Tips for an Easy Lower Head Bearing Replacement

Motorcycle Insurance Tip!
Save on Motorcycle Insurance in Five Minutes
  • Insurance costs increased in 2024.
  • Don't let your rates go up.
  • Compare rates to save big!
Compare Rates Now Moto Image

Well, my plane got delayed due to mechanical issues (hand me a wrench!), so here I am again writing a post from my phone.

Your lower head bearing (#25 below), located at the base of the triple tree is pressure fit over the steering stem (i.e. the circumference of the stem is slightly thicker at the base to hold the head bearing in place).

head bearing nut

The main reason that I thought this would be a good post is that whenever I have to use a fair bit of force to remove a part on my 1972 Shovelhead, I question whether or not I am doing something wrong.

In this case, some muscle is required to get the job done.  Here are my tips for a lower head bearing replacement.

1) Bearings are comprised of an inner circle and an outer circle with small roller bearings sandwiched in between.  The outer circle of the head bearing is sometimes called the outer race.  Feel free to destroy, break, and remove this piece with a pair of needle nose pliers.  You don’t need it anymore and it will just be in the way as you try to remove the rest of the head bearing assembly.  Once you break off the outer race the bearings will all fall out.

2) Get yourself a series of different size flat head screw drivers, ranging from small to large, plus a punch (see picture below).
Head bearing

3) The key is to get a hammer and drive the smallest screw driver between the bottom of the bearing and the triple tree base.  As you start to move the head bearing up off its seat, you can turn the head of the screwdriver perpendicular to the triple tree base or jump up to the next size screwdriver or punch.

4) A key aspect of this process is to drive the head of the screwdriver under the bearing, but PAST the steering stem (i.e. along one side and then the other).  Basically you don’t want to be nicking and scratching the steering stem the whole time, so work around the steering stem.
head bearing

5) Eventually, the head bearing will come free and you can slide it off the steering stem.  The key thing here is to keep the old head bearing without the outer race as a bearing driver (bottom-most item in picture above).

6) Clean up the head bearing seat and base of the steering stem with some steel wool and sandpaper, removing any minor scratches.

7) Lube up a new head bearing really good. Make sure you work the lube into each individual bearing around the entire head bearing assembly.

8) Place the new head bearing over the steering stem and slide it down as far as it will go.  Now, take the old bearing, flip it over, upside down, and slide it down the steering stem on top of the old one.  The top of the old bearing inner race should be seated against the inner race of the new bearing.  You can now lightly tap with a hammer on the top of the old bearing, working around all sides.  Eventually, the new bearing will be seated in place (you can toss that old bearing in a drawer in case you want to save it for next time).

Well, that’s it folks – my tips and tricks from my recent experience with a lower head bearing replacement.  If you enjoyed this blog post, please like or share on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or like on Instagram.

Didn’t find what you needed in this particular post?  Check out the HappyWrench Motorcycle Repair Link Database.  It is a one-stop shop for all your DIY motorcycle repair information needs.

happywrench touch icon