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  1. #1
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Loosening a frozen stem?

    So on another thread I was having trouble getting my new handlebars through my stem (finally got that fixed, so thanks all who helped) and someone suggested removing the stem as a way to help (I was thinking about removing the stem anyway just to get one with a removable faceplate as the bars were stuck in at the time and I couldn't move them forward or backward - also it's a bit rusty), so I tried to take it out. It's a quill stem. So anyway, I removed that long ass bolt from the top of it and loosened that collar or whatever you call it that goes around where the stem comes out of the top of the frame and couldn't get the thing to budge. Is there something else I'm missing that I needed to loosen to get it out of there, or is it possible that what I thought was just superficial rust on the stem has continued below and allowed the thing to freeze in place. If so, how to I go about getting it out? Or am I just stuck with it?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Wedge inside tube of fork stays tight unless the end of the bolt , while still partially screwed in, tap on the end of the bolt. to loosen the wedge..

    could be frozen in the fork tube , You have to remove the stem and lightly coat it with grease, occasionally ,
    or the Al corrodes and the Fe rusts and the 2 lock together .. galvanic corrosion..
    then you need force and chemistry to loosen it.

    Penetrating oil and ammonia are some of the materials used...

  3. #3
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Given that the stem has rust on the outside and the fork is hi-ten, I'm guess they're both steel, so at least it's not an Al-Fe chemical thing. At least that's what I'm hoping. Will try the tapping thing. If not, might look into the PB Blaster or some other solvent. Might do the magnet test to check out the stem composition. Thanks.

  4. #4
    17yrold in 64yrold body
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Wedge inside tube of fork stays tight unless the end of the bolt , while still partially screwed in, tap on the end of the bolt. to loosen the wedge..

    could be frozen in the fork tube , You have to remove the stem and lightly coat it with grease, occasionally ,
    or the Al corrodes and the Fe rusts and the 2 lock together .. galvanic corrosion..
    then you need force and chemistry to loosen it.

    Penetrating oil and ammonia are some of the materials used...
    +1 I like my stem tight, so when I need to move it (adjust or remove), I loosen the bolt until it is about 1/4" above the stem, then whack it with a hammer (I use a flat piece of steel on top of the bolt to protect it). Has worked for me, but I have not had corrosion set in. If that happens, then you will need to follow fietsbob's advice to reverse the chemistry.

  5. #5
    Senior Member bikeman715's Avatar
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    you might need to put the forks in a vise and turn the stem with the handlebar as hard as you can to break it lose and yes use some kind of penetrating oil to help out.
    bikeman715

  6. #6
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Yeah, something more permanent than just holding the fork in place by putting my legs on either side of the front wheel might help.

  7. #7
    My own worst nightmare
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    If you put the old handlebar back on, grabbing it while straddling the wheel should give you all the leverage you need. But at this point, leverage isn't what you need. You're just "fighting" the stuck wedge. As f-bob said, put the bolt back in partway and whack on it. That'll get the wedge loose from the bottom of the stem, without it falling into the steerer tube. And there's a pretty good chance that'll loosen the stem enough that you'll be able to just pull it out.

    BTW, you should re-tighten that "collar". That's not involved at all in holding the stem in. That's the top of the headset, and it holds the headset bearings in place, so it should stay put.

  8. #8
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
    BTW, you should re-tighten that "collar". That's not involved at all in holding the stem in. That's the top of the headset, and it holds the headset bearings in place, so it should stay put.
    Ok, I'm an idiot. Thanks. Didn't really think that was involved, but wanted to try something.

    As an aside, the only quill stems I'm easily finding that have the removable faceplate and aren't 25.4 mm (which really limits the handlebar choices) are adjustably angled. Part of me thinks that these would be a bad idea as a long term stem option because of the fact the adjustable angle is subjected to a fair amount of force and would have rather drastic consequences if it failed. Is this a legitimate concern (and I should keep looking) or are these a good option?

  9. #9
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Many adjustable stems have a habit of losening over time so I'd avoid them if possible.

