Bikers Workshop Series

Replacing the Rear Swingarm on a GL1500.

By Steve Saunders.


Swingarms on GL1500 Goldwings are generally robust and very long-lived. But corrosion can set in once they get old, particularly if the Goldwing lives in areas where the roads are salted in winter. In some cases the swingarm can rust badly enough to represent a danger to the rider. The GL1500 Goldwing in this article was a 1991 model, which was seventeen years old when I replaced the badly rotted swingarm with a new one in October 2008. Seventeen years is very good going for a Goldwing swingarm, although I've seen some much younger ones rot just as bad as the one in this article.
This GL1500 Goldwing swingarm removal involved removal of the saddlebags, mufflers, rear wheel, final drive and drive shaft, battery, battery box and reverse resistor unit. The Honda manual tells you to remove the exhaust collector box as well, but I was able to easily do the job leaving it in place and this avoided the (probably high) risk of breaking the exhaust clamp and collector box mounting bolts.

Click the thumbnails for a bigger image.


Engine and side covers off first. The saddle had already been removed from this GL1500 for other work to be done, which will explain why other parts have been removed in some of the pictures below.

Remove the muffler shields on each side of the Goldwing, two 10mm bolts hold each one in place. When removing them don't let the small rubber caps shown in the second picture fall off and get lost. Third picture show the pillion footboard and step cover removal, two 12mm bolts hold these on. SE models will have those bolts concealed by a chromed plastic cover and rubber boot. To remove them you need to look under the chrome cover and remove the two Phillips screws holding it in place.

The trunk lower cover had to be removed so that the saddlebags will clear it when you remove them. Four Phillips screws (Allen key bolts on some early models).

Pull the lower trunk cover gently down off the tabs without breaking them and then pull the cover rearwards to disengage the tab that sits under the trim, seen in the second picture.

Pull the saddlebag lid release cable clip off the bar and wiggle it off the cable. The second picture shows the clip and cable after I removed the saddlebag.

Remove the two metal clips from the saddlebag lower corner trim covers on each side and remove the Phillips screw from under each clip. Then pull the corner piece away from each saddlebag. If your Goldwing is up on a table or lift, you will be able to drop the wheel to the ground later on. But if you don't have a table or lift and you are working on the ground, remove the number plate screws and pull the painted panel away with the plate once the saddlebags are clear. Then unbolt the short bar that runs across the back of the panel and you will be able to roll the wheel out. As I had the Goldwing on a table, I didn't take photos of those last bits.

Unplug the saddlebag light connector.


Remove the saddlebag bolts and spacers (8mm and 10mm bolts). In the second picture you can see the air hose for the right air shock, as fitted to GL1500/6, Interstate and Aspencade models. SE models have the hose running directly to the compressor, bypassing the saddlebag. The fifth and sixth pictures show the cable and airhose being pulled out of the saddlebag as you take the saddlebag away.

Loosen the muffler clamp 10mm bolt and then remove the 13mm nut from the rear bracket. Swivel the muffler down and pull it off the collector box. Both mufflers need to be removed.

Remove the shocks. Left one shown here. Top bolt is 12mm and the bottom one is 14mm and also supports the brake calliper bracket.

  On the right air shock you have a 12mm bolt at the top and another at the bottom. Tip; The bottom bolt can be tricky to remove as it gets stuck once the threads are cleared, as you can see in the second picture. The third picture shows the final drive unit from the inside (wheel removed for clarity) and at the bottom of the shock you can see a small hole. You can get a long drift in here and with a few taps of a hammer the lower shock bolt will fall out. You can leave the air hose attached to the shock and just tie the shock to the frame in an upright position so you won't lose any oil.

Remove the rear brake calliper 12mm and 14mm bolts and slide the calliper off the disk. Don't let the calliper dangle by the hose, tie it up out of the way or let it rest on the saddlebag frame.

Remove the 27mm axle nut, then loosen the axle pinch bolt on the left side as shown in the second picture. Pull the axle out, you may need to tap it through from the final drive side. Important; Note the positions of the spacer and washer in the second picture, they will fall to the floor with the wheel when you pull the axle out. The spacer sits in the wheel and the washer sits between the swingarm and calliper bracket as shown.

