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Threaded headset gets loose after every ride

Old 08-02-19, 10:57 PM
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the sci guy 
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Threaded headset gets loose after every ride

The threaded headset on my 80ís Raleigh commuter keeps coming loose. Iíll tighten it with a wrench to remove the play and then after a day or 2 of commuting to work thereís play again. Sometimes pretty decent play.
I have a hard time finding a sweet spot for tightening it too. There is some decent pitting someplace so that the headset/fork clicks into place when the wheel is facing forward, and itís hard to get it just right so when I tighten the top nut it doesnít make it grindy and super tracked into the pitting.
The headset was installed by a shop over a year ago.
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Old 08-03-19, 03:58 AM
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Sounds like the locknut may not be tightened properly. I’ve gotten rid of the indexing on an old headset by replacing the caged bearings with loose balls, allowing more bearings to fit between the races,( basically changing the spacing). It can be difficult to properly tighten the locknut without the proper spanners.
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Old 08-03-19, 06:35 AM
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Proper tightening requires that the upper race and locknut be jammed up together to lock the adjustment in place. If the headset is loosening, you aren't looking this effectively. Two wrenches are required: one on the race to prevent it from turning and one on the locknut to tighten. Also, do you have a keyed spacer (washer) between the upper race and locknut? Not much you can do now about the indexing other than install loose bearings as suggested by @frankenmike.

How soon after the installation did this start? If soon after, I'd suspect the work of the bike shop that installed it.
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Old 08-03-19, 06:49 AM
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Possibly the washer isn't thick enough and the locknut is bottoming out on the steerer tube.
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Old 08-03-19, 07:40 AM
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Re you sure the pitting isn't the issue? Balls in the pits and the race will feel tight as it turns and the balls are forced out and vice versa. If you like this bike., get a new HS and have the shop face the headtube (so the races are parallel. This goes a long ways in distributing the bearing forces and slows pitting. The shop probably should have done this when they installed the last one but if is an extra, oh i guess $25 for the facing.

Ben
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Old 08-03-19, 08:12 AM
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I had a headset with this issue it turned out the tab on the washer was trapped on a thread and wouldn’t transmit the force from the jam nut.
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Old 08-03-19, 08:29 AM
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Iíve got the spanner and can properly hold & tighten, no worries there. It does have a notched washer between them - what is the purpose of it? It turns usually when I turn the race with the spanner.
I also noticed there appears to be a piece of what looks like rubber starting to pinch out under the locknut?
The pittinf could be a completely separate issue but Iíd like to eliminate that as much as possible as well because it makes riding with no hands harder and sometimes on a turn the fork snaps back into the pit and can cause a steering problem.
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Old 08-03-19, 10:06 AM
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It really sounds like you just need to replace the whole headset. The washer should have a tab on it that fits in a groove on the steerer tube to prevent it from turning. This is supposed to make it easier to adjust by not transmitting rotational forces of jam nut to the cone.
After reading your post again the rubber coming out from under the jam nut could mean that it is bottoming out before it actually tightens anything. If this is the case add another washer to raise it up.

Last edited by Baboo; 08-03-19 at 10:23 AM. Reason: another idea
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Old 08-03-19, 10:13 AM
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One thing that can prevent an otherwise good headset from keeping adjustment is if the adjustable cup's threads are a sloppy fit on the steerer's threads. You can lock the locknut against it, but any shear force makes it move against the locknut, and it comes loose straight away.

Haven't had to deal with such junk for ages, but if I did I'd try teflon tape.
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Old 08-04-19, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Baboo View Post
The washer should have a tab on it that fits in a groove on the steerer tube to prevent it from turning. This is supposed to make it easier to adjust by not transmitting rotational forces of jam nut to the cone. After reading your post again the rubber coming out from under the jam nut could mean that it is bottoming out before it actually tightens anything. If this is the case add another washer to raise it up.
First: Pictures would really help here. Can you post some?

To check whether the locknut is bottoming out, remove the stem and look down into the headset/steerer tube assembly. There should be 1-2 mm of space between the top of the steerer tube and the bottom of the lip on the locknut. as shown in the picture below. If you don't have this space, the locknut will jam against the top of the steerer tube instead of the top race, which will then not be fixed in place. Add a thin spacer.




