GS Steering Head Bearing Replacement FAQ

GS Steering Head Bearing Replacement FAQ
Compiled and written by Scott, ID #1244
Special thanks to NothingClever and Oyvind for their input.
Please read the Disclaimer before attempting any work in this FAQ.
Last Updated: 23 September 2006, by Winter #1935

For other related FAQs:

Suggested BMW parts and part numbers and tools for the GS

Suggested BMW parts and part numbers
  • Steering head bearings (two) 31 42 1 240 571 (320/28X 28x52x16) Note: This number may have been changed to 07 11 9 985 070
  • Spacer (protective cap, two) 31 42 1 234 509
  • High temperature bearing grease

Note 1: Most auto parts stores sell the appropriate bearings (ask for two BR32 bearings). If you are careful, you can re-use the "spacer" (metal cap that covers the bearings). However, driving the bearings out with a machinist punch may perforate these caps. Lastly, bearing replacement can be done without the special BMW socket, though the socket no doubt makes it easier. Scott ID, #1244

Note 2: See the Parts and Fiches FAQ for alternative part numbers

Suggested Tools
  • Torx drivers
  • Torque wrench
  • Allen wrenches, including a 12mm allen wrench for counter tube removal (see step 5-B below for substitute)
  • Socket: BMW Specialty Tool 90886316521; shown as 31 6 521 in BMW shop manual(Diagram of BMW Tool)
  • 3-4 mm machinist punch to drive out bearings and races (longer the better)
  • 30 mm socket for SHB hex nut
  • 10 mm wrench for ABS sensor
  • Hammer
  • Long punch or regular screw driver for driving outer races

Replacing the Steering Head Bearings

Below are some instructions regarding the replacement of the GS steering head bearings. These are collections of experiences from GS riders who have replaced their steering head bearings. See also the Classic SHB FAQ for more insights, and for testing to see if your SHB's even need to be replaced. Replacement of the Steering Head Bearings will require a few preliminary steps, including the following:

Remove Handlebars

  1. Remove cross bar pad (Dakar)
  2. Remove 4 screws holding the plastic panel housing the ABS and heated grip switches (if installed), and lift housing from handlebars. Set aside and let hang to the right side of the cockpit.
  3. Remove the 4 bar clamp bolts from the handlebar clamp. Note that the top clamping blocks are not symmetrical, so look to see what orientation goes forward (the BMW manual says, "wide hole spacing to the front"). Also, place a piece of masking tape on the handlebar next to a clamp. Make an index mark on the bar to note your handlebar position (Photo)
  4. The handlebar will be a bit sticky to remove. Using a rubber mallet (or steel hammer and a block of wood), tap the handlebar from below, driving it upward to loosen it from the bottom half of the clamp.
  5. Bungie the handlebar to the windscreen (to keep it out of your way). No need to remove handlebar cables, etc.

Remove Front Wheel

  1. Jack up front of bike so that the front wheel is off the ground. This can be done with a floor jack, or place the bike on the centerstand. If you use a floor jack, you might want to remove the engine guard, or at least place a short length of wood between the jack and the engine guard. Once raised, the bike might be wobbly. Be sure to secure the bike such that it doesn't tip over.
  2. Loosen the axle clamp bolt. Loosen the axle bolt, and slide it out. Watch for the spacer on the threaded end of the axle. Carefully roll out the wheel, easing the brake disk out from the calipers. Be sure to not damage the ABS sensor if you have it.
  3. Remove the brake caliper and ABS sensor if you have it.

See Front Wheel Removal FAQ for more information.

Fender and Horn Removal

    Using a torx driver, remove the 4 bolts from the bottom side of the fender (Photo). There are 4 washers on the backside that you can't see until they fall out upon fender removal (note: fix these washers back onto the backside of the fender with a little smear of silicon RTV. This will make it easier for you when you re-install the fender bolts later on). Once the fender is removed, using a larger torx driver, remove the single bolt holding the horn in place (Photo). Disconnect the wire harness from the horn.

Fork Removal

  1. Note the depth setting of the top end of the tube. Is it flush with the top bridge? A bit lower? You will want to know this when you install them later on. OK, loosen the top (Photo) and bottom (Photo) fork clamp bolts (one each side on top, two down low), and slide out the fork legs. No need to remove the fork stiffener brace, nor the end cap on the top end of the forks. Set aside in a safe place. If you nick, dent or otherwise damage the tubes you may facilitate fork seal damage!
  2. See also Fork Maintenance FAQ for more info.

Steering Head Bearing Removal

You can use heat and ice (see "Feedback" below) if you wish, though it seems these bearings and races can be removed without. The following description does NOT use heat or ice.

