HappyWrench is a happy little fella, but there is nothing more irritating than trying to do your own DIY motorcycle repair and finding out you need some specialty tool to accomplish the task. These tools are generally one-off items that cost anywhere from $50-$500 and are only useful for the task at hand (sitting in your toolbox idle the rest of the time). Oftentimes, they are drivers or pullers of a very particular diameter or shape.
Look, I can admit that sometimes you need to just break down and make the purchase. Just a few weeks ago, I was having a major issue loosening my steering head bearing nut. I bought a special wrench for the task and the problem was solved.
However, in the age of big-box hardware stores, there are definitely opportunities to make your own specialty tool and save yourself some major cash.
Those of you following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram know that I am neck deep in a front-end rebuild of my 1972 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead FLH. As part of the reassembly, the fork seals (#22 below) need to be driven/seated back into place in the top of the lower slider (#23 below), “requiring” a fork seal driver.
The trick here, to making your own fork seal driver, is to find something cylindrical whose inner diameter very closely matches the upper fork slider tube (#13 above) and whose outer diameter is approximately the same as the outer diameter of the seal itself (as ultimately you are going to place the seal over the upper fork slider tube and drive it down into its seat in the lower slider).
For example, on my bike, I actually brought the upper slider tube into Home Depot with me and tried various diameter PVC pipes and couplers. The coupler depicted below worked perfectly, sliding down with a close fit around the upper fork slider tube. PVC pipe works great because the walls are thick enough that they won’t damage the seal as it is being driven into its new home (something too thin will cut/damage the seal as you are driving it into place – a major no no!). Side note, don’t forget to use some automotive grease or lubricant during the process.
Anyways, I chose this coupler over a section of PVC pipe itself as my fork seal driver, because generally PVC pipe is sold in 10-foot sections, and you actually only need something about the length of a coupler (not to mention the fact that the coupler cost less than $2). Couplers generally have a small lip in the middle, so my solution was to take my Dremel and some sandpaper and sand the interior lip away.
The key is to make sure that once the lip is removed that the inside of the coupler is very smooth (start with a low grit sandpaper and work your way up to higher numbers – finishing with 400 grit or above). You do not want to nick or damage the exterior surface of the upper fork slider tube, so it is important that the inside of the coupler is clean and smooth when you are done. And again, use automotive grease around the upper fork slider tube when driving the seal.
Not all upper and lower fork slider tubes are the same diameter, so this is going to take some patience on your part when in your local hardware store. If you can’t find something off the shelf like I did with the PVC coupler above, there is an alternative.
First, buy a section of thin walled pipe that is slightly larger than the diameter your need. Next, cut it in half/down the middle (top to bottom in the picture above) – the result should be two C shaped sections. Finally, clam shell them around your upper fork slider and secure them in place with a hose clamp. The hose clamp should be on the end of the fork seal driver furthest from the seal being driven – this will keep it out of the way as you are driving the seal into place.
So that’s it folks – how to make your own fork seal driver for under $4. The sanding is probably the most time consuming part and you might get to skip that if you are lucky. I work hard on my blog posts, so if you enjoyed reading, please like or share on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or like on Instagram.
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Thanks for reading, and good luck motorcycle friends!