Our motorcycles’ suspension is among the most neglected components of the bike. Sure, we pay a lot of attention to our oil, brakes, and tires, as these components are considered wear items, and are usually scheduled for replacement at set intervals. However, you could also say that the suspension components of our bikes are also wear items, as they’re subject to quite a lot of abuse, especially on our less-than-ideal Metro Manila roads.
A good sign that your bike’s suspension is in dire need of some TLC is a pair of leaking fork seals. Even if just one of your seals is leaking, it means it’s time for you to take action. The fork seals play an important role in the suspension system of a motorcycle. They prevent dirt, debris, and moisture from entering the fork tubes, which can cause damage to the internal components of the suspension system.
If the fork seals are damaged and left untreated, the suspension system may become contaminated, which can cause further damage to the fork tubes, bushings, and other internal components. This can result in a loss of suspension performance, decreased handling, and a potentially dangerous riding experience. Therefore, it's important to address the issue of leaking fork seals as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your motorcycle's suspension system. Here are a few things you can do.
Clean your fork seals
While the most logical step to take would be to head on over to your motorcycle service center and have your fork seals replaced, there are a few things you can do that can repair your existing fork seals. Take note—just because they’re leaking, doesn’t mean they’re shot. There could just be some dirt or debris lodged in between them causing oil to leak out.
For this, you’re going to need to remove the dust seal from your fork and expose the oil seal. From there, you’re going to take a fork cleaning tool (pictured above), or a used credit card or a piece of a PET bottle. Run it around the circumference of the fork seal until you see grime and debris come out. Clean everything thoroughly and reinstall the dust seal. A bit of oil will seep out in the process, but this is normal. This should solve the problem. If not, then you may need to replace your seals
Replace your fork seals
Depending on the severity of the leak, you may be able to determine right away if your fork seals are salvageable. If you see a puddle of oil underneath your fork after parking your bike, chances are your seals are blown and need to be replaced. To do this, you’re going to have to take it to a specialist who knows how to properly dismantle motorcycle suspension. It’s quite a complicated job, and we don’t recommend you do it on your own, especially if you’re not mechanically adept, as you run the risk of damaging some pretty valuable (and expensive) components.
Why you should never neglect this issue
There are several reasons why you should never neglect addressing leaking fork seals, and a lot of them have to do with safety. For starters, as oil continues to leak out of your suspension system, it loses the ability to effectively absorb bumps and shocks on the road. This means that your suspension components are losing lubrication and subject to increased wear and tear.
More importantly, however, this means that road imperfections are transmitted through the handlebars and onto the riders hands. At best, it’ll make for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride, at worst, it could lead to loss of control, and yes, an accident. Additionally, leaking oil from your forks has the potential to make its way to your bike’s brakes—and we all know that oil and brake pads aren’t a good combination.