a shaft that has a wheel at the bottom.
You might like to tie up the calliper a bit so itdoesn't hang down and kink the brake line somewhere.
Removing the Handlebars:
If you have the BMW 30mm Tool, I guess you can skip this as the Triple Tree Fork Bridge will come off with the Handlebar Mounts & Handlebars attached, but frankly taking off the Handlebars is not a Large Problem.
Removing the Forks:
.Marty #436 provided this annotated Photo of the Triple Clamp Top and Sides. You do not need to undo the LOWER Triple clamp bolts only the upper ones.
Bearing Removal is in two Parts: Outer Races (2#) and Inner Race 1# on the Shaft. The Outer Races are like Steel Rings and are in the Frame at the Top & Bottom the of Headstock.
Outer Race Removal:
Jean #636 notes: "The drift punch. I really fought hard dislodging the old outer races before using a Drift Punch with a 3/16" point. The one I used was made by DASCO Pro reference number 603-0. I am sure there are other tools you can use but this one made the job really easy. (for the Lower Bearing) the drift has to be at least 8-1/2" inches in length to go all the way through the frame tube."
Inner Race Removal:
The Upper inner race should already be out by now, so this is only relevant to the lower one, which is a tight fit on the shaft.
Inner Race Replacement:
The Upper Inner Race Just Fits over the shaft without any hammering, so this is confined to the Lower Inner Race Only.
Jean #686 notes: "Putting back the new lower bearing inner race I fought and swore long and hard again before getting a 1"x18" galvanized steel pipe with a rubber thingy on both ends at the local hardware store. It's apparently a plumber accessory. It rests nicely on the inside of the joint without touching the needles and it's long enough that you can hammer it without risk of hitting the top of the steering column. It then went down like butter. I used a heat gun but I am not absolutely convinced it was necessary."
Outer Race Replacement:
OK, these are relatively easy.
Jean #686 notes:
To drive in both the lower and upper
outer race I used a PVC pipe 1-1/2 in diameter and a foot long. I did not
want to use anything that was made of steel because I did not want to damage
the races. It took a lot of hammering but it went in (and the PVC pipe looks
now like it's been chewed on by a Doberman).
I had the forks off anyway for Fork Seals, I put the lower triple tree in the freezer overnight which worked very well. The bearing was then heated up and slid down with relative ease. A short length of suitably sized steel tube was used as a slide hammer to drive it home. Pat#1214
Thats your Bearings replaced!
(BMW#10 or similar.)
Wheel and Cables & Lines Replacement.
Triple Tree & Handlebar Clamp Replacement:
Here's theother one (LHS). Also (marked with yellow splodge).
See theGas Tank Removal-Replacement FAQ for photos and details.
Go for a Ride and Go WOW, Like New!..! Then Go Have a Beer or 3 and feel very very satisfied with yourself.
If you didnt get it quite right you can readjust the play later on. In this order:
If steering head bearing play is:
"too loose" you'll feel vague handling at high speed.
"too tight" you'll feel the bike feels "drunk" and "staggers around" at slow speeds.
"barely too tight" you'll feel like it has a steering damper on (Just right). Marty #436
I cant remember the total time exactly, because I did it over several days, initially after work, under lights, munched by mosquitoes. The first night I took off the tank and the forks. With ALL the Tools at Hand:
This assumes you have or can borrow (At least the Torque Wrench) all the Tools, including Allen Keys, Sockets, Ring Spanners, Torque Wrench, C-Spanner, Drift. Thanks to Mark #403 who was the first to use the FAQ and Jean #636 who was the second, both of whom came back with some great comments, as well as parts numbers.
Steering Head Check and Bearing Relube (NOT Replacement)
The F650s are known for being underlubed so I am adding this to the 6K service, here are the photos.
Pop off handlebars, hang to the left side with the upper triple clamp. Move tank back on frame or remove.
Upper bearing race, not bad, needs grease.
Lower bearing, has lube, does not look bad, just needs some grease.
Lower bearing re-greased. (after wiping the race and bearing of the nasty old lube, not that there was much!)
Upper bearing, greased. This grease is either Mobil 1 or the Castrol equivalent, I keep a grease gun full of each handy. I have had very good luck with the Mobil 1 grease with other high wear applications and really like the stuff. I also use the Castrol and like it as well.
