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Ultegra 9-speed intermittently not shifting

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Ultegra 9-speed intermittently not shifting

Old 10-13-18, 07:25 PM
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Ultegra 9-speed intermittently not shifting

I have Shimano Ultegra 9-speed brifters on both my road bikes (triple cranksets), and one of the brifters has started to act up. Several times on my most recent rides, I tried to downshift and the lever moved left with no resistance and failed to execute the shift . A second attempt usually succeeded. Any idea what might be going on? Those shifters are 17 years old, but they only have about 5,000 miles' worth of shifts on them. Thanks in advance for your advice.
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Old 10-13-18, 08:48 PM
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I have the same problem with my rear shifter of the same brand, model and age. This started after about the first couple years. I was advised to not lubricate the STI shifters as I was told this would make the problem worse. Eventually I tried lubrication with Boeshield, which made no difference. Mine only acts up about every 10 shifts and always shifts on the second attempt, so I've pretty much decided to live with it.
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Old 10-13-18, 09:21 PM
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Check your shift wire inside the shifter for fraying. It is much easier to replace it before the head breaks off inside the mechanism.
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Old 10-13-18, 10:48 PM
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Given that they are almost drinking age with relatively low use, I'll bet the grease inside is turning to gum. This is very, very common with Shimano ratcheting shift levers of all types. Usually the solution is to hose out the inside with a light spray lubricant. Find something that is petroleum-based so the mechanism stays lubricated.

I also agree that replacing the shift cable would be a good prophylactic measure.

Sweeks, who advised you to not lube your brifters? This is a well-known issue with older Shimano units. My first-series XTR shifters went wonky after several years of disuse. I cleaned them out with spray oil and they are working fine another 10 years later.
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Old 10-14-18, 12:29 AM
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I have to agree with Jeff. My Ultegra 9 speed brifters started to gum up after about 10 years. After reading up on it in this forum, I took them off the bars to throughly rinse out the mechanisms with some LPS spray lube. They've been fine ever since, with an occasional relube with light oil. The action is a little lighter with light oil instead of grease. I hang a little bucket under each brifter after lubing to catch drips for a day or so. Eventually, all my Shimano brifters/thumb shifters gummed up from age (I tend to keep stuff a long time).

It is also possible that you have a cable or housing friction problem, which can be tested easily if you service/replace the cables.
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Old 10-14-18, 11:00 AM
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Thanks for the advice, folks! I'll spray-lube mine and see if that helps. It's not likely to be a cable issue; I installed new cables earlier this year when I raised my handlebars.
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Old 10-14-18, 11:40 AM
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This is the only time WD-40 gets near my bike. I used the same set of brifters for 22 years and every few years I had to rinse them out liberally. It'll make less of a mess if you can loosen both cables, unbolt the shifter from the handlebar, and hold it over a pan to catch the dirty oil. You'll see waves of dirt come out at first, rinse until it comes clean.

If you have access to an ultrasonic cleaner, all the better.
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Old 10-14-18, 02:07 PM
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FWIW for grins I dissassembled an 8 spd and a 9sd shimano brifter a few yrs ago, the 8 spd ~1996 era and 9spd ~2001. Both had internal ratchet
failures at 5-12k miles of use. The internal grease was pristine in appearance and function, not dried out at all. YMMV, but my twin examples
were not dirty at all. Spray lube is a good idea though, but I would also loosen the cables from the deraillers and pull them a few inches out of the
brifters to be sure they didn't have a frayed wire. Bend them back and forth to check. If nothing else works put a new cable in, if all of above
fails, you might need some new brifters.
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Old 10-14-18, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
Sweeks, who advised you to not lube your brifters? This is a well-known issue with older Shimano units.
I got that advice from my LBS. I've since sprayed Boeshield into the shifter without any changes. I'd think about changing the cable, but the shifter has been doing this thing since just after the warranty expired (of course) years ago. I'm not much inclined to pursue a definitive solution, since it only misses a shift once in a while and the second tap always works.
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Old 10-14-18, 07:31 PM
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Boeshield is a wax, not a oil based lube. As a wax it will become a build up of it's own in time if additional spraying id done. The way I service these things is to remove the blade and shift pod from the lever body to allow soaking in a true solvent bath. Compressed air helps drive out old lube as well as drive in solvent. When the shifter resumes working (with the solvent still wet inside) dry it out and add first thin oil then thicker stuff. Again compressed air helps as does cycling through the shifter's range. Only after all this is done will I reassemble the blade/pod back onto the body. This way I keep all that nasty solvent off the bars and tape and am not just adding oil to dirt/gumminess. Andy
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Old 10-14-18, 08:40 PM
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Yep, the pawls are just gummed up to the point of the small return springs can't pull them back into position to activate a shift. Lots of mechanics have lots of different ways of fixing the issue. I made a video earlier this year showing the easiest way I know how to do it.

