Fox Vanilla R Service- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Fox Vanilla R Service

    I bought an '07 Specialized SX Trail that has a 160mm F36 Vanilla R (2007 I believe) on it. Well, I was told it was serviced just before I got it, which I immediately assumed was a lie ... I either turned out to be right or whoever serviced the fork lied to the kid, whatever.

    Now, firstly, the fork is leaking oil from the top seals, a pretty considerable amount. Before I destroy the fork, I want to replace these; is this reasonable to do myself? I am pretty mechanically apt and have a decent repertoire of tools. I can follow instructions, if it's simply a matter of patience and attention to detail, I will likely be fine.

    Second, I am using this bike as an "all around" bike, leaning towards tough since I hate replacing parts. I did some DH with it (mostly blues and a couple blacks @ Whistler) and found that the fork seems not to be able to absorb small bumps at all (compared to the rear which was amazing, DHX 5.0); basically brake chatter marks in the trail vibrate my hands badly to the point of sore hands. Should it be this bad? I thought spring forks were supposed to rock at this. I am wondering if they changed the springs in the fork but I have no idea how to know what's in there. I have no other bike to compare my bike to, so I am not sure if the bumps are just insane and there exists no fork that can take this. In case it matters, the front end is Mavic Deemax Rims, Spec. Chunder tyres, 180-ish mm Juicy 7s, and Holzfeller stem/handlebars with some generic grips (the kind that click to reduce wrist strain or something).

    Essentially, I am looking for advice and someone to tell me "Ya, man, you can do this ... go here and here and here and make sure to do this and you'll be rocking in no time".

    If it matters, when sitting on the bike, the fork basically doesn't sag at all (the rear sags around 40%) but I can make the fork use about 60% of it's travel by forcing down on the handlebars standing over the bike. The guy I bought the bike from said he used it as a DJ bike. Whatever he did with it, all the parts are mint minus the rims and the fork.

  2. #2
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    With regard to seals and their installation... check out the Fox 36 seals from Enduro Fork Seals. They have a link to some instructions on the same page. It's for a TALAS, not a Vanilla, but they should be useful nonetheless because the Vanilla will be easier to work on. Read through the instructions before you order because you may find that they have some other parts, lubes, etc. that you need when working on the fork. In particular, I recommend getting some Finish Line Stanchion Lube. New seals from Enduro Fork Seals fit pretty snug and the Stanchion Lube really helps to reduce stiction.

    With regard to the fork being harsh, it sounds like you have way, way too stiff a spring in there. You need to swap it out for a softer spring so that you're getting at least 25% sag. I'm guessing that for that bike, you'll want 33% or more. There should be a top cap on the left hand size that you can remove to get at the spring. Springs are usually color coded. Find out which one you have and order one that's softer.

  3. #3
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    I am sorta thinking the guy might have requested for it to be stiffer and this is what happened; I almost think it was a longer spring than needed ... we will see. I am going to contact the guy and see what he says. Maybe he will have the stock spring in his bedroom.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ettore
    I am sorta thinking the guy might have requested for it to be stiffer and this is what happened; I almost think it was a longer spring than needed ... we will see. I am going to contact the guy and see what he says. Maybe he will have the stock spring in his bedroom.
    It's pretty easy to remove the spring top cap (after backing off the preload and with a 32mm socket) take out the spring and look about midway down the spring for a paint color code. The fork manual (you can download from the Fox website I think) has a spring rate/rider weight list you can refer to and see what weight it's for, and if you need to order a new one, in case the previous owner doesn't have the right one for you. It's worth checking with your LBSs too, since aftermarket Van36 forks come with 3 springs, and I think many shops keep the spare springs when they install a fork, and will sometimes sell them cheap.

    Also, many Fox 36 forks came with less than spec oil quantities in the lowers (sometimes called semi-bath oil, since it's not shared with the damper), so there's a chance yours are either almost dry or maybe the oil is very dirty, making them sticky. After I did an oil drain/refill, my Van36 was a fair bit smoother than before.

    Changing seals would not be too bad if you are a DIY type, they even have slots to pry them up. It would be worth taking a look at the Fox service manual, and Enduro's seal replacement instructions, to see what's involved.

