If you notice oil leaking down the fork tube of your motorcycle or dirt bike, it may be time to replace the fork seals. Bad fork seals can also impact the performance and handling of your bike, so it’s something you’ll want to take care of as soon as you can.
Replacing your fork seals may cost anywhere from $50 up to $500, depending on whether you do the work yourself or take it to a mechanic. The parts are not very expensive, so most of the charge will depend on how much you pay for labor.
Replacing your fork seals can cost between $50 and several hundred, depending on who does the work. If you take your motorcycle or dirt bike to a local garage, you should expect to pay $120-$175.
You may find the cost to be much higher if you take it to a dealership or certain specialty bike shops that charge more for labor.
Fork Seal Replacement Cost Estimate
|Value Garage||$100 - $135|
|Moderate/Chain Garage||$125 - $160|
|Dealership/Specialty Bike Shop||$175 - $500|
|DIY||$45 - $150|
The good news is that changing the seals is a pretty straightforward job and many owners opt to do the work themselves. If you’re interested in taking the DIY approach, you could end up saving yourself quite a bit of money on the labor charges.
Cost to Replace Fork Seals Yourself
If you decide to replace your own fork seals, you’ll pay a lot less than taking it to a garage or dealership.
You’ll only need to worry about the cost for parts, and any specialized tools you may need aren’t necessarily required (but they will make the job easier).
The price for the seals themselves will vary depending on what type of bike you have and whether you purchase OEM (factory) parts or aftermarket.
A set of new seals can be as cheap as around $10, or they may be in the $40 – $50 range. Most are priced between $20 and $30 if you order them from an online retailer.
Here’s what you’ll need to replace your fork seals
Fork Seals (2)
Dust Seals (2)
Fork Oil (2 quarts)
Fork Seal Driver (optional, but recommended)
Fork Spring Compressor (optional, but recommended)
DIY Cost for Fork Seal Replacement
|Total Parts Cost (No Tools)||$35 – $75|
|Total Parts Cost (With Tools)||$100 – $200|
The time investment in this project depends mainly on how familiar you are with working on the bike and if you’re using the tools to make the job easier. Most people spend anywhere from two to six hours changing their fork seals.
What is a Fork Seal?
Fork seals usually refer to the sets of seals in the fork of your motorcycle, dirt bike, or bicycle. The fork seals on the interior of the fork are designed to keep the oil inside.
The visible seals on the fork are dust seals, and they’re meant to keep dirt, dust, and debris out of the fork. Most people change out all of the seals at the same time.
If your fork seal is failing, there’s a good possibility that the dust seal hasn’t been doing its job.
One of the main reasons for seal failure is because dust and dirt particles make their way into the fork, creating an incomplete seal and allowing oil to seep out.
When to Replace Your Fork Seals
If you observe a leak from the fork seals, it means that they need to be changed right away. However, you can also change the seals as a preventative measure. It’s recommended that you maintain or change your fork seals after 40 hours of ride time.
Most owners wait until there’s a problem to deal with the fork seals, but being proactive about this issue can help prevent a dangerous situation.
If you use your bike for racing, it’s even more important that you keep up with this sort of maintenance.
If you don’t ride frequently, you should change your seals out every two years at a minimum. So, if you don’t hit the 40-hour mark within two years, go ahead and change the seals, anyway.
If your bike sits idle for too long, the seals can eventually dry out and crack, causing leaks.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Fork Seal
The most obvious sign of a leaking fork seal is if you observe oil leaking from the area. Even if you don’t see the oil right away, you’ll probably begin to see a buildup of dirt and gunk as the oil mixes from dirt and dust that makes contact.
You may also notice a small pool of oil underneath the forks of your bike while it’s parked. If the oil leaks out too much and causes the oil level to get low, it may cause your suspension to handle differently.
Many riders feel these small changes in their bike’s handling and then investigate for the oil leak.
If the oil leaks out too much, it can create a dangerous situation, so it’s important to be mindful of this issue and never ride with a faulty fork seal.
Causes of Fork Seal Damage
Motorcycles and dirt bikes put a lot of wear and tear on your fork seals just due to the nature of the vehicle setup.
If you ride yours harder than the average commuter, such as taking your bike off-road or participating in races, you may put additional strain on the fork seal.
One of the big challenges associated with the fork and seals is keeping dirt and debris out. Riding off-road or on dirt roads and trails can add to the problem and wear the seals down even faster.
In addition to general wear and tear, dirt, dust, sand, and other debris can make its way into the fork tube.
If particles of debris get between the seal and the tube itself, the seal will no longer have a tight fit in the tube, allowing for a weak seal and leaks.
Maintaining Your Fork Seals
Keeping your fork seal clean and maintained will help extend the life of the parts and keep your bike operating at peak performance.
In addition to regularly rinsing off dirt and debris from the machine, you should also make sure to periodically check your forks and clean the seals.
The best way to help save some money on potential repair costs is to do preventative maintenance to help prevent failures.
Tools and Supplies
To clean your fork seals, you should have the following items available
Alcohol-based suspension cleaner
Rags or shop towels
Allen wrench or socket
Overall, you’re only looking at $35 or less for these materials, but the result will be well worth it when you prevent damage to your bike.
How to Clean Your Fork Seals
Follow these steps to clean and inspect your fork and dust seals:
- Remove the fork guard. Use an allen wrench or socket for this task.
- Remove the fork seal. Use a flathead screwdriver to gently wiggle the seal downward. You can use a pick if necessary.
- Clean inside the joint. Clean inside and around the joint using your alcohol-based cleaner. You can also use compressed air to blast away any dust and debris.
- Pump the fork. Pump the fork upward and downward, then spray cleaner to get all the hidden debris out.
- Clean the fork seal. Use your alcohol-based cleaner to gently clean the seal.
- Lubricate the dust seal. Use a very small amount of lube.
- Reconnect the dust seal. Simply slide the dust seal back into place.
The Bottom Line
Replacing your fork seals is a necessary task for regular, routine maintenance on your bike. If you ride your bike hard, take it off-road, or do any racing, you may need to check your seals more frequently.
Many people wait until they see a leak to look at their fork seals, but prevention is key to keep from having to deal with performance issues.
The good news is that changing out your fork seals is a fairly inexpensive job, and many owners do the work themselves. If you purchase a set of seals online, you can get them for under $40.
If you take your bike to a shop or garage, you’re going to end up paying quite a bit more. You’ll also need to consider the time when deciding whether to do the work yourself.
It can take an inexperienced person several hours to change the seals, so if you’re someone who values your time more than the cost of the work, you may prefer to take the bike to a shop.
Keeping your seals in good condition will prevent oil leaks, and damage, and ensure that your suspension is working properly.
Implement a routine to regularly clean your seals and inspect them for damage to keep your bike in tip-top shape all the time.