There are several aftermarket products designed to clean out your leaking fork seals. Two of the most popular products are Risk Racing’s Seal Doctor and Motion Pro’s SealMate.
These products are designed to get out the dirt and debris caught in between the fork seal and the inner fork tube of your suspension. There is another old school method of using camera film to do the job, but I don’t recommend it. I've actually heard a couple stories of guys finding ripped pieces of film in their dirt bike’s suspension when they go to service them. Yeah, not good. Plus, who uses film anymore?
I personally use the Seal Doctor on occasion and have had some success with extending the life of my fork seals. However, all I’ve done is postponed the inevitable, replacing the fork seals. What I have found is that the seal is most likely going to leak again pretty soon. Think about it like this, when debris works its way up into the fork seal, it damages the fork seal’s sealing surface and in some cases it can damage the inner fork tube as well. Fork tube damage can also be a cause of the leaking fork seal. You can clean out the fork seal and get it to seat on the fork tube again, but the damage is already done and the fork seal’s life has been cut short. It’s going to leak again. Not only that, but when you clean out the fork seal you lose some of the fork oil in the fork. On air forks, you can lose quite a bit of fork oil during the fix unless you take the air pressure out of the outer tube. The oil in the forks is set to specific amounts and once you start losing it, that amount obviously gets to be less and less and it changes the way the forks perform. In short, they are not smooth and can start bouncing you all over the place. Additionally, when you clean out a fork seal, you actually run the risk of shoving some of that debris into the fork, causing unnecessary wear. It may not be much, but dirt bike forks are not designed to have dirt and sand floating around in them.
Don’t get me wrong, the Seal Doctor and the SealMate are great products that can get you out of a pinch at the track or on the trails. This quick fix can buy you a little bit of time so you can go riding over the weekend too. But in my experience, it has never turned out to be the permanent fix. They are an addition to your toolbox that I would recommend. However, once you’ve got that leaky fork seal, I would plan on replacing it sooner than later.
With an owner’s manual, and in some cases, some specialty tools, you can change out your own fork seals and oil in a couple hours. Most shops are going to charge you around $300 to do a fork seal replacement. That’s if you remove the forks from the dirt bike yourself.
I recommend you purchase either OEM or high quality aftermarket fork seals and do the job yourself. I have fallen for the lure of “clearance” item fork seals and regretted my decision when they both blew out on the first ride. Learn from my mistake and buy quality seals.
So in conclusion, there is only one real fix for leaking fork seals on your dirt bike. That is, to replace them.
For more info on replacing fork seals, check out our how to videos here or on YouTube.
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