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Old 10-15-18, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Boeshield is a wax, not a oil based lube.
Yes, I'm aware of that. I used it once, and when it didn't make any difference I figured I'd leave well-enough alone.
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Old 10-15-18, 07:29 AM
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sweeks- The way your two previous posts could read suggested that you might have tried Boeshield twice. Sorry to miss understand. But many use Boeshield as a lube and many of my posts are for the readers, not just for the poster. Boeshield has a couple of advantages that make it an easy, if poor, choice for lubing stuff (chains as example). It's easy to apply and since it's full of vehicle it gets into the nooks and crannies quickly. Too bad that as a wax it doesn't rewet out after some use and scrape off, and thus provide poor wet weather protection/lubing. Yet it will cause build up after repeated applications, in time negating all those claims of being clean.

Boeshield describes it's spray developed as a protectant for Boeing during said products storage. Andy
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Old 10-15-18, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
sweeks- The way your two previous posts could read suggested that you might have tried Boeshield twice. Sorry to miss understand. But many use Boeshield as a lube and many of my posts are for the readers, not just for the poster.
No apology necessary, Andy. I might have been a bit sensitive there. You gave an excellent description of Boeshield which I heartily endorse to those not familiar with the product.
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Old 10-16-18, 08:24 PM
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If you're going to remove the levers, it often helps to wrap a bit of foil around the 2mm Allen key to stop it rounding out; penetrating oil helps too.

And if you're going to that amount of trouble, you might as well go a step further... Remove the front cover / housing stop, and push the small lever to reveal a Phillips screw. Undo that, and the whole mechanism pulls out of the brake blade and now you can see the problem. Above the pivot on the small lever is a small pawl, which gets stiff on its pivot. Aim some solvent at the pivot and work the pawl a bit until it moves freely. There's another pawl for the main lever, but it's usually the second one to get stiff.

Reassembly can be a hassle due to the difficulty of getting the spring inside the cover back in place, but that can be helped by ensuring you know which way it goes back in (pay attention during disassembly), and starting with the cover rotated and winding up the spring as you put the cover in place. Worst case scenario, you can give up on that spring, since the lever still pretty much works without it.

Getting the lever back in the hood can also be taxing because there's a trick to getting the brake lever return spring in place. You have to keep the tail of the spring outside the hood as you hold the lever back against it and move it up into the hood. Shimano used to sell a little tool that helps immensely with this; it's just a little tube that slips over the end of the spring - you can use a football needle instead.
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Old 10-16-18, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
If you're going to remove the levers, it often helps to wrap a bit of foil around the 2mm Allen key to stop it rounding out; penetrating oil helps too.

And if you're going to that amount of trouble, you might as well go a step further... Remove the front cover / housing stop, and push the small lever to reveal a Phillips screw. Undo that, and the whole mechanism pulls out of the brake blade and now you can see the problem. Above the pivot on the small lever is a small pawl, which gets stiff on its pivot. Aim some solvent at the pivot and work the pawl a bit until it moves freely. There's another pawl for the main lever, but it's usually the second one to get stiff.

Reassembly can be a hassle due to the difficulty of getting the spring inside the cover back in place, but that can be helped by ensuring you know which way it goes back in (pay attention during disassembly), and starting with the cover rotated and winding up the spring as you put the cover in place. Worst case scenario, you can give up on that spring, since the lever still pretty much works without it.

Getting the lever back in the hood can also be taxing because there's a trick to getting the brake lever return spring in place. You have to keep the tail of the spring outside the hood as you hold the lever back against it and move it up into the hood. Shimano used to sell a little tool that helps immensely with this; it's just a little tube that slips over the end of the spring - you can use a football needle instead.
Wow! I learned something just now. I've seen that tool and always wondered what it was for. I have also suffered with lever/pod reattachment to the body WRT getting that little coiled spring tail just so many times. Funny how one can have a mental block about things. Thanks. Andy
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Old 10-17-18, 02:09 AM
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/curtseys
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