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Thread: Water in the BB

  1. #1
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    I have a Trek 5200 purchased this summer that I have about 1,200 miles on. Repeated clicking in the BB after the first month...always in the same pedal position, despite gear position, more pronounced when hammering. After having the LBS tinker around with it thinking it was a loose crankarm or pedal, they opened it up and, oila, water! And rust. In a sealed BB. Now I've ridden 4 times in the rain and am anal about my bike care, so I don't think it is that. More than likely I'm getting water in when I clean my chain and chainring. I'm guessing this is the problem since my last bike suffered the same thing after 2 years.

    So my questions and comments while I wait for Trek to send the LBS a new BB under the warranty (they've cleaned it out and lubed it for me so I don't miss any days of riding):

    1) how can you clean your chain and chainring without getting water near the BB (besides very carefully)? I use Pedros degreaser on the chain every two weeks (about 250 miles), and use a cleaner brush box (you know, the machines you clamp on to your chain) to clean the chain, and a brush to clean the chainring and rear wheel cogs. I carefully use water to clean off the chain and chainring of degreaser residue and dirt, as well as the rear wheel cogs, but I am guessing that is where water is getting in the BB (as well as maybe in the rear hub). After the cleaning, I used Race Line teflon dry spray on the chain.

    On the rear hub, after a light spray, I spin extra water out of the cogs and angle it down to let any water run away from the hub. After about 10 minutes, I finish off 'flossing' in between the cogrings with a cloth.

    2) I don't have the tools to pull a crankarm, or the expertise to take apart the rear hub.

    3) The LBS owner told me, in the first month after I bought the bike when I specifically asked him about riding in the rain and what I need to do vis-a-vis the BB, that all I needed to do was to wipe the bike down.....the BB was sealed. Now his knowledgeable lead mechanic has told me that I should remove the cable housing screw at the bottom of the BB in order to let any water inside drain out. Any info on sealed BBs? How much care and maintenance is required?

    4) Regarding the rear derailleur pulleys - the Shimano Ultegras say they have sealed bearings. I still spray dry teflon lube into them once a month. Useless? Useful? Again, just how 'sealed' is a sealed bearing?

    Please help me from ruining yet another BB!! Thanks!!!
    Last edited by Kaiser; 07-20-04 at 09:15 AM.

  2. #2
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    Addendum: Trek is saying the water in the BB is normal wear and tear and that after riding in the rain, I need to take off the seat post and turn the bike upside down to let the water drain out since that is where it is entering from during a rainy ride. So they are trying to not cover the BB under warranty. The LBS is fighting it for me though. FYI and not directly relevant to my maintenance questions above.

  3. #3
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    I was going to suggest the same thing as Kaiser- but also, you'll want to make sure when they put the bottom bracket back on your bike, they use that thick polylube 1000 lube for your bottom bracket. They should just squirt that stuff in and get as much lube in there as they can (without making too much of a mess). They did that with my beater bike, and when I took off the bottom bracket, for as much rain as I've ridden through, it's still in almost perfect condition as when the bottom bracket was first installed. I was impressed... REAL impressed.

    Koffee

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaiser
    Addendum: Trek is saying the water in the BB is normal wear and tear and that after riding in the rain, I need to take off the seat post and turn the bike upside down to let the water drain out since that is where it is entering from during a rainy ride. So they are trying to not cover the BB under warranty.
    Does anybody actually do this ?

    Why doesn't the salesman tell you this when you plunk down over $2000 for this machine ? "By the way don't let it get wet, it will self-destruct".

    This is absolutely lame. Shame on you Trek.

    Dan
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  5. #5
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    No one told me... I have to say, maybe it's the TREK dealers that should be shamed. That's where I bought my first bike, and after I rode in the rain numerous times, I ended up bringing it to an independent, one man LBS, and HE told me about the BB and all that stuff. I was shocked- I had no idea it was bad on the BB to ride in the rain before I got the lecture.

    Koffee

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    If this is a Shimano cartridge BB, then there is no way for water to enter from within the BB shell, only from the outside ends. You can't put more lube into them, they are non-maintainable units.
    If the bike has a drainage hole on the underside of the BB shell, then leave it open, even when riding in the rain.

