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5th Gen rear axle & swingarm bearing inspection at 60,000 miles


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I feel that inspection of the rear axle and related bearings is an important but commonly overlooked  practice.  I wanted to do this earlier, but getting into this kind complicated assembly was a little daunting for me, so I put it off.


I was in need of a new rear brake rotor install that would require the rear axle to be removed from the bearing block.  While everything was out in the open, this was the time to closely inspect the axle/bearings for wear.  Bearing removal from block for cleaning and repack also was on the agenda.


Examining the cleaned axle, I see that the wheel side needle bearing axle race (the axle itself is the inner race) was in great condition.  I had added grease to that bearing 24,000 miles earlier, so everything was good at that end.


Taking a close look at the axle where the radial bearing lands, I see signs of the axle spinning in the race (SITR) of the radial bearing.   It was not a horrible spin out, but not good.  After rotating the bearing, I see why this happened.  It was very stiff to turn, like the grease was petrified between the ball bearings.  After 22 years/60k of service, it’s not surprising the grease is hard.


It looked like, if left alone, an axle failure was in my near future.  Lucked out that I found this issue before it all turned red hot and possibly seizing.

An option at this point if the damage to the axle is too extensive to overcome, you can buy a new axle from Honda for about $180.  Wheel lug studs are included.   This is a deal when you look at how much machine work there is on it.  Also, the bearing block loaded with bearings and seals is available for about $230.  For $410 your problems easily fade away.


Decided to move forward and disassembe the bearing block to see what it needed to be safe again.


If you decide that inspection is something you want to do, the following may be helpful.


The manual describes the disassembly/assembly procedures well, but here are a few things that may take a little mystery out of the process.


You will need access to a press for removing/installing the bearings into the block.  Luckily I have a friend that has one in his shop. The problem with pressing the bearings in and out is finding the correct drivers.  Getting creative here is helpful.  There are two different size drivers for removal of the bearings.  For removal of the smaller radial bearing we found a socket with correct diameter.  The other, larger needle bearing needed a driver slightly larger than any socket we had, so we belt sanded a 3mm washer to correct diameter & a close diameter socket to push the needle bearing out. 



Before you can press the bearings out, you will need to remove the dust seal and a bearing keeper ring.  The ring that is holding the bearing in the bore creates a space between the bearing and the dust seal.  Use this space to get a screwdriver underneath the seal and lever it out undamaged.


Now you need to deal with the small keeper ring.  The ring has no clip holes for a keeper removal tool.  It requires the use of a pick or micro screw driver to remove.  One came out with moderate effort, but the other one challenged more than a couple peoples patience.  Before I put it all back together, I took my dremel tool with a micro round cutting bit to carve a tiny channel that will allow the micro screwdriver to get behind the ring.  This access channel is still covered by the dust seal when it is installed.  This just makes it easier to access next time.


The first bearing to come out is the radial bearing.   Once pressed out, you see it is actually two narrower ball bearings joined together with a plastic ring with one grease seal on each to make a sealed bearing when they are together in the bore.  Being able to split them allows the bearings to be cleaned/inspected and repacked if deemed worthy.


After cleaning the bearings, I think they are still good to use so I packed them both with some moly grease.  Seals looked ok so they also went back in.


At the bearing installation step, a 62mm driver installs both bearings.  Since they are both the same diameter, make sure you verify the correct position of the bearings before you press them in.  The needle bearing has a built in oil seal that needs to be facing the inside of the block.   I have a 1 13/16” socket that was 1mm too big in outside diameter for use as a install driver.  After belt sanding it down to proper diameter, I now have a installation driver that also doubles as the socket for the rear axle nut.


Install both bearings in their respective bores, install the keeper rings, then the seals.  


There is a sealed bearing in the sprocket drive plate.  If the bearing feels good, no need to take it out.  This bearing deals with the movement on the drive plate interfacing with the damper plate.  Not much movement here.  And BTW, I put in a new rubber damper set while there. 


With the bearing block back in the swingarm, the axle got put back in for a test fit.  Even though the radial bearings have been cleaned, repacked  & are spinning easier,  the axle still spins easy in the bearing race.  This SITR condition cannot be tolerated.  Bad things will happen if not resolved.


I have dealt with this SITR condition in trailer axles in the past.  One solution is to take a center punch and lightly install some divots. This creates a raised crater effect that, in my case, increases the diameter of the axle at the radial bearing landing.  I just happened to have a spring loaded center punch that made the perfect size indents.



I put about 25 divots for each of the radial bearing landing areas.  Cleaned the inner races and axle area free of oil, applied blue threadlock to the axle bearing meeting area then installed the axle.


The divoting made a fit that required me to use a mallet with light force to push the axle through the radial bearing.  I think it is the perfect fit and coupled with the threadlock, I won’t have a SITR issue here again.  I will have to use a little force to remove the axle if needed in the future, but not too much.


At final install of axle assembly to the bearing block, the axle nut requires 148 ft/lb torque.  Rather than using the brake to hold the axle from turning, a lever through the lug studs is much easier.



I let it all set for a few days to let the treadlock firm up.  It now looks like SITR issue now history.  I can check the bearing block for heat at the radial bearing area occasionally without removing anything for hints of any future failure in progress.


If you don’t need to wait for new parts and are able to reuse what is there, the time it takes to remove the bearings from the block, clean them, repack, and reinstall would take about an hour.


While up on the rack, I also got around to…

>Shock absorber removal, sent to Jamie for revalve & new spring. New pivot bearing & pin

>Removed the swingarm for pivot bearing inspect. All good.  Added moly grease.

>Installed new rear brake rotor and pads

>Removed counter sprocket cover and thoroughly cleaned the area.

>Installed speedbleeders then replaced all hydraulic fluids.

>Initiated Fritzers famous chain cleaning & maintenance procedure J

>Oil and filter change



Bringing an end to a very long story, it leads me to my final point.  If you have a high mileage/age VFR, it might be wise to open the axle/bearing block assembly for inspection/maintenance.  I think this SITR condition could be common on high age/mile bikes.  Once you have gone through the procedure, you realize it is not that big of a deal to do again in the future.  Major piece of mind knowing your rear axle is up to the task.


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Very good write up and documentation.


Last Spring at 82,700 miles I took the rear swingarm/shock off to clean and check every thing on my 97. Miked all the bushings and bearings and bolts, they were fine so lubed and remounted. The only thing I could not remove was the rear main bearing its self. Prior to starting I had checked the wheel for play by hand and did not detect anything. Spinning the wheel with the chain off, it spun freely. A dial indicator showed .002 runout. A look at my Honda service manual, Clymers and online did not show a service interval for that bearing. So I greased everything and put it back together.


I'm with you though, I would feel better if I could have miked and eyeballed the bearing itself. So when funds allow I'll be getting some type of hydraulic press.

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16 minutes ago, FromMaine said:

I'm with you though, I would feel better if I could have miked and eyeballed the bearing itself. So when funds allow I'll be getting some type of hydraulic press.

My friends press was a harbor freight at around $140.  It however, came with a ram that was not perpendicular to the platform.  He easily fixed the issue but you could take it back.  Could probably find used ones cheaper.

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