Versys Fork Seals or "Oily and Busted, now Done and Dusted!"

Words can't express how great it feels to be able to land a wheelie without my teeth bashing together. Now I can park my bike confident that it will no longer lift its fork and leave a wee puddle behind to mark its territory, for today I have replaced both dust and fork seals on the front forks of my Versys 650.

The spacer and spring exposed!
I'd armed myself with a YouTube video by a guy who runs by the handle of Wedginator... Replacing fork seals on inverted forks. (Two Parts) and a good cup of coffee to keep me going.

Hey, if your fork seals are leaking or weeping ever so slightly, then check out my experience with "Seal Mate" and a quick fix for repair. It might just be a bit of dirt under the seal lips, and that happens to MX riders all the time. Think Shock Sox or Seal Savers in the future.

Some of the parts and tools you might want to have ahead of time. It's by no means complete for if you need to go out and buy the extra bits, then maybe this should go in for dealer service, where they have a flat tip screwdriver and know what a 3/8" drive ratchet is and how to use it. ;)

All Balls Fork and Dust Seal Kit - 56-132 for 2009 Kawasaki KLE650 Versys  SKU XA4180438     Qty 1     $26.25 CDN (sourced on Fortnine.ca)

Fork Spring Compressor Tool (sourced on eBay.ca)
Brilliant piece of kit, at 1/4 of the cost of the OEM tool
There are all kinds of DIY versions, all you need is some google-foo

Fork Oil Level Gauge (sourced on XS650 Direct)
Oh yeah. Shit just got real
I've heard of all kinds of workarounds from windex spray bottle heads to turkey basters, but this device is set and forget. Kinda pricey as I've only ever used it twice in ten years though. :)

Fork Oil SAE 10w (sourced from local dealer) Note that some bikes ship with 5w so check your manual. If you want to know more about fork oil, check out "The Secret World of Fork Oil".

Piston Rod Puller: #57001-1298 piston rod puller (M10×1.0) for $15.05
I used a magnetic pick up tool, Wedginator used extended needle nose pliers.

24mm six point Socket or wrench: The fork caps are aluminum so make sure you get a good fit. You can get away with an adjustable wrench, but be prepared to cry as you round off the nut, and everyone sees the damage, so you sell the bike in shame, taking a hit on the selling price when your bodge is noticed. Even with the correct size tool, be very careful. And when reassembling, do NOT cross thread the caps. Go ahead, ask me how I know...

There isn't any oil bleed valve or fork internal hex nut that you need to release on this job but if did want to dissassemble them completely, try this set from xs650direct.com:

An Assistant for the final compression and reassembly. If you use the ratchet strap method, all they will need do is keep the assembly aligned and secure while you do all the work ratcheting the straps up. You might need them for ten minutes per fork leg. Call it fifteen if you are as uncoordinated as I am. If I had a decent bench vice I could probably have bodged something together, but Kirk saved my butt at the end of the day when I was frustrated and ready to take a serious long break involving blue curse words. See my comments under the second video below.

I think that is the list. Feel free to comment if you feel I left something out.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot to add oil catch basin, rags and gloves for all that slippery oil. Some clean newspaper to keep grit off the parts on the garage floor is a great idea as well.

I pulled off the fairing and aftermarket Givi windshield, and used the opportunity to replace the H7 Halogen lowbeam headlight that had failed on me earlier in the week, taking care to hit all the connectors with a dab of dielectric grease before reassembly. How guys claim they can do this with the fairings on, I can't make out. This is my second time replacing the lamp in five years, and each time it's been a right pain to get my hands into that space to wrestle the weather seal and bulb out and back in again.  "Fantastic Voyage" and "Honey I shrunk the kids" comes to mind.

Pulling the forks off is the easy bit... 
I've a stem lift stand that I bought years ago to work on my Bandit 600 after bending the forks smacking it into a deer, and it'll just work on the Versys if you run a couple of 2x6s underneath the wheels, with that addition you get that 1-3/4" boost that I needed to get the front tire off of the ground for removal.

I might as well pull the drain plug and let that nasty old stuff drain away
The right hand side rotor, caliper and pads had become contaminated with fork oil, and I used brake and contact cleaner liberally to clean everything up, including the forks. Note the fork leg in the above shot. One covered in road grime, the other in fork oil and road grime. The only win here is that the wheel rim tossed oil up underneath the bike and did a bit of impromptu rust proofing. I'm stretching... Work with me here.

Off the shelf oil filters at Wally Mart
The oil change went as expected, with Shell Rotella T 15w40 that I've been running in all my bikes since 2008. I've only had to do one clutch service in over 400,000km over four bikes. (The KLR if you must know...)

It's good for another 10k, no?
Ummm. No comment.

This is what happens when you let the KLR ride ahead of you on dusty roads.
It was a very long day, but the bike is now all set up for my camping trip in Nova Scotia this coming weekend, and beginning in August when I head back to Onterrible to visit friends and campout at the CSBK championship races at CTMP. I'm pretty sure that if I were to do it again, I could cut the time down substantially.

The end of a great day.
How did it feel? The front was still a bit stiff over the pressure cracks that riddle the PEI rural roads, but it was soaking up the larger stuff that used to jar my hands harder. I started to forget about the front end, and focus on how crappy my stock rear shock is, preload set to 3 clicks is too stiff without a load of camping gear onboard. *sigh* If I keep this thing I'm thinking of dual rate springs in front and upgrading the rear shock to something somewhat cheaper than Showa or O-linns. :)

Wheelies are now back on the menu!!!

So far I was able to follow along with his instructions until I got 3/4 of the way through the second video where I found myself in need of that third hand...

Now you are probably scrambling to find the service manual for your V. Let me save you a minute or two:

Fork Oil Level: (Assume you are sitting on the bike)
Right Fork Leg 75 ±2 mm (3.0 ±0.08 in.)
Left Fork Leg 65 ±2 mm (2.6 ±0.08 in.) 

At about the 9:00 minute mark he slides the internals back into his fork legs, and proceeds to gloss over how he got that bit done. Versys 650 forks aren't quite the same, as the spring is much longer, and the preload spacer fairly small. I was fortunate that my brother-in-law Kirk had returned from his outing and was keen to lend a hand. The preload spacer perches atop the spring, and as it is compressed by the ratchet straps, gets pulled out of center and your tower of compression collapses, burying beneath its ruins, your carefully placed ratchet straps. Darn!!!

Here's the fix:
Raise the outer tube up to cover the preload assembly until the top rim is just below your fork spring compression tool. Now have your assistant keep the tool aligned fairly straight while you ratchet and compress the straps. Now here is the tricky part... The piston rod in the center of the fork is perhaps 6" below the top level of the fork, and you will need Wedgeinator's handy extended needle nose pliers or the Kawasaki approved Piston Rod pulling tool... OR a strong magnetic pickup tool of which I had one in my toolbox and put into use at the timely advice of my nephew Ryan. Once the rod was up, I used the piston rod retaining tool to hold it in place and easily restored the fork caps back on. I return you to your regularly scheduled Youtube program...

Oh, his advice about the sandwich bag and axle grease was brilliant. Installation was a breeze in comparison to all that ratcheting. :)


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