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Old 08-16-06, 10:29 PM   #1
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Brinnelled headset / index steering. Urgh.

So it appears that I emerged from my last double century with a brinnelled headset, or "index steering" as some call it. It's minor, but when steering you can definitely feel that the fork 'wants' to stay in the straight-ahead position. There's a soft sort of click as you pass by the straight-ahead spot while steering left to right.

The impression I got from reading around (damn that disabled search) is that the bearings may have dented a permanent print into the race from prolonged stress while I was riding straight ahead, but then I read that this wasn't necessarily the case. If not, then what? I'd like to avoid a headset replacement as I'm pretty darn cash strapped right now - I'd love to think I could just ask them to grease up the bearings and be on my way.

So if any of you are a semi-familiar with what I'm talking about, I'd love some idea how much it'd cost to take care of it, and where the problem really lies. Thanks for the info.
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Old 08-16-06, 11:05 PM   #2
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The only cure is to replace the headset. The races are dented. But it's not an emergency. Start saving money. Unless you have expensive tastes in headsets, a new one installed is about $50.
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Old 08-17-06, 01:26 AM   #3
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*sigh* Bummer. Well, I guess I don't really have a choice. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening again? Did I need more grease on the bearings or might I have done something wrong?

I know what the problem is, I just don't know what I did to cause it in the first place.
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Old 08-17-06, 03:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by the beef
*sigh* Bummer. Well, I guess I don't really have a choice. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening again? Did I need more grease on the bearings or might I have done something wrong?

I know what the problem is, I just don't know what I did to cause it in the first place.
Best explination I heard and experience bears this out is a lack of lube and possibly running it a bit too loose in that the bearings fore and aft are getting more action and load as the bike rattles down the road. many think that it comes from being too tight and that the divits are dents but they are wear marks.
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Old 08-17-06, 04:45 AM   #5
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I had a Hatta Vesta steel headset that just plain wore out. It demonstrated the exact symptoms as yours.
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Old 08-17-06, 06:04 AM   #6
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"Brinelling" of loose bearing headsets is very common. Poor lubrication and mis-adjustment will speed it up but it eventually happens to all of them.

A temporary cure is possible if the current bearings are held in retainers. Discard the retainers and fill the race (actually the lower race is the only one effected) with as many balls as it will hold then remove one. You will be able to add a few additional balls so the pock-marks in the race will no longer line up with balls. This will smooth it out and you should get another season or so out of the headset.
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Old 08-17-06, 06:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the beef

I know what the problem is, I just don't know what I did to cause it in the first place.
You spent more time riding than wrenching
A temp fix might be a re-pack and re-adjust, or maybe replace a retainrer with loose balls.
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Old 08-17-06, 07:57 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by meatwad
Best explination I heard and experience bears this out is a lack of lube and possibly running it a bit too loose in that the bearings fore and aft are getting more action and load as the bike rattles down the road. many think that it comes from being too tight and that the divits are dents but they are wear marks.
I have to agree with meatwad, bearing and race material is usually pretty hard stuff, (harder than chinese arithmetic) but prolonged impacting can produce 'wear' marks, False Brinelling is the term. It is generally associated with micro-vibration of the rolling elements while the bearing is stationary. This would be consistent with not having the preload correct and the headset in one position, i.e. straight ahead, for periods of time. The mechanism is that while the bearing is stationary, there is no oil film developed between the rolling elements and the race allowing metal to metal contact. Bearings like to roll. Bearings can actually fail on the shelf. In an industrial facility, with a lot of operating machinery, the structural steel and floor slabs are vibrating. Stick an accelerometer on a column in a building and read it with vibration analysis equipment and you see some impressively high readings. High enough that if the shelving in the store room is attached to the floor and framing, you can actually develop False Brinelling in bearings on a store room shelf. Anyhoo, adequate lube can help, but assuring proper preload on the headset bearings will go a long way toward eliminating this problem. As far as the current condition goes, I am afraid that you have to replace them, grease won't fill in the indentations.

True Brinelling is usually associated with improper installation techniques. Actually damaging races and rolling elements at installation by using the 'big hammer' technique to install them. I may be a little anal about it, but I measure the seat area and the races for the correct interference fit and then use heat to install them. Just my incoherent thoughts on the matter. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-17-06, 08:41 AM   #9
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Bingo, you got it. I had the exact same thing. Here's a pic of the outer race (which got stuck in the headtube) of a sealed cartridge bearing [integrated headset]. As you can see, the bearings did actually wear "divots" into the outer race. About 9,000mi on this headset, FWIW. Not sure how much it might cost to have replaced, since I did the work myself. Good luck!
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Old 08-17-06, 02:15 PM   #10
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Ah, thanks for all the detailed information.