  5. #5
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    Just did mine.

    I just changed my seals on my 36 Van Rc2 a few days ago... I also went with the Enduro fork seals (stock seals seem to cr*p out after a few months).

    Easy to do. You can either use the instructions on their website, or find the article that MBaction did on it a few months ago (I'll try to scan it later).

    Only special tool I needed was a PVC pipe coupler from the local harware store to help push the new seals down (cost of about 90 cents). I already had a syringe to measure the oil volume.

    Less than an hour and my fork feels plus no leaking seals.


    Check the spring... as another poster stated, they are color coded for stiffness.

  6. #6
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    I am going to take my fork apart today and see what's up with the thing. I emailed the guy that owned the bike and he said he hadn't changed the spring, though he's not the original owner. He did say some shop overhauled the fork before the winter, so they lied to him, cleaned the fork, and didn't replace the seals like he asked them to do . I will be taking the fork apart to it's bits and pieces to ensure they didn't do something bad (I have no faith in most bike shop employees) and to see what spring I have in there.

    Thanks for the input, I will update when I figure out WTH is going on.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ettore
    I emailed the guy that owned the bike and he said he hadn't changed the spring, though he's not the original owner. He did say some shop overhauled the fork before the winter, so they lied to him, cleaned the fork, and didn't replace the seals like he asked them to do .
    There is another possibility...

    They may have replaced the seals (or not), but when they reassembled the fork, they could have put too much oil in. This will create a (stiffer) air spring that can easily prevent you from achieving full travel. When you do hit a largish bump some of the excess oil may be forced past the seals.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinB
    There is another possibility...

    They may have replaced the seals (or not), but when they reassembled the fork, they could have put too much oil in. This will create a (stiffer) air spring that can easily prevent you from achieving full travel. When you do hit a largish bump some of the excess oil may be forced past the seals.
    Interesting thought, I like that.

    Now, as for the spring, I took it out (on the LH side of the fork, the side with the preload knob) and the springs looks to be the right length and it is black in colour, with a black shrinkwrapped "sleeve" around it and there are a few coils that are painted blue (like someone ran a blue paintbrush down them). So, I either have a black or blue spring ... I am guessing it's considered a blue which makes it right for my rider weight (150-180lbs, I am around 165-170lbs). Not sure if it's just my riding position, I have a large SX Trail with a 40mm stem and I am 6'0" (I am between a medium and lage by most people's accounts), but it sure seems way too stiff ... sounds to me like something is amiss, I hope nothing is busted.

    I am going to the village to see what seals I can get a hold of; the enduro ones look nice ($27) but shipping is $19 to Canada (brutal) so I am going to see if any of the shops have something available (Enduro or stock Fox ones). Thanks for the input guys, I just want a fork that works ... damned used parts.

  9. #9
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    According to the Fox manual, it sounds like you have the correct spring for your weight. On the other hand, you're getting virtually no sag, so something is definitely amiss. I have an older (2005) 32mm Vanilla RLC. I'm using the stock blue spring in the fork, but for my weight, according to the manual, I ought to be using the next spring up, which I think is green. I tried the green spring for a couple of rides, but it wasn't for me. I wasn't getting enough sag and the ride felt harsh. The blue spring is perfect. So, you have to take the spring rate recommendations with a grain of salt.

    Do a search of this forum. I recall discussions about recent vintage Vanillas (not sure of stanchion size though) being oversprung. As I recall, there were quite a few folks who had to go down one or even two springs rates from what was recommended by the manual. Lighter riders were finding Fox didn't make a spring soft enough for their weight!

    Finally, you can find out if there's something wrong with the rest of your fork by taking the spring out of the picture. Take the spring out of the fork and replace the top cap. You want it on tight enough so that air won't leak out. With the spring out of the way, attempt to compress the fork to the limit of its travel. It may take some effort to do this, but it shouldn't take a lot. If it does take a lot of effort, or you're unable to realize full travel, that means there's a problem elsewhere. It could be that too much semi-bath oil was placed in the fork, or it could be that something is wrong with the damper. (When you're done with this test, put the spring back in. You obviously don't want to ride it this way...)

