31 BMW 1983 R100RS Replace Steering Head Bearings

The steering head bearings are roller bearings. But, roller bearings rely on the roller rotating to keep distributing grease between the roller and the outer race to prevent metal-on-metal contact. However, the front forks spend most of their time in one position and are subject to shock loads as the front end goes over bumps. This means grease gets extruded from between the rollers in the inner race and the outer race allowing metal-to-metal contact, and the shock loads pound the roller against the outer race creating grooves in the race. This creates notchy steering, and when it’s really bad, you can feel resistance when trying to turn the forks from the center position.

When I removed the steering head bearings, they showed the distinctive vertical stripes indicating the outer race has Brinelling, which is the groove pounded into the outer race.

Original Bottom Outer Race Showing Moderate Brinelling

Original Bottom Outer Race Showing Moderate Brinelling

Original Top Outer Race Showing Moderate Brinelling

Original Top Outer Race Showing Moderate Brinelling

NOTE:
A best practice when you stop the engine is to sweep the handlebars lock-to-lock which helps distribute grease between the rollers and the outer race.

Parts

I purchased these parts from Euro MotoElectrics.

Part #                  Description                                                       Qty
31 42 7 663 941  TAPERED ROLLER BEARING – 28X52X16 2
31 42 1 234 509  RING, Bottom Bearing Grease Cup 1

Tools

I use the Cycle Works tools for removing and installing the steering head bearings. See the “Replace Steering Head Bearings” section below for a link that shows the Cycle Works tools are assembled and used.

Outer Race Puller Plate Parts

Cycle Works Outer Race Puller Plate Parts

Cycle Works Steering Stem Lower Bearing Puller Tools

Cycle Works Steering Stem Lower Bearing Puller/Install Tool Parts

Outer Bearing Race Installation Tool Parts

Cycle Works Outer Bearing Race Installation Tool Parts

Video

Here is a video summarizing how I remove and install the steering head bearings.

Steering Head Outer Races

You can see all the details of how I replaced the steering head bearings on my 1977 R100RS here: the procedure is the same for the 1983 RS. This document contains information about rebuilding the front forks which you can disregard.

Rather than repeat what I already published in the document link above, I’m just going to summarize what I found with this bike.

The outer races on this bike are not as Brinelled as others I’ve seen. Since this bike has over 83,000 miles, I assume the steering head bearings got replaced at some point.

Removal

Here’s the link to the section about how to remove the outer bearing races from the steering head:

Tapping Puller Plate Past Outer Bearing Race

Tapping Cycle Works Puller Plate Past Outer Bearing Race

Outer Bearing Race Puller Assembled

Cycle Works Outer Bearing Race Puller Assembled

Outer Race Removed

Outer Race Removed

Installation

Here’s the link to the description of how to use the Cycle Works tool to install the new outer bearing races in the steering head.

Cycle Works Outer Bearing Race Installation Tool Parts

Cycle Works Outer Bearing Race Installation Tool Parts

Cycle Works Draw Bar Assembly

Cycle Works Draw Bar Assembly

Cycle Works Draw Bar Top Cover Detail with Top Outer Race

Cycle Works Draw Bar Top Cover Detail Used To Install Top Outer Race

Cycle Works Draw Bar Bottom Bolt and Washer Detail

Cycle Works Draw Bar Bottom Bolt and Washer Detail

New Top Steering Stem Top Outer Race Installed

New Steering Stem Top Outer Race Installed

New Steering Stem Bottom Outer Race Installed

New Steering Stem Bottom Outer Race Installed

Steering Stem Lower Inner Race

This race was very tight against the triple clamp and I used a large blade screw driver to move the race a bit so I could install the Cycle Works race puller under the grease cup beneath the bearing.

Removal

The inner steering head lower bearing is installed on the steering stem. It looks like someone used wheel bearing grease on the bearings. It melts at a low temperature and leaked out of the roller bearing.

Looks Like Wheel Bearing Grease Was Used and Melted Making A Mess

Looks Like Wheel Bearing Grease Was Used and Melted Making A Mess

Looks Like Wheel Bearing Grease Was Used and Melted Making A Mess

Looks Like Wheel Bearing Grease Was Used and Melted Making A Mess

The bottom of the lower triple clamp attaches to the steering damper.