You also need to figure out why your tabbed washer is turning. While you have the stem out, remove the lock nut to free the washer. Check to see whether there is a good fit of the tab in the slot. Also look to see if there is any thread damage on the steerer tube where the washer is positioned. An ill-fitting washer can rotate and carve a groove in the steerer tube threads inhibiting the proper function of the washer tab. See picture below for an example. If you do have a groove caused by the tabbed washer, a spacer can be used to move the tab to a position where it does function.


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Old 08-05-19, 03:13 PM
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Thanks for the input everyone - I canít deconstruct my headset this week since my wife is out of town with the car and my bike is my only transport and I canít risk screwing it up

Iím curious about the headset on my wifeís bike though - I like the way it looks but it doesnít have the same configuration as mine. Can anyone tell me about it?

Hers:

Mine:
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Old 08-05-19, 09:02 PM
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Ok, I'm seeing extra parts. Look at the diagram below. Looking at your picture I see the frame. Into this frame is inserted the bottom cup and top cone. The top cone and bearings are hidden by the top adjustable cup. So far, so good. In your pic, though, I'm seeing three washers or nuts between the top cup and the lock nut. At most Id expect to see two things. Usually just one: a lock washer that has a tab on the ID that keys to a slot in the head tube. If your bike has center pull brakes, some Raleighs have a cable holder. See pic below.

One of the three washers you have has an external slot and looks like a nut. This is not correct! Take the stem out, and the locknut off the steer tube. Remove the three washers. One should have a tab on the ID. Finger tighten the top cone. Replace that one washer only. Finger tighten the locknut. Then use a wrench to get the locknut and the top cone tight against each other, and nicely snug against the bearings. It may be that the locknut or fork is stripped, but the extra washers (or whatever they are) between the locknut and top cone aren't helping any.

As to the "rubber coming out": there shouldn't be any rubber.

One possible explanation is that the fork threads are stripped and all this crud was someone's idea of trying to jury rig something. If so, you need to think about a new fork.


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Old 08-06-19, 06:38 AM
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If the headset has been replaced as the op stated earlier, the extra washer/spacer may have been installed because the stack height on the replacement headset was smaller. If this is the case, the only two options I’m aware of to keep the top nut from bottoming out before it tightens against the cone, is either washer/spacers or cutting the steerer tube. I usually add washers because it’s a lot easier than cutting the steerer tube. I believe this isn’t going to be resolved without taking it apart and inspecting to see exactly what the problem is.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:02 AM
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The other possibility is to tighten the toothed locknut onto the top cone. The upper nut would be non-functional, but it should still hold adjustment as long as the threads are not damaged.
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Old 08-07-19, 12:46 PM
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Agree with Baboo and aggiegrads. If you want the "real" original locknut to function, remove the other junk and replace with a spacer. If you want to have a functional system without buying new stuff and are ok with the appearance of that stack, adjust the top bearing cup and tighten the flat locknut (the one with slots on the OD) to the cup (with an internally-tabbed lockwasher in-between). The

So, with a spacer, where would you put the tabbed lockwasher? Against the cup, or the locknut?
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Old 08-07-19, 06:27 PM
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You really only need the tabbed washer when the cone does not have wrench flats. The only purpose of the tabbed washer (in most cases - not this one) is to prevent the cone from turning (tightening) when you secure the locknut.
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Old 08-09-19, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by the sci guy View Post
Thanks for the input everyone - I canít deconstruct my headset this week since my wife is out of town with the car and my bike is my only transport and I canít risk screwing it up.
This is why you need a backup bike. Or two.
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Old 08-09-19, 05:02 PM
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Sci guy,
Buy a new headset and the correct number of spacers needed to make it work. You will be $ ahead and no more worries about the headset turning the steering into one of the notches created with the dents in the old headset. In my opinion just part of normal maintenance. Smiles, MH
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Old 08-10-19, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by due ruote View Post
This is why you need a backup bike. Or two.
Done, and done. Going to look at a 3rd tomorrow. *shrug*
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Old 08-25-19, 07:25 PM
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Hey guys following up - I took it to the shop and they said there wasn't anything wrong with it just that it needed to be cleaned out & rebuilt - he said it was full of water and junk. I rode it one day for commuting and it's already loose again.
I'd like to get a tool to tighten the notched washer but I can't really find a Park Tool that is labeled as a headset wrench of that nature.
This was the closest I could find: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002PTVDP0...v_ov_lig_dp_it
Will this work? Otherwise can someone point me in the right direction?
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Old 08-25-19, 07:52 PM
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Check the threads on the steer tube. Riding with a loose headset can damage the threads such that the threaded headset parts can no longer hold adjustment.

