Blew another fork seal-should I upgrade?

RogerRZ

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#1
In an almost exact copy from last year, I went to the garage this morning to find a leaky front fork. Nothing dramatic, but not something I'd like to worsen during the riding season.Like last year, this didn't manifest itself till the cold season. My riding even mirrored last season's (a few long hauls, a 300 mile off road rally, and a few cold weather rides after the snow flew). Is this something that hard-ish off-roading would cause? I will admit to a few nudges against the bump stops after a poorly chosen line, at maybe too enthusiastic a speed. I can change them out myself, but it's a bit of a pain. The fork is properly sprung with straight rate springs, 57mm of sag. Compression damping is 6 clicks from full hard. I would go stiffer, but find that I'm already getting hammered on freeway expansion joints.

I would be open to investing a considerable amount of money to alleviate this problem, and if this means upgrading both ends, so be it. Thoughts?
 

Paul466

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#2
In an almost exact copy from last year, I went to the garage this morning to find a leaky front fork. Nothing dramatic, but not something I'd like to worsen during the riding season.Like last year, this didn't manifest itself till the cold season. My riding even mirrored last season's (a few long hauls, a 300 mile off road rally, and a few cold weather rides after the snow flew). Is this something that hard-ish off-roading would cause? I will admit to a few nudges against the bump stops after a poorly chosen line, at maybe too enthusiastic a speed. I can change them out myself, but it's a bit of a pain. The fork is properly sprung with straight rate springs, 57mm of sag. Compression damping is 6 clicks from full hard. I would go stiffer, but find that I'm already getting hammered on freeway expansion joints.

I would be open to investing a considerable amount of money to alleviate this problem, and if this means upgrading both ends, so be it. Thoughts?
SKF seals, Maxima suspention clean spray, keep the sliders clean as much as possible. Try so clean the seal, I had good luck with film negative, all it akes sometimes is one grain of sand to cause leak.
 

RCinNC

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#3
Have you examined your fork tubes really closely to see if there are any imperfections there that could be damaging the fork seals over time? Was it the same fork both times that leaked? If there's a gouge in one of the tubes that has some sharp edges, it could be gnawing at the seal over time. Doing a lot of off roading is going to increase your chances of getting something stuck under the seal that could put a gouge in the tube, and if the same seal has leaked two years in a row, I'd start thinking maybe there was another factor at play. If it is a tube, then I guess you'd get your wish at investing a considerable amount of money to alleviate the problem; they're about $340 at a dealer (but considerably cheaper on line).

I'd try Paul466's suggestion to clean them really well first to see if that helps. If not, you're going to have to replace a seal anyway, so inspect the tubes really well. This is assuming that the seals weren't damaged during their initial installation, which can happen if the installer doesn't take precautions to protect them when he's sliding them onto the fork tube.

I'm a big fan of a low cost solution like Seal Savers. 65,000 miles on my S10 in all kinds of terrain, and still on the original OEM fork seals.
 

~TABASCO~

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#4
Have you been replacing the guides upper & lower each time ? This could be the cause. The Tenere is hard on them.
I messed up a seal on my bike in the past from the guide coming apart.
 

RogerRZ

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#5
Not the same leg as last time, so that's a good thing, I think. I didn't replace the guide, just the seals. I wonder if just by riding out in the cold, things would shrink enough to let a little bit of oil leak by? (Probably not)...
 

RCinNC

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#6
I don't want to say it's not possible, Roger, but I've ridden frequently in cold weather down to the 30's F, and never had any issues like that.

My guess is that you're either dealing with defective fork seals, a damaged tube, or contamination inside the fork. I'd be a little dubious that you got two defective fork seals in a row (as long as you're buying a quality part), so I'd be leaning more towards a damaged tube or contamination. You might have gotten unlucky for two riding seasons in a row and got some grit inside the seal, in which case a set of seal savers could prevent that in the future. Like Tabasco says, the contamination could be coming from inside the fork like from a degrading fork bushing, which takes a little more work to fix than installing seal savers. I've read other accounts of guys who've had fork bushings wear out; based on those, I bought a new set of bushings to go along with new seals, that I'll be putting on my bike this month. Nothing is leaking, but I figured 65,000 miles is a good time for that sort of preventative maintenance.
 

Highwayman

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#7
Id check the tubes. Im sure theres some rust or pits. As others have said I run mine in 30 degree temps. I do have some rust at the base of the tubes, but it hasnt progressed upwards enough yet to be an issue. When it does itll eat seals and ill throw new tubes on em and go through em.
 

RogerRZ

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#8
The forks are pristine, maybe I did something during assembly that would have damaged the seal, the only thing that makes me think that something else might be at play is that it lasted almost ten thousand miles before the leaking started again. I'll try the film negative trick, see if it might help...
 

Cycledude

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#10
Don’t think you ever mentioned how many miles on your Tenere ? Had to replace the seals on my previous 2013 at 25,000 miles, the bushings looked fine but I replaced them anyway , it’s way to much trouble to have to take it all apart again. When I traded it for the new 2018 at 50,000 miles the seals still seemed to be in fine condition, I happened to use All Balls fork seals and bushings.
 

RogerRZ

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#11
Don’t think you ever mentioned how many miles on your Tenere ? Had to replace the seals on my previous 2013 at 25,000 miles, the bushings looked fine but I replaced them anyway , it’s way to much trouble to have to take it all apart again. When I traded it for the new 2018 at 50,000 miles the seals still seemed to be in fine condition, I happened to use All Balls fork seals and bushings.
It's got a hair over 20000 miles, and I would say 10% of those are off road (fire roads to single-track, mud holes).
 

Cycledude

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#12
Mud is very likely what’s causing your problem, I believe that’s what caused both fork seals on my 2013 to fail, we had rode the Haul Road to Prudehoe Bay and it rained all the way, it was very sloppy ! After replacing the seals and bushings I started using seal savers.
 
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#13
Have you tried using sealmate? Not sure on the tenere but my fjr would leak around 5k miles. I would clean the seal with the sealmate and it would stop for another 5k or so miles.
 

RogerRZ

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#15
Film negative, in 2020 is like a proverbial unicorn. Good news, though, I ran a feeler gauge on the seal, and it's not leaking anymore! Yay! I will be buying some shock Sox for it, pronto...

Thanks for the advice, all!
 
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#16
Awesome. I keep the seal mate on stand by. Ive had good luck with it on the fjr. Ive only had the tenere for 200 miles so hopefully I wont need it.
 

RCinNC

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#17
Film negative, in 2020 is like a proverbial unicorn. Good news, though, I ran a feeler gauge on the seal, and it's not leaking anymore! Yay! I will be buying some shock Sox for it, pronto...

Thanks for the advice, all!
You can make them out of the side of a plastic milk carton, too. Just cut it out in this general shape, about 6" long.

If that was a metal feeler gauge (I'm guessing it was), I'd be real leery of sticking anything metal between the fork seal and the tube. You don;t want to stick anything in there that's hard enough to scratch the metal on the fork tube.

Homemade seal cleaner.JPG
 

RogerRZ

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#18
You can make them out of the side of a plastic milk carton, too. Just cut it out in this general shape, about 6" long.

If that was a metal feeler gauge (I'm guessing it was), I'd be real leery of sticking anything metal between the fork seal and the tube. You don;t want to stick anything in there that's hard enough to scratch the metal on the fork tube.

View attachment 62336
It was the second thinnest one of the set, (the thinnest one bent whe I tried to finesse it in). I hope it´ll work...
 
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