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Headset leaking grease and is gritty

Old 11-20-16, 01:17 PM
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Headset leaking grease and is gritty

hey everyone. i'm not new to installing headsets with the right tools, but recently, i used some DIY tools to install a Tange Levin threaded headset on one bike and a Tange passage threaded headset on the other. anyway, both are leaking grease here and there from the bottom cup. i always try to pack bearings with as much grease as possible to avoid issues and this is normal for some spillage to accure post installation, however, both headsets are gritty already. the bearings sound like grease and sand mixed up inside. the headsets are both adjusted properly with no play, but they still got contaminated. i used some old grease from a phil wood bottle that had started to separate a little i think, but seemed good still. i considered maybe it was because the tange passage is so cheap that there was a break in the seal somehwere, or a defective crown race, but why then has this happened to both headsets? they've both been installed only in the last couple months. maybe the grease? i dont know. i know a gritty headset isn't much to fret about, it's still functional, but just an annoyance, especially since they're so new and i would like to not have to overhaul them right away like this.

thanks!
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Old 11-20-16, 01:19 PM
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Old school: over haul, replace grease, Minus Mudguards(?) add a section of inner-tube to make an external seal over your lower headset

before putting the Fork back in the frame ..






...
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Old 11-20-16, 01:36 PM
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What you describe sounds like what happens when one WD40s semi-worn ball bearings and then reinstalls them without applying new grease. But these headsets are brand new? Sounds like the grease has gone bad. Clean it out and use new grease and don't over-tighten the headset. Excess grease should ooze out when headset is tightened, but the grease itself shouldn't drip/flow like a liquid. You also don't need to over-do the amount of grease.
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Old 11-20-16, 01:46 PM
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yeah brand new headset and bearings. i'm thinking the grease went bad. the phil grease was a bit thin looking. but why would it be gritty so fast?
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Old 11-20-16, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by bikeperson
yeah brand new headset and bearings. i'm thinking the grease went bad. the phil grease was a bit thin looking. but why would it be gritty so fast?
You may have dislodged grit/rust from inside the frames of the bikes while installing the new sets...... it then found it's way into the head bearings.?
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Old 11-20-16, 03:34 PM
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Excess grease being pushed out.. ? Grit may be coming off your Tire from riding the bike on the road.
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Old 11-20-16, 03:52 PM
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Excess grease oozing out initially is normal. Just wipe it off.

"Gritty" can be contaminated grease or too tight bearing adjustments. Try loosening the locknuts and upper cup and then adjust until the play is JUST gone and see if that improves the feel.
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Old 11-20-16, 03:59 PM
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A bit of grease weeping out is normal, especially with designs that have an overhanging skirt on the cups. Gravity and road shock ensure that excess grease will migrate down and out.

BUT you need to wipe that off before it attracts dirt and grit. Otherwise the sheering action between the exposed and unexposed grease will cause mixing as you turn the bars back and forth. What you're probably hearing isn't dirt in the bearings, but dirt up in the small gap between the crown cup's skirt and crown race.

Unfortunately you won't know until you take it apart.

For future reference, don't over pack bearings, and avoid this issue.
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Last edited by FBinNY; 11-20-16 at 04:05 PM.
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Old 11-20-16, 04:31 PM
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So far, he says the headsets FEEL gritty. I wonder if they are Brinnelled.
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Old 11-20-16, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by AlexCyclistRoch
So far, he says the headsets FEEL gritty. I wonder if they are Brinnelled.
If anyone can't feel the difference between "gritty" and the indexing feel of a fretted (false brinelled) headset, he needs to send his hands out for recalibration.
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Old 11-20-16, 06:54 PM
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Post 2, FB, says the solution for grit getting into a headset (if this is what's really going on, still not really known yet). A seal made of a section of inner tube. I've done this to a number of bikes over the years and it is the best way to limit infiltration.


Now as to grease going bad- sorry but I don't buy this theory. Grease is going bad from before it's placed in a bearing, before the bearing is serviced, before the bike is 20 years old and with no use in the last 18 years still runs well. Grease gone bad shows as hard but smooth bearing action. Or sticky action like in brifters many years old. Not as getting gritty with no additional grit added.


I strongly suspect either poor initial installation, adjustments or contamination from the outside. But the solution's start is easy. Take the headsets apart and tell us what is found after really understanding. Andy.
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Old 11-22-16, 02:09 PM
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The problem was probably started/caused by the Phil Wood Grease you used. Phil Wood Grease is heat sensitive and breaks down, even when not used. Years ago, I bought a fresh tube from a large mailorder business. I used it to serviced the bearings in my wheels, bottom bracket, and headset. While transporting the bike to the local bike math, I found it running out of the bearings while my bike was on a roof rack on a normal temperature day. Left a greasy mess to clean up on the bike, bike mount, and the roof of the car. Bearings ran dry the first ride after installing the Phil Wood. I dropped the practically new tube in my rollaway, and it melted and ran out of the tube and all over the drawer of the rollaway.

