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  1. #1
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    Freewheel Engagement Problem

    I recently acquired a Nishiki that had been sitting in someone's garage for the past 25 years. Everything on the bike was in fantastic order, with factory grease still on the chain and in the headset. My question relates to the freewheel, which is giving me some trouble, but which appears to be equally new.

    The freewheel, a Suntour Perfect 6 speed 13-30, from time to time fails to engage. There seems to be no consistent pattern to this pawl skipping. When it occurs, the freewheel will spin and spin and spin while I turn the cranks forward. Then, without discernable reason, it will engage again. Sometimes it will re-engage after I spin the cranks backwards; I must admit that when it does happen, I spin the cranks randomly forward and back until it re-engages. The problem is persistent, random, and time-consuming enough to be maddening.

    Although it may be unrelated, I had my chain break on me while out for a ride. I stood up out of the saddle to start from rest and the chain snapped. The chain, as with the rest of the parts, is new. This could be an error on my part; I put the chain back together recently and re-used a pin.

    I'd like to keep the same freewheel if possible because of the classy gold color, Suntour name, and fantastic gearing. Any ideas what is happening? Is it possible that I had too much chain tension? Is the chain break related? Could bearing adjustment in the freewheel be an issue? Did I just get a lemon freewheel?

  2. #2
    MARGINALS
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    it sounds like the mechanism inside the freewheel is not working and the plaws are sticking.
    you will most likely have to replace the freewheel but before you do that you can try to free it up.
    take it off the wheel and drop some mineral oil in the crack on the back side of the freewheel between the part that spins (sprockets) and the part that stays stationary (part with threads). you can do the same on the front side of the freewheel. hopefully the lube will help a bit in trying to free up the freewheel.

  3. #3
    WNG
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    Spin Forest! Spin! WNG's Avatar
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    The Perfect wasn't Suntour's best. Their Winner freewheels were the best on the market way back then, (in a galaxy, far far away).


    Sounds like the lube inside have the pawls sticking. I'd remove the freewheel and give it a cleaning. Submerse it in a petroleum distillate ([paint thinner, kerosene, benzene(toxic), gasoline(bloody dangerous) to degrease the guts. Remove all surface grime, and rinse thoroughly in water. Displace the water with WD40. Run enough into the freewheel body. See if the pawls are free now.
    Complete the job by lubing the freewheel with a quality motor oil. Run it into the body with capillary action. (If you got the cash, buy some German-made Castrol Syntec 0w30 if you can find it.)
    Remove any excess oil and reinstall and go for a test ride.

    As for the chain, did you use a remover? Sounds like the pin wasn't seated on the plate correctly.
    Pins are reused on chains from that era.
    Only super narrow 9-10 spd chains require new and breakoff pins.

  4. #4
    Tell them I hate them Peedtm's Avatar
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    The old factory grease is probably your problem. I imagine it's pretty sticky after all those years. People usually don't bother fixing these as they are cheaper to replace for a shop than it would be in labor to fix. Something you could try is flushing the freewheel internals with a solvent. Make sure to let it dry completely, like overnight in a ventilated area. Then regrease with a light oil. I've heard all sorts of variations on the type of oil. I usually use something like wet conditions triflow, which might be too thin as my pawls tend to get loud after overhaul. I've read suggestions that range all the way to 10-w30 motor oil.

    I should mention my experience with this has been with freehubs, but I can't imagine they vary greatly. In terms of how to effectively get inside your freewheel, not sure. With a freehub you'd slightly unscrew the race from the unit (reverse threaded - a special tool was needed that's no longer available, but easy to make. A hammer and punch work too - just remember - reverse threaded.) That will let you see inside it a little, without the gang of bearings spilling out. You can shoot your solvents/oils in through this crevice. If the bearings do fall out. . . put a coat of thick grease on the race where the bearings came from. Make sure you count them and distribute appropriately (shimano freehubs have 25 bearings to a side.) Use the grease to get them to stick to the race as you will be applying bearings all the way around it. Reassemble and follow the original procedure to remove the grease and replace with oil.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the advice. My course of action at this point is to lube the freewheel and see what happens. I think I'll drip some triflow down there to help thin things out, and then use some Phil's oil (it's almost as thick as motor oil). I'd just really like to keep the stock freewheel.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by moyariffic View Post
    Thanks for the advice. My course of action at this point is to lube the freewheel and see what happens. I think I'll drip some triflow down there to help thin things out, and then use some Phil's oil (it's almost as thick as motor oil). I'd just really like to keep the stock freewheel.
    TriFlow may work short term but you still need to flush out the heavier, gummy grease with a solvent first and then relube for the flush job to have a lasting effect. Mechanics run into this all the time with older shimano shifters and similar technique usually gets em going again.
    "Send lawyers, guns, and money"

  7. #7
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    Well, WD-40 flush followed by lots of Phil's has gotten it engaging properly. I'll flush with solvent if things get mucked up again. Thank all.

  8. #8
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    Great! I was going to recommend using WD-40 to soften up and flush out the gunk, then Hoppe's *** Oil for lubrication.

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