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Hi,

time to service the lower bearings in my headset. Problem is that I can't seem to get the cartridge bearing out - it's stuck fast. Any suggestions, please?

The headset cup is custom titanium and is part of a straight 1 1/8" set. When I assembled it all (around 3.5yrs ago) I'm sure I put grease everywhere and I'm sure I did plenty of test fittings and the cartridges both came out when I wanted. Now I have a problem.

Thanks for any advice!

18 comments

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mike the bike [1082 posts] 7 months ago
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What a coincidence, I've just done my headset bearings, although they popped out cleanly under the awesome power of my telekinetic abilities.

But in the past I have resorted to a length of softish, half-inch diameter wooden dowel, poked into the headtube from the other end and given a few gentle taps.  If you intend to grease and reuse the bearings it's important that the dowel pushes against the outer (larger) race and not the inner (smaller), otherwise the whole bearing may distort.

Best of luck.

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Jules Brown [8 posts] 7 months ago
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Thanks mike. I already tried to push the cartridge out (long screwdriver), but since I could only get at the inner race I didn't use much force. The outer race is quite inaccessible. Picture of top cup attached here (photo of bottom was too dark, but the mechanics are the same).

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CXR94Di2 [2120 posts] 7 months ago
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Wd40 to soak into mating surface. Use gentle heat to expand headset. Tap away at inner race, use something metal. I have a solid long bar for knocking out bearings. This will likely damage the bearing. Replace with new and regrease well upon installation.

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JonD [496 posts] 7 months ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

Wd40 to soak into mating surface. Use gentle heat to expand headset. Tap away at inner race, use something metal. I have a solid long bar for knocking out bearings. This will likely damage the bearing. Replace with new and regrease well upon installation.

 

Err..by my reckoning, the thermal coeff of expansion is higher for steel than Ti - you need to cool the headset to get the steel race to shrink more than the Ti cup:

https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/linear-expansion-coefficients-d_95.html

 

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SteveAustin [137 posts] 7 months ago
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Buy a headset removal tool. You might be able to knock the bearing out in situ, but you might have to remove the cup to knock the bearing out

 

Burls ti frame, ti headset, and you're using a screwdriver to drive it out?!

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rnick [145 posts] 7 months ago
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Take a walk to your LBS. Mumble an apology for having had a go and ask for their help. We've all done this when faced with stuck headsets, BB and pedals. It's far cheaper than replacing a broken frame and less embarrassing than asking said shop to remove the home made tool wedged inside your headtube.

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Jules Brown [8 posts] 7 months ago
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Ok, thanks all. I have a plan which uses a bit of all of the above:

1) order new cartridges. ()Done.

2) get cup remover tool.

3) Remove cup, apply WD40,  and put in freezer overnight.

4) gently try to push the cartridge out. (No, I am not using a screwdriver for this).

5) Go to the LBS to get it done.

I'll keep you posted on my progress...

Any other ideas?

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maviczap [198 posts] 7 months ago
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JonD wrote:
CXR94Di2 wrote:

Wd40 to soak into mating surface. Use gentle heat to expand headset. Tap away at inner race, use something metal. I have a solid long bar for knocking out bearings. This will likely damage the bearing. Replace with new and regrease well upon installation.

 

Err..by my reckoning, the thermal coeff of expansion is higher for steel than Ti - you need to cool the headset to get the steel race to shrink more than the Ti cup:

https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/linear-expansion-coefficients-d_95.html

 

If you heat the headtube with a hairdryer, by the time any heat gets to the bearing cup the headtube would have expanded enough to give it a clout and get the bearing cup moving.

If you haven't got a hairdryer, then wrap a rag round the headtube near the cup and soak it in boiling water. 

WD 40 isn't a good penetrating oil, use Plus Gas.

I use a socket extension bar to drift out headtube bearing cups, using the round end on the cup. Good Sharpe tap rotating the bar round so the cup comes out squarely.

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tiddy [8 posts] 7 months ago
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When I had exactly the same problem I used an Engineers Scriber which had a small right-angled pointy end. It took a while but I eventually managed to pry the headset out from the top.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silverline-Tools-MT60-Engineers-Scriber/dp/B011...

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srchar [870 posts] 7 months ago
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WD40 isn't much use as a penetrating oil. Use a 50/50 mix of acetone and ATF instead.

