How to Replace the Fork Seals of a VTX 600 Shadow

by Chris Gilliland

The VT600 Shadow VLX is a cruiser-styled motorcycle produced by Honda from 1988 to 2007. Like most modern motorcycles, the Shadow is fitted with a pair of telescopic hydraulic front fork legs. These fork legs are filled with a heavy oil that reduces the shock generated by uneven road surfaces. The oil is held in place by a seal between the upper fork tube and the lower fork slider. These seals can rupture over time, allowing the slick fork oil to leak onto the front wheel. The fork legs must be removed and disassembled to replace the fork seals.


Mount the motorcycle on a service lift.


Remove the front brake caliper from the left fork leg, using a socket wrench. Slide the caliper off the brake rotor and hang it from the handlebar, using a bungee cord.


Unscrew the speedometer cable mounting bolt, located on the left side of the front wheel, using a Phillips screwdriver. Pull the speedometer cable out of the speedometer drive.


Loosen the axle pinch bolts on both lower fork legs, using an Allen wrench. Pull the front axle out of the fork legs and the front wheel. Lower the wheel to the ground and roll it away from the motorcycle. Unbolt the front fender from the lower fork legs. Loosen the fork leg top caps, using an open-end wrench. Do not completely unscrew the caps at this time.


Loosen the upper and lower fork clamp pinch bolts, using a socket wrench. Loosen the front turn signal mount pinch bolts. Pull the fork legs out of the fork clamps, using a downward twisting motion. Slide the front turn signals off the top of the fork legs.


Place one of the fork legs into a rubber-jawed vise. Push down firmly on the top cap and unscrew the cap completely. Pull the spacer, washer and fork spring out of the fork leg. Take the fork leg out of the vise and hold it over an oil catch pan. Pour out the fork oil while pumping the upper fork tube.


Mount the fork leg horizontally in your vise. Push a bottom holder pipe tool into the fork leg and push it firmly against the lower fork leg. Unscrew the bolt from the bottom of the lower fork leg, using an Allen wrench. Pull the bottom holder pipe tool, the fork piston and rebound spring out of the fork leg.


Pry the dust seal and the seal retaining ring off the top of the lower fork leg, using a flat screwdriver. Push the upper fork tube into the lower fork leg, then pull the fork tube out forcefully. Repeat until the fork seal and upper fork tube are free of the lower fork leg. Pull the oil lock piece out of the lower fork leg.


Slip the oil seal and backing ring up and off the fork tube. Coat a new fork seal with fork oil, then slide the new backing ring and oil seal onto the fork tube, facing the side of the marked face of the oil seal upward. Coat the top of the lower fork leg, the oil lock piece and the bottom of the fork tube with fork oil, then push the fork tube into the lower fork leg.


Slide the rebound spring and fork piston into the fork tube, followed by the bottom holder pipe. Screw the bolt into the bottom of the lower fork leg, then tighten it to 22 foot-pounds, using a torque wrench. Drive the fork seal into the lower fork leg, using a fork seal driver. Stop when the retaining ring groove is visible. Snap the retaining ring into place. Coat the lip of a new dust seal with fork oil, then push it into place over the top of the lower fork leg.


Remove the fork leg from the vise and hold it in an upright position. Fill the fork leg with 8.9-ounces of fork oil, then slowly pump the fork tube to free any trapped air bubbles. Pour an additional 8 ounces of fork fluid into the fork tube, then pump the fork again. Compress the fork tube completely and hold it in place. Measure the fork oil level using a 4.4-inch length of wire. The fork oil should be exactly 4.4 inches from the top of the fork tube. Add oil as needed to increase the oil level.


Release the fork tube and slide the fork spring into place with the tightly-wound portion facing up. Place the washer and spacer into the fork leg, then screw the top cap into place. Tighten the cap to 17 foot-pounds.


Replace the remaining fork leg oil seal, using the same method.


Push the fork legs into the fork clamps, then tighten the lower clamp pinch bolts to 36 foot-pounds. Tighten the upper clamp pinch bolts to 17 foot-pounds. Reinstall the front fender onto the lower fork legs. Lift the front wheel into place and push the front axle through both fork legs and the front wheel. Tighten the axle pinch bolts to 16 foot-pounds.


Slide the front brake caliper over the brake rotor and onto the left lower fork leg. Tighten the brake caliper bolts to 22 foot-pounds. Push the speedometer cable into the front wheel speedometer drive. Screw the mounting bolt into place.


Lower the motorcycle onto its side stand.

Items you will need


About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.