With the wheel out, you can see in the first picture how the spacer fits into the brake disc side. Second picture show the drive flange removed, you should grease those splines prior to refitting the wheel. The third picture shows the drive rubbers and bushes, or cush drive as we used to call them. Make sure the rubbers are not broken up and that the bushes are a snug fit. A bit of copper grease in the bushes where the flange pins slide in won't do any harm either. The fourth picture shows the drive flange fitted to the wheel.

With the battery removed, take the tray out as well. Two 10mm bolts at the bottom and a 10mm nut at the top. The reason for pulling the tray is so that you can get to the Reverse Resistor unit, which is bolted to the exhaust collector box shield and blocks the swingarm from clearing the frame. The workshop manual tells you to remove the whole collector box, but all you need to do is unbolt the Reverse Resistor unit and move it to one side. You can see the Reverse Resistor unit in the last picture.

First picture on the left shows the right side bolt on the Reverse Resistor unit. Second picture shows the bolt on the left side and the brake line bolt above it, remove both of them. The third picture shows the two bolts from the rear, just above the collector box. They are all 10mm bolts.

Pull the Reverse Resistor unit out to the right side and leave it there.

Now pull the universal joints rubber boot off the casing at the engine end and reach underneath the frame and pull the other end off the swingarm.

On the left side, unbolt the 10mm brake line bolts from the swingarm and tie the brake line up out of the way.

Undo the four 14mm nuts from the final drive unit and pull the unit out. The drive shaft will come out as well because unlike earlier Goldwings, there is no circlip securing it to the universal joint and the joint will stay behind when you pull the final drive. Once the final drive and drive shaft are removed, you can pull the drive shaft from the final drive easily. As you can see in the third picture, this one needed cleaning up and the splines greased before putting it back into the final drive.

You will need to borrow or make the tool for loosening the locknut on the left swingarm mounting point. Many people have successfully used a blunt cold chisel and a hammer, but the tool is the preferred way to do it. When the locknut loose, a 17mm hex key will remove the bolt. Remove the bolt on the right side as well and you will be able to pull out the swingarm. You can clearly see the rust holes as the swingarm is pulled rearwards.

When you pull the swingarm out, the universal joint will come out as well. When refitting, remember the long part goes towards the engine. Second picture shows the Goldwing with all the stripping down finished.

Another view of the rotten swingarm. This one was so bad that I was able to flex it easily. The seams visible along the inside act like steps and tend to gather muck and allow rot to creep in. In severe cases the right side swells out and starts rubbing the tyre, which is what happened to this GL1500 and we had to have a new tyre fitted as well. On the new swingarm, we filled the seams on both sides flush with seam sealer to get rid of that step. Then we sprayed over that with car body underseal which will protect it against stone chips as well.

The new swingarm came with bearings fitted. Surprisingly, the bearings in the old rotted swingarm were in good condition, you can see one of them in the pictures. The cap-type seal seems to do a good job of keeping the water out and the grease in.

When you are ready to put the new swingarm in, remember to first put the universal joint back into the rubber boot and connect it to the output shaft at the engine end. Put a dab of grease into each end of the universal joint, this helps it slide into place easier and helps when putting the drive shaft back in later.

Push the new swingarm into place and bolt it back up. Torque the right side mounting bolt first, to whatever the setting is for your model year. On this one it was 72ft-lb. Then torque the left side bolt, to 14ft-lb in this case and the locking nut to 72ft-lb.

Push the final drive and drive shaft into the swingarm. The other end of the drive shaft easily locates and slides into the universal joint. Then bolt the final drive up to the swingarm.

Pull the rubber boot back over the engine casing at the front and over the swingarm housing at the other end. Reaching under the frame makes it easier to get to the rubber boot.

Reassembling the other parts is just the reverse of what you did already, with a couple of things to bear in mind. Once one shock is in place, you will probably need to use a bar to pry up the other side, as you will be fighting against the pressure of the already bolted up shock. I prefer to fit the right shock first as that's the weaker one. I find it better to leave the bottom left shock bolt just sitting in place as shown in the second picture until I have the wheel back in. Then I swivel the calliper bracket around and line the hole up with the shock lower mount before bolting up the lower shock bolt. If you do up the bolt beforehand, the calliper bracket will hit the bolt end and you will need to undo the bolt to line it up with the hole.