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  1. #1
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    Shimano Hollowtech Crank Arm Installation (plastic cap)

    Short question: is it critical to use the special tool (Shimanon TL-FC16 or equivalent) to install the non drive crank arm's plastic cap, or is a common sense substitute good enough? I used a pair of small needlenose pliers, spread the tips into the star shaped inner fitting on the cap and turned it in "strongly", but not enough to strip the plastic fitting. The crank arm is solid, the crank bearings move freely. I wanted to get the job done to ride the bike today, but could go back and re-do it if it's critical.

    Long version: I installed a Hollowtech type crank for the first time last night. I thought I had every tool I needed for crank installation (I've installed various internal and external bearing cranks in the past). I have internal bearing tools, external bearing tools, a crank puller, etc.

    I actually looked at the installation instructions online just before starting and I noticed I was supposed to have a cheap little tool TL-FC16 to install the little plastic end cap on the non drive side arm. Of course I didn't have the tool.


    This just seemed like a simple thing to substitute for so I looked for commonly used handyman's substitute online. I actually couldn't find one!

    I read various things about what that little plastic plug actually does. Shimano doesn't explain it, but does list a torque spec. I read that the torque spec is essentially a good, solid hand tightening with the FC16 tool. I read some people who said it's for "preloading" the bearings (and you'd know if you've gone too far because the bearings would be draggy) and others who said it's not for pre-loading, but rather for simply properly seating the crank arm onto the spindle, and that you couldn't possibly load up the bearings to "dragginess" with that tool.

    Whatever. I didn't have the tool and wanted to get the job done last night, plus I didn't think I could find the tool locally and therefore would have to wait a week to mail order it.

    Using "common sense" I thought about the torque value, the "hand tight" criterion, what the little tool looked like (the size and how much pressure "hand tight" would be), and decided that my little needlenose pliers had tips that would just fit into the star-shaped fitting on the plastic cap. I expanded the plier's tips into the inner indents of the cap, and carefully tightened it as tight as I could and was careful not to strip out or even mar the cap's fitting. FWIW, I think that given the width between my little needle nose's handles and the size of the disk that is turned on the FC16 tool, that a good solid "hand tight" with my little needle nose would be about the same as "hand tight" with the tool.

    The crank is installed, the crankarms/spindle are solid, and it spins smoothly and freely. Set up on the stand, it shifts perfectly. (hoping to ride it later today).

    What think you - is this a seriously critical item? Should I just be patient, remove the crank arm, get the tool, install the plastic cap "hand tight" with the tool and reinstall the crank arm after that? What should I look for? What's the real danger - ruining the arm? Ruining the bearings? (I'd prefer erring on the side of shorter bearing live vs. damaging the arm).

    Is, in fact, the plastic cap for preloading the bearings (I'm skeptical) or just for seating the arm on the spindle?

    I suspect I'm really, really over thinking this, but you never know! Thanks for advice, comments, etc.

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Its the bearing lateral L preload adjustment, If you can fake it, FINE.

    The arm is already in place , some analog to the stem on a threadless headset .

  3. #3
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    yes. you need the tool. I found this after buying a new stages PM and after a lot of research determined its best. Most bike shops carry it as the tail end of the BB wrench (park tool bbt-9, i think). my shop had the wrench for $15usd, or they probably would do it for you for $5 or so.

  4. #4
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    Adhering to the specified torque value is more important. It controls bearing preload and closes the seals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
    Short question: is it critical to use the special tool (Shimanon TL-FC16 or equivalent) to install the non drive crank arm's plastic cap, or is a common sense substitute good enough?
    Sounds as though you understand the purpose of torqueing the nut properly and the special tool isn't absolutely necessary but it's cheap enough and makes the job much easier and less chance of dinging something if the needle nose pliers slip. It's even small enough to keep in a saddle pack of you feel the need.