    Water and worse, solvent, enters the BB bearings between the black plastic seals and the rotating parts. Keep any solvent away. Never spray WD40 into the seals. Never wipe dirt across the seals. Personally I try to avoid cleaning around the BB. When its new I like to coat any exposed spindle in car wax, then just leave it.

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    Bicycle Luge Racer khackney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanFromDetroit
    Does anybody actually do this ?
    Well, yes I do. When I recently took a bike on vacation that rode through heavy rains while on the car rack, I immediately pulled the seatpost and dumped maybe 1/4' cup of water out. I put a coating of grease on the seat post when I re-installed it to seal and prevent removal issues later. I know what the seat post measurement is, so setting my ride height is no problem. If you've ridden in the rain it is a cheap and quick bit of maintenance that you should do.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Interesting.

    I have rebuilt probably more than 100 bikes - many of them that have been left in the rain for months at a time. Most of the bikes I work on have old style BBs not sealed cartidges.

    Sometimes you will get a bearing set that has rusted and needs replacement, but those are usually 20+ year old bikes. I find it curious that this is a persistant problem with TREK. What is unique about Trek that makes them vulnerable to water damage?

    Most bikes have a hole in the bottom stay tube that allows drainage and helps dry out the inside of the bike. Is this not part of your bikes design?
    Mike

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    My BB doesn't have a drainage hole built into the frame....what it does have is a screw hole for the cable guide. Apparently I need to take that out to let it drain.

    Thank you for the replies. I am, however, still interested in what I can do as far as regular maintenance. I need to clean the chain and chainring. The only way I know how to do this is solvent. Any suggestions?

    MichaelW, yes the BB cartridge is supposed to be sealed and unmaintainable. But then how did they open it up, find rust, clean it out and relube it? Something I will have to ask when I go by the LBS to pick my bike up this afternoon.

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    Senior Member progre-ss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaiser
    But then how did they open it up, find rust, clean it out and relube it? Something I will have to ask when I go by the LBS to pick my bike up this afternoon.
    I think the LBS meant they found rust in your BB shell and thus cleaned it a relubed it before putting the BB back in.
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    Senior, Senior Member ExMachina's Avatar
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    The Shimano BB is indeed sealed and water should not be able to enter the cartridge itself. However, the way the BB mounts into the BB of the frame is not *necessarily* water tight, provided the BB is not greased liberally when it's installed.

    The clicking I experienced originated from where the left side BB nut snugged down around the BB body. It's a simple interface between the nut and a raised band around the cartridge--if this intersection is not greased fully, the two bare metal surfaces can slip/stick w/ every pedal stroke. Water will exacerbate this condition, and water CAN enter this intersection if it's not fully greased--it's the way the Shimano BB is designed.

    FWIW (and to show what I do/don't know ) I've never heard of H2O running down the seat post either...

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    Quote Originally Posted by progre-ss
    I think the LBS meant they found rust in your BB shell and thus cleaned it a relubed it before putting the BB back in.
    Yes! The rust is from the outside of the BB, onto your BB shell. The Ultegra BB is sealed, so there's no maintenance necessary. I found the same thing on my brother's bike when I was cleaning it for him. When I took off his BB, I notice some rust an water on in the BB shell from a downpour we were in 2 weeks prior. I drained it and wiped off the rust in the BB shell and BB, itself. There was no problem with his Ultegra BB though, just some rust that was easily wiped off.

    Now, your clicking sound may mean that you have a bad BB or the LBS may have put in a non-sealed BB on you bike. This can get water in the BB. Regardless, if it's the BB that's the problem, it's the BB manufacture's problem (Shimano), not Trek. Your LBS need to contact Shimano about it. Heck, your LBS should just replace the BB for you and then work on getting the BB warranty. The BB is $40 and you've spent $2k+ on the bike. That's the least your LBS can do so that you don't have have to deal with this crap.

    Don't unscrew the cable guide on the bottom, that's not there for that purpose. You may mess up your shifting, if you do that since both the front and read der's sit on it. You can do what others have suggested and take off you seatpost and turn your bike upside-down or buy the tools to properly remove the cranks and BB to drain and clean out the BB shell.