  1. Using a 30 mm socket, remove the hex-shaped collar (retaining) nut (Photo)
  2. Using a 12mm allen wrench, or the handle of a large machinist punch and a wrench, remove the counter bolt.
  3. Using the BMW special socket (Photo), remove the knurled, black anodized adjustment nut. Alternatively, use a large pair of pliers, which will scratch the knurled edges slightly. Placing a piece of aluminum sheet metal between the pliers and the nut will lessen the damage (note that the damage is slight, and not very visible once the handlebars are installed)
  4. The lower fork bridge (or "triple tree") of the bearing assembly will now drop out the bottom.
  5. Using a machinist punch, drive out the bottom bearings. Alternatively, grind off the sharp ends from a pair of nails and use these to drive the bearings out (Photo).
  6. Using a long machinist punch, or some other long metal object such as a rasp file or screwdriver, drive out the outer races. Working from the top, drive out the bottom race (Photo). Then, working from the bottom, drive out the top race.
  7. Now remove the top bearing. Screw the counter pipe half-way in on to the bottom of the adjusting ring, with the allen key-side down, add the collar nut to the base if you like. Using a punch, drive the bearing out (Photo). A vice may be handy here, or at least a piece of wood to drive against.

Steering Head Bearing Installation

  1. Using the old race, drive the new bottom race into place. I used a piece of scrap aluminum to drive mine flush (Photo of top bearing race), then a punch to seat it all the way (Photo). You can tell when it's seated as it feels and sounds different than when it is still moving with each blow. Repeat for the top race. Others (thanks NB) have found that a piece of duct tape helps to hold the old race in place while driving it in. (Photo of bottom bearing race)
  2. Pack the new bearings in a good high temperature bearing grease.
  3. Using a short piece of 1-inch ID PVC pipe (1.19" actual), drive the top and bottom bearings into place (Photo). The cheap grade of PVC irrigation pipe fits just right. The heavier Schedule 40 grade does not fit.


In general, re-assemble the bike following a reverse of the steps you took to disassemble. We'll do this before adjusting the bearings: general consensus is that you get a better adjustment if the weight of the fork and wheel is loading the bearings.

  1. Slide the lower fork bridge (triple tree) back up into place, and mate with the upper bridge. Before you do this, you might apply a good layer of grease to the lower fork bridge shaft: good place to store extra grease for the bottom bearing, which seems to go dry faster than the top bearing. Thread the adjusting ring onto the shaft. No need to torque to spec just yet as we'll adjust the tightness later on. Install the counter tube, but leave it loose. Following adjustment you will install the 30mm hex nut.
  2. Carefully slide the fork tubes back into place, inserting to the original position. Tighten the lower fork clamp bolts; leave the top ones loose as we will want them lose when we adjust the bearings.
  3. Install the horn and the fender. Torque as specified below.
  4. Install the wheel and brake caliper. Torque all bolts as specified below.


  1. Install the handlebars after adjusting the steering head bearings (After Step 8 below). If you forget, you'll remember real fast the next time you ride!
  2. Place handlebar in the clamp yoke and align with the masking tape index mark. Install and tighten clamps and clamp bolts (from Step 1C above, recall that they have a specific orientation). Don't forget to torque as specified. The last thing you will do is install the ABS/heated grip switches and the foam cross bar pad. Congratulations, you're done!
Tightening torques (from BMW manual)
Initial torque, round nut25 Nm (220 in-lb)
Back off through angle of rotation60 degrees
Counter-tube to steering head bearing65 Nm (575 in-lb)
Hexagon nut to counter-tube65 Nm
Clamp screws at fork bridge21 Nm
Handlebars to fork bridge21 Nm
Clamp screw, front quick-release axle21 Nm
Front quick-release axle to fork leg45 Nm (From Dakar manual; GS manual says 80 Nm for this part!)
Brake caliper to slider tube41 Nm
ABS sensor to bracket9 Nm

Adjusting the Steering Head Bearings

The BMW shop manual provides torque values for the adjusting ring. However, unless you have the special BMW socket, you cannot torque the ring. It seems there is a general goal in mind: the bearings should be just tight enough to allow the handlebar to move left or right under it's own weight, but not TOO loose. Below are three descriptions to help you achieve this goal. The first method is from the BMW manual, while the second two methods are methods that do not require the special BMW socket. Note that correct torque values cannot be achieved without the socket.

Adjusting the Steering Head Bearings (From BMW Manual)

Adjusting the Steering Head Bearings (By Flash, #412)

Adjusting the Steering Head Bearings (From by Oyvind #1052)


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