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Job 2: Checking & Aligning the Rear Wheel
Once your belt is tensioned, you can proceed to wheel alignment. While not necessary, I recommend you first raise the bike’s rear wheel from the ground.
Tip: If you wish to align your rear wheel using the Belt Tracking Method, skip to the last page of this article.
Aligment Via Axle to Pivot Measurement
Measure the distance from the swing arm pivot to the axle, on each side of the bike. To do this, you must first remove the swing arm pivot covers. These are located just below the passenger foot peg brackets. They simply pop off. See photo below.
Photo Note: The photo above shows a close-up of a chrome, right-side, swing arm pivot cover. The large, spotted piece beneath my fingers is an exhaust pipe. Note too, that there is a custom (non-stock) passenger foot-peg mount partially covering the swing arm pivot.
To measure the distance from the swing arm pivot to the axle, use a tape-measure, a dowel, a straightened hanger wire, a small chain, or any other device you can mark. Then place one end of your measuring tool at the precise center of the swing-arm pivot hole. See photo below.
Now locate the precise center of the rear axle hole with your measuring tool, and mark (or read) the center point. See photo below.
Now do the same thing on the other side of the bike. If the readings are not identical, you must adjust your axle. See next section for adjustment instructions.
Note: Do not measure to any other axle, wheel, tire, frame, or swing-arm-pivot points. The wheel may not be precisely true, the tire may be out of round, other points on the frame may not be mirrored exactly to the opposite side, and the diameters of each side of the axle and each side of the swing arm pivot are all different. So the only consistent points to use are the CENTER points of axle and swing arm pivot.
Making Alignment Adjustments
The adjuster bolts are horizontal bolts pointing toward the axle -- one on each side. To unlock an adjuster bolt, hold a wrench on the bolt-head while using an open-end wrench to loosen the bolt's lock nut. As you do this, be careful not to turn the adjuster bolt, as you will unintentionally change the axle alignment by doing so. See photo below.
The left-side adjuster is much closer to the pulley and belt than the right-side. Therefore, I recommend making alignment adjustments solely on the right-side, unless your alignment is way off. That way, your alignment adjustments will have only minor impact on belt tension.
The Road Star's stock, right-side adjuster bolt faces forward -- oriented in the opposite direction from the left-side. However, since it is affixed to the adjuster-block, not the swing arm, its effects are the same as the left-side adjuster. For example, screwing the left-side adjuster bolt IN will push the axle rearward. Likewise, screwing the right-side adjuster bolt IN will pull the axle rearward. See photo below.
Note: Since the right-side adjuster bolt end is far from the belt, compared to the left side adjuster, it lacks much of the belt’s tension force. So as part of your wheel alignment process, you must closely inspect that the right-side alignment-bolt is fully in contact with the rear of your swing arm. That means there should be no gap between the adjuster bolt and the rear of the swing arm. See photo below.
Tip: If there is a gap, no matter how tiny, use a rubber mallet (or other non-marring tool) to nudge the alignment-bolt into contact with the rear of the swing arm. To do this, you can rap the rear side of the axle-nut, the head of the adjuster bolt, or the left side of the tire.
Snug the axle nut with your wrenches. See photo below.
Then check your alignment, and your right-side adjuster bolt contact point, again. Re-adjust as needed.
When you have finished, lock the adjuster bolts by holding a wrench on the bolt-head while using an open-end wrench to tighten the bolt's lock nut. Remember, be careful not to turn the adjuster bolt, as you will unintentionally change the axle alignment by doing so.
Torque the axle to 65 to 85 ft-lbs, or 110ft-lbs. See the note below.
Note: The Road Star Service Manual recommends 110 ft-lbs, but some riders have reported that this much torque has twisted or broken their axle. As a precaution, many riders now use as little as 65 ft-lbs. I feel more comfortable with 85 ft-lbs. Use the torque you feel comfortable with; just be sure it's enough to hold the axle in place under the stress of the engine's power, but not so tight you might break the axle -- which is hollow.
Next, don't forget the brake caliper bracket. Torque the bracket's bolt to 35 ft-lbs.
Double check your work. Wheels are important in keeping pavement off your skin.
Next, check the belt adjustment via a short test ride. If there is a whining sound, the belt is probably too tight. If you hear a chirp sound when you downshift hard (that isn't the tire), the belt is probably too loose. If adjustment is indicated, do the following:
- Loosen the rear axle nut.
- Loosen the brake bracket bolt again.
- Re-tension and realign your drive belt.
- Make sure the right-side adjuster bolt contacts the rear of the swing arm.
- Torque the axle nut (65 to 85 ft-lbs, or 110 ft-lbs). See axle torque note above.
- Torque the brake bracket bolt (35 ft-lbs).
Lastly, reinstall your lower belt guard if it was removed.