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Wheel Bearings
- don't assume they contain grease!

At 59,700 miles the MOT inspection (annual roadworthiness test) was once again due. It was recommended that the rear wheel bearings were changed as there was slight free play. I bought a set and installed them myself.

A few months later with the odometer showing 72,000 miles I took the bike to my local workshop for a service (valve clearances) and general checkup.

Much to my surprise, they informed me that the rear wheel bearings were showing too much free play. Having only done 12,000 miles on these, I wasn't too happy. In discussion with the workshop owner, it seemed that this was becoming all too common. Even though OEM parts were used, they were insufficiently greased.

I therefore bought yet another set. On the workbench, I carefully prised off the dust seal using a thin flat screwdriver. Lo and behold, there was very little grease visible. Now I don't know if this is yet another symptom of the modern "disposable society" - manufacture things which don't last so that the customer is forced to buy yet another new item. Or maybe I'm just too cynical. Anyway, I fully packed the new bearings with grease before replacing the dust seal.

So don't assume that just because you've bought "genuine part" bearings that they'll last as long as the old ones. Dismantle and grease them properly before installing.

Whilst the wheel was off, I inspected the swing arm mount and found quite a bit of surface rust; thanks once again to the winter application of salt to the roads. I made a mental note to tackle this problem at a later date. For the time being, I used a wire brush to remove all the rust I could see, and gave the bare metal a coat of Unidox zinc-rich primer. At 90% zinc content, it's almost the equivalent of galvanising. This was followed with two coats of black gloss paint.

An internal mudshield can be installed to protect this vulnerable area. You can easily make one yourself from an offcut of rubber sheet. I did this at around 75,000 miles (when I renovated the rear swing arm) using an old car mat. For details see this page.

Before reinstalling the wheel, I lubricated the drive hub and driven coupling splines with a smear of moly grease. This is a grease containing at least 40% molybdenum disulphide. It's available in small tubes from your local Honda dealer, and although it's quite expensive, you don't need much so the tube should last a long time. Don't use it for wheel bearings though, it's not recommended for small, high speed ball and roller bearings.

The front wheel bearings are less prone to wear, so should not need replacement as often as the rear.

TIP: The Haynes manual says that to install a new bearing, hammer it in gently using a socket. Well instead of using one of your expensive sockets, (even if you can find one which is the correct diameter!) use the old bearing. Once you've removed the old bearing, use a bench grinder or angle grinder to reduce the outer diameter evenly all around. You don't need to remove too much metal, just enough so that the old bearing doesn't get stuck in the housing. Keep this home-made drift for future use. Oh, and if you can press the bearing in with a vise or clamp, that's better than hammering it in.

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