Should your bike wheels feel rough when you spin them around, this indicates that it’s time to service your hubs. Usually, the problems will be caused by wear in your bearings or by the ingress of water, dirt and grime. Wheel bearings also wear out over time which will also introduce play to the hub making the wheel rock side to side on its axle.
There are two types of bearings commonly seen in hubs, sealed (cartridge) bearings and non-sealed (cup and cone or loose) bearings. Regular servicing can extend their life, although they may eventually wear out and you’ll require a replacement.
HOW TO SERVICE YOUR BIKE’S HUBS
CUP AND CONE HUBS
You will need
- Cone spanners – they will usually need to be 15 and 17 mm
- A magnetic hex screwdriver or pick
- A chain whip and chain removal tool
- Adjustable spanner
- Paper cloth or clean rags
We are using a rear wheel, but the procedure is also the same for the front, for the rear, first remove the cassette from the freehub body.
Next, undo the lock nut on the non-drive side, do this by using a cone spanner to hold the cone in place and another to undo the nut. Remove the locking nut and spacer with your hand.
It’s a good idea to make note of the order in which you’re locking the nut, any spacers can be removed and easily reassembled later on.
Hold the lock nut on the drive side with a spanner the undo the non-drive side cone with the other hand and wind it off, you should be able to remove the axle from the hub.
Next, remove the bearings from the race, a magnetic screwdriver is needed to live the bearings out.
Next, clean the bearings, use a degreaser and some paper cloth, make sure that you fully clean away all of the old greases before proceeding.
By having a closer look at the bearings, the cups (pressed into the hub) and the cones, if there’s any sign of wear, they’ll need replacing.
Some cups and clone hubs are non-replaceable, if they’re worn out, you’ll need to rebuild a new hub into your wheel.
Take grease and apply it to the bearing race in the hub, now you’ll be able to place the bearings into the grease which can help hold them in place, you’ll need a magnetic screwdriver for this.
When all of the bearings are in place, re fix your axle and turn it to make sure they’re all installed properly. Remove the axle and then repeat the process on the other side.
Now return the axle to the freehub side, press it against the bearings and rotate it to check it’s seated correctly. Refit the cone to the non-drive side of the axle and then tighten it until it contacts the bearings, it doesn’t need to be very tight.
You can then spin the axle to make sure it rotates cleanly, give the axle a rub to make sure that it won’t move.
You may also need to adjust the tightness of the cone the stop any moving or dragging, if it’s too tight, the hub will not spin freely and conversely, if it’s too loose there will be movement in the axle. This step will take trial and error, but don’t rush it as a poorly adjusted hub will cause more problems in the future.
Return the other nuts, spacers and seals to the non-drive side of the axle, use the above instructions to ensure it’s removed in order.
When holding the cone in place, use the other spanner to tighten it against the locking nut, it’s important to check the axle will still rotate freely at this point, it’s easy to tighten the cone at this point.
CARTRIDGE BEARING HUBS
- Multi size cone spanners – 13, 14, 15 and 16 mm
- Open-ended 15mm spanner
- 5mm Allen keys
- Solid rear axle
- Nylon mallet
- Small screwdriver
- Bearing grease
- Special tools or alloy tubes to press the bearings
The hub’s axle will have at least one end with a removable dropout guide or locknut which will need to be removed. This is usually done by inserting a 5mm Allen key at both ends and turning it anti-clockwise. You may need to put some muscle into it so use a cheater bar or a long Allen key for this.
Keep track of washer and their positions between the spacers and axle, silver spacers double as both dust caps and decorative elements in most hubs. It may take strength to pry off as they’re held by rubber O-rings and a groove on the axle.
Some hubs, have a threaded cap and allow for bearing adjustment, so unscrew these first.
In order to remove the bearings, you’ll need to support the hub in a way that won’t damage it, you could use a Delrin tube.
You may need to strike a few blows to get the bearings out, a resin mallet or hardwood block with a lump hammer should work.
The next part involves removing the bearing which is left behind, turn the wheel over and position the hub with the bearing facing down, make sure that the hub is sufficiently supported by the flange and there’s room for the bearing to come out.
Next, position the axle and knock the bearing out with sharp blows, make sure that you hit it pretty hard if it’s a tight fit.
Clean the hub with a suitable degreaser, use the hub flanges around the spoke anchor points, inspect the flanges of the hubs around the spoke holes for cracks or corrosion. Next, you’ll need a new hub or wheel should cracks be spotted.
Spread a coating of grease on the outside and inside of the new bearings, on the inside of the shell and on the axle, if the grease is too thick between the bearing and the hub, it could prevent it from seating completely.
New bearings should be used on the outer race of the bearing as the striking inner race is likely to cause damage to the small ball bearings inside the cartridge.
Use old bearings or a socket of the same diameter to put the new bearing in. keep in mind that the bearing races are made of hardened steel and are potentially brittle. Make sure you wear protective eyewear so that the contact between the drift edge and the outer race edge is maximised by being perfectly aligned. You will know the bearing is seated when it blows firm up.
Next refit the axle then position the second bearing and drive it in with a few blows.
Make sure that the bearing doesn’t go in askew as attempting to force it in if it’s badly out of line will only mean it gets stuck and make it harder to install. It’s also likely that creating ridges can prevent it from seating correctly.
Thread the dust caps back on with oil then feel the smoothness.