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How to Clean and Repair Leaking Dirt Bike Fork Seals

Leaking dirt bike seals are quite common but so few riders actually fail to recognize that their seals are leaking. It’s actually quite easy.

To check for a leaking seal, you simply need to check the inner tube of the fork. This is just below the dust seal and if it’s leaking, there will be oil on the outside of the tube.

If you don’t regularly check this then the oil will continue draining out of the fork. Not only does this reduce the performance of the suspension, but can turn your motorcycle in a dangerous weapon out there on the trails.

If you do discover that they’re leaking, then replacement of the seal is the best remedy. You don’t need to replace the entire fork (that’s expensive…man!), you just gotta replace the seal itself. Dirt bike mechanics can do this for reasonable rates but with this simple tutorial, you could easily get it done yourself.

Leaking fork seals: Common Causes

It’s frustrating when you discover a leaking seal on the front there. How did it happen? Well, the most common reasons for leaking fork seals on dirt bikes are:

  1. General wear and tear. When you’re blitzing through the trails at 60 miles per hour, you have no idea how many up and down movements of your forks actually happen per MINUTE. Bolt a Go-Pro on to the front next time and you’ll realize just how much your suspension is working hard.
  2. Dust and dirt. Our arch-nemesis or perhaps a necessary evil to have fun out there. Once a little bit of dust gets wedged in the seal, it essentially opens the doorway for more to get in.
  3. Poor-quality inner tubes. We see this more commonly with Chinese Dirt Bikes but the Japanese and Euro brands do sometimes ship out forks with bad batches. It’s the last thing you’ll ever check but one of the most important things to keep your dirt bike in a tip-top condition out there.
  4. Lack of care and maintenance. Just like you service your car often, you need to do the same with your bike. If you’ve just bought one, then maybe the previous owner didn’t quite look after it properly and now you’re inheriting some problems. Relax, because luckily this one is minor and has nothing to do with the engine.

Cleaning Fork Seals on Dirt Bikes

We recommend cleaning the fork seals after every 2 to 3 rides, assuming it was just a few hours of play in the trails. If you’ve gone for a full-day ride where you covered 200+ miles, then you’re probably going to want to get those seals cleaned right up.

It does depend on the conditions. If you’ve ridden in the mud or dusty, then you’ll certainly see a massive amount of build up on the forks and so you’ll definitely want a clean up. Then again, if you’ve ridden on hard-packed stuff and forks are spotless, then you probably don’t need to do a clean today and can wait until next ride.

Cleaning the seal is easy. You just need to slightly and carefully pry open (using a very small flat-head screwdriver) the edge of the seal. Be mindful as first-timers typically damage the seal or cause indents or scratches on to their forks because they’re too aggressive. This is like heart-surgery for your dirt bike!

Once you’ve got some space open, use a lint free cloth from your local grocery store to clean out any mucky build up that you see. Try and get up under the lip as best you can. Once this step is done, slide the fork seal back up into position.

Use this as a precautionary measure. If you’ve already got leaks happening, then it’s time to drop into your local dealer mechanic for assessment.

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