Feeling’ A Little Loose?

Article And Photos By: Daniel Donley

Originally Published In The January 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Last month we knocked the dust-off a 1968 shovelhead and got it up and running after a long stint of setting in storage. She ended up being a good runner but you’re typically going to run into a few issues with a bike that has been setting for that long. One of the issues I ran into was the swingarm. It was loosey goosey, you could move it from side to side. For this month’s tech, I am gonna show you how to remove, replace and adjust your swingarm bearings. This will get the bike back to handling like it should.

For starters, I stripped down the ass end of the bike. By removing the rear wheel, chain, rear shocks and brake assembly. This got everything off the swingarm. You will notice the swingarm pivot bolt has a bend over keeper, that keeps the bolt in tension. You will want to bend this tang back so you can remove the swingarm bolt. By the way, I removed my bolt by HAND! This is WAY too loose, not putting proper tension on the bearings. Once the swingarm bolt is removed you can now slip the swingarm from the frame.

With the swingarm removed you will notice that there is a spacer at the pivot point on both sides of the swingarm, you will want to remove both spacers.

Now with the spacers out of our way you can use a seal puller to remove the seals. This will gain you access to the bearings. Remove them also. Now would be the time to inspect your bearings and races. Look for any galling, or pitting on the race’s and bearing’s. If you have any of these they need replaced. And of course, these were shot! (Side note, every single swingarm that I have ever disassembled the bearings and races have been junk.)

This is a bearing, race removal tool. This is the best way to remove the races from a swingarm. There are other ways to improvise on removal but the tool works the best.

With the race removed you can see that it is heavily galled and pitted and needed replacing. The loose swingarm bolt probably had a lot to do with this

Now that the races are removed it’s a good time to clean up the swingarm and remove all the old grease. Here you can see the new race installed on the tool. This tool can be used for

removal and installation of bearing races. When installing the bearing races, you want to make sure they are square and going in smoothly. You DO NOT want to get them cockeyed and end up with a mess!

Swingarm bearings are not the easiest to get to and or service. You will want to make sure you use a good quality grease. I like to use Lucas Red and Tacky, it also has anti-seizing agents in the grease. Now with both bearings packed you can install them into the swingarm. DON’T forget to put plenty of grease on the race surfaces.

I like to pack the back side of the seals with grease also. Just for that extra insurance.

I use old intake or exhaust valves as seal drivers. Cut them down to size as needed. They work great and the price is right!

Before I install the swingarm spacers into the seals I use a red scotch brite pad to shine up the sealing surface. This will allow the seal to do its job.

With the swingarm assembled I reinstall it back into the frame. With the pivot bolt, only hand tight. Most swingarm’s came with a grease Zert and now it’s time to fill the entire cavity full of fresh grease. You will use almost an entire tube of grease here. You did clean out all the old grease, RIGHT?

Now it is time to set the proper tension on your swingarm bearings. You slowly tighten the pivot bolt as you are raising and lowering the swingarm. You want to tighten it just enough till you start feeling a little bit of resistance. If you have an old fish scale for measuring weight of fish, you can use this to measure resistance. I would say 3 to 4 lbs resistance would be a good place to be. Don’t forget to bend over the keeper tab so your pivot bolt will retain proper bearing tension.

Rebuilding an old swingarm is very straightforward, it is time consuming though. Done properly your bike will perform and handle the way that it is supposed to. If there is something that you would like to see me do a Tech article on please call me or e-mail me with your idea. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at the shop anytime 419-576-6812

2 thoughts on “Feeling’ A Little Loose?

  1. Do you know what size the swingarm pivot bolt is? I have a ’78 FXE and the bolt threads are gone and I’m thinking of installing an insert but I am trying to find out what the pitch/threads are for the pivot bolt.

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