How To Make Your Own XR650R Swingarm Preload Tool

I know exactly what has brought you to this page. You just came in from the garage and your favorite lady friend is asking “Why do you swear so much when you work on your bike?”.

You threw the bike on the stand, removed the swingarm pivot bolt, and was surprised to find that the swingarm doesn’t come out like it should. You peek around looking for the piece of duct tape some disgruntled Honda employee left in there somewhere, and find the strange looking doohickey on the right frame spar where the bolt goes through. There’s your culprit.

On a steel framed dirt bike, you simply run the swingarm pivot bolt through the frame, swingarm, and cases, then tighten things down unti it looks like a tuna fish sandwich being run over by a truck. The inner bearing races are squeezed between the frame tubes and cases so they can’t move. It’s a simple process, but apparently on the Big Red Pig and some other very rigid framed bikes, this simple process won’t work. In comes the preload fitting.

This riggin’ threads into the frame spar and is torqued up against the bearings, and then the outer ring threads on and jambs against the frame itself. My take on the whole thing is that it prevents unwanted stress on the frame caused by squeezing everything together, especially when the BRP frame is built like a bridge abutment.

Sometimes you can remove the swingarm by wiggling and coercing it with a rubber mallet without loosening the fitting, but then you have to get it back together. It can be done, but why not do things the RIGHT way?

Here’s your options.

First option is, of course, to try the job without the tools. Some of the guys in the Group have been successful with this method. I have not. Second option is to use a hammer and punch like I did the first time. You might as well order a new fitting after, because you’re going to need it. Next option is, if you are richer than I am, buy the Honda tools made for this job. You’re looking at around 90 bucks.

Your 4th option is to run down to the local auto parts store and buy a brake caliper adjusting tool. One version is from Powerbuilt #648410. I did this on recommendation from the Group. It worked for some, but not for me. The tool wouldn’t fit into the frame recess and didn’t seem to have the correct castle placement. Apparently there is more than one tool for brake calipers. 5 bucks wasted. Oh well, makes my tool box selection look like I’m a real mechanic.

Your final option, or at it was for me least for me, is to make the needed tools. It’s an afternoon project if you have the right equipment to do it. My first set was a success, while my second set, made for someone else, came out even better. The version I made takes a Dremel with cut-off wheel and a welder. My next version will only take the Dremel.

04/13/03 I just made another set for a group member and have refined the process even more. I used deep sockets, which allows more depth on the outer ring tools handle to clear the recess on the frame. I’ve decided that this method is THE way to go. I used a 19mm closed end wrench for the handle, adding to the flexibilty of the tool.

My tools, as shown in the picture, were made so that one would fit inside the other. That plan allows for the inner fitting to be held while the lock ring is tightened down. I feared that the inner fitting would turn (it only has 5lbs of torque) as the outer was tightened. I have since been told that it’s not a problem, so you can probably get away with just making a pair of sockets and leave out some extra cutting and skip the need of a welder completely.

Here’s my tools. Note the “Chrome Vanadium” that was used. If you use shiny tools on a bike, it’ll make it go faster in the end. Kinda like adding stickers in strategic points.

Ok, that’s enough babbling. Sorry, it’s probably the results of too many helmet wrecking thuds to the head. The base stock used in making the two sockets involved a trip to the local auto parts store. No need to buy Snap-On stuff here, the cheaper the better. Chances are when you are done, the metallurgy of these things isn’t going to be anywhere near what you started out with. All that fancy peening and forging means nothing once you’ve heated things up by being over zealous with a cutting wheel and welder. Only thing softer than your finished tools will be the walls of your local sanitarium. If you’re picky, you can harden them back up by heating them red hot and then throwing them in motor oil, but then you lose the chrome, and I really don’t think hardness is an issue here.

Hopefully your local parts guru stocks Thorsen Tools. I got mine at Advance Auto, but have seen this stuff elsewhere also. Only reason why I feel this is a concern is because different manufacturers may have a different wall thickness’. So, if you can find them, it’ll keep us all on the same playing field. The sizes I used are 13/16″ for the inner socket, and 1-1/16″ for the outer. If you plan on making my welded version, find a cheap wrench or some tool with a handle worthy of being sacrificed. See my prior note on choosing wrench size. A simple piece of flat steel or rod will work, but, remember the chrome thing! Decide ahead of time if you want the welded version or not. If you plan on using the simple sockets with no handle, shallows will work best. If you want to tack on a handle, use the deeps. By the time you cut the back off from a shallow outer socket, a handle won’t clear the frame very well because of the recess.

