How to Set End Play in the Front Wheel on My Harley Davidson

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From 1973 until 2000 all Harley-Davidson models used tapered Timkin wheel bearings on both the front and rear wheels. Since 2000 all Harleys have used sealed wheel bearings on both wheels. The current wheel bearings go on and come off as a unit with a bearing puller/installation tool. End play on the sealed bearings is pre-set. Only 1999 and earlier Harleys require that wheel bearing end play be set during installation and servicing. Sealed wheel bearing kits are available for older bikes. The sealed bearings should last 100,000 miles and the old bearings must be serviced every 10,000 miles. But it is a matter of debate as to whether the old bearings are superior to the new ones.

Things You'll Need

  • Service manual for your make and year Harley
  • Hex sockets
  • Torque wrench
  • Magnetic dial indicator
  • 3 each .002 inch, .004 inch, .008 inch, .016 inch and .032 inch axle shims.
  • Multi-purpose lithium grease
  • Torque the axle nut to 60 pounds of torque, or to the torque specified in the service manual for your motorcycle if different, with a hex socket and a torque wrench after reinstalling the wheel bearings, axle and spacers.

  • Mount a magnetic dial indicator on the front fender, forks or brake caliper so you can measure the lateral movement of the axle in the wheel.

  • Push and pull the wheel along the lateral axis of the axle while reading the measurements on the dial indicator. If the end play is greater than 0.18 inches the wheel bearing must be shimmed.

  • Remove the axle nut, axle, spacer and wheel bearing assembly with a socket wrench and socket if necessary. Insert an axle shim of one of the five commonly available thicknesses, between .002 and .032 inches, on the axle next to the spacer if necessary and replace the wheel bearing assembly.

  • Re-tighten the axle nut to 60 pounds of torque, or to the torque specified in the service manual for your motorcycle if different, with a hex socket and a torque wrench.

  • Re-measure the axle end play with the magnetic dial indicator. Repeat as necessary. Repack the wheel bearings with lithium grease and continue wheel assembly when the end play measures between .004 and 018 inches.

Tips & Warnings

  • Axle nut torque can affect end play by up to .004 inch.
  • Do not repack the wheel bearing before checking end play.

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References

  • Photo Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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