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    Senior, Senior Member ExMachina's Avatar
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    The rust is from the outside of the BB, onto your BB shell.
    The 5200 frame is aluminum, isn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExMachina
    The 5200 frame is aluminum, isn't it?
    Carbon Fiber

  15. #15
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    Might I ask if the BB for Compagnolo is sealed too? I have Veloce, and I've always been afraid that I will have problems if I ride in the rain. So far, I've been avoiding it and just going for one of my other bikes if it's raining.

    Koffee

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    Two people in our club riding Serotta custom Ti experienced water in BB and had to replace at their cost. LBS said same thing about water entering seat tube. Several members have made custom covers to stop the water.

  17. #17
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    I've said this a gazillion times (well, three times):

    This is a great excuse to get another bike. It's advisable to have a cheaper, alu bike to ride in wet weather.

    If you ride in very wet conditions, especially at reasonable speeds with stacks of road spray, water will find a way to get into your frame.

    Sometimes, if I get stuck on my good bike in heavy rain, I roll home slowly (if it's not too far ) to avoid heavy road spray.
    Last edited by Fat Hack; 07-21-04 at 12:39 PM.

  18. #18
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    You are all right: the Ultegra BB is indeed sealed and the rust was on the outside of the BB shell. Lubed liberally now by the LBS and the sound has stopped. Oddly though, it is now neither as smooth or as silent as it was before and I am pushing to get the BB replaced, either under warranty or at my own cost.

    Here's something interesting that has knocked Trek down immensely in my opinion of it: while they won't cover the BB under warranty, they sent the LBS ("at no cost" - woopee!!) a screw for the bottom cable guide that has a hole in the center. To replace the current screw and allow water to run out. Now the fact that they did this tells me they are aware of the problem and know that it needs to be resolved. Hmmmmm..... I'm disappointed because I was immensely happy to be buying a locally manufactured bike (I'm in Chicago and Trek is in Wisconsin) and proud of the fact that my bike was made a few hundred miles away. Now I'm just saddened that the one of the foremost US bike manufacturers acts in this way.

  19. #19
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Bottom Brackets are a disposable part. The only reason Trek offered the hollow screw is to keep people from drilling a hole in the BB shell possibly jeopardizing the integrity of the carbon frame. You're making a Federal case out of NOTHING. Your beef is with Shimano not Trek as it was the Shimano component over which Trek has no direct control that is the problem. Your LBS should replace the BB for you then deal with Shimano I know from personal experience that this is not at all uncommon to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaiser
    Here's something interesting that has knocked Trek down immensely in my opinion of it: while they won't cover the BB under warranty, they sent the LBS ("at no cost" - woopee!!) a screw for the bottom cable guide that has a hole in the center. To replace the current screw and allow water to run out. Now the fact that they did this tells me they are aware of the problem and know that it needs to be resolved. Hmmmmm..... I'm disappointed because I was immensely happy to be buying a locally manufactured bike (I'm in Chicago and Trek is in Wisconsin) and proud of the fact that my bike was made a few hundred miles away. Now I'm just saddened that the one of the foremost US bike manufacturers acts in this way.
    Well, there's a reason for that. As much as it'll let water out, it will also let things (dirt, etc) in as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn
    Bottom Brackets are a disposable part. The only reason Trek offered the hollow screw is to keep people from drilling a hole in the BB shell possibly jeopardizing the integrity of the carbon frame. You're making a Federal case out of NOTHING. Your beef is with Shimano not Trek as it was the Shimano component over which Trek has no direct control that is the problem. Your LBS should replace the BB for you then deal with Shimano I know from personal experience that this is not at all uncommon to do.
    Well said!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaiser
    You are all right: the Ultegra BB is indeed sealed and the rust was on the outside of the BB shell.
    Aren't all Trek BB shells lined with aluminum (on CF frames)?

    You mean that the BB cartridge itself was rusted, correct?

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    Yes, there was rust on the BB cartridge itself.

    I'm not sure how it is a Shimano problem. I would guess Shimano doesn't make their BB cartridges to sit in a puddle of water that has nowhere to go. Or perhaps Trek should put out a warning with their bikes indicating that you should ride in any kind of moisture at your own risk and riding in the rain will void the warranty.

