Changing Fork Springs Without Giving Yourself a Black Eye

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Wait, you didn’t realize that you could give yourself a black-eye while changing fork springs?  Well actually, it is pretty easy to do and most manuals do not give you a heads-up about the potential risk (no pun intended).

Most forks have the same basic configuration.  Of course, I am most familiar with my Harley-Davidson Shovelhead – see diagram below:

fork diagram

The steps to get at the fork springs are as follows:  (1) Remove the bolt at the very top of each fork leg; the one sticking out of the top of the triple-tree.  (2) Remove any bolts in the triple-trees pinching the fork legs in place – #7 here.  (3) Add a bunch of lubricant and slide the fork legs down a few inches (you may need a rubber mallet to assist).  (4) Loosen the slider tube plug – #10 above – a quarter-turn and only a quarter turn.  Sometimes these guys are stubborn and you will thank me later for having you loosen it while still in the frame.  (5) Add a bunch of lubricant and slide the fork legs all the way out the bottom.

Next is the step to gain access to the fork springs.  Essentially, you need to entirely remove the slider tube plug – again, #10 above.  Common sense, of course, tells you that there is a spring behind there and you should be careful.  However, maybe you have been in the garage for hours and are no longer thinking straight.  If you unscrew the plug quickly with no protection, it can come flying out at you.

So what should you do?  I call it the champagne cork method.  Basically find yourself an old t-shirt or large rag.  Place it over the top of the fork slider tube and slider tube plug.  With one hand hold the t-shirt in place around the fork slider tube, while with the other hand unscrew the slider tube plug.  Make sure at all times to have a good grip on the t-shirt and unscrew slowly.  Keep the whole assembly pointed away from your face during the process.  Eventually, you will hit that last thread of the slider tube plug and it will pop out along with the top of the fork spring.  The t-shirt will catch them both, and you will have completed the job without injuring yourself.

There are two rules around my house (rules put in place by my wife): (1) Don’t get sick, and (2) Don’t get hurt.  Well this post is part of following Rule #2.

Thanks for reading my advice on how to change fork springs without giving yourself a black eye.

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