BMW /5 Steering Head Bearing Service

Reader Contribution by Mc Staff
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Steering head bearings seem to be one of those things we don’t think about until we have to. The problem is, by the time you realize your bike’s steering head bearings need attention — evidenced by notchy, stiff or even loose steering — it’s usually too late to do anything but replace them. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most common problems you’ll find on older bikes. Because it’s a time-intensive job — i.e., expensive — owners often avoid having it done unless it’s absolutely critical; there’s that too late thing again. And because it involves a fairly comprehensive front end tear down, many owners are scared to do the job themselves.

In the Sixties and Seventies, the average bike used ball bearings in the steering head. Simple, cheap and effective, they’re also prone to wear. Although widely used today, back then tapered roller bearings were usually only found in race frames. Effective in high-speed, high load-bearing applications, tapered roller bearings are superior to ball bearings thanks to greatly increased contact area. That’s a fact BMW appreciated when they specified tapered roller bearings for the steering head and swingarm on all “slash” 5 models. Introduced in 1969, the /5 and subsequent /6 and /7 range evolved to incorporate at least eight different engines in multiple body styles. Translation: There are lots of them out there.

And high build quality means a lot of those old Beemers are still on the road today, with many showing impressive miles. Yet even in the hands of a sympathetic owner, most have likely never had the steering head bearings properly serviced.

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