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  1. #1
    Bicycling Gnome
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    Oiling lubricated for life Sturmey Archer Hubs


    Hi,

    I just thought I'd pass on my findings of an experiment I've referred to a couple of times. About a year ago I drilled an oil port into the Sturmey Archer hub shell and sealed it with a short bolt and rubber washer. I cleaned out all grease from the srf3 hub except a smear that I left on the wheel bearings. I replaced the greased for life lubrication with a small amount of light oil (10:30 engine oil).

    My early findings were that putting in too much resulted in the surplus oil rapidly working its way out of the hub and along the spokes to the braking surface, so I topped it up less often and only very slightly. I find that the addition of about four drops of oil every 200 miles is plenty and that you can probably go more than twice that mileage without any ill effect. I also put in some very fine graphite powder which was intended as a lock lubricant. I reasoned that this would work its way around in the oil and that the crushing of metal contact on cogs and gear rings would smear the graphite onto the metal, providing additional wear resistance if by accident, it ever ran on the dry side.

    Anyway - yesterday at just on 3000 miles, I took the hub mechanism out of the wheel and gave it a careful look over without dismantling it from the cluster into separate parts. My conclusion is that the hub is VERY well lubed, all mechanical parts are covered with a good film of oil and the graphite powder has been carried throughout the mechanism. I'd say I can easily cut back on oiling. It's three hundred miles since it was given any and there is plenty in there on every part. I'll wait another five hundred miles without giving it any more attention and then take it down again and check everything out. I should have photographed it and posted the pictures - stupid to think of it now, but it's all back together and has another fifteen miles on it. I'll do that next time I look inside.

    As for how the hub works on oil - it's very quiet and smooth. If I spin up the rear wheel by pedaling it on a stand, it keeps on spinning for a long time - pretty much like the front one does. Gear changes are completely slick and reliable. No water or other contaminants have got inside and most of the parts still have their original blue metal appearance. In its fully assembled form, only the tips of the planet gear wheels show shiny bright polished appearance. The ring gear teeth are so lubed up that I can't comment on the surface appearance of them, but the teeth are unworn and well defined.

    On reassembling the mechanism into the hub shell it is very important to set the non drive side cone adjustment properly. If it is too tight or lose, the gear alignment inside will be suspect. The online guides explain how to do this right. I find about a quarter of a turn to half a turn back from finger tight, will be about right. The manual warns that more than three quarters of a turn back from finger tight is damaging. The right setting gives just perceptible play at the rim in a lateral direction.

    All told I'm glad I did the experiment. I think this hub will last a very long time.

  2. #2
    jur
    jur is online now
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    Excellent report.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  3. #3
    Senior Member Loch's Avatar
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    That's great info.

    I've recently taken apart my SA 5 speed hub and cleaned it out. I'm not sure I've got the cones adjusted properly. My understanding of the manual was that the drive side was to be tightened finger tight then backed off 1/2 turn. Then it didn't really say much about the non drive cone (just adjust for minimal play).

    I'm interested to know your procedure for adjusting both cones? And is finger tight as tight as you can get with your fingers or tighten until the cone makes contact with the bearings?

    Thank you for your help. I'm running synthetic oil in my hub now, it is super smooth, but I seem to hear more clicking going on. The graphite sounds like a great idea.
    Last edited by Loch; 05-06-08 at 10:07 AM. Reason: typos

  4. #4
    Bicycling Gnome
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loch View Post
    That's great info.

    I've recently taken apart my SA 5 speed hub and cleaned it out. I'm not sure I've got the cones adjusted properly. My understanding of the manual was that the drive side was to be tightened finger tight then backed off 1/2 turn. Then it didn't really say much about the non drive cone (just adjust for minimal play).

    I'm interested to know your procedure for adjusting both cones? And is finger tight as tight as you can get with your fingers or tighten until the cone makes contact with the bearings?