You’ve got your sockets, now wander over to the counter and tell the guy what you are doing while he rings you up. The extra effort is worth it just for the “duh” look he’ll give you in return.

The next step is an important one. You have to mark where your initial cuts are to be made. Here I’ve cheated and used an old fitting (reason why you shouldn’t use punches to remove it!) just to give you an idea of what you need. On the last set I made, I actually taped the fitting and socket together as I made the marks.

It’s tough to get things right if they’re floating around. It pretty much guaranteed that everything was centered and square. Have fun trying to do this with the fitting still in the bike! Carefully make your marks.

04/25/03 Brian Phanenhour of Vancouver Island recently suggest using plumbers putty to make a mold of the installed fitting and then using that for the dimensions. Sounds slick to me!

It’s much easier to make the castles a wee bit too wide and file them to width afterwards, than to make them too skinny and have to start over. After you have all 8 cuts marked, wrap a piece of tape around the socket as shown. This is the final guide for when you do the cutting. It’ll also protect that shiny chrome (remember, shiny = faster!) from the cut- off wheel if you slip, which you will. Place the tape slightly deeper than what the castles need to be. This way, when you are done, you can use the wheel and a file to flatten off the tips of the castle. They will be wedge shaped from the concave inner surface of the socket edge.

Ok, you have everything marked out. Take a break and go back inside to the lady friend. Hopefully she has your favorite drink ready as a reward for the fact that you quit swearing. Just don’t tell her that you are still swearing, but you’ve learned to turn Beethoven up enough so she can’t hear you. After your break, it’s time to start cutting!

To do the cutting, I use a Dremel with flex shaft and a heavy duty cut- off wheel. If you don’t have a Dremel, you need to get out of the dark ages and grab one. The thing is one of the handiest tools in my shop next to the sledge hammer. Safety glasses are a must! The discs snag and explode faster than a KX80 with no premix.

The picture on the left shows the order of the cuts, and the picture at right shows your first one. Cut in, trying to keep an angle that follows an imaginary line that goes straight across to about the middle of the opposing castle. Stop when you get to the black tape. If you make the castles slightly wide, it makes it easier to get the correct edge angles when you’re done cutting with a flat file and making them fit later.

After you make the 8 first cuts, start the 2nd series of cuts parallel to the black tape. Obviously, with the size of the cut- off wheel, you can’t completely remove the chunks between the castles. Just go until you get close, trying not to cut into the base of them, which would cause weakness. If you mess them up, it’s a little late to return the socket. Next step is to get a good grip on the socket with the vise and break out the pieces with a pair of pliers or hammer and punch. Use the wheel or a flat file to remove the leftover webbing in the corners.

After you have the slots cleaned up, it’s time for the truth test. See if your new tool actually fits! Hopefully all the castles actually fit or are slightly too wide. Bad things are if they are too skinny, or even worse, the tool is not symmetric and one or more of the castles doesn’t even line up. If the latter is the case, you’ve just made an interesting conversation piece for the coffee table. If the castles are just a bit too wide, you’ve got it made! Use the file to narrow things up. Trick here is to eye which side of a castle you want to remove material from to keep everything symmetrical. Once this is done and the tool fits, you’re halfway done! Make your second tool the exact same way as the first. This time should be a little quicker because you know the process now. Don’t forget the safety glasses! If you don’t want to weld a handle onto the outer socket, you are done! You just saved money, and feel free to send the extra to me.

If you do want to make a handle, you’re gonna want a few more cut- off wheels handy. I used the stem of a large wrench on mine. I cut off the closed end and cut the crescent end even with the back of the slot. I cut off the tips at a steep angle so that with a little grinding, the contour fits the curve of the socket. If you use the sockets I did, you’ll have to use a wheel to remove a little bit of the flat surfaces in the outer socket for the smaller socket to fit inside. A good fit between the two will help support the two tools and keep them from stripping the fitting. Final step before welding is to cut off the end of the socket so you end up with a hefty little hockey puck of metal that works good for holding the assembly instructions for the latest “Honey-do” project. Grind some chrome off the edges and from the mating surface of the socket and weld her together.

Now you are done with a set of genuine imitation Redneck Vocational/ Technical School wrenches!

These tools have served me well at a substantial savings. The inner part of the fitting only has 5ft-lbs of torque and the outer has 47, so you don’t need anything super rugged. As usual, I have to say, if you knock out an eye, remove skin, or destroy the fitting, it’s not my fault. If everything goes well and works, just let me know they worked and send me a thank you!