All buttoned up and ready to assemble. Note anti-seize liberally slathered on threads, I love the stuff, you should too. I find the F650 notoriously "dry" when it comes to thread lube.
Total time, messing around, dawdling, taking my time added an hour to the service.
Flash #412, Hombre Sin Nombre, Mark #403, Haakon #636
Steering Head Bearings
The box for a Timken 30205 will read as 30205 #92KA1or 30205M #90KM1. The "M" stands for through hardened steel as opposed to case hardened steel that the 30205 #92KA1 is. Both are valid part numbers with Timken however the 30205 is currently superseded by the 30205M.
At 13K miles my OEM steering head bearings gave out on my '99. Upon disassembly they were the expected Bulgarian models. I couldn't find suitable substitutes locally, and had a friend in California looking for a specific model of Timken. Unable to find what I wanted, or a good substitute, he went to the BMW dealer to buy my new seal rings. He checked on what they had available, knowing that I did not want to use the OEM Bulgarian models. I was pleased to find that the new replacement bearings in the dealers stock, in BMW boxes with BMW part numbers, are SKF's made in Germany (SKF 30205 J2/Q) and cost less than $10 each. Hopefully these should be much better than the original bearings, at a very reasonable cost. So if you need to replace your Bulgarian bearings, don't be afraid to see what your dealer has available before you go to additional trouble to search out an alternative source for something other than the original Bulgarian bearings.
I wonder if we could find a slightly thinner bearing or with a different tapered race? The Timken catalogs won't let me search by dimensions. The reason I mention this is because originally on my bike, I discovered that the upper seal ring did not fit down into the recess for the race, not providing a full seal. Lifting the flexible rubber cover, I could see the bearing rollers. I think the original race was fully seated, but the Bulgarian bearing in its race was almost 1mm thicker overall than the new SKF bearing. The new race is fully seated (I inspected it with a mirror), and the seal ring almost, but not completely, seats inside the race recess. Much better seal, but I wish the seal ring seated entirely within the race recess, as it would with a slightly thinner bearing. I also note that the upper lip of the race recess is NOT in true alignment with the bottom of the race recess, the welded ring/lip that the race bottoms against, almost 1.5mm of difference - very poor QC on the part of whoever made the frames - it would matter less if I could get the ring to seat deeper inside the lip. And I WISH there were room for zerks, however there just isnt the space.
Steel alloys' molecular structure will arrange itself differently depending on how it is heated and cooled. Take a materials science course to learn all about metal phases. "Through hardened" means that the entire part has the same hardness throughout. If you took a cross section of the item and tested the hardness in the center, it would be identical to that of the outside surface. "Case hardened" means that, sort of like a Twinkie, the soft center is surrounded by a harder exterior covering.
The difference between through hardened and case hardened can be considered analogous to the difference between solid gold and gold plated.
A through hardened steel race has a (more or less) uniformed hardness through the entire cross section of the race - basically, it's the same hard metal inside and outside. Because this is actually a cheaper priced bearing, I'm guessing it's a special proprietary alloy. (Bearing mfg's are SERIOUSLY into special alloys and metal treatments.) The race may be very hard and strong, but will be more brittle, possibly subject to certain types of cracking, before it warps. Tensile and ductile strength may be higher, while yield strength may actually be lower. (Harder usually means more brittle.) A case hardened steel race is usually also homogeneous metal throughout, but it has been hardened after manufacturing. Usually this is surface hardening, the depth varying depending upon intended application. Think of it as similar to "tempering" the surface of the metal. While the basic alloy of the metal is the same throughout, the molecules on the surface may be re-arranged, either mechanically, or thru ion exchange, or have additional elements, such as other metals, or in the example of case hardening, usually carbon. This is usually accomplished by additional treatment processes after basic manufacturing. The surface (sometimes to a considerable depth) can be made MUCH harder than the original alloy. Since it's all one single piece of metal, and the original underlying alloy can be more ductile, the overall effect can be a race that is less brittle, and less damaged by warpage, and possibly even harder than the through hardened type M bearing. I dont know which bearing surface is actually harder in this case, probably proprietary Timken info.
Detailed Bearing Information & Resources
by Haakon #626.
For other alternative Bearing Parts Numbers refer the Bearing Schedule.
