Changing Fork Oil

If you enjoy working on you Virago as well as riding it, then here is a job your going to just love!! Changing Fork Oil!

One of the more neglected fluids is the fork oil. It just sits there going up and down as the road goes by but it also gets dirty and loses some of it’s finer properties as time goes by

I change my fork oil every 5 to 7 thousand miles. And I’d like to share some practical experiences with anyone else who would like to take on the job.

The following applies to 1985 – 1990 bikes and with some minor changes it would include the 920’s.


Some things you’ll need before you get started:

  • 17mm allen wrench or 17mm bolt or 3/8″ bolt.
  • 10mm wrench.
  • Phillips screwdriver.
  • Two baggies and rubber bands.
  • A wide mouth pan to collect the drained oil.
  • A block of wood or anything that can be used under the engine to hold the bike tilted back on its center stand.
  • A calibrated measuring cup that will hold up to 400cc of liquid.
  • New oil – 2 pints of a motorcycle fork oil – I prefer Kal-Guard 10 weight.
  • Vise grip pliers

Now lets get started

  • Place the bike on it’s center stand and prop it with the block so it remains tilted back and the front wheel is up. Cover or remove the gas tank and pop off the cover caps on the top of the fork tubes. Loosen the 10mm fork brace clamp nuts at the top of the fork and bleed the air out of the fork tubes if applicable. Using the 17mm allen wrench, the 17mm bolt, or 3/8″ bolt (slightly filed down to fit the fork cap) and clamped with vise grips unscrew the fork cap. It may not break free easily.
  • The cap is under pressure from the fork springs so keep a downward pressure on the cap while unscrewing it through its 3/4″ of threads. When the threads break free the cap will pop and surprise you but, that’s fun of doing this thing yourself. Just watch your fingers. Take out the spacer tubes and screw the caps back in hand tight. Using Phillips screwdriver, unscrew a drain on the bottom of a fork tube being careful not to lose the small black “O” ring (it may stay in the hole but pop it out and set it aside).
  • Slowly lift the wheel by hand and oil will squirt out of the drain hole into the well placed wide mouth pan. Lift too hard and you’ll oil your engine, driveway, or you foot. Let the wheel down and repeat the process numerous times until the oil stops moving freely.
  • Take a baggie and place it over the bottom of the fork tube above the drain hole and secure it with a rubber band. This will catch and hold the oil remaining in the tubes.
  • Repeat the drain process on the other side using the drain pan first to catch most of the oil, then bag it. Now in order to get all the oil out, remove both fork caps again. Slowly raise the wheel and grab one of the springs as it comes out of the fork tube (be careful not to lose the spring seat which is the small washer like piece that goes directly on top of the spring).
  • Take out the spring and store it in a clean area so it won’t pick up any dirt. Do the same on the other side.
  • Having fun yet? I know you are!
  • Screw both fork caps back in hand tight lift the wheel to the upper stops of fork travel 3 or 4 times in a row. Repair this process numerous times allowing a few minutes between each series of 3 or 4 lifts. This allows the remaining oil in the fork to bleed down. When all the oil is drained, replace the phillips drain screws and “o” ring and remove the fork caps again. Replace the fork springs, spring seats and spacer tubes (the spring seats go in with the flanged end down.
  • Fill the measuring cup to the recommended amount of oil (as stated in your owners manual being careful not to over fill) and raise one of the spacer tubes to act as a funnel. Pour the oil down the hatch. Do it again on the other side.
  • Coat the fork cap threads with grease to help fight rust and push down the spacer tube with the cap while turning until the threads catch then tighten. Do it again on the other side. Tighten both 10mm fork brace bolts. Replace air if you use it.

Your done!!

Ride with pride and keep your fork tube drain plugs down.

 Changing Fork Oil On A VIrago Submitted by Bob Ratcliffe


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