Help with Freewheel Maintenance



airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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Hi everyone, I'm quite a newb when it comes to bicycle maintenance, and today I wanted to clean my cogs, and oil the freewheel. It now looks spick and span, but the problem is since I oiled it, it sounds like there's sand or grit within the freewheel housing. I tried flushing it out with some WD-40, but it didn't really help. What's the best way to get grit out of there, and what kind of lubricant should I use after I clean it?

(I only have basic tools, nothing like a chainwhip or vice, so if the solution involves removing the freewheel, it may be a tad too tough for me)
I have an MTB, a Louis Garneau Wings in specific.

Thanks in advance!
 

sogood

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Aug 24, 2006
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For a start, don't use WD40 on the bike. It will destroy any good lubricant that's on there.
 

Insaneclimber

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Aug 21, 2006
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airosen said:
Hi everyone, I'm quite a newb when it comes to bicycle maintenance, and today I wanted to clean my cogs, and oil the freewheel. It now looks spick and span, but the problem is since I oiled it, it sounds like there's sand or grit within the freewheel housing. I tried flushing it out with some WD-40, but it didn't really help. What's the best way to get grit out of there, and what kind of lubricant should I use after I clean it?

(I only have basic tools, nothing like a chainwhip or vice, so if the solution involves removing the freewheel, it may be a tad too tough for me)
I have an MTB, a Louis Garneau Wings in specific.

Thanks in advance!
ouch, now that youve cleaned it out with wd40 you need to pull the free hub down and rebuild it. This is probably the hardest bike mainentance job there is, as it involves carefully balancing 40 small ballbearings around the race while assembling. So unless you have the motor skill of a sergon i suggest you buy a new free hub and replace it, which will require a chain whip and Cassette removal tool and some cone spanners, so maby you should just take it to the shop.
 

Don Shipp

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May 20, 2005
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So is it a freewheel block that screws on the hub, or a freehub with the cogs on a cassette?

Anyway, look here:

http://sheldonbrown.com/freewheels.html

Note that he gives this advice:

Note: I advise against doing this, because it is generally not worth the trouble. The freewheel is the least important bearing on a bicycle, since it only turns when it is not carrying any load.
 

airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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sogood said:
For a start, don't use WD40 on the bike. It will destroy any good lubricant that's on there.
I took out from the library "Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair", and it recommended flushing the freewheel with WD-40, then lubing it. I was a bit reluctant to use it, but i thought if the book recommends it, it should be ok. Maybe I should just leave it now, even if there's some grit, it's not worth the trouble of buying all that equipment to get a new freewheel. But if i feel noticeable resistance next time i backpedal, maybe i should consider a new one.
 

Don Shipp

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May 20, 2005
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airosen said:
I took out from the library "Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair", and it recommended flushing the freewheel with WD-40, then lubing it. I was a bit reluctant to use it, but i thought if the book recommends it, it should be ok. Maybe I should just leave it now, even if there's some grit, it's not worth the trouble of buying all that equipment to get a new freewheel. But if i feel noticeable resistance next time i backpedal, maybe i should consider a new one.
It really is most unlikely that you've got sand or grit inside the freewheel, whatever it sounds like.
If it were mine, I'd get some high quality oil and squirt it inside the freewheel/freehub body, both to lubricate it and to protect it from corrosion now that you've removed whatever grease was in there already.
 

airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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Don Shipp said:
It really is most unlikely that you've got sand or grit inside the freewheel, whatever it sounds like.
If it were mine, I'd get some high quality oil and squirt it inside the freewheel/freehub body, both to lubricate it and to protect it from corrosion now that you've removed whatever grease was in there already.
Yep, i got some bike lube from Mountain Equipment Co-op (www.mec.ca -great store), and I'm gonna put that in, and stay away from the WD-40 for now, or at least be a lot more conservative with it. I don't want to mess it up more by taking off the freewheel, a job that I am probably not capable of. But what's the worst that can happen if there's grit in there? I know it will wear faster, but are there any safety concerns?
 

Sikhandar

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Jul 5, 2007
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There are no problems in using WD-40 on everything BUT in any case you'll have to put grease again on the pieces (chain, bottom bracket...). The WD-40 is ok to remove old grease (along with simple gasoil), but it's not a good lubricant; you'll need some paraffinic oil (even vaselline oil) to restabilish a good situation. For example, if you clean the inside of your freewheel (by removing it along with the underlying bracket) with WD-40 or other light oil, then you'll have to put back some grease on it before resembling... You'll have done a great job and it'll be very very clean!
 

sogood

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Aug 24, 2006
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Why use WD40 to clean? If you want to clean the old grease out, then use citrus degreaser to clean it properly. If you want to lube, then use a proper lube. WD40 will hang around and continue to break down any good lube you put on. It makes no sense to use WD40 on the bike.

The only time WD40 can get close to a bike is when you have seized and rusted component. But heaven forbid, you should never have that if you've taken care of your bike.
 

airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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sogood said:
Why use WD40 to clean? If you want to clean the old grease out, then use citrus degreaser to clean it properly. If you want to lube, then use a proper lube. WD40 will hang around and continue to break down any good lube you put on. It makes no sense to use WD40 on the bike.

The only time WD40 can get close to a bike is when you have seized and rusted component. But heaven forbid, you should never have that if you've taken care of your bike.
Well I only used it from the advice of a bicycle repair book, so i guess people have different opinions. Is it safe to use this cleaner on it? It's an organic degreaser and works great on my chain (and my dirty hands :D) But is it ok if some of this degreaser (and unfortunately some of the WD-40) gets into my hub? Can I use my dry chain lube in my hub and freewheel?
 

bobbyOCR

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Aug 31, 2005
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I didn't bother reading all of the posts, just skimmed, but the general gist is right.