After this, I conducted an unscientific test of various greases that I use around the house. I put dabs of difference greases on a square of cardboard, and set it out in the sun for three weeks in the middle of the summer. There was a string of days that were over 100F. At the end of the test period, the Phil Wood had completely broken down and been absorbed into the cardboard. A white lithium based heavy dury disk brake brearing grease that I use on my cars that has helped some wheel bearings reach 100K miles had partially discolored and showed a little deterioration. The Valvoline 100% Synthetic Grease that I was using on wheel bearings, CV joints, and balljoints looked exactly the way it did the day I dropped it on the cardboard square, without any sign of deterioration. I've been using the stuff on bicycles ever since (over 25 years).

Many people are using Synthetic Marine Wheel Bearing Grease with very good results.

No more Phil Wood Grease for me.

Last edited by RoadGuy; 11-22-16 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-22-16, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadGuy
Many people are using Synthetic Marine Wheel Bearing Grease with very good results.
Hear, hear! This is a place where is no reason at all not to use marine hub grease. Put in lots esp in the lower race until it squeezes out when you tighten the headset. Wipe it clean. Look at it in two years if you suspect an issue.

Since friction loss means absolutely zero in a headset, there is no reason at all to use a thinner, lower viscosity grease.

Ben
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Old 11-22-16, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
Hear, hear! This is a place where is no reason at all not to use marine hub grease. Put in lots esp in the lower race until it squeezes out when you tighten the headset. Wipe it clean. Look at it in two years if you suspect an issue.

Since friction loss means absolutely zero in a headset, there is no reason at all to use a thinner, lower viscosity grease.

Ben

Seriously take issue with the bolded statement. But also agree that thick grease reduces bleed out. Andy
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Old 11-22-16, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
Seriously take issue with the bolded statement. But also agree that thick grease reduces bleed out. Andy
Andy,

You and I live in different places than Mooney.

Long before there were bike specific greases I used to use very heavy commercial/automotive greases in headsets. This was perfectly fine for years, until I went on a ride at -8°F. It was fine until I ducked into a bar to warm up. When I came out it took serious effort to turn the bars.

So, to others, just about anything unless you ride in cold conditions, then make sure it's stable at those temps.
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Old 11-22-16, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadGuy
The problem was probably started/caused by the Phil Wood Grease you used. Phil Wood Grease is heat sensitive and breaks down, even when not used. Years ago, I bought a fresh tube from a large mailorder business. I used it to serviced the bearings in my wheels, bottom bracket, and headset. While transporting the bike to the local bike math, I found it running out of the bearings while my bike was on a roof rack on a normal temperature day. Left a greasy mess to clean up on the bike, bike mount, and the roof of the car. Bearings ran dry the first ride after installing the Phil Wood. I dropped the practically new tube in my rollaway, and it melted and ran out of the tube and all over the drawer of the rollaway.
Very interesting report. I've been using Phil Grease for over 30 years and well over 200,000 riding miles in hubs, bottom brackets, pedals and headsets. It's been exposed to 11ºF in the winter and over 100º F in the summer and has been use on bikes transported thousands of miles on roof racks and rear hitch racks. It has NEVER stiffened or melted and has never run out or left any bearing dry or unprotected. Shimano hubs opened up for routine maintenance after 8,000 miles of all-weather use were still well lubed and running smoothly.

So, based on my experience and the fact that Phil is generally very well thought of in the industry, if somewhat expensive, I have absolutely no idea how what you report occurred.
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Old 11-22-16, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider
Very interesting report. I've been using Phil Grease for over 30 years and well over 200,000 riding miles in hubs, bottom brackets, pedals and headsets. It's been exposed to 11ºF in the winter and over 100º F in the summer and has been use on bikes transported thousands of miles on roof racks and rear hitch racks. It has NEVER stiffened or melted and has never run out or left any bearing dry or unprotected. Shimano hubs opened up for routine maintenance after 8,000 miles of all-weather use were still well lubed and running smoothly.

So, based on my experience and the fact that Phil is generally very well thought of in the industry, if somewhat expensive, I have absolutely no idea how what you report occurred.


Maybe temperature has something to do with it. My riding buddy bought a tube of Phil Wood about the same time that I did (from a different source), and suffered the same problems that I did when he used it.

I know I'm not the only one who has seen this problem, occasionally other people write about problems when trying Phil Wood. Phil Wood is advertised as the "Bee's Knees". Imagine the surprise of new users when it doesn't stack up. The OP of this thread suffered a similar problem to what I did, and I recognized it for what it is.