Bottom of Lower Triple Clamp Where Steering Damper Housing Mounts

Bottom of Lower Triple Clamp Where Steering Damper Housing Mounts

I cleaned up the grunge on the triple clamp. You can see the grease cap mounted underneath the lower inner race. The Cycle Works bearing puller stand slides inbetween the grease cap and the face of the triple clamp.

Grease Cover Is Tight Against Lower Triple Clamp

Grease Cover Is Tight Against Lower Triple Clamp

Here’s the link to using the Cycle Works tool to removing the lower inner bearing race from the steering stem.

Sliding Cycle Works Puller Base Under Grease Cover

Sliding Cycle Works Puller Base Under Grease Cover

Cycle Works Puller Base Slide Under The Grease Cover

Cycle Works Puller Base Slide Under The Grease Cover

Pulling The Lower Inner Race

Pulling The Lower Inner Race

Puller Moving Race Up The Steering Stem

Puller Moving Race Up The Steering Stem

Repositioned Puller Ready To Pull Inner Race Past Steering Stem Top Race Wide Spot

Repositioned Puller Ready To Pull Inner Race Past Steering Stem Top Race Wide Spot

I had to reposition the puller as I used up all the puller bolt length but hadn’t gotten the inner race completely past the top wide spot.

Repositioned Puller A Second Time To Pull Inner Race Past Steering Stem Top Race Wide Spot

Repositioned Puller A Second Time To Pull Inner Race Past Steering Stem Top Race Wide Spot

Lower Steering Stem Inner Race Removed

Lower Steering Stem Inner Race Removed

Bottom Inner Race Removed-Puller Damage To Grease Cover

Bottom Inner Race Removed-Puller Damage To Grease Cover

Original Bottom Inner Race Removed

Original Bottom Inner Race Removed

Installation

Here’s the link to how to install the new inner bearing race on the lower part of the steering stem. I cleaned and polished the lower triple clamp as described below before installing the new inner race on the bottom of the steering stem.

I was able to drop the inner race down to the bottom of the steering stem using the same technique of heating the bearing to about 225 F and freezing the steering stem.

Heated Inner Race (250 F) Slides Right Down Frozen Steering Stem

Heated Inner Race (250 F) Slides Right Down Frozen Steering Stem

Refinish Lower Fork Brace

The aluminum was dirty, but not corroded. I used the parts washer to clean the grunge off. I followed up with AutoSol aluminum cleaner and a toothbrush. Next I used “0000” steel wool with the aluminum cleaner to remove the surface oxidation. I finished up with AutoSol metal polish to bring back the shine from the polished aluminum.

Step 1: AutoSol Aluminum Cleaner with Toothbrush

Step 1: AutoSol Aluminum Cleaner with Toothbrush

Before Using Aluminum Cleaner with "0000" Steel Wool

Before Using Aluminum Cleaner with “0000” Steel Wool

Step 2: "0000" Steel Wool with Aluminum Cleaner

Step 2: “0000” Steel Wool with Aluminum Cleaner

After Aluminum Cleaner with "0000" Steel Wool

After Aluminum Cleaner with “0000” Steel Wool

Step 3: Ready To Polish

Step 3: Ready To Polish

Final Product

Final Product

Final Product

Final Product

Install Steering Stem In Steering Head

The steering stem is secured inside the steering head with a special slotted top nut. The slots fit a wrench in the bike tool kit that tightens the nut. The nut has two different faces, one that is flat that goes on top and the bottom face has a bevel and narrow flat. The narrow flat exactly fits on the top bearing inner race. Tightening the nut pre-loads the roller bearings and keeps the steering stem in the steering head.