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kevvjj [384 posts] 7 months ago
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If the bearings have been in there 3.5 years then it is probably a good time to replace them. Use your screwdriver method - you will damage the bearing but you are replacing it anyway.

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StraelGuy [1444 posts] 7 months ago
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srchar wrote:

WD40 isn't much use as a penetrating oil. Use a 50/50 mix of acetone and ATF instead.

Great advice, that's a mechanic's secret that really works.

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SteveAustin [137 posts] 7 months ago
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by the time you bought some acetone/atf you are getting into the realms of being better off paying a bikeshop, but its not really likely a steel bearing race is "seized" in a titanium cup, its just in there right tight. Using a bearing puller or a headset removal tool will get it out easy.

fwiw wd40 has no place anywhere near a bike, apart from removing stickers, its good for that

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [604 posts] 7 months ago
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Piece of stiff metal pipe slightly smaller than the headtube but also longer.  Cut two slots in one end, pry that end apart slightly.  Push pipe in headtube, listen for the cut ends snapping in behind the stuck race.  Rubber mallet to the other end of the pipe, whack until bearing pops out.

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Jules Brown [8 posts] 7 months ago
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Well, thanks for all the suggestions.

It's a bit of a project for me. Since this is a bit of unchartered territory and I depend on my bike for commuting I've been busy preparing a second bike while waiting for the replacement bearings and headset cup tools. I've acquired some penetrating oil and a few scribes and picks.

I still see that the main challenge will be that the only part of the bearing that is accessible is the inner race, and there's almost nothing on it to grip. Worst case will be a screwdriver to try and pry the bearing out of the cup, or a trip to the shop (hence the need for a good back-up bike).

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Spangly Shiny [200 posts] 7 months ago
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Jules Brown [8 posts] 7 months ago
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Hello again,

 

Job done, at long last!

 

So, I thought I would share a little bit of the experience here in case it helps someone else one day.

 

It all started a few weeks ago when I noticed after yet another ride in the wet some drops of rusty water dribbling down the back of the fork crown race onto the top of the mudguard. It seemed to be coming from the lower headset bearing. The bike has a threadless headset so it was simple enough to loosen the stem clamp bolts and top-cap nut and slide out the forks to inspect the bearing. Once the fork was out of the way it was clear that the cartridge bearing was a mess – it felt like it was full of grit and there was no grease left inside, just water. Awful.

 

However, I couldn’t get the cartridge out of the cup – the only edge that I could grip was the inner race, the outer race was stuck fast. As an interim fix I managed to remove the lower seal, flush the balls with a few squirts of WD40 and re-load with fresh grease which kept the bike going for a few more days, but it was clear that the bearing was past its useful life. The upper cartridge, by the way, felt fine – no need to do anything at all.

 

In preparation for the operation to deal with the bearing I acquired a headset cup remover tool (and, thinking ahead, a headset cup pressing tool). I also ordered new cartridge bearings, and started seeking advice. I still didn’t quite know what I would do.

 

Once all the hardware arrived, I removed the lower cup (including cartridge) and squired it with some better penetrating oil (lots of), and then tried puling and picking at the bearing, but still it would not move. I put the cup in the freezer overnight, but I still couldn’t get it out. By this time, after all the attempts at removal, the inner race had come off so I was left with only the cup and outer race stuck together.

 

Eventually, I decided to try heat and I used a 2kW hot-air gun. With suitable protection I gave the outside of the cup a long treatment of high heat (a real roasting) and finally I managed to get a screwdriver blade into an edge at the top of the lower bearing and slowly and carefully prise it out. Success, at last!

 

However, before re-assembling the empty cup back into the head tube I had to remove the upper bearing from the upper cup (otherwise my pressing tool would have been resting on the bearing itself – not good). So I went through the same procedure at the upper bearing too (remove cup, remove inner race, prise out the outer race). No heat was needed in this upper cup case, and it was clear that the lower cup was slightly interfering with the bearing. I noticed in both upper and lower bearings that there was no corrosion inside the cups.

 

The re-assembling of all the bits took quite a while, but was otherwise straightforward. I had never used a pressing tool before, but it all worked very well.

 

Next time it comes to the headset service I will be a lot better prepared.

 

Thanks to everyone who commented and gave advice.

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mike the bike [1082 posts] 7 months ago
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Glad it went well in the end JB.  Next time you will be tooled up and full of enthusiasm for the job.