If you find damage, the fix is either a replacement fork with intact threads on the steer tube, or filling the damaged threads with brass and cutting new threads into the brass.
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Old 08-25-19, 09:08 PM
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I had a strange experience with a headset on my 80's Raleigh.

Basically, the headset that was on the bike wasn't compatible with the threading of the fork. I'm not sure if Raleigh used a weird, non-standard thread at some point, but none of the cones that I had would thread on reliably. Instead, what would happen is that I could get everything snugged up, but as soon as I tightened the lock nut down, it would push the cone off half of its thread. Basically, the thread on the fork was too small for the cone to fit and when I took the fork off the bike, you could see the way that the cone would slip if you put force on it.

So I ended up with a new fork and a new headset.

YMMV.
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Old 08-26-19, 05:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Shinkers View Post
I had a strange experience with a headset on my 80's Raleigh.

Basically, the headset that was on the bike wasn't compatible with the threading of the fork. I'm not sure if Raleigh used a weird, non-standard thread at some point, but none of the cones that I had would thread on reliably. Instead, what would happen is that I could get everything snugged up, but as soon as I tightened the lock nut down, it would push the cone off half of its thread. Basically, the thread on the fork was too small for the cone to fit and when I took the fork off the bike, you could see the way that the cone would slip if you put force on it.

So I ended up with a new fork and a new headset.
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/raleigh26.html
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Old 08-26-19, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Shinkers View Post
I had a strange experience with a headset on my 80's Raleigh.

Basically, the headset that was on the bike wasn't compatible with the threading of the fork. I'm not sure if Raleigh used a weird, non-standard thread at some point, but none of the cones that I had would thread on reliably. Instead, what would happen is that I could get everything snugged up, but as soon as I tightened the lock nut down, it would push the cone off half of its thread. Basically, the thread on the fork was too small for the cone to fit and when I took the fork off the bike, you could see the way that the cone would slip if you put force on it.
Raleigh did use a non-standard, 1" x 26tpi thread on some lower-end models, but by the 1980s they were all standard 1" x 24tpi. I suspect your problem fork had damaged threads. The non-standard 26tpi headset was the same diameter as a standard steer tube thread, just a different thread pitch.
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Old 08-26-19, 08:46 AM
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The thread dedhed put up is interesting. Raleigh, because of its size, could afford to make things with proprietary threads. Back in the day I used to "set up" (unpackage, assemble, and adjust) new Raleigh bikes and it was always a hassle because they used Whitworth (and not Unified) nuts and bolts. This meant that the bolt heads for a given size thread were different, and I'd always reach for the wrong (generally smaller IIRC) wrench appropriate for UNC threads. The thread form doesn't matter too much if you have matching nuts and bolts. However, if you try to put a UNC bolt onto a Whitworth nut the threads don't match even if the pitch is the same. The thread angle for Whitworth is 55į, not 60į, and the thread root (the bottom of the little valley between threads) is rounded. In many ways, Whitworth is superior to Unified, especially given that rounded root. You have to get special (UNJ) unified bolts to get this feature, which reduces stress concentration and improves fatigue strength.

Point is, if that fork is threaded using the Whitworth thread form, and you somehow got Unified form locknuts, there's no way that they'll ever work well together.

Do you have a thread gauge? Measure the fork thread pitch. From the Sheldon article, Raleigh proprietary would be 26 threads per inch, ISO would be 24. Inspect the threads. Has someone forced a 24 tpi nut onto a 26 tpi thread? Are the threads near the end of the steer tube cleaned or are they rough, worn, and cross-threaded?

If it's a 26tpi fork, and the threads aren't morked up, I'd check with folks here, and on eBay to see if you can find a matching locknut. And if the fork has a keyway cut into it, a keyed washer.

If its a 26tpi fork and the threads ARE morked up, you could replace the fork and the headset. Or find a donor bike same model and size as yours and do a transplant.

If its 24tpi, and the threads are morked up you could either repair or replace the fork.
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