Steering Stem Nut Face-Flat Wide Side Faces Up

Steering Stem Nut Flat Wide Side Faces Up

Steering Stem Nut Face-Bevel and Narrow Face Face Down

Steering Stem Nut Beveled with Narrow Flat Side Faces Down

Wide Face Of Steering Stem Race-Faces Up On Top Bearing and Down On Bottom Bearing

Wide Face Of Steering Head Inner Bearing Race Faces Up On Top Bearing and Down On Bottom Bearing

Correct Orientation of Steering Stem Nut On Top Of Steering Stem Bearing

Correct Orientation of Steering Stem Nut On Steering Head Top Inner Bearing

Orientation of Top Steering Head Bearing Inner Race on Steering Stem

Orientation of Top Steering Head Bearing Inner Race on Steering Stem

Steering Stem Nut Orientation On Top Of Upper Steering Head Bearing Inner Race

Steering Stem Nut Orientation On Top Of Upper Steering Head Bearing Inner Race

Steering Stem Nut Flat Face Points Up

Steering Stem Nut Flat Face Points Up

I pack both the lower and upper steering head inner races with red waterproof grease. I put a lot of grease on the rollers and roll the race around to distribute it to the inside of the bearing and repeat until the rollers are packed in grease.  I also put a healthy smear of grease on the outer races too. I want a lot of grease to surround the rollers so they won’t Brinell.

Red Waterproof Grease

Red Waterproof Grease

Lower Inner Race Packed with Grease

Lower Inner Race Packed with Grease

Top Outer Race Greased

Top Outer Race Greased

Lower Outer Race Greased

Lower Outer Race Greased

I insert the steering stem into the steering head and put the top inner race over the threads on the top of the stem. Then I install the top nut to hold the steering stem in the steering head.

Install Steering Stem and Grease Packed Upper Inner Race

Install Steering Stem and Grease Packed Upper Inner Race

Steering Stem Nut Installed

Steering Stem Nut Installed

I use the hook wrench from the bike tool kit to tighten the nut to force the top inner bearing all the way down the steering stem and to seat both bearing inner races tight against the outer races.

Tool Kit Hook Wrench

Tool Kit Hook Wrench

Use Hook Wrench To Tighten Steering Stem Nut

Use Hook Wrench To Tighten Steering Stem Nut

There is chrome top dust cap the fits on top of the steering head bearing. The slotted nut fits on top of the dust cap.

Top Steering Bearing Dust Cap

Dust Cap Goes On Top Of Bearing & Slotted Nut Goes On Top Of Dust Cap

The top plate fits on top of the slotted nut and the acorn nut fits in a hole in the top plate and is tightened on the steering stem threads to secure the top plate. I plan to install the Toaster Tan top brace and redesigned acorn nut. When I do that work, I’ll install the Toaster Tan top brace and acorn nut.

Revisions

2020-04-10  Correction to assemble order of top dust cap, slotted nut.

7 thoughts on “31 BMW 1983 R100RS Replace Steering Head Bearings

    • Hi Lupo,

      Thanks. As to heating the lower race, It’s steel and so is the steering stem. I suspect the temperature difference between the bearing race and the stem is not very big when heating the race since the stem gets heated as well, so there isn’t much net temperature difference. But I suppose it may help a bit when you remove the lower race. That said, the Cycle Works tool pulls it off easily.

      Best.
      Brook.

      • Yes, you are riight, but the lower race is outside where your heater (hot air gun) is, so it becomes a little more bigger as the steering stem. I heat it up to approx. 80 °C = 176 °F. But as I can see the cycle works tool did a good job!

        Kind regards,
        Lupo

  1. Hi Brook! I am going to a different R75/5 project, a LWB model, so I wish to remove the steering head bearings prior to removing the races. These are brand new so I don’t want to damage them. Do you have an instruction on how to do this without damaging the bearings? I have the outer race removal tool from Cycle Works, but I think there is another one for removing the bearing. I would appreciate any tips you may have to offer!

    • Hi Ken,

      The top inner bearing comes off when you remove the steering stem. But the bottom bearing requires a tool, that I show in the article, that I also got from Cycle Works.
      –> STEERING HEAD INNER RACE PULLER – 1970-1995 AIRHEADS

      The dust cup under the bearing usually gets damaged when I remove the tool, so I get a new one. I show that in the Parts list.

      The lower bearing tool can also be used to install the lower inner bearing race, but I’ve had good luck freezing the bearing and it drops right on, as I mention in this document.

      I hope this helps.

      Best.
      Brook.

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