  6. #6
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    I bought the tool when I got my first HTII cranks and, yes, it makes the job easier and was certainly cheap enough. But is it essential? No, it's not and your needle nose pliers or similar work around should be fine. The idea is to get the crank arm seated properly and establish a small preload on the bearings. As long as you do that the method isn't important.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    I bought the tool when I got my first HTII cranks and, yes, it makes the job easier and was certainly cheap enough. But is it essential? No, it's not and your needle nose pliers or similar work around should be fine. The idea is to get the crank arm seated properly and establish a small preload on the bearings. As long as you do that the method isn't important.
    concur. When I needed one in a pinch, a board member suggested I make one out of a plastic spoon handle. I did, and it worked fine.

    ive forgotten the specified torque but it is very low. Just enough to get things snug laterally and you are good to go.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hendo252 View Post
    ive forgotten the specified torque but it is very low. Just enough to get things snug laterally and you are good to go.
    The spec is 0.7 to 1.5 Nm so that is pretty much just finger tight with out really honking down on the tool.

  9. #9
    Senior Member IthaDan's Avatar
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    Yup, there's a reason that tool is so ungainly. The torque spec is way low, and the tool reflects that. If you have it, use the tool, your bearings will be happier for it.

    Shimano : Click :: Campy :: Snap :: SRAM : Bang

  10. #10
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    Oh I think I know the answer to this one... I've used HT cranks without the left cap for many miles (the seller "forgot" to send the cap), and only got the cap and tool later..

    What I used to do is just tap the crank (lightly) with a rubber hammer to make sure it is snug... I think that's exactly what the left cap is for given that the torque spec is really low and the tool is really flimsy...

    In my experience it's actually easier to put too much torque.. Also what I've discovered later is that it's normal to have some play before you tighten the bolts, the play will disappear... I used to try to remove all play with the left cap which definitely results in too much preload (but even then I've never seen any consequence)..

  11. #11
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    Confirming my hassle theory, I stopped at two of the four decent bike shops in my town and neither had the stupid little tool. I'm glad I didn't wait to install the crank.

    My post wasn't to imply that the tool isn't necessary; if it were readily available, I would have simply bought one since it's so cheap and is a simple way to install the plastic cap. I love having the right tool for the right job.

    But that there's gotta be a way to work around such a silly little procedure, which I found is true. In fact, I really can't believe that Shimano made such a part that requires a special tool, no matter how cheap. Making the piece out of metal with a large hex socket would make it easier to install, and one could actually measure the torque (if it's that important, which it isn't).

    I truly doubt that tightening it the way I do will harm the bearings at all. With the very vague torque spec - absolutely no way to measure it other than "finger tight" - there's no way it's expected to be a precise amount at all. Believe me, there would be a huge difference in torque applied to the tool between almost any two adults - imagine a small person who doesn't work with his/her hands vs. a large, strong person with a lot of hand and wrist strength. It would be 4X as tight. I'm absolutely positive there's many ways to install this thing within the range normal "finger tight" among normal adults.

    Anyway, thanks for the comments and advice. If I ever found the thing, I'll buy one and try and compare it next time I get a chance. It's so trivial to install that crank arm it might be worth it just to see what I find out.

  12. #12
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
    What think you - is this a seriously critical item?
    Totally NBD.

    In fact, you can run HT2 cranks without the preload cap if you're careful to ensure the left crank is on as far it'll go, I've done it.

  13. #13
    Senior Member migrantwing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    Totally NBD.

    In fact, you can run HT2 cranks without the preload cap if you're careful to ensure the left crank is on as far it'll go, I've done it.
    Indeed, Kimmo. Just as you can with the headset cap bolt.

    I was in the same predicament as you, @Camilo. I decided to strip my bike of its drivetrain and give it a good clean. I had bought the Shimano tool but, when I wanted it I couldn't find it. I used needle-nose pliers to tighten to bearing cap, just as you did. I see the torque used to tighten the crank cap similar to when preloading the bearings on a headset, to just take the play out of the forks/headset. I just nipped up the bearing preload cap with the pliers until I felt the slightest resistance, then just gave a very slight turn to make sure the cap was seated.
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