Now pardon me quickly, but it's true enough that I've been spinning the cranks much more than the hex wrench. I've heard the phrase "to pre-load the headset" before, but I really haven't been able gather much more on what it means besides that it's some sort of force exerted on the headset (I know, real specific). How can I take care to properly pre-load the setup next time so that this doesn't occur again, and what is pre-loading, anyway? My appreciation.

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Old 08-17-06, 03:46 PM   #11
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Brinneling is from too loose a headset. When bearings are adjusted properly, the cup/cone combination transfers all of the shock to all of the bearings, so the force is distributed evenly all around the cone/cup assembly. If its loose, then the same force is concentrated on one or a few bearings, which can easily ding the cup/race. When in doubt, make it tight, it will only loosen with use.

You can try rotating the cup slightly in the headtube and re-packing, along with free-balling it, but this does not always work.
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Old 08-17-06, 09:22 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by the beef
Ah, thanks for all the detailed information.

Now pardon me quickly, but it's true enough that I've been spinning the cranks much more than the hex wrench. I've heard the phrase "to pre-load the headset" before, but I really haven't been able gather much more on what it means besides that it's some sort of force exerted on the headset (I know, real specific). How can I take care to properly pre-load the setup next time so that this doesn't occur again, and what is pre-loading, anyway? My appreciation.
There's not much to it. You simply tighten the cap bolt until there is no play in the headset when you push on the bike with the front brake set. Too tight and the fork will not turn freely.

BTW, all headsets wear over time. A headset leads a tough life because the bearings stay in almost the exact same place 99.99% of the time. So all of the road shock gets transmitted to the contact points of the bearings against the races. If you ride on chip seal roads, or other rotten surfaces so common these days, you are going to wear out headsets. If your headsets last six months, then you might look into your adjustment technique. If they last several years, then you're probably doing OK.
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Old 08-17-06, 09:28 PM   #13
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Assuming you are running a threadless headset (those are real cheap $10-$25). You can take off and press your own headset or you can go to your friendly LBS and have it pressed. It shouldn't be too much especially if you frequent said LBS a lot.
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Old 08-17-06, 09:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the beef
*sigh* Bummer. Well, I guess I don't really have a choice. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening again? Did I need more grease on the bearings or might I have done something wrong?

I know what the problem is, I just don't know what I did to cause it in the first place.
Here's the best explanation I've seen on what *really* causes indexed steering: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/i...-steering.html

Obviously, careful adjustment and lubrication of a headset prolongs its life, but it's basically just a pair of cup-and-cone bearings like a hubs or an old-style bottom brackets. And they wear out. The only difference is that a headset is a bit more of a pain to actually replace than, say, an axle cone, since you need special tools to replace one (though there is a great DIY method too!)
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Old 08-17-06, 10:23 PM   #15
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Thanks, everyone for the explanation. It's just that I'm no bike mechanic, and I'm never able to shake the feeling that I might have done something stupid to cause X problem. See, I'm a threaded headset guy. And the first time I was swapping out the stem, I did *not* expect the fork to tumble out. ("Holy ****! I can see the ball bearings!") So I put it back as best I could, hoping everything was seated correctly. When the 'index steering' came up a month later I thought I may have been at fault.

Then again, the bike's three years old, and I've owned it for three months. So I'm hoping that this is just the end of a normal headset life cycle as opposed to another 'the beef'-effup. That'd make me feel better.
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Old 08-17-06, 10:27 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by the beef
Then again, the bike's three years old, and I've owned it for three months. So I'm hoping that this is just the end of a normal headset life cycle as opposed to another 'the beef'-effup. That'd make me feel better.
Hah! At least you didn't strip the crank extractor threads, and then bend the frame trying to get the cranks off with a crowbar. Cause, uh... I know a guy who did that once a few years ago
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Old 08-18-06, 07:36 AM   #17
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... a headset is a bit more of a pain to actually replace ... since you need special tools to replace one (though there is a great DIY method too!)
Mox, do you have a link for that DIY method?
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Old 08-18-06, 11:30 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Andy_TN
Bingo, you got it. I had the exact same thing. Here's a pic of the outer race (which got stuck in the headtube) of a sealed cartridge bearing [integrated headset]. As you can see, the bearings did actually wear "divots" into the outer race. About 9,000mi on this headset, FWIW. Not sure how much it might cost to have replaced, since I did the work myself. Good luck!
Just for fun, I thought I would tell you guys a technique that has been used for a long time to remove outer races, such as this one, that are a press fit in a machined receiver. This is used frequently and usually associated with industrial applications. If you weld a bead around the bearing race on the inner race surface and allow it to cool, it will shrink the race to the point it will fall out of the fit. Not particularly applicable to most bike owners, but I have access to a heli-arc rig and it makes it easy on a stubborn one. Freezing the new race with dry-ice or liquid nitrogen will generally allow it to drop into an interference fit also. Again, not particularly usable in most home garages, but there are probably several of you fellows out there that have access to some of this stuff where you work. Again, just my incoherent thoughts on the matter.
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Old 08-18-06, 11:40 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by lawkd
Mox, do you have a link for that DIY method?
Lawkd, here's a good thread on DIY headset press and removal: the $3 ghetto headset press for sale for 55 pounds!?

