How to Adjust the Shocks on Vehicles

by Contributing WriterUpdated June 12, 2017

Motorcycle shocks absorb motion when traveling over bumps to create a smooth ride. The inside of shock has oil and gas, with a piston in the center. As the piston pushes through the oil, it encounters friction and compresses to a shorter size to absorb the bump. It then lengthens after passing the bump to cushion the bike and rider. You can adjust straight shaft shocks and reservoir shocks in the same manner on a Vehicles but with different tools.

Under The Hood:

 How to Adjust the Shocks on a Motorcycle

Consider what you are trying to accomplish by adjusting your motorcycle air shocks. Rider comfort is one of the important factors, but you also want to make sure your fender does not bottom out on the rear wheel.

Know how many pounds of pressure you need for your riding style. For solo riders, you need 10 to 15 lbs. of pressure per shock. When riding with another person or traveling with a full satchel, it will need to be around 20 lbs. You never want to go over 35 lbs. of pressure.

Get the appropriate air shock pump for your bike. These are sold at motorcycle shops and after-market accessories shops. If you can't find one in your local shop, ask if they can special order it for you. Or look online at the manufacturer's website or online store.

Tighten the pump onto the air shock. Let it register the current pounds of pressure, then pump it up until the gauge reads the desired pounds of pressure. To test and make sure your lines aren't leaking, allow the pump to sit on the air shock for 30 minutes, then check the gauge to see if it has decreased. If you pump too much in, use the release valve on the pump to let some air out.

 How to Adjust Shocks on a Honda Rebel

Find the adjusting tool. If you have an '02 or earlier Rebel, it should be in the toolkit under the right-side cover. Remove the cover and notice a small container toward the back, with a keyhole. A flat screwdriver makes a good "key." Open the cover and remove the toolkit. The spanner you need is crescent shaped with a small handle and a lip on the end of the crescent. The '03 and later Rebels have only a screwdriver in the toolkit. See your Honda dealer for "the tool to adjust the rear shocks."

Find where to make the adjustment. Look just above where the bottom end of the shock is bolted to the swing arm. It looks like a small metal cup, partially covering the spring, with holes all around its top. These holes are where you will insert the lip of the spanner and rotate the "cup" to adjust the spring preload.

Find some thick gloves and a rag. These are optional but useful when changing the setting because the adjusting wrench is thin with a short handle. It does not give you much leverage, and it will require some pressure to change the adjustment. Thick gloves will protect your hands. A rag is useful because the tool is pressed against the metal cup, which is chromed. Place the rag between them to avoid scratching the chrome. You do not need to raise the back end of the bike to adjust the shocks. The bike can be resting on its kickstand.

Change the adjustment. There are five positions. Put the lip of the spanner in one of the holes, and the crescent part of the wrench will partially wrap around the metal "cup." Apply pressure until it turns to the next adjustment. Turning one way will compress the spring, giving you a firmer ride. The other way decompresses the spring for a softer ride. Make sure both rear shocks are on the same setting.

 How to Adjust the Shocks on a Hayabusa

Take your Hayabusa for a short ride. Pay attention to the action of the shocks and determine what you would like to change. Should they be softer or harder? Does the bike bounce in tight turns, or otherwise become difficult to handle? Make mental notes and return home to get to work.

Inspect the rear of your Hayabusa, just below the tail section. You should see a large coil spring with a hydraulic shaft running through its center. This is the shock you will be adjusting.

Adjust the preload of the shock first. Locate the preload ring above the shock spring. Use a shock preload wrench to turn the preload adjuster. If you want the bike to feel softer in the corners and smoother over bumps, turn the preload adjuster clockwise, away from the spring. If you want the bike to feel stiffer and more responsive during acceleration, turn the preload adjuster counterclockwise, toward the spring.

Take your bike for a second test ride and note how the shock performs. Pay attention to the shock travel when cornering, and the responsiveness of the motorcycle during acceleration. Return home and make any small final adjustments to the preload setting, just as you did before.

Locate the dampener screw at the bottom of the shock, below the spring. If the motorcycle was bouncing in tight corners, or it's not holding traction on hard accelerations, loosen the screw one or two clicks. If the bike feels too soft, and is slow to handle in the turns, tighten the screw one or two clicks. Take the bike for another test ride.

Return home and make any small final adjustments to the dampener screw the same way you did before.

Items you will need

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • Shock preload wrench

 How to Adjust the Shocks on a Honda Shadow 750

Emulsion and Gas Shocks

Place a pair of adjustable pliers on the rebound adjuster wheel. The adjuster wheel is a round metal wheel with teeth on the bottom of the shock's straight shaft.

Turn the pliers clockwise while counting each audible click to adjust the wheel at the tightest setting. Turn the pliers counterclockwise to loosen the shock absorption. For example, if you want the shock to absorb more motion, and it clicks three times while tightening it clockwise, then turn the pliers counterclockwise only two clicks.

Test drive the bike and make adjustments as necessary.

Reservoir Shocks

Insert a flathead screwdriver into the adjustment screw on the shock. Reservoir shocks have a protruding gas reservoir adjacent to the bottom of the shock on the exterior.

Turn the screwdriver clockwise while counting each audible click to tighten the shocks completely.

Turn the screwdriver counterclockwise a smaller amount of clicks to tighten the shocks. Use a larger amount of clicks to tighten the shocks more than the original setting.

Test drive the motorcycle and make any necessary adjustments.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable pliers

  • Flathead screwdriver

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