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Rear Wheel Alignment

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Written by Randy Fox   
Friday, 29 August 2008

Appendix B: Adjusting Belt Tracking as an Alternative Method of Rear Wheel Alignment

In a perfectly simplistic world, adjusting the rear wheel to exactly match the swing arm pivots would guarantee perfect belt tracking. Alas, the Road Star world is not so simplistic in many cases. This is why many owners align their rear wheel by getting the belt to track gracefully within the confines of the rear pulley. Note: “Gracefully,” means something slightly different for 1700 series Roadies than for 1600 series ones.

However, even this approach presents real-world challenges. Engine torque and frame flex can make it impossible to maintain a belt tracking ideal. But if a method which does not rely on measurement tools for accuracy appeals to you, read on.

This procedure must be done with the rear wheel off the ground, and the transmission in neutral.

First, adjust the belt tension as described earlier in this article.

Before proceeding, be sure the single, 14mm bolt that secures the rear brake caliper bracket to the lower swing arm, on the right side of the bike, has been loosened. It is the one with the bolt-head that points straight up.

Turn the rear wheel in a forward rotation by hand. Safety Tip: Watch your fingers! It may take 4 or 5 full revolutions, but you should see the belt begin to favor one side or the middle.

If the belt favors the outside edge of the pulley – especially if it does so with more than slight favor – you adjust the axle’s right side forward. Tip: Stock belts should not favor the outside edge of the pulley, although some aftermarket belts will.

If the belt favors the inside edge of the pulley – especially if it does so with more than slight favor – you adjust the axle’s right side rearward.

If your bike is a 1600 series, belt alignment which slightly favors the rear pulley’s inner edge is common and normal. If your bike is a 1700 series, belt alignment in the center of the rear pulley is considered ideal, though not necessary.

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.


Rear Wheel Alignment, Belt Adjustment, Tension, Yamaha Road Star


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. Then hand-turn your rear wheel several full revolutions again to check your alignment. Also check 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.

The beauty of this method of alignment is that it is very sensitive to minute changes. However, many times alignment looks perfect in the garage, only to change dramatically once driven on the road. In my experience, it is uncommon to maintain perfect belt tracking even after creating perfect alignment in the garage. It can drive you nuts to try.

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.




Ride on.


Questions should be asked in our forum (Use discuss link below). The forum is very active and you stand a good chance of getting your questions answered there. If you would like to leave feedback for the author, or have additional information you think will benefit others, please use the comment section at the bottom of this page.

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DISCLAIMER: This information and procedure is provided as a courtesy and is for informational purposes only.  Neither the publishers nor the authors accept any responsibility for the accuracy, applicability, or suitability of this procedure.  You assume all risks associated with the use of this information.  NEITHER THE PUBLISHERs NOR THE AUTHORs SHALL IN ANY EVENT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, OF ANY NATURE ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH THE USE OR MISUSE OF THIS INFORMATION OR LACK OF INFORMATION.  Any type of modification or service work on your motorcycle should always be performed by a professional mechanic. If performed incorrectly, this procedure may endanger the safety of you and others on your motorcycle and possibly invalidate your manufacturer’s warranty.

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  Comments (10)
Written by yamaleidy, on 07-04-2012 14:01
God bless you for this article. It saved my backside. I won't even bother with the inadequate shop manual again,I'm coming straight here. Thanks again. Bob
Written by chadf, on 05-13-2012 09:50
I used this method, along with the modifications from confederatemule (running it in 2nd gear).. Took a while but was able to get it to track perfectly... Then... I torqued everything down to specs and rode it maybe 1/2 mile at 55mph... after that it was tracking to the outside. So I did a 90 minute cycle of loosen, adjust, torque, ride, check till I got it tracking in the middle again (1700) under load (each adjustment was no more than 1/8 turn of the bolt. it's easy to over adjust). Comparing the current position to pictures taken of the adjustment blocks and relative tick marks on the swing arm, apparently my tick marks are accurate. They are completely symmetrical and are exactly where they were before removing the wheels... So I feel pretty confident in this means of alignment compared to however the dealer did it last time. Also... My tick marks apear to be accurate, but the adjustments are so fine using this method, I also feel there is no way they can be used with a good level of precision. I think alignment under load, while surely a huge pain in the a**, has to be the most accurate means. Thoughts?
Written by joe q, on 04-18-2012 21:47
when I owned a harley dyna glide I used a caliper to measure the distance in the slots where the adjustment bolts are ,when both slots measured the same at the bolts and the tension was good I tightened the axle and I was done.
Written by upnort, on 08-18-2011 20:30
Just straightened my rear wheel alignment. Fought the adjustment until I put a 10 mm fine bolt in the front threaded hole on the right side axle adjuster. Once each side of the bike was close on alignment and the belt tension was OK, both adjustment bolts were hand snugged to the right adjuster. 
It was simple to slightly adjust the left side adjuster to align the belt in the pulley. Then both adjusters were tightened in place,the axle tightened in place and the 10 mm bolt removed on the right side. 
A test ride showed the alignment had been off for awhile. It was like riding a new bike. A new tire will be next since it's cupped and wore out in 2500 mi.
Rear Wheel Alignment
Written by confederatemule, on 11-03-2010 20:00
I use the belt tracking method of rear wheel alignment. For me, it is the quickest, easiest and most accurate method. 
I put the bike on my "Handy" motorcycle table, then raise the rear wheel off of the table. At this point I strap the bike securely to the table. I crank the engine and put it in 2nd gear. I adjust the alignment the same as described in the " Belt Tracking as an Alternative Method of Rear Wheel Alignment" article. The only difference is that the wheel is turning as I adjust and when it runs in the center of the pulley I tighten the axle and then make sure the jack bolts are tight, while it is still running.  
That is it, no more adjustment is necessary.  
When changing the tire or removing the wheel, no other adjustment is needed unless the tensioner jack bolts are loosened or the belt is replaced with another belt or needs tightening. 
The job can be done by jacking the rear of the bike up while on the floor or ground, but securing the bike is not as easy. 
I don't recommend this for everyone. But, it works great for me. 
Alignment marks (answer)
Written by Randysgym, on 02-14-2010 12:11
To answer RoadDaddy's question about the 'index marks' on the swingarm, near the axle: They are notoriously inaccurate -- a simplistic, vague suggestion that seem to be stamped into the metal with little attention on precision. Do not use them (IMO).
Written by Flashback, on 09-17-2009 21:39
I've used the tracking method a couple of times and have found that I need to "help" the belt over to the center by hand, while spinning the wheel and see if it stay's in the center. If I don't do this, the belt will not move until I have over adjusted and at that point it will cross center and go to the opposite side.
Written by N56629, on 10-21-2008 21:24
I always put it back exactly where I got it. I do this by marking both sides with white paint and then when dry a fine scribe line. Even if you tighten or replace the belt you can measure the difference between the upper and lower scribe lines with extreme accuracy. I can do this with far more accuracy than I can measuring center to center between the axle and pivot point.
Written by roaddaddy, on 10-08-2008 17:49
What are the index marks on the swingarm at the axle for????
Written by MS1700, on 09-29-2008 08:45
the link o cool and trick alignment tools says were are not authorized to view. yes i was signed in. Nice article I will soon use. MC

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