WD40 is BAD. That is why it sounds gritty. WD40 disperses and breaks down all lubricating substance, yet still retains the grit. So it is bone dry and gritty in there. You now need to pull it all apart, give it a thorough rub with a cloth, getting as much WD40 off as you can, then use a lubricant, degreaser, lubricant as the first application of lubricant will remove some of the WD40.

Now, to service your freehub, GET THE TOOLS. That is number 1 rule in maintaining a bike. Get the tools to pull the parts you need to maintain apart, you will use them again. Use a book like Zinn and the art of Mountain Bike Maintenance (or road, they are great). If you can't get the tools, go to a bike shop and pay them to do it.

OK, depending on what freehub you have, you should be able to pull it off with a combination of allen keys and cone wrenches. If you have a full set of allen keys (1-6,8,10,12) your life will be easier. Most rear hubs use 15 & 17mm cone nuts. So, lay out a clean cloth, and take it apart over that, to catch anything (helps if its white, though it won't stay white). If its a sealed unit (sealed bearing hubs) these are quite self explanatory. An allen key in one end of the axle, a cone rench at the freehub side, normally. DT us a press on O ring end cap, which is easier. After you have the freehub side endcap off, you can remove the freehub (it'll slide off). Clean the drive ring (serrated ring inside the hub) with a cloth, and the freehub pawls (tooth things that spring back when you press them in). then use some lube like Finish Line cross country (grease can stick the pawls down) or go lighter oil dpepnding on how uch you want to maintain it and how loud you want it to sound. re assemble in reverse to dissassembly.

Now, Shimano use a 12mm hex key to remove their freehub. I have more limited experience here, so I won't try and tell you what to do.

And if its a loose ball hub, when you put them in, give them a good coating of grease, they'll like you more for it. read up on how to adjust cones.
 

airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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Uh oh, I think this is getting way past my level. I like to challenge myself, but this seems a bit too tough for me. How much do you think it would cost for my LBS to do that all for me?
Darn I wish somebody could show me how to do this stuff hands-on, your help is great, but text only goes so far.
Thanks, bobbyOCR, and everyone else who helped me with this, I really appreciate it.
 

gclark8

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Apr 13, 2004
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airosen said:
Hi everyone, I'm quite a newb when it comes to bicycle maintenance, and today I wanted to clean my cogs, and oil the freewheel. It now looks spick and span, but the problem is since I oiled it, it sounds like there's sand or grit within the freewheel housing. I tried flushing it out with some WD-40, but it didn't really help. What's the best way to get grit out of there, and what kind of lubricant should I use after I clean it?

(I only have basic tools, nothing like a chainwhip or vice, so if the solution involves removing the freewheel, it may be a tad too tough for me)
I have an MTB, a Louis Garneau Wings in specific.

Thanks in advance!
It seems that some of the respondents are confusing freewheel with freehub.

If it is a freewheel, a spin on, just throw it away, they are less than $20 for a new one. ;)
 

Insaneclimber

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Aug 21, 2006
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gclark8 said:
It seems that some of the respondents are confusing freewheel with freehub.

If it is a freewheel, a spin on, just throw it away, they are less than $20 for a new one. ;)
Yes i agree, i recon free hubs and trust me a noob would never get it striped down to the pawls, and an expert will have problems reassembling it. just toss it out like all the sane people do.
 

Don Shipp

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May 20, 2005
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I used to take my old freewheels apart to clean and regrease them but I wouldn't try it with a freehub. For one thing they're better sealed and shouldn't ever need it.

If you don't have the tools or inclination then there's really no point. If there's really grit in there then it'll wear faster but it's not going to fail catastrophically or prevent the bike from working properly. That comment from Sheldon Brown is bang on.

Just get some proper lube in there (NOT wax based!!) and it should at least sound a lot smoother.
 

p38lightning

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Apr 19, 2004
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30wt oil would be good to lube a freewheel. Just add some once in a while. I've also used 90wt gear oil with sucess, and this might overcome any thinning from residual WD40.
 

airosen

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Jun 27, 2007
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What's the difference between a freewheel and a freehub?

And also, I wiped down all my cogs, and they're really clean now. Do I have to grease them up before I put the chain back on?
 

Don Shipp

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May 20, 2005
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Sheldon Brown for all your cycle maintenance quandaries.

http://sheldonbrown.com/freewheels.html

Grease is for internal bearings only. Lube the chain with good quality oil or purpose made chain lube. (Some chain lubes are wax based, do not let this sort get inside the freewheel/freehub, it'll clog it up. I know this from experience; I wasn't always old and wise.)
 

bobbyOCR

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Aug 31, 2005
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airosen said:
What's the difference between a freewheel and a freehub?

And also, I wiped down all my cogs, and they're really clean now. Do I have to grease them up before I put the chain back on?
Freewheel threads on to the hub. It can be a cluster of anything up to 7 gears.

Freehubs are a part of the hub. They consist of a solid body, sprung pawls (2-6. 3 is the standard) and a drive ring in the hub, or in shimano's case, part of a thread on body, which doesn't come on their Dura Ace hub cause its just better. They are splined and allow the cogs to slide on and off, kept on by a lockring meant to be torqued to a ridiculous 40nm, which no-one I know does.

Freehubs are plain better.