I recently installed a NOS SunTour 'Perfect' 6-speed freewheel onto a wheel intended for my current project bike (a 1980 Schwinn Voyageur 11.8). The freewheel was still in its plastic bag and in the original box. It is engraved with a date code of 'AF,' which I believe indicates a manufacture date in early 1985. It spins beautifully, but it's virtually silent ... no characteristic 'tick tick ticking' of pawls whatsoever. I've never heard a freewheel so quiet. So here's the question ... is something wrong with it, or were new out-of-the-box SunTour freewheels just that stealthy?
i'd surmise that the grease in the freewheel body is old and not letting the pawls move freely.. You can rejuvinate it with a shot of wd-40 and get it clicking again, but if you don't suffer any skipping, why bother?
Actually, It was once commonly recommended in cycling manuals (in the 1970s) to lubricate freewheels with light grease in the bearing races when overhauling or rebuilding them. I just thumbed through an old Glenn's manual from 1973 to check, and it shows photos of a disassembled freewheel body being really loaded up from a tube of white Schwinn Cycle Lube grease.
I've had some brand new freewheels which appear to have had no grease or oil in them at all (Regina comes to mind) and the bearings could be heard rattling around loosely when simply shaken. Others were very tightly packed with grease and super quiet. It did not seem to matter.
So long as it works, I'd just leave it alone. Enjoy the silence!
Enjoy the silence! The tick will be back before you know it.
I routinely take apart freewheels to clean and service them. I use grease to hold the bearings in place and oil for the pawls. They are considerably quieter after I finish. A year or so of riding and they are back to the normal freewheel sound.
'71 Mercian, '72 Jeunet, '82 Jack Taylor, '13 Rawland
i agree about the grease hardening up over time. i resurrected an old used suntour freewheel that hadn't been used for years, and it was silent as well. after injecting some light oil inside the freewheel body, the pawls got noisier... but the other thing that happened is that is sounded rough, or "gravely". i surmise that there was dirt and grime in there that got loosened by the oil and the bearings were now rolling on freshly loosened dirt. but that won't happen with a NOS unit!
My 70's era Suntour freewheel is noticably quieter than those on other bikes. The ticking is audible, but very soft.
I lubricate the bearings and the pawl area often with chain bar erl. The bearings aren't under the stress that the axle and bb bearings receive, so IMO oil is sufficient, and besides the chain bar oil on the chain is going to work it's way in there as well.
For a NOS assembly from the 80's, I would want to open it up and make sure it has adequate lube, that the grease isn't dried up.