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#4781130 - 06/08/18 10:30 AM ATF in Forks?
maverickfhs Offline


Registered: 12/28/16
Posts: 2123
Loc: VA
So I have seen many online threads about using ATF(or PS fluid) in motorcycle forks.

Question is, I have quite a few types of ATF laying around, can it be any ATF? Or rather stick to fork oil.

What's the take of BITOG about using ATF in fork?
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#4781159 - 06/08/18 10:46 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
Gimpy1 Offline


Registered: 08/24/17
Posts: 136
Loc: Displaced Texan in Mexico City
The front forks on a motorcycle are an integral part of how the vehicle preforms under steering and braking inputs. They have valving inside designed to meter a specific fluid during these maneuvers. Changing form the OE specified fluid to a fluid that they are not designed for is very dangerous. The seals may not be designed to hold ATF, PS fluid, baby oil, olive oil, or whatever. On a car if you have a from shock failure its bad but on a bike its catastrophic especially if it fails at a high stress load such as entering a turn under braking. If it was me I would only use a the fluid recommended by the OE manufacturer, saving a few bucks is not worth your life.

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#4781190 - 06/08/18 11:16 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: Gimpy1]
maverickfhs Offline


Registered: 12/28/16
Posts: 2123
Loc: VA
Originally Posted By: Gimpy1
The front forks on a motorcycle are an integral part of how the vehicle preforms under steering and braking inputs. They have valving inside designed to meter a specific fluid during these maneuvers. Changing form the OE specified fluid to a fluid that they are not designed for is very dangerous. The seals may not be designed to hold ATF, PS fluid, baby oil, olive oil, or whatever. On a car if you have a from shock failure its bad but on a bike its catastrophic especially if it fails at a high stress load such as entering a turn under braking. If it was me I would only use a the fluid recommended by the OE manufacturer, saving a few bucks is not worth your life.


I hear you, will stick to OEM fluid.
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#4781194 - 06/08/18 11:18 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
bmwpowere36m3 Online   content


Registered: 04/29/07
Posts: 699
Loc: Connecticut, USA
Depends on the forks... I've used it (DEX III on hand) in older damper-rod forks. That said, quality fork oil isn't expensive and I use Maxima.

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#4781203 - 06/08/18 11:25 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
MoreCowbellAz Offline


Registered: 02/05/15
Posts: 324
Loc: Phoenix, Az
It depends on the type of forks you have, old damping rod style or the more modern cartridge forks. Damping rod forks typically use a heavier grade fluid of around SAE20 which in fact is in the range of most regular ATF's (not the LV variety) than the cartridge types which require like 5-10. That's the biggest factor. Sure, specialized fork oil claims to have all sorts of unique additives that make it better suited, my opinion is that's mostly marketing but opinion vary on that.

That said, I've used ATF for years in my Harley forks which are damper rod forks. Works great. There is nothing in there that is bad for seals, bushings or anything else. It's well developed fluid, and the application is pretty simple. I'd guess it would be too heavy for a cartridge fork but I've never tried it.

BTW the weights you see listed on fork oil bottles mean very little, look at the cSt specs if you want to compare. People take that label as fine science and get in endless debates as to why one is harsh and another isn't, when in fact it's not even an apples to apples comparison.
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#4781423 - 06/08/18 03:47 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
9050lx Offline


Registered: 11/07/08
Posts: 125
Loc: FL
Give it a try.I doubt most forks get worked hard enough to matter most of the time.Worked fine with the old conventional type for me.

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#4781432 - 06/08/18 03:57 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
LotI Online   sleepy


Registered: 01/01/13
Posts: 1339
Loc: America's Dairyland
I like how the KLR forks work with DexIII

Itís too thick for the VFR, too stiff.
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#4781433 - 06/08/18 03:58 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: LotI]
maverickfhs Offline


Registered: 12/28/16
Posts: 2123
Loc: VA
Originally Posted By: LotI
I like how the KLR forks work with DexIII

Itís too thick for the VFR, too stiff.


I have a VFR too smile

Do you use Honda SS8 fluid or something different?
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#4781492 - 06/08/18 05:02 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
MoreCowbellAz Offline


Registered: 02/05/15
Posts: 324
Loc: Phoenix, Az
Nice bike, the VFR's. Always wanted one.

Those bikes have cartridge forks don't they? If that's the case, it would stand to reason they may like something lighter. Honda/Showa SS8 is almost identical in viscosity to DexIII and many other ATF's which are more suited to damper rod forks. I assume that KLR has cartridges, so I guess whatever works works! In any event, back to your original question, ATF certainly will do no harm.

The main reason I use ATF isn't even cost, although it is about half the cost, it's more because I try to avoid keeping special purpose lubes laying around unless there's a noticeable performance improvement. I use ATF in the forks, shocks, and primary on my Harley, plus transmission and power steering on some cars. Shoot, I even use it with acetone as a penetrant on seized up bolts. So.......it's a convenience thing that also happens to perform equal to or better than more expensive specialty alternatives in those applications.


Edited by MoreCowbellAz (06/08/18 05:04 PM)
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#4782470 - 06/09/18 07:36 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
LotI Online   sleepy


Registered: 01/01/13
Posts: 1339
Loc: America's Dairyland
Originally Posted By: maverickfhs
Originally Posted By: LotI
I like how the KLR forks work with DexIII

Itís too thick for the VFR, too stiff.


I have a VFR too smile

Do you use Honda SS8 fluid or something different?

Currently running Redline Lightweight as itís close in cSt to SS8 but has amazing an amazing VI
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#4782497 - 06/09/18 08:06 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
Truckedup Offline


Registered: 04/22/06
Posts: 142
Loc: Western NY state
ATF is about a 7.5 weight? I have a set of 96 VFR forks on a 81 750 and use 10 weight fork oil....
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#4782689 - 06/10/18 01:54 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
Silk Offline


Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 4687
Loc: New Zealand
ATF is all I ever use, although sometimes will use a hydraulic oil like ISO32, 46 etc.
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#4782692 - 06/10/18 02:11 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: Silk]
maverickfhs Offline


Registered: 12/28/16
Posts: 2123
Loc: VA
Originally Posted By: Silk
ATF is all I ever use, although sometimes will use a hydraulic oil like ISO32, 46 etc.


Just curious, what's the weight of hydraulic oil? Is it similar to hydraulic jack oil or something?
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2006 Civic EX 202K/AT
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#4782823 - 06/10/18 08:11 AM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
Cujet Offline


Registered: 02/15/03
Posts: 7323
Loc: Jupiter, Florida
I've had great results with Mobil 1 ATF in older motorcycle forks. Just seems to hold up well and provide good damping.
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#4784361 - 06/11/18 09:24 PM Re: ATF in Forks? [Re: maverickfhs]
CCI Offline


Registered: 07/15/09
Posts: 143
Loc: New Mexico USA
I've tried ATF, seems like fork oil works better all the way around. "Better" is a function of the bike in question and how you ride it, of course. But even with Progressive Suspension springs preloaded to my riding style, I didn't like the ATF a lot. It certainly helped with the extension speed, putting the front wheel on the ground faster, but I never liked the compression rate.

An uneven, unpredictable, or too fast rate of loading or unloading in a curve can be unnerving, this changes your effective trail, and the rear suspension can even get involved in the dance, which can be sickening.

If you push into corners hard or ride on somewhat rough roads I think regular fork oil works better, and it does come in different viscosity which can help you fine-tune to your style.

If you don't push the bike hard it doesn't matter.

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