The $5 "ghetto press" (that seems to be the accepted name) is really easy to make and works quite well: a long threaded rod, with a couple of nuts and big wide washers.
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Old 08-18-06, 04:41 PM   #20
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Thank you very much!
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Old 08-19-06, 07:06 PM   #21
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Ahh, pretty neat. In my case (the picture), it's an integrated headset so the bearings weren't even pressed in -- at least, they weren't supposed to be pressed in. Over time, and as the bearings wore dimples in the race, the outer race just got pounded up in the headtube. The thin layer of overspray on the inside of the tube didn't help either. We did finally get it out, and there was no damage at all to the headtube.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duhhuh
Just for fun, I thought I would tell you guys a technique that has been used for a long time to remove outer races, such as this one, that are a press fit in a machined receiver. This is used frequently and usually associated with industrial applications. If you weld a bead around the bearing race on the inner race surface and allow it to cool, it will shrink the race to the point it will fall out of the fit. Not particularly applicable to most bike owners, but I have access to a heli-arc rig and it makes it easy on a stubborn one. Freezing the new race with dry-ice or liquid nitrogen will generally allow it to drop into an interference fit also. Again, not particularly usable in most home garages, but there are probably several of you fellows out there that have access to some of this stuff where you work. Again, just my incoherent thoughts on the matter.
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Old 11-26-08, 12:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
A temporary cure is possible if the current bearings are held in retainers. Discard the retainers and fill the race (actually the lower race is the only one effected) with as many balls as it will hold then remove one. You will be able to add a few additional balls so the pock-marks in the race will no longer line up with balls. This will smooth it out and you should get another season or so out of the headset.
Is this part true? I have a typical but still bearable case of indexed steering. I also happen to have a spare bottom race at hand. If I would take the headset apart and find that the upper race neds to be replaced too, that would give me no other option than bying a complete new headset sicne an affected headset with loose balls would be near inpossible to re-fit in a straightforward position. Am I right here?
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Old 11-26-08, 02:07 PM   #23
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Just for fun, I thought I would tell you guys a technique that has been used for a long time to remove outer races, such as this one, that are a press fit in a machined receiver. This is used frequently and usually associated with industrial applications. If you weld a bead around the bearing race on the inner race surface and allow it to cool, it will shrink the race to the point it will fall out of the fit. Not particularly applicable to most bike owners, but I have access to a heli-arc rig and it makes it easy on a stubborn one. Freezing the new race with dry-ice or liquid nitrogen will generally allow it to drop into an interference fit also. Again, not particularly usable in most home garages, but there are probably several of you fellows out there that have access to some of this stuff where you work. Again, just my incoherent thoughts on the matter.
The heat-to-shrink method is used widely in the automotive industry (I think) where the press-fit part is heated with an induction coil for about 2 seconds and when the part cools it just falls out.

The same techniques is being used right now to refurbish Canadian nuclear reactors in Ontario.
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Old 11-26-08, 05:18 PM   #24
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Try Stronglight A9 headset or something similar with roller bearings.
http://velo-orange.blogspot.com/2006...9-headset.html

Roller bearings really help in this application and the downside of a little additional friction isn't a major issue.
My old touring bicycle has over 100,000 miles on the same roller bearing headset and it still works well. It is lubed once a year with DuPont Krytox.
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Old 11-26-08, 08:22 PM   #25
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*sigh* Bummer. Well, I guess I don't really have a choice. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening again? Did I need more grease on the bearings or might I have done something wrong?

I know what the problem is, I just don't know what I did to cause it in the first place.
If you arent already, using loose ball bearings instead of caged can either cure or lessen the effects of the indexing, bearings should be only a dollar or two!
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