Honda CB 550 Rear Wheel Rebuild

This is what she looked like when I started.

Back when I first got my Honda CB 550 K, I bought a stock brake panel from a friend of mine, to replace the incorrect one the PO had installed. Turns out he threw in the entire rear wheel, hub, spokes and all, along with the brake panel I needed. So I decided to rebuild the entire rear wheel from scratch, with new bearings and brake pads. The new one was in better condition anyway, and the beauty was that I could do it off the bike, with my current one still getting me where I needed to go, while I rebuilt it at a leisurely pace. Well, leisurely turned into a snails pace!

For months I wrestled with the damn thing. First, I could not get the rear bearing retainer out. These are notoriously difficult to remove, but mine seemed particularly stubborn. I built TWO tools to remove it, and with the help of my friend, we succeeded in bending bars of steel, without budging the retainer. It has been the first, and only time I have gone to a mechanic for help with this bike. Eventually, with the help of MASSIVE leverage, the mechanic got the retainer loose, and the build continued.

I then removed all the spokes from the rim, cleaned with a wire wheel and then spray painted them. They were completely covered in rust and grime, and although the paint job didn’t come out great, I figured it would provide a little added protection. I had the opportunity, through the VinMoto email list, to take a wheel truing workshop, which would come in handy when I got to the final stage of the rebuild.

Tried my hand at polishing the hub and brake panel, which turned out pretty well. Not quite chrome looking, but a nice aged, shiny aluminum look. If anyone wants to try this, let me know. It could take up a whole post to detail the process.

…before and after

I had been procrastinating the rebuild of the hub, because when the mechanic removed the bearing retainer, he had also removed the bearings, and I was not able to see the order of how things should be replaced. Anyone who has looked at a parts fiche knows that while they are invaluable for wrenching, the idea of using it as a guide for rebuilds is daunting. They are semi-3D depictions of the parts, but it’s hard to tell which order the parts go together. And since the fiche I have is a download PDF, the pages are at times blurry and small. But I finally decided to take it on, and began assembling all the pieces back together.

First were the new sealed bearings. These updated versions of the old roller ball bearings, which had been in the bike for 35 years, are said to be a vast improvement. I brought the new bearings home overnight, to chill in the freezer. The small amount of shrinkage the metal does when cold, would aid in getting them into the incredibly tight hub. Next morning, slathered with grease, away I went – hammering them into place.

Quick Tip #1: Harbor Freight sells a cheap pair of gun muffler style ear muffs, which definitely save the hearing while wailing away, metal on metal, in an enclosed, brick room!

Got the bearings in, with all the spacers and guides, and was prepared to put the axle into place. When I tried to slide it through the spacers inside the hub, it stopped short, just an inch from making it clear through. Damn it! There is literally NO tolerance inside the shaft way for the axle on these things, and something was obstructing the path. Turns out, when the mechanic was chiseling away inside the hub, to remove the old bearings, one of the spacers was damaged. Of course, this spacer was already wedged inside the hub, behind a bearing that had been frozen, and then hammered to hell, to get in there. No way I wanted to try to take it out, and risk damaging the bearing as well.

Quick Tip #2: Possibly the greatest, most useful tool in times of trouble, has been the Dremel. This little rotary motor, with a bunch of attachments, has saved me time and again.

I placed a grinding bit on the end of the Dremel, and carefully cut down the damage inside the spacer. Took a while, and made me nervous, but I finally got it done. The axle slipped through, and I was just about ready for the final step, truing the wheel.

Reassembled Wheel

After the wheel truing session, I had gone out and gotten the parts I needed to build my own, DIY truing stand. With a cheap gauge from Harbor Freight, to measure the roll-out, it was ready for the wheel. I placed the last few parts in place, and hoisted it up onto the truing stand…..except the it didn’t fit in the stand! I had built the stand without the wheel all together, so with the hub reassembled, the wheel was too wide. Good grief! I didn’t have my drill at the garage, so I had to call it a day. Truing will be a whole new adventure, so check back to follow that debacle…..

Home made stand for wheel truing…

2 thoughts on “Honda CB 550 Rear Wheel Rebuild

    1. Oh boy, you are in for a treat! That is the only thing I have ever paid a mechanic to help me with… The rear bearing is “staked,” which means the metal is distorted to fuse the bearing retainer to the hub. At the factory, they hit the place where the hub meets the retainer with a punch (I cursed these people long and hard when I was wrestling with mine). You need to first drill the 2 stakes out (seen inside 2 of the 4 holes of the retainer), not too deep, just enough to get the distortion free. Then you will need an adjustable spanner wrench (or you can build a tool) which will fit in 2 of the retainer holes, and twist it out of there. THE THREADS ARE REVERSED! I broke 2 home-made tools made of steel before I finally went for help. Some people have less trouble, I hope you are one of them…

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