Ever had a leaking fork seal? It can be a messy job, and can be kind of tricky the first time. Don’t let leaking fork seals scare you. If you have the time to fix the seals yourself, like most other things, it will save you some money and increase your knowledge. Replacing fork seals can vary quite a bit between different makes and models of dirt bikes. The type of oil and the amount will vary according your your service manual guidelines and the type of riding you intend to do.
Need new Seals?
How do you know if you need new fork seals? The first sign is usually a lot of dirt/grease build up on the forks and front wheel. When seals get old or dry out, oil usually leaks from the seal runs down the forks. When replacing fork seals, it is usually best to replace the oil at the same time. If your ready to get your hands dirty and learn something in the process, I will walk you through the process of replacing the old seals on a 2002 XR200R. This is about as simple as they come as far as forks are concerned. Different types of forks however have similar components and vary in how they are assembled and dissembled.
Modern day forks can have multiple chambers, valves, and other pretty complex assemblies so always refer to the service manual for proper handling. As for this job though, we will just stay with as basic as they come on this XR 200R.
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- Soft jaw bench vise
- 19mm socket wrench
- 8mm allen wrench
- Pick- Hook set
- Fork seal bullet
- Fork seal driver– bike specific
- Clean cloth or papertowels
- Screw driver– flat head
- Homemade pipe or something to hold inner rod
Step by Step
Loosen the end cap of the fork and dump as much oil out as possible at this point. It’s usually easiest to loosen the cap when the forks are still mounted to the bike. Use a pick or small flat blade screwdriver and pull out the snap ring holding in the dust seal. This bike is a little different than other I have seen as far as the snap ring goes. Sometimes the snap ring goes UNDER the dust seal. Always keep parts in order as you pull them off to make it easier during re-assembly.
Separate the Inner Tube and Outer Tube
Loosen the allen head bolt on the bottom end. This may be a little tricky because the inner dampening rod will want to spin. This is where the homemade tool comes in handy. The tool (usually a pipe with some ‘teeth’ on the end) should reach down inside the inner cartridge and hold the dampening rod (piece I am holding with a star shape on the end) so the allen screw can be removed. The copper sealing washer on the screw should be replaced. Drain the oil out and clean all components well.
Once the allen head bolt is removed and the oil, separate the two halves of the fork by giving the inner and outer tubes a couple good snaps until they separate. At this point, the old fork seals can then be removed. The manual states, not to remove the bushings from the inner tube unless planning to replace.
Keep track of the spring and bushings that are on the inner dampening rod and the order they are in. The inner tube holds the bushings and the dampening rod with the spring goes inside the inner tube. New fork seals will be placed over the inner tube and down into the outer tube.
The dampening rod should pass through the inner tube but not come all the way through the opposite end. Put the spacer on the end of the inner tube. Slide the inner tube and dampening rod assembly into the outer tube. Make sure it seats in properly. You should be able to see the end of the dampening rod and spacer is lined up with the outer tube. The screw will fit in the end and screw in nicely if you placed everything correctly.
Seat the inner tube bushing all the way into the outer tube. If this is not seated all the way, the fork seal will not seat properly. Place the washer next to the bushing. Don’t forget your washer! Next is the placement of the new fork seal, dust seal, and snap ring.
Before placing the new fork seal on, make sure everything is screwed back together. Now take your new fork seal and put some grease along the inside and outside. If you don’t have a fork seal bullet, you can use a plastic bag to help protect the new fork seal. The plastic bag or bullet help the fork seal from getting cut. Make sure you work it on nice and smooth and put it on the right direction.
Slide the fork seal all the way in. Place it evenly to avoid any binding. Use a fork seal driver to seat the seal snug. If you don’t have a fork seal driver I like to use the old fork seal, ratchet extension, and a hammer to seat the new seal in properly and tight. Tap the fork seal evenly and gently all the way around. Once seated take off the old seal (if you used it to seat the new seal), place the dust seal on and snap ring.
Next place the inner spring inside. Look for the tighter coiling, it goes in first. Place the washer on top of the spring, it will seat onto the spring, flange up. The spacer goes on top of the spring and washer. It is non directional. Push the spacer in until it is flush with the inner cartridge. Next is the oil.
Dump the oil in per the service manual specifications. For the 2002 XR200 the oil capacity is 12.8 oz each fork. Place the end cap on, then pump the fork a few times to get the oil all throughout the inside. Now it is time to do the next fork! Once completed, mount the forks back on the bike and take it for a ride!
Good luck on replacing your leaking fork seals. This process for this fork can be pretty simple if you remember to put all seals, washers, bushings, and the snap ring in correct order. Newer forks can be a bit more complex, but the idea is the same. Take it slow and always follow the manufacturers recommendations for any safety or precautions that should be taken.