Grease nipples – MP3/FUOCO | TECH
Own an MP3 or Fuoco and want to avoid expensive bills to replace your notchy steering bearings? This greasing tip might just help…
As the Piaggio MP3 is actually the second-best selling Piaggio vehicle after the Vespa GTS, it’s probably worthwhile to having another look at the peculiarities of these three-wheelers. Which is why we’ll be featuring a loose series of articles on maintenance, technical tips and small but practical modifications that might hopefully help you to keep your three-wheeler on the road.
We showed you recently how to test the steering bearing on a Piaggio MP3 (see video above). This article deals with the steering in a bit more detail, to be precise we will be looking at greasing the steering bearings. Plus we build a special maintenance tool to do the job.
When the Piaggio MP3 and its siblings hit the market, their twin front wheels were a unique feature of these scooters, unseen before on a mass produced vehicle. It has almost been forgotten nowadays that the main reason for Piaggio to offer this front wheel layout was to improve safety rather than enable car-drivers to switch over to two (or rather three) wheels.
Whilst an anti-lock braking-system on an ordinary two-wheeler can prevent crashes due to overbraking, it does nothing to stop you slipping sideways on cobbles, tram-tracks, oil-spills in a roundabaout, gravel strewn corners or whatever the daily mayhem on our roads might throw at you. Only more contact area to the road will help in these cases, which is why German engineer Wolfgang Trautwein invented the design of the parallel front wheels in the 1950s.
Over the years he built several prototypes, one even based on a P-Range Vespa (which nowadays sits in a German museum). It is exactly this design that Piaggio is using today in their three-wheelers, from the various MP3 models to the Gilera Fuoco.
The only problem with it is the abundancy of moving parts. An MP3 has six steering bearings instead of two, plus an additional six pivoting points for the parallelogram arms. Nice. Of these joints, the four outer steering bearings are known to cause trouble by getting notchy and being extremely expensive to replace (the inner steering bearings under the handlebars don’t actually take any load from the suspension and failure is rather uncommon here).
Now while it is unclear what causes the outer bearings to either fail early or last forever, it is common sense that keeping them lubricated will certainly help. The good news is that it’s rather easy to do this yourself and even making the necessary tool to do it is fairly easy and only costs a few pence.
For reasons I cannot fully explain I have always liked the Gilera Fuoco, so much so I finally bought one. Seems I generally have a weak spot for the ugly duckling – I also have a Serveta Lince and previously owned several Vespa ETSs and Cosas. Hm….
Let’s grease ’em up…
The basic process is to dismantle the four bolts holding the parallelogram arms to the steering columns one after the other, pack the space behind them with grease until it reaches the bearings and fit the bolts again. In order to do this, we need to make ourselves a specifically prepared bolt that we can use as a tool to grease the joints.
M10 bolt and a grease nipple
All you need to get started is a standard M10 x 30mm bolt and a M6 grease nipple. You can pick up both at any hardware store for literally a few pennies. Alternatively you could buy one already made from eBay for a couple of quid.
The main part of the job is to drill the M10 bolt straight through its whole length with a 5.5mm drill. Quite obviously doing this with a handheld drill won’t work. If you don’t have a bench drill yourselves, ask a local workshop to do it for you.
The next step is to tap the hole in the head of the bolt with a 6mm thread and fit the grease nipple to it
Voilá – the finished grease bolt read to go. Attention: make sure the bolt is absolutely clean internally before using it for the first time. If you leave any shavings from drilling or tapping inside, they will later end up in your bearings.
You can either jack the scooter up (as in the video) or place one front wheel on a brick, wooden block or any similar item. This will cause the steering column on the other side to move further down for ease of access. Swap it over later to do the other side.
Dismantle the first pivot bolt and replace it with your grease bolt. Just tighten it gently – it only has to sit there for a few minutes and due to being drilled internally can’t handle much torque.
Put the nozzle of your grease gun on the grease nipple and start pumping. When you do this for the first time expect roughly 15 to 20 pumps to be necessary until the grease has reached the bearing.
Refit the bolt
Replace the grease bolt with the original one and torque it down to 45-50NMs with a torque wrench. Check that the thread is not full of grease as this might change the relation between torque and the actual force applied.
Repeat this procedure with the other three bolts. Attention: Only do one bolt at a time as described – do not take out all four of them.
And that’s it – easy, innit? And strangely enough, you can even feel the difference. My Fuoco was much happier to go round corners once I was finished. Mission accomplished…
Words and photos: Boris
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