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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gunmetal_Ghoul's Avatar
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    Headset Lossens...

    My threaded headset often loosens up when I ride. I check it after almost every ride by bouncing the bike a couple times, and without fail the handlebars will wobble and I screw the race in by hand before I wrench it in. I am thinking that I don't tighten it to the proper torque, but when it's too tight the fork won't move freely. Is blue Loc-tite an option for this situation or should I try using more torque on the race and/or locknut?
    "Ride by faith, not by sight."

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gunmetal_Ghoul View Post
    My threaded headset often loosens up when I ride. ..I am thinking that I don't tighten it to the proper torque?
    Probably

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunmetal_Ghoul View Post
    ..but when it's too tight the fork won't move freely.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gunmetal_Ghoul View Post
    ..should I try using more torque on the race and/or locknut?

    The way to do this is basically:
    1) Tighten the race down to where the fork is moving freely with just a little play
    2) While holding the race in position with one wrench, use another to tighten down the lockring

    Now if you've gotten it just right torqueing down the locknut the last bit of play will have disappeared and the fork will still swivel freely for steering. If you're still feeling resistance when steering, undo the locknut, back off the race a few degrees and try it again.
    If you get too much play when done then set the race a little harder before tightening down the locknut.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunmetal_Ghoul View Post
    Is blue Loc-tite an option for this situation ?
    I'd be wary against loctiting something like this.You got a fairly large diameter which'll hold a lot of loc-tite, yet both the race and the locknut are rather flimsy and won't take much torque at a later disassembly.
    Besides, you really shouldn't need it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Make sure you have a lock-washer between the headset cup and locknut. Make SURE it's not a keyed lockwasher with a little tab. If it does have a tab, file it off. Then to make sure the locknut stays put, use TWO WRENCHS. One wrench tightens DOWN the the locknut while the other one brings UP the adjustable cup. By pressing both parts into each other, you get enough clamping to hold them in place.

    BTW, make sure your steerer-tube isn't too long and causing the locknut to bottom out on it.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    That special washer with the tab is intended to isolate any torque from the bearing side affecting the lock ring on the other side of the tabbed washer. I would not suggest removing the tab. But other than that I sure agree with using two proper wrenches to adjust the cone and lock rings.

    On every threaded headset I've ever seen there's that internally tabbed washer between the cone ring and the lock ring. That little tab is supposed to sit in the groove that's machined in the stem through the threaded area. It's not really a lock washer. Instead it's an isolation washer and isolates any torque on the cone ring side from affecting the lock ring. Without it any resistance on the cone ring can affect the locking ring and perhaps make it back off. On a well aligned headset this ring is very likely not really needed since the loads on the rings will be even and low. But any sort of resistance due to dirt, damage or missalignment and you can get a buildup of torque that will move the ring nuts even if they are tightened up well.

    If your headset does not have that special washer that runs in the groove of the headset then you should get one and install it. If it is there and your setup is still coming loose then there is something terribley wrong.

    For starters and assuming that isolation washer is in place I would put a little line of paint across the cone and lock rings. Then after your headset shows signs of looseness check to see if the rings are creeping on the threads. If they are then you need to torque them harder against each other. If they are not moving then something is not properly in place in the headset or you have a worn track in one or more of the cups or cone rings and this is rapidly wearing out the headset balls. The only other option for this sort of failure is one of your cups or cones has a crack or is way out of alignment so that when you tighten it so there's a little drag it's because of an interference somewhere rather than just bearing preload. Or it could be a cup or cone ring that is not properly seated and riding it is allowing it to creep further in towards a proper seating. If that's the case it will allow your preload to turn into slack and you'll see play this way.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  5. #5
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    Make sure you have a lock-washer between the headset cup and locknut. Make SURE it's not a keyed lockwasher with a little tab. If it does have a tab, file it off.
    You can't be serious!

  6. #6
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    The problem with the tab is that gets caught in the groove and prevents the locknut from coming down far enough to tighten onto the adjustable cup. You'll find that with the tabbed washer, the top locknut will be torqued to be unbearably tight, yet the adjustable cup will still turn underneath. This shows there's no pressure on the adjustable cup. All of the tension of the locknut has gone into pinning the washer's tab into groove. You'll find this out with two wrenchs.

    Talk to any mechanic's that's had 10-years+ or experience in a bike shop; there's a reason only cheapo department-store bikes have headset washers with tabs. Using two wrenches is the only way to lock a headset securely.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    <shrugs> Yeah, I can see that if it was some cheaper headsets. But I've had great luck with about 6 to 8 of them over the years just using them as they came. Mind you I do recall I ended up swapping out one tabbed washer that was a loose fit for one from the parts box to make it work better. Also I grease everything as it goes together so perhaps that let the lock nut tighten without dragging the tab around and locking it up. Mind you all the bikes I've bought that have/had threaded headsets were far better than department store quality. That probably makes a big difference as well.

    Ah well, we fix 'em and mod them as the need arrises. I'll file (bad pun I know) this one away for when needed.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  8. #8
    Senior Member tradtimbo's Avatar
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    they keyed washer is not vital, however, if you have a headset that comes with one I would suggest keeping the tab on it. In my opinion, its more important on cheaper headests because you prevent transfer of torque between the locknut and top cone, thus providing a more secure connection.

    Danno, if the tab is getting in the way securing the locknut to the top cone, you could try "dry" fitting everything and finding out if there is a deformity in the steerer tube (if the threads deform into the groove, the tab will not sit right). This is easy to fix with a small flat file.

    Locking washers transfer torque which is why they are not used on headsets. A locking washer is used when torque transfer doesn't matter. A locking washer would be good to use if the top cone was tightened down, then the lock nut tightened on top of that. This is not the case. The top cone must be locked in place, and not tightened down, thus minimal torque transfer is required, thus a keyed washer is used.

    Tim
    Can anyone give me a ride from Monterey to Big Bear on Wednesday or Thursday?

    The Sustainable Cyclist

  9. #9
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    The main problem is that the torque IS transferred to the washer. There's no way to tighten the locknut down without spinning the tab into the side of the slot on the steerer-tube. Every single time any one brought a bike with self-loosening headset into the shop, we'd immediately toss out the keyed-washer and put in a round one in. Problem fixed and $20 in the bank.. heh, heh..)

  10. #10
    singletracksSC
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    check the bearings and cups as well, if they're worn the slop could be enough to rattle the nuts loose.

    if it's a nice enough bike you could always replace the headset and fork with threadless...yeah, probably not worth it. i don't miss mtn biking with a threaded headset.

  11. #11
    Senior Member tradtimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    The main problem is that the torque IS transferred to the washer. There's no way to tighten the locknut down without spinning the tab into the side of the slot on the steerer-tube. Every single time any one brought a bike with self-loosening headset into the shop, we'd immediately toss out the keyed-washer and put in a round one in. Problem fixed and $20 in the bank.. heh, heh..)
    That is a quick fix for sure. like I said, not a vital piece, and it sounds like your running into washer tabs/steerer slots that are not machined to fit correctly. not too surprising on some of the cheapo built bikes out there.

    OP: It looks like you should have enough info to solve your problem. good luck
    Can anyone give me a ride from Monterey to Big Bear on Wednesday or Thursday?

    The Sustainable Cyclist

  12. #12
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    Could always put in a replacement Tange Levin threaded headset. They are cheap and work pretty well, most likely better than what is currently in place. I think they only cost about $10. If you have access to a bike coop with the tools it is a fairly easy job to do.

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