Hi MBA, A couple of years ago I upgraded to a Giant Trance X.0, which comes with a Fox 32 CTD fork. In the last month or so it developed a squeak on reasonable impacts that sounded like air releasing. Noticing that there was a build-up starting to appear on the stanchions, I took it to my local bike shop. They sent it off to Sola Sport, the local Fox importer, for a service and I figured it was probably a blown seal.
When I heard back from the service department, I was told it would cost $740 to repair—it needed new seals, bushes, stanchions, the lot! They offered me a deal on a 2015 Fox fork for only $50 more. While this was very generous, I found it staggering that I needed to spend this sort of money after just two years.
It concerns me that a $1,200 fork only lasts two years. Have you come across this type of thing before?
In some cases a suspension fork will perform well for a couple of years without being touched but much will depend on the trail and environmental conditions that it’s put through. All it takes is a particularly muddy or dusty ride for some contaminants to get past the seals, and once this occurs, bushing and seal wear is accelerated.
Additionally, it’s pretty normal for a small amount of bath oil to seep past the main seals with general use. This oil loss will be accelerated if there’s any dirt stuck under the main wiper. The ‘bath oil’ serves to lubricate the main bushings and seals. If the oil levels go by unchecked for a long time, you may wind up with the fork running dry—a very bad thing.
Because of these potential issues (issues that will apply to virtually suspension fork), Fox and other manufacturers offer a recommended service schedule. With an older model Fox fork like yours, they recommend you clean the stanchions after every ride, change the bath oil after 30 hours of riding and have the fork fully serviced annually or after 100 hours on the trail. Changes made to more recent Fox models have increased the intervals between servicing but you’ll still need to maintain the fork periodically. These service schedules may be overkill for some riders but it ensures that any potential issues are picked up before damage occurs.
Not everyone services their suspension as they should and in many cases they get by just fine. In your case I can only speculate, but if you got some contamination under the main seal at some point, you may have been slowly losing the bath oil over a period of months. Once the 10-15mm of oil was gone, your seals and bushings would have run dry—that may well have been the squeaking noise that you were hearing. From there the bushings would have worn rapidly and then the stanchions would have been next with the hard anodised coating wearing off.
I know this probably isn’t the answer that you wanted to hear but suspension forks do need some love. You may get away without servicing a fork for a couple of years but if something isn’t quite right, you will pay the price.
It is also worth noting that if you take your Giant to a store and just say ‘please service my bike’, they probably won’t touch the suspension unless there’s something glaringly wrong. You’ll need to ask specifically for a suspension fork (or rear shock) service.
As far as preventative maintenance goes, it’s easy to wipe the legs over after every ride—anyone can do that. Changing the bath oil isn’t out of the question for a DIY home mechanic. While every fork is slightly different, you can get an idea of what’s involved by reading our feature on page 90. Working on a sealed damper cartridge gets more involved but that’s only needed occasionally.
Sorry to hear of your woes in any case.