    Thank you for your help. I'm running synthetic oil in my hub now, it is super smooth, but I seem to hear more clicking going on. The graphite sounds like a great idea.
    OK Loch - by finger tight, I just mean snugged up with bare finger pressure - not hurting the fingers by forcing them tight or anything, just gently turned until there is a resistance from the bearings being in contact with the cone.

    Obviously my hub is the three speed SRF3 and yours is different so no assumptions should be made that the methods of adjustment are the same, but here is what the manual says about mine - (left hand as referred to here is the non-drive side):
    Quote Originally Posted by srf3 manual by Sturmeny Archer

    2.2 Hub Bearing Adjustment
    If for any reason the bearing adjustment is
    altered, the cones must be reset correctly
    before using the hub. The right-hand cone
    is pre-set at the factory and should only be
    disturbed at major service intervals. The
    left - hand cone is used to adjust the
    bearings in the hub.
    Left Hand Cone:
    1. Loosen the Cone Locknut.
    2. Adjust the Left Hand Cone until very
    slight side play can be felt at the wheel
    rim, and none at the hub.
    3. Tighten the Cone Locknut.
    Right Hand Cone:
    1. Loosen the Left Hand Cone Locknut
    and Cone.
    2. Loosen the Right Hand Cone Locknut.
    3. Screw down the Right Hand Cone
    finger tight.
    4. Unscrew the Right Hand Cone by half
    a turn.
    5. Tighten the Right Hand Cone Locknut.
    6. Tighten the Left Hand Cone Locknut
    and adjust as above.
    Interesting point about the synthetic oil. I just used ordinary cheapish 10:30 mineral engine oil. Even that is probably vastly over spec for the job it has to do.... No heat, low speed, low pressure, clean environment, low contamination risk. It should last for ever as long as the water stays out. I saw no signs of water in mine. It gets washed about once a month when in use and is ridden in rain from time to time, but the elementary seals seem to have kept out the water. The bike is stored inside the house - one of the advantages of it being so small and compact. I couldn't have got away with that had it been a full sized bike.

    The graphite is a touch too far as well, in terms of need. It was just that I knew through over oiling at first that the lube was coming out and would then stop and I wasn't sure how long it would stay around in there until I did a strip down and looked at it yesterday. So, rather than have it running dry, I puffed in about a cc of ultra fine graphite powder. This stuff is really tiny particles and when rubbed on the fingers just leaves a shiny smear. It does that when pressed onto any surface and adheres stubbornly. I believe that when put under pressure like between the teeth of meshing gears, the stuff smears hard onto the metal taking up position in the tiny wear marks and machining grooves. This in theory allows dry lubrication, like in a lock where you don't want oily gum and gunge. The stuff I got, I bought from a locksmith and it comes in a sort of puffer pack. I've used it on chains too in an oil suspension, but I have no idea how effective it was at preventing wear. Chains run in such a foul environment anyway with sand and grit all over the place, I doubt a smear of graphite would do anything against tiny quartz particles grinding away at the pins and bushes of the chain.
    Last edited by EvilV; 05-06-08 at 11:12 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Loch's Avatar
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    Thanks for that.

    The cone adjustments of the 3 and 5 speed hubs sound the same. The explanation on the 3 speed seems a little more clear to me.

  6. #6
    Bicycling Gnome
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loch View Post
    Thanks for that.

    The cone adjustments of the 3 and 5 speed hubs sound the same. The explanation on the 3 speed seems a little more clear to me.
    I notice that you are right about the importance of the adjustment of the drive side cone. I have taken that one right off in the past so I could remove the driver and examine the insides. I had to do this when after removing the small indicator chain that changes the gears, the small cross piece that it screws into so it can pull the clutch outwards for the low gears, somehow fell away inside and I couldn't screw back the indicator rod until I found the bit and put it back in line. Anyhow - I'm happy that the hub is adjusted right - it's sweet as a nut and very slick.