  10. #10
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Thanks all. Turns out the stem wasn't frozen after all and a light tap with the hammer freed the wedge nice and easy. As a replacement, I decided to go with a quill to threadless converter (those work ok, right?) and a threadless stem because the threaded stems didn't have the variety of handlebar sizes I wanted. They pretty much only had 25.4mm bar openings as far as I could find unless I went with the adjustable angle. This way I got a 31.8 bar so I could get one 46 cm across. I had a friend measure me with my arms straight out and pens in each hand and that was ~48 cm, so hopefully this will work for me. Looks like the bar's going to have to be a fair bit lower, so I'll see how I like that.

    So I see someone said something about how I should grease up the new stem (so in this case I'm guessing the converter) before I put it back in. Is that right? What kind of grease am I going to want to use for that? How often will I need to do it? Just the once?

  11. #11
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    You grease the adapter so there wont be corrosion and adapter won't be stuck in the fork steerer. You would do this to the if you have a metal seatpost in a metal frame. I use what ever grease I have handy.

    How comfortable was the bike with the old stem? If it is comfortable then lowering the stem a lot may cause much discomfort.

    the adapter that I have has 1-3/4" about the top of the fork steerer. You can get a stem that has an adjustable rise or a stem with a steep angle to raise the handlebars higher.
    Last edited by cyclist2000; 09-21-10 at 10:00 PM.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustercrb/sets/72157623483647522/

  12. #12
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Well, the stem I had, I was sort of feeling bunched up on when I was on the hood area (I'm replacing non-aero brakes with side levers with actual aero brakes with hoods, so I'm changing a lot of things at once), so I'm not sure how I'll feel about the drop, but stretching out more will be good. I'm not 100% sure how height adjustable the adapter is (the picture made it look not very long - maybe 2x as long as the threadless part where you clamp on the threadless stem - no measurements other than diameter only a cartoon), so I ordered a quill stem extender, but then I read that that brand's adapters are crazy long, so I might not be forced into any more drop than normal.

    I'm just excited to get it all put together and the brakes set up to try it out.

    I'll have to look into some grease for both my new seatpost and stem then. Thanks.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Barchettaman's Avatar
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    Quill to threadless converters work brilliantly. Really useful pieces of kit, although I can perfectly understand those who prefer the look of a quill stem.

  14. #14
    Junior Member schreck's Avatar
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    Reopening to avoid creating a new thread...

    I picked up a 1977 Trek TX70x at a yard sale. Began stripping it down. All was well until i couldnt get the quill stem out of the steerer. After googling and referring to Sheldon Brown, its been about a week and still no luck. I decided to cut off the stem to free it from the frame (the fork is much less replaceable than the aluminum stem). I then started soaking it in vinegar (as per yellowjersey's recommendations). Its been a few days but it hasnt budged.

    Now im thinking about taking up some people on throwing the blowtorch at it. This should free the aluminum from the steel. Hopefully by heating both parts, and then rapidly cooling them the stem should come free.... otherwise i can just melt out the aluminum!?? And if that doesnt work, i may as well bust out the drill and start slowly boring out the aluminum.

    Anyone have any good recommendations? Is vinegar going to penetrate the corrosion better than say a different chemical agent? Also heard that oxalic acid could work (many people on the forum recommend it for stripping rust and paint from old frames)....
    '85 Centurion Ironman Dave Scott || '77 Trek TX700 (restoration proj.) || '05 Marin Mill Valley Frameset (build proj.)

  15. #15
    Senior Member bikeman715's Avatar
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    Try using ammonia as your penetrating oil. not what you would buy at a supermarket but at a hardware store.( it stonger stuff ) let it penetrate for a day or so and it should break the bond and let the stem out.
    bikeman715

  16. #16
    Senior Member Tunnelrat81's Avatar
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    When I first got my older univega, the stem was frozen. I tried a few things to get it loose but eventually gave up for a time, revisiting the effort unknowingly some time later. The solution that I discovered worked best for me is as follows, I've outlined it in a series of steps for simplicities sake.

    The procedure:

    1. Night time commute home
    2. New neighborhood development st.
    3. Riding one hand, stabilizing laptop in case on shoulder with opposite hand
    4. Attempt to move right into rain gutter to allow a car to pass, not realizing that the second layer of asphalt hasn't been laid and that it jumps up 1.5 inches at the transition
    5. Eat it
    6. Adjust stem as needed.

    -Jeremy

  17. #17
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    wow, that sounds like a pretty tricky way to go about it, but whatever works...

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