This VERY simple maintenance tip can be performed by anyone and with only one tool! That is exciting news for anyone. Your steering head bearings should be lubricated at regular intervals that are outlined in your owner’s manual. This will keep your steering bearings from binding which could cause control issues. My Street Glide is every 10K miles, Margarets Softail Deluxe is also 10K miles. The first lube is supposed to be performed at that critical 1K miles service. What your owner’s manual does not explain is how to lubricate, how much lubrication to use, and what type of lubrication to use. This information can be found in a service manual for your specific bike.
When your bike initially gets shipped to the dealership and assembled the steering head bearings are already packed (lubricated). The factory packs the bearings before they install them into the steering head. So off you go into the wild blue yonder and 10K miles later it’s time to lube them up. Fortunately this does not require any disassembly as some older bikes may require. Harley has been kind enough to install a grease fitting into the steering head of their bikes. If yours doesn’t have one, then your outta luck and this post is not for you.
The only tool you’re going to need for this simple maintenance procedure is a 14oz grease gun. You can purchase one at Northern Tools for $19.99. They sell a couple of higher priced ones but unless you’re gonna run around squirting grease all over the place every day you’ll be wasting your money on those. You won’t need any special adapters or extenders, the basic grease gun right out of the box works just fine. That’s it for tools! You’re still gonna need to get grease though. Easy enough! Head out to your local dealership to the parts counter and tell them what you’re doing. Harley has a special purpose grease that is formulated for higher temperatures before it liquefies. Using this grease is important because if you just pick up some bearing grease at Autozone the breakdown temperature may not be as high and if it’s hot outside and/or you’re doing a lot of maneuvers (skills day, competition, etc.) the grease could literally seep out of the bottom of the steering head and begin to leave the bearings without lubrication. It’s not expensive at the dealership and it’s approved by Harley for this purpose.
Load the grease into your gun according to the grease gun instructions and get ready to squirt! With your bike on its jiffy stand, turn the handle bars fully to the right side to expose the grease fitting. THIS PART IS IMPORTANT- Be sure to get someone on the right side of the bike to hold it. The bikes center of gravity has now been changed and it could tip over on the right side if too much of a push is applied from the left side. Push the grease gun head onto the grease fitting making sure it’s on securely. This push is why you want someone on the other side of the bike to keep it from tipping over. Once you’ve got the grease gun attached start pumping with smooth, even, full pumps with the lever. If a lot of grease is coming out from the fitting then you haven’t gotten the gun on correctly. A little will come out but it shouldn’t be excessive. When your bike is assembled, even though Harley packs the bearings, they do not fill the steering head with grease. Now for the first time the steering head is getting filled. You’re going to use almost half of that tube of grease the first time you do this if it hasn’t been done before. Just keep squirting grease in there until it begins to come out of the top and bottom of the steering head. This is done in accordance to the Harley Davidson service manual. When the grease begins to ease out you know the bearings have been lubricated since the grease has to go through the bearings before it will come out of the top and bottom of the steering head.
I don’t know about cost savings on this one. I do know that by doing this myself those bearings are greased at the correct intervals and greased fully. I’m not trying to bash or discredit anyone but I do want to mention that I took my bike in to the dealership at 1K miles to get the initial service performed. They did not lube the steering head bearings as they were supposed to according to the service manual. I only knew this because of the amount of grease I had to use when I did it myself. It’s also nice to be able to take 10 minutes and get it done at home instead of taking the bike to the shop, dropping it off, waiting, or picking it up later.
Here is the cost breakdown:
Grease Gun- Northern Tools: $19.95
Total Cost: $29.90
This is the special purpose grease that you can buy at Harley.
A closeup of the grease. This kind of shows the thickness of it.
This is the Service Manual (not owners manual) that shows the process.
Grease fitting on the steering head.
This picture shows the grease squirting out from the bottom of the steering head.
This picture shows the grease squirting out from the top of the steering head.