    When the cone adjustment is too tight you get noise and drag in the pedals if you spin it up on a stand and then stop the cranks - they try to keep moving, forced around by the driver and rear sprocket.

    Things are worse if the cones are too slack. The driver sprocket wobbles about all over the place, is noisy, and the whole hub containing the planet cage moves severely in relation to the spindle and sun pinion. The internal gears then mesh badly with the sun gear, it being fixed on the axle. Serious damage results pretty quickly because the gears are constantly misaligned with one another.

    I'd describe the correct setting as just providing detectable play at the wheel rim and a free spinning hub when it is spun up and left to coast. I find I can adjust it with the wheel in the frame by simply loosening the wheel nut on the non-drive side and using thin cone spanners to make the changes. That way you can easily assess the play and the free running quality of the hub. You can also use your ears, it sounds wrong when it is, as well as being obvious to the eye. Strangely, the final tightening of the non-drive side wheel nut can alter the amount of play. Maybe I haven't locked up the locknut properly.
    Last edited by EvilV; 05-06-08 at 01:03 PM.

  7. #7
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    Hi
    I overhauled the 3-speed hub of my first Merc. It has been driven about 2000km. There were only very slight signs of wear in any parts of the hub. I have oiled it from the beginning by squirting oil through the hole for the indicator rod. It seems to me that this method inevitably delivers some dirt inside the hub, because oil inside was dirty. Sorry for the poor picture quality – mobile phone.


    However there was visible wear inside the hub shell at the non-driver end of the gear ring assembly – see arrow pointing the circle of wear. Also there were marks on the gear ring assembly – see arrow. Is this normal or would it be a symptom of cones being too loose or something else?
    Also where can one get new pawl springs as in the manual it states “Always fit new Pawl Springs on re-assembly”?.
    Thanks for any input.


  8. #8
    Bicycling Gnome
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    Hi Maranen. Nice to see inside your hub. I wish I'd photographed the inside of mine when I stripped it last.

    Firstly, I agree that oiling the hole in the end of the axle is a direct invitation to flush dirt inside. I did that a couple of times and then drilled the shell as in the top photo because I thought that was bound to happen.

    I think that ridge you point out inside the hub casing is a machined effect made in manufacture. I think from memory mine has it too. The internal dogs - the toothed ring has to be pressed into the case I think and needs a thicker ridge to hold it. That's my guess about that effect you have pointed out. It looks machined to me. Maybe the wear mark on the internal mechanism could indicate that the outer case and the internal mechanism are contacting one another, but if there was that much play, I expect you would feel it in wobbling the wheel rim from side. Either way, the contact marks themselves are not critical, except that if the wear is because of loose cone adjustment, the more critical small gear parts will also be running badly out of adjustment in the planet cage and damaging themselves, the sun pinion and the internal ring gear.

    Personally, I'd just make sure the cone adjustment is right. Not too tight, and certainly not too loose. If it is too tight, the wheel will slow down rapidly when spun up by the pedals, backed of a shade, you'll see that it spins freely. Then make sure there isn't too much play.

    If that was my gear, I'd clean it perfectly with a solvent, look at the gear teeth and pawls, oil it liberally with 10:30 and put it back together. I'd put an oiler spout in as well. If you go for my crude method of a hole and a short bolt, you will need to ensure that the bolt doesn't protrude inside the case or the bolt will contact the rotating parts inside. Also, if you go that way, you will need to make a small rubber washer, or use a small o ring to seal the oil inside. Without that, it leaks down the threads and out because of centrifugal force spinning it outwards and down the threads.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    This is an interesting experiment, but is there info about the hub not lasting as long without the added oil port? I assumed that they removed the oil port because they found that they could keep the hub adequately lubed over a long period of time, so that only periodic maintenance would be required and re lubing could be done then. Is that not the case? Perhaps the problem was that it was getting hard to sell hubs when the ones they made 50 years ago were still going strong, so they made them harder to lube and so easier to break.