In the Wheel Bearing Replacement FAQ the section with the GS/Dakar Sprocket Carrier the bearing is 6204-2RS1/ C3. The "/C3" designation is rather important as the bearing is a "shrink" fit in the carrier. The C3 tell us the bearing has a bigger internal bearing clearance than normal. That is used so that when the carrier cools down it clamps onto the bearing a bit and thus eliminates any "looseness". If you fit a standard clearance bearing in the carrier it will be a bit "tight" internally. http://www.timken.com/products/bearings/techtips.asp.
You can have the same nominal size e.g. 18x24x16 needle bearing in different formats, for instance,
Some Alternative Bearing #'s.
Please note there is very little Feedback on this item because this was one of the first FAQs and at that time "Feedback" was not taken. It doesn't mean it didn't happen and that there wasn't a problem on the Classic. It does happen and it IS a problem. You can see from the FAQ above at least 10 people did by themselves. If you have done it or had it done, please email The FAQ so we can record it here. Thanks, ed
See the Survey Section for early feedback.
My shop did the job under warranty. Apparently the type of grease used at the factory could not take the heat of the oil-in-the-frame concept, and headed for cooler climes, leaving the bearings without grease. As I recall, they charged BMW for 5 hours of labor and about $20 for parts (really cheap bearings). Richard #230: 1997 Funduro
Differences for the GS
So far there have been very few reported cases of the SHB notchiness on the GS. The procedure is very similar to the Classic, once you get the Panels off the bike. If you have the answers to any of these questions, please contact The FAQ
Has anyone out there done the SHB on the GS/Dakar? Any significant changes from the FAQ apart from the plastic-related stuff?
What's the fall-apart curve on the SHBs? In other words, will they rapidly degrade from here on in, or will they last 10,000 miles before they get really bad? Are we talking safety hazard here, or
Has anyone paid a shop to do this? If so, how much did they get screwed for the work?
When I had the front wheel of my '01 Dakar (33,600 miles) in the air to get a good look at the big honkin' ding in my rim, I noticed that there was a barely perceptible but definitely there detent in the SHB. As expected, it's right where the front wheel is pointed straight ahead. Or rather, you feel the "bump" as you turn the bars away from being pointed straight ahead. This, as I understand, is an omen that the SHB are due for replacement. Naturally, I checked the FAQ first to see what was involved. Holy crap, this seems to be one mother-strapper of a job. Propane, freezing, BFH's, specialized tools. As a follow-up, I called up my shop to see what the flat-rate was on the bearings, and they quoted me 3.0 hours. No warranty coverage, according to them. Robin #790, '01 GSD Chicago
Only for statistics: On my F650GS 05/00 23000 km (15000 miles) the head bearing is broken. Robert #1071
My bearings were noticeably notchy for about 10k miles before I replaced them (when on the center stand the front wheel would click into the straight ahead position) - and there was no great catastrophic failure or anything. That said I sure did notice the difference after they were changed - it got so much easier to turn corners, brake hard, manoeuvre the bike etc. On the other hand it was harder to ride slowly in a straight line after the new ones were fitted. I would recommend changing them very soon as there is an obvious safety concern here and although I decided to risk it was probably a dim move. That said I was 3 countries away from the nearest BMW dealer at the time so I had more logistical challenges in the way. y_kiwi. Lance, #1303, '01 F650GS.
Are SHB Warranty Work?
by Marty #436-Chicago-97 F650F
My SHBs are notched at 29K miles. I'll probably replace them myself, but as long
as I was at "Chicago BMW" this morning I asked them if it would be covered under
warranty. They said "No, it's a normal wear item.". Have people here had any
luck replacing SHBs under warranty? Raymo #1173, Chicago, 2001 F650GSA
Look at the warranty page in your owners booklet. It will tell you that BEARINGS are considered normal wear items. My wheel bearing was toast at 13K...sorry, no warranty. My SHBs were toast at 25K (out of warranty), so sounds like you did OK on mileage. Be sure to use QUALITY BEARINGS from a bearing house and a QUALITY, WATER-WASHOUT RESISTANT GREASE that is rated for HIGH-TEMPERATURE (Classics only) and, preferably, good against fretting wear as well. (Unlike BMWs OEM stuff). You should do much better on mileage with the quality stuff.