Wheel bearings - tell tale signs

by mooleur   April 1, 2014  

So I've been on my current powertap wheels (stans alpha ztr 340's) for just over a year now, they've done about 10-12k miles. I've read a few times that the powertap hubs (especially the older ones) do need a good service quite regularly. However, they seem healthy enough, there's no rocking and no untoward sounds but I'm imagining at some point this season they're gonna want a service.

What I'd like to know is what usual tell tale signs are there for when your hub bearings want sorting? Or any best practices to follow?

Cheers Smile

14 user comments

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Best practice is to service them as often as you can. Simple as that.

There are a huge number of variables that can influence the timing at which you MUST service a hub such as bearing type, mileage, weather, quality of hub seal, quality of grease used last time etcetera etcetera.

For either cup and cone or cartridge bearings get the wheel spinning and have a close up listen any squeaking, grinding or rumbling suggests a service is due.

For cup and cone bearings, do the listen test and then, regardless of what you hear, open them up and have quick look at the grease around the bearings... If there were no noises and the grease is clean and there in sufficient quantity, top it up an reseal. If there is even a hint of contamination, its time for a full service.

Finally - Always, always make sure the cones are properly readjusted before you ride.

Cartridge bearing symptoms are usually play, noise or complete failure. Pop out and replace is the order of the day. Very occasionally, some "sealed" bearings benefit from a greasing, but this is generally not a simple task.

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

Jack Osbourne snr's picture

posted by Jack Osbourne snr [357 posts]
1st April 2014 - 12:47

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Awesome post as always! Thank you dude, appreciate that. Smile

Sounds like I'll have to make a bit of time and have a look at them then. Sounds like they're probs due for some TLC at the very least now.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
1st April 2014 - 13:03

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My pleasure.

Once you've done it a couple of times, you should be able to strip and service a hub in minutes...or do what I do and enter a kind of zen like state where time is inconsequential. Big Grin

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

Jack Osbourne snr's picture

posted by Jack Osbourne snr [357 posts]
1st April 2014 - 14:06

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Ahhh living the dream!

I'd imagine there'll be a lot of swearing in my case... I'm good at tantrums! Big Grin

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
1st April 2014 - 14:25

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Sealed bearings are easily regreased, I do mine frequently on my FS pivots. You just need to be careful when picking the seals out. Bearings will feel gritty when they start to wear or run low on grease. Don't over pack with grease though or you run the risk of blowing the seals. When you replace them, go for quality. Cheaper bearings are normally a lower grade.

posted by Shep73 [162 posts]
2nd April 2014 - 8:39

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Shep73 wrote:
Sealed bearings are easily regreased, I do mine frequently on my FS pivots. You just need to be careful when picking the seals out. Bearings will feel gritty when they start to wear or run low on grease. Don't over pack with grease though or you run the risk of blowing the seals. When you replace them, go for quality. Cheaper bearings are normally a lower grade.

I don't entirely agree.

I'd put regreasing cartridge bearings in the "confident and experienced home mechanic" category, as there is significant scope to make an erse of it and trash the bearings... some of which can be a bitch to replace without the appropriate tools or experience.

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

Jack Osbourne snr's picture

posted by Jack Osbourne snr [357 posts]
2nd April 2014 - 16:53

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Most bearings can be done without removing, I never bother removing any of mine when I re-grease them. Use a sharp peeling knife to pick the seal out rather than a pick as it is flat so will do less damage to the seal. Even if you do deform the seal it will easily push back into shape when refitting.

Admittedly I studied bearings and have done engineering industry standard courses for work but it's not as hard as some like to make out. The next time I do it, I can always make a know how post with photo's if people want to see how I do it.

posted by Shep73 [162 posts]
2nd April 2014 - 18:41

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Shep73 wrote:

The next time I do it, I can always make a know how post with photo's if people want to see how I do it.

Brilliant. Please do. Smile

Got milk? Doesn't fit in your bottle cage? Get a Carton Cage.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [377 posts]
2nd April 2014 - 19:07

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A wee how to wouldn't go amiss that'd be extremely handy. Smile

Thanks for your comments all. Luckily I have girl fingers and an engineers brain, hopefully I don't make too much of an expensive balls (ho ho) up of it!

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
3rd April 2014 - 8:11

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[[[[[ If your front wheel suddenly stops dead while on a ride, make sure it happens in Fulham, SW London. Mine abruptly seized, stopped going round, refused to go another inch---within just ten feet of travel. Something, I thought cunningly, has gone wrong! (Well, it was a long time ago...). Brake caliper seizing? Nope. Loose Q/R? Nope. Campag Record on Fiamme (remember them?) just locked solid, but fortunately I happened to be a short walk away from a bike casualty premises in a Fulham back-street.
"Give us your wheel---it's dried out---go and have a cuppa and come back in 10", says the mechanic. Ten mins later I'm back..."How much do I owe you?" "Not a bean, mate---have a good ride" And since then, I've paid a bit more attention to me little balls, cups, and cones, 'natch.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [319 posts]
6th April 2014 - 18:41

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As a very very quick pre - flight check, spin the wheel and hold the fork/seatstay near to the axle - any roughness in the bearing would result in a rumbling vibration.

Then all you've got to do is extricate your fingers from the spokes (or pick up the severed stumps) and dial 999 with your thumbs........

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
6th April 2014 - 19:15

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allez neg wrote:
As a very very quick pre - flight check, spin the wheel and hold the fork/seatstay near to the axle - any roughness in the bearing would result in a rumbling vibration.

Then all you've got to do is extricate your fingers from the spokes (or pick up the severed stumps) and dial 999 with your thumbs........

Hahaha Tongue

They feel/seem/appear smooth enough, though I bet they're lying. Pesky tyke bearings.

Methinks it'll be best for me to just do a good service on 'em regardless from what everyone's saying. 10k is a long way without a regrease I guess.

Thanks all for your comments Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
7th April 2014 - 9:48

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Anyone got advice on a supplier for replacement balls?

posted by Maggers [57 posts]
27th August 2014 - 11:28

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I do not agree with servicing cup and cone bearings as often as possible. Decent quality Shimano cup and cone hubs such as XT/105 run much better if you leave them as they left the factory, the factory set up is rather hard to get right again once you have had it in bits and constant disassembley and assembly stretches the labyrinth seals and reduces water resistance. Cartridge bearing hubs do indeed warrant replacement of the bearings on a regular basis as they simply are very cheap and easy to swap out, they will not however within reason damage a hub if you let them go slightly rough or loose simply as it's a consumable component that drops in, it's not a part of the actual hub body itself like a normal bearing race would be

In short - if it works best to leave it alone

posted by MKultra [342 posts]
27th August 2014 - 15:13

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