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Thread: Checking fork oil and setting SAG

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    Senior Member Little Brute's Avatar
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    Checking fork oil and setting SAG

    My fork oil kit has arrived along with a quart of 10W fork oil, so it's time to check the fork oil level. I put my bike on the rear axle stand to hold it level, then felt the bottom of the fork for a drain plug. My TW is a 2003 and I thought it wouldn't have drain plugs from what I have read, but I felt holes just behind the axle. And after looking inside I can see large allen screw heads. So my first question is, are these drains or something else?
    TW200 "Little Brute" is gone - Waiting to see what 2016 brings (WR250R/CRF250 RALLY/KTM390/Africa Twin or E-bicycle?)

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    Senior Member scotti158's Avatar
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    No drains, have to pull the forks off the bike to drain them.
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    Senior Member jb882's Avatar
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    Those allen bolts hold in the damping rods, dont remove them unless you want to do a complete teardown.
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    Senior Member Little Brute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jb882 View Post
    Those allen bolts hold in the damping rods, dont remove them unless you want to do a complete teardown.
    Thank you scotti158 & jb882. I didn't think they were drains, but since they were there I had to ask. This will be tomorrows project. I bought one of the fork kits that sucks the fluid out. Not ready to do a full drain, because I may be installing new springs if this doesn't cut the mustard. In fact now that I think about it, I should just check level and add if needed, then test it first...
    Last edited by Little Brute; 06-04-2015 at 02:44 PM.
    TW200 "Little Brute" is gone - Waiting to see what 2016 brings (WR250R/CRF250 RALLY/KTM390/Africa Twin or E-bicycle?)

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    Senior Member RobG's Avatar
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    To get all the fluid out, you really should remove the forks. It's not hard at all. That way you dump them out, then cycle them a few times to pump all of it out before adding the new fluid.

    If you're trying to firm them up a bit, try adding a little more fluid than is normally specified... like an ounce or two per side. Otherwise, thicker oil would be an option, like 15wt instead of 10wt.
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    Senior Member Fred's Avatar
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    I would remove the forks and invert them so all old aluminum sludge buildup since 2003 can be flushed out with ATF or fork oil until forks rinse clean. With forks vertical, compressed and no springs, spacers, etc oil can then be added carefully to desired level which should never be less than 120mm( someone please double check me on this) measured from top of fork otherwise you will not have enough air for the "air spring" effect and instead will blow out your seals.
    Please just don't add an once or two of additional fluid without checking fluid level or you might be asking us next how to replace fork seals. Overfilling will blow out seals, there is not much volume available like on more sophisticated forks you may have experience with. Clean everything nicely before reassembly.
    There are several good "How To" threads on this forum that go into the details of the how and why of what I am trying to repeat. It is a bit of an iterative process, but yields pleasant results. I ended up with 10w fork oil 125mm from top of tube. I am 190# and have another 30 to 40 pounds of larger gas frank w/ fuel, cycle rack, heavier tires, and some tools and I ride moderately rocky trails at moderate speeds ( i.e. bike rolls out on the trails at ~ 330 pounds fueled up ready to go).
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    Senior Member elime's Avatar
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    The only adjustment I made to my forks was to "adjust" the fork oil level.

    When I took them apart the oil level was 157mm and the forks would bottom out hard all the time. No fun. I "reset" the level to 130mm and now they seldom bottom out and when they do it is no where near as hard.

    The air inside the fork acts as a spring. The less air the stiffer the spring. By increasing the oil level you may find you don't need new springs. That was my experience.
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    Senior Member jb882's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fred View Post
    I would remove the forks and invert them so all old aluminum sludge buildup since 2003 can be flushed out with ATF or fork oil until forks rinse clean. With forks vertical, compressed and no springs, spacers, etc oil can then be added carefully to desired level which should never be less than 120mm( someone please double check me on this) measured from top of fork otherwise you will not have enough air for the "air spring" effect and instead will blow out your seals.
    Please just don't add an once or two of additional fluid without checking fluid level or you might be asking us next how to replace fork seals. Overfilling will blow out seals, there is not much volume available like on more sophisticated forks you may have experience with. Clean everything nicely before reassembly.
    There are several good "How To" threads on this forum that go into the details of the how and why of what I am trying to repeat. It is a bit of an iterative process, but yields pleasant results. I ended up with 10w fork oil 125mm from top of tube. I am 190# and have another 30 to 40 pounds of larger gas frank w/ fuel, cycle rack, heavier tires, and some tools and I ride moderately rocky trails at moderate speeds ( i.e. bike rolls out on the trails at ~ 330 pounds fueled up ready to go).
    I agree with everything here. If you are unsure if they have ever been serviced i would pull them down completely, clean everything and replace the seals and fresh fluid. Not an expensive or hard job to do at all and once done you will have a good baseline for any adjustments.
    The directions are in the service manual and there are some great tutorials on this site. You can make a cheap and effective damping rod holder out of 2 10" long 1/2" bolts and a threaded coupler and some red locktite or a tack weld to hold it together. Motion pro sells a nice tool for tetting the oil level as well. If you plan to mess with the levels its a nice tool to have.
    Last edited by jb882; 06-04-2015 at 08:56 AM.
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    Senior Member Little Brute's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input. I will be changing the oil and cleaning once I know the results. This sucker is basically new (<500 miles) and stored covered in a temperature controlled garage. Won't be changing the seals out unless they start leaking.

    Got side tracked this morning putting out fires, but may still get to it today...
    Last edited by Little Brute; 06-04-2015 at 08:30 PM.
    TW200 "Little Brute" is gone - Waiting to see what 2016 brings (WR250R/CRF250 RALLY/KTM390/Africa Twin or E-bicycle?)

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    Senior Member Little Brute's Avatar
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    This turned out to be easy to complete. Put the TW on a rear axle stand and lifted the front wheel off the ground with a jack stand under the exhaust pipe giving the front forks full extension.



    - Loosened the upper fork clamp bolts
    - Unscrewed the fork caps
    - Slid the spacers out by hand
    - Made a wire hook to pull the spring and washer on each
    - Removed the jack stand and slowly let the forks fully compress



    - Checked the air gap using the syringe with stop like a dip stick
    - Air gap measured 150mm (NOT CORRECT! But, oil was like new and clear red in color)
    - Sucked up a little over ~35mm into the syringe from the 10W fork oil quart
    - Put half (~17.5mmm) in each fork tube
    - Set the zip tie to 135mm and sucked fork oil out of each tube to that level
    - Measured with the ruler like a dip stick after adding a tape stop to it for a double check
    - The oil line cut diagonally between 130-135mm on the ruler (132.5mm air gap)

    Here are all the tools I used.



    - Put the front wheel back off the ground with the jack stand under the exhaust pipe
    - Reinstalled the spring, washer, spacer and fork caps at full extension
    - Tightened the upper fork clamps back up
    - Removed the jack stand and rear axle stand

    Took it for a test ride on the street… Not much stiffer, but noticeable change. It functions more like I think it should; although still a bit soft for my weight. I repeatedly accelerated up to 25mph, then grabbed the front brake hard and it dips, but doesn’t bottom out. The dip is more controlled and it comes back up MUCH nicer than before. In fact, I think the biggest improvement after my minor test ride is noticed on the rebound and general smoother/proper operation. It’s not as springy and slightly firmer, so dampening is improved. Much more controlled operation.

    As many of you suspected, the oil level was low. Now I need to test it off-road for a day…
    Last edited by Little Brute; 06-04-2015 at 08:40 PM.
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