  10. #10
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Here is some of my observations of the Stumey-Archer hubs. I had 4 bikes with these hubs over the years. My first one, the Phillips, was still going strong at 40 years when I sent it to charity. All of my present bikes have this hub. But they are from the year 2000 or more which does not have the oil port on them. My bike mechanic told me they don't work on taking apart these hubs. If it goes bad beyond a simple greasing, they are discarded and a new hub even rim and hub is put in. While I do miss my old Phillips and it's amazing hub, I think I like the ease of simply getting a periodic greasing, then replacement options since I don't do my own bikes. This works for me, but not for all.

  11. #11
    Bicycling Gnome
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    This is an interesting experiment, but is there info about the hub not lasting as long without the added oil port? I assumed that they removed the oil port because they found that they could keep the hub adequately lubed over a long period of time, so that only periodic maintenance would be required and re lubing could be done then. Is that not the case? Perhaps the problem was that it was getting hard to sell hubs when the ones they made 50 years ago were still going strong, so they made them harder to lube and so easier to break.
    No - there is no evidence that they wear out. I just wanted to mess around and I like things well lubed. I tend to think that the 'greased for life' thing is a part of the throw away society we now have, and most of the hubs will end up in the trash before they have ever done as many miles as mine has already. The rest will be run until dry and worn out. Most people these days don't want to be servicing at all let alone dripping a few drops of oil into the hub every month like they did forty years ago. The fact is that some of the old hubs from fifty years ago are still running and have been used daily since they were made.

  12. #12
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    Hi EvilV – Thanks for the comment. I intend to do just that – make a threaded hole and fit a bolt with a washer next week at work, because I haven’t found a proper nipple, only ones intended for cars – too big. I cleaned everything - gear teeth and pawls were fine. I guess I’ll just have to pay careful attention to the cone adjustment when putting everything back again. I must say this work is not suitable for an inpatient person.

    Rob_E – Oiling the hub is to make it operate more efficiently. I believe that the hub would last very well with grease alone.

    Folder fanatic – I think it’s pity that they don’t service these hubs. With the same effort used for greasing, any faulty hub part would be replaced.
    Last edited by maranen; 06-21-08 at 10:04 PM. Reason: misspelling

  13. #13
    Explorer CaptainSpalding's Avatar
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    I love out-of-the-box thinking like this. Great work.

    There is a possible risk of using oil vs. grease that has not been mentioned. If the bike is stored on its side for long periods, as is the case for those of us who may keep a bike in our trunks for lunchtime rides or emergency preparedness, the less viscous oil may weep out past the hub seals, leaving the hub dry.

    Any thoughts?

    Also, I can offer an alternative to the bolt and rubber washer that may give a more finished look. It's a ball oiler. It's like a Zerk fitting, but for oil. You can get them either threaded or press-in. Go to McMaster.com and search for "oil hole covers." The flush one pictured is at the bottom of the page. 73¢!



    You'll also need a pressure oil can ($4 on Amazon)


    While not as whiz-bang as the oiler, a short set screw (maybe with some thread sealant) would do the trick.

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  14. #14
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    Thanks for the tips CaptainSpalding. The risk you mentioned is there. But according to my experience this happened only when the bike was unused for few months – some drops of oil had seeped out. As I opened it the hub was well oiled, no where near to being dry. Seals are quite good.

    EDIT
    I just realised what probably caused those marks inside the hub shell. Last winter in December I had few flats with this bike. I removed the rear tyre two or three times – and I think that on those occasions one of the cones got loose. I remember wondering the grinding feeling while pedalling and thought that some sand must have got inside the hub – I often biked in rain. At this point I had modified my other Merc – Daigoro – and have been riding it since then.
    Last edited by maranen; 06-22-08 at 01:16 AM. Reason: A lamp was lit above my head

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