Out here the average temperature on a riding day here in SoCal in the Inland Empire, it's at least 80F-90F. On a hot day it might be 110F-115F in the summer. What's the temperature when you're riding? Phil Wood Grease might work fine at 60F-70F, but not in SoCal in the summer.

Last edited by RoadGuy; 11-22-16 at 11:15 PM.
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Old 11-22-16, 11:24 PM
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Having thought about Road guy's post a bit I wonder about a few aspects. Card board will suck out liquid from stuff, not sure it's a relative substrate to apply grease to and have a reference to bike stuff. Grease of any kind will suffer from blow out from headsets that have enough gap between crown and headtube races if the viscosity is thin enough. (I have had this happen on roof racked bikes.).


But at the end of this discussion is that of maintenance intervals. Grease wash out is not an excuse for bearing failure which hold "water" IMO. Andy
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Old 11-23-16, 08:23 AM
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thanks for the responses. took both headsets apart and did a complete overhaul using marine grease. bought a tube for $6 down the street. stuff was pretty easy to work with. so far so good.

i used to swear by phil wood as well. never had any problems with it. the tube i had was definiltey a little funky. it was runny and separating, my fault for thinking it was still good. i'll bet anything that it was mostly due to that factor. i'm very thorough and pay close attention to adjustments and cleaning, so i'm betting it wasn't because of poor initial installation.
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Old 11-23-16, 09:42 AM
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I've read Road Guys report about the Phil Wood grease problem before on this forum. I'm in hot So Ca and use Phil grease.... never a problem. What hubs did you use..? Phil grease is almost a duel grease... thick, yet has thin oil with it.. which is what I like about it. It stays put for me.
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Old 11-23-16, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bikeperson
thanks for the responses. took both headsets apart and did a complete overhaul using marine grease. bought a tube for $6 down the street. stuff was pretty easy to work with. so far so good.

i used to swear by phil wood as well. never had any problems with it. the tube i had was definiltey a little funky. it was runny and separating, my fault for thinking it was still good. i'll bet anything that it was mostly due to that factor. i'm very thorough and pay close attention to adjustments and cleaning, so i'm betting it wasn't because of poor initial installation.
So what did you find inside? Had grit made it to the bearings, or was the gritchy feeling from crud at the periphery, like FBinNY posited?
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Old 11-23-16, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadGuy
Maybe temperature has something to do with it. My riding buddy bought a tube of Phil Wood about the same time that I did (from a different source), and suffered the same problems that I did when he used it.

I know I'm not the only one who has seen this problem, occasionally other people write about problems when trying Phil Wood. Phil Wood is advertised as the "Bee's Knees". Imagine the surprise of new users when it doesn't stack up. The OP of this thread suffered a similar problem to what I did, and I recognized it for what it is.

Out here the average temperature on a riding day here in SoCal in the Inland Empire, it's at least 80F-90F. On a hot day it might be 110F-115F in the summer. What's the temperature when you're riding? Phil Wood Grease might work fine at 60F-70F, but not in SoCal in the summer.
Interesting. I live in Mexico (Baja Sur 1000 miles below the border) where the temps are generally are 90~100 degrees pretty constantly, though today was cold at 78. I use Phil grease extensively on our bikes, quads, any threaded fitting I can reach and any anything else metal that moves or slides. NO issues with any degradation of the Phil grease, whether in use or stored in the tube.
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Old 11-24-16, 09:03 AM
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I like Phil grease for hubs and BBs. Easy rolling, never a problem. Marine grease is just as good. Headsets are different and I've had quite a few that were brinneled. In a previous auto repair life, grease with a molybdenum additive was always spec'd for low speed, heavy force apps. A few years ago I started using molybdenum grease for headsets. I've had no repeat problems on headsets packed with a moly grease. Cheap too. Just sayin.
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Old 11-26-16, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
So what did you find inside? Had grit made it to the bearings, or was the gritchy feeling from crud at the periphery, like FBinNY posited?
so, didn't find any grit in the bearings. must have been from grit in grease below the races attracted from excess grease. after the overhaul though, grease continues to leak out. more after the first ride, less now, but still after serveral rides, when i wipe with a paper towel below the race i can always find some blue grease residue. very annoying. any more suggestions?
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Old 11-26-16, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by bikeperson
so, didn't find any grit in the bearings. must have been from grit in grease below the races attracted from excess grease. after the overhaul though, grease continues to leak out. more after the first ride, less now, but still after serveral rides, when i wipe with a paper towel below the race i can always find some blue grease residue. very annoying. any more suggestions?
Good to hear. I don't have a great suggestion, I just pack with liberal amounts of grease and wipe off the excess on occasion.
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