    If I am making a federal case out of it, it is because having BB problems on a bike that retails for close to $3,000 within a month of buying it is not what I would expect. I know that when, in the past, I've owned Performance branded private-label bikes, Performance has stood behind them 100%. I have seen the guys at that shop replace things on people's bikes that were definitely user-caused. Trek is a manufacturer with a much more well-known brand. I can replace my BB for under $50 with a top notch Dura-Ace model...but that doesn't diminish the fact the I will have had to do so at my own cost on a bike that is 3 months old and was ridden in the rain a total of 4 times.

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    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaiser
    Yes, there was rust on the BB cartridge itself.

    I'm not sure how it is a Shimano problem. I would guess Shimano doesn't make their BB cartridges to sit in a puddle of water that has nowhere to go. Or perhaps Trek should put out a warning with their bikes indicating that you should ride in any kind of moisture at your own risk and riding in the rain will void the warranty.

    If I am making a federal case out of it, it is because having BB problems on a bike that retails for close to $3,000 within a month of buying it is not what I would expect. I know that when, in the past, I've owned Performance branded private-label bikes, Performance has stood behind them 100%. I have seen the guys at that shop replace things on people's bikes that were definitely user-caused. Trek is a manufacturer with a much more well-known brand. I can replace my BB for under $50 with a top notch Dura-Ace model...but that doesn't diminish the fact the I will have had to do so at my own cost on a bike that is 3 months old and was ridden in the rain a total of 4 times.
    It's the LBS's problem not Trek's YOU should have brought the bike back to the shop whenever the problem started to occur (month #1) You have two seperate issues here
    1. Your bottom bracket is defective take it in demand that it be replaced.
    2. The OCLV frame retains water which caused surface rust on your BB, a remedy was issued (the Hollow screw) problem solved unless you want to dill a hole in your frame which (while amazingly foolish) is still you call. (Warranty? what warranty?)

    Guess what surface rust on a BB has NOTHING to do with it's actual function! That's why it's called SURFACE rust. In fact the water that enters the shell would have to eat through the shell of the bottom bracket to actually do any damage what-so-ever which obviously is NOT the case. IF and I mean if there is any bearing damage caused by water it came from the EXTERIOR of the frame, not from water entering the seat tube. It works this way on $300 bikes as well as the snob specials. The problem is NOT Trek's it's your's. Get it fixed.
    Last edited by Raiyn; 07-21-04 at 03:48 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EagleEye
    Well, there's a reason for that. As much as it'll let water out, it will also let things (dirt, etc) in as well.
    This is an interesting point. I am getting out of topic here, but most of my BB shells have drain holes in them. Some of the steel lugs actually have huge ornate holes in them. In addition, there were no nice sealed BBs in many of these older bikes, but somehow these survived a very long time that way (with contamination getting in). My Litespeed Tuscany also has a drain hole at the bottom of the BB shell - and since it is titanium, I am guessing that it is so that the BB doesn't sit in puddle of water. As a matter of fact there is a large hole in the plastic cable guide so that the BB shell hole is not covered by this plastic cable guide.
    These sealed BBs are marvelous, especially for mountain bikes, but I am interested in the real purpose for the hole in the BB shell and why some shells have and others don't. I don't buy the explanation of a Supergo sales "expert", who once told me that it is for "ventilation". Can someone who really understands the issue and tradeoffs explain it?

    Kaiser, I think that you have a great point. If there is a maintenance needed on a bike, without which there will be a short term damage (more than ordinary wear), it should be pointed out in and out of manual. Furthermore, Trek sold is the bike maker, not Shimano. Why should you be required to deal with subcontractors on fancy bike which should be still under warranty? Shimano then can tell you that the shell parts are from company XYZ from Korea, and you'll have to follow with them? They designed, manufactured and distributed the bike, they should make sure it works as a system with all it's components. I work for a company which manufactures complex systems using components from many sources, often several souces for the same component. We would never consider to suggest to a customer who has a problem with the sub-system to take a component out and deal with that manufacturer. That wouldn't get us far.
    Last edited by ComPH; 07-21-04 at 03:03 PM.

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