  10. #10
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    Mine also had the blue spring, and my riding weight is ~160lb, and the fork was a bit harsh, but nowhere near as bad as you are describing, so if you're 180lb, likely that spring should be ok for you, and something else is wrong.

    I agree with KevinB - try compressing the fork with the spring out (I would just tighten the top cap hand-tight so no oil sprays out). That will tell you right away if something else is making the fork harsh. Then it should not be too difficult to follow the service manual and take the fork apart (aside from the sealed damper) and see if something's amiss.

    Like was said - it's very possible that the semi-bath oil is either too low or too high.

  11. #11
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    I wonder

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Fox springs (this pertained to the shock springs but I don't see why it wouldn't include fork springs also) have a tolerance +/- up to 15% of the listed spring rate. I guess it makes sense that a spring that is listed for your body weight may not be optimal. If you are at one end or the other of the range and the spring is over or under sprung I can see where this could get tricky. Don't know that this will solve your problem but it seemed to be relevant food for thought. Good luck.
    holy...

  12. #12
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    When you're checking sag, are you doing it just sitting on your seat, or standing up on the pedals?

    Where is your rebound set to? Having it too high will have the fork pack down over successive hits at speed, causing the fork to be harsh.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    When you're checking sag, are you doing it just sitting on your seat, or standing up on the pedals?

    Where is your rebound set to? Having it too high will have the fork pack down over successive hits at speed, causing the fork to be harsh.
    I had adjusted my rebound all the way in both directions, didn't actually make much of a difference performance wise actually ... found that odd coincidentally, my F100 RLC makes a HUGE difference when you screw with the rebound knob. I know about the "packing down", my rear was doing it when I was playing with it, and I understand it's concept pretty well.

    When I measure sag, I am sitting down. I can do it standing on the pedals if that's more right. I have to re-check, but I bet I get less than 10% sag when standing ... will report back.

  14. #14
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    Just for the record, you should check your sag standing up according to Fox.

  15. #15
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    Ok, because I suck, I went to the local bike shop and got some Fox wipers for like $20 ... I wanted the Enduro ones, but it was like $30 for the wipers and another $20 for shipping .... and, with my luck, i'd get owned by the border for duties/taxes as well.

    Ok, so that part I can live with ... however, I went to the LBS not knowing what I needed for oil so I just asked them. What I came home with was 8 oz. of Fox Fluid and 1L of 15wt. fork oil. Now, I was pretty confident that Fox recommended 7wt., but I trusted the shop. Did I get what I needed ? WTF is Fox Fluid for? I can return the stuff if I don't need it, but it looks like 7wt. doesn't exist (and having to buy a 5wt. and 10wt. and mixing them seems like a pissload of oil that I don't need at a cost that seems silly).

    Actually, reading the service page, it seems like I 'need' 10wt. for the damper and 7 wt. for the rest of the fork ... no mention of Float Fluid ... jackasses.

  16. #16
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    I've always used 7 wt oil (the Fox branded stuff) for my 2005 Vanilla. But you have a newer fork with larger stanchions and the oil that you need may well be different. I'd go by what the service manual says.

    As I recall, the Fox Fluid is some really heavy weight stuff used for lubing O-rings, foam rings, seals inside your rear shock, etc.

  17. #17
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    The Van 36 R requires 10w for the damper, and 7w for the oil bath on both sides.

    The Float Fluid is using in their air sprung forks to seal the air piston.

  18. #18
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    Talk about resurrecting my own old thread. I figured i'd bring it back simply to thank everyone who helped out. So, my problem was in 2009 and I rode the bike like that, stupidly, and left it for the winter. This spring, I rebuilt the fork and, lo and behold, the thing had more water in it than oil. Rebuilt, cleaned, and after a few days in Whistler, it's working REALLY well. It's like a new fork (really). Full travel, very consistent performance ... too bad my lack of service last year did a number on my anodize ... that was unfortunate.

    I can't even explain how much better the fork is, nor how easy rebuilding it really was. Thanks all.

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