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Can you lube a freehub without removing it from the hub assembly?

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Can you lube a freehub without removing it from the hub assembly?

Old 05-31-20, 06:39 PM
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Can you lube a freehub without removing it from the hub assembly?

Have a freehub that won't catch any more because of gunk buildup over years of storage. Managed to degunk it by leaving it inside 98% acetone nail polish remover. Now it smells like makeup, but the freehub works again. RJ Bike guy said to use mineral spirits, but they don't sell it here, and a bottle of nail polish remover from dollar store serves as a working alternative so far, hope there won't be any side effects for this.

The thing is I did not not detach the freehub from the hub assembly when I soaked just the freehub part in acetone because I don't have the tools to detach the freehub. Is there a way for me to lube the freehub assembly after the acetone degunking?

This is such a long journey and I hope it will be over soon.
Read on if you are interested in the list of things I tried just to avoid spending 150 dollars on buying a new rear wheel + cassette for my old ass bike.

I got a road bike back in the 2000's, then the rear rim broke shortly due to roughly handling and not knowing how delicate a road bike really is, but the hub is still good.
I bought a new wheel in place of it and rode another 10 years or so. Then I got a broken tube and I just left it in the storage for the past 10 years.

This year I tried to ride it again after fixing the tube, only to find out the hub of the new-er wheel is gunked up.

LBS said they can't replace the freehub because it's discontinued. They also didn't recommend degunking the hub because it's not guaranteed and it takes too much time and I am just burning away money

Because the old hub isn't stuck, I took the new wheel apart, hoping to take the working old hub and working new rim and mix them together, and then ask LBS to true it after.
I didn't think of trying to ungunk the freehub of the newer wheel, could have saved me so much time.

BAD MOVE, because I didn't count the hole number differences between the 2 wheels, my old hub is 32, and my newer rim is 36. I had assumed they were the same number, but they weren't, I ****ed up there.
At this point I went on here hoping to see if there's some magic build pattern that would let me use my old spokes and not change anything further, and I got the answer of a resounding NO!

So now I am left with a disassembled working 36 rim and gunked hub, and a working but incompatible 32 hub

Then I finally tried soaking the 36 freehub inside acetone, and then it became ungunked again. How could it be so damn easy? Why didn't I try this first?
In hindsight, if I had gone directly to the degunking route, I would not have to reassemble the wheel I took apart, and would not have to spend money to retrue an already trued wheel.

The whole thing has taken so much time of my time, I think it's been weeks? I just want this to be over soon

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Old 05-31-20, 07:18 PM
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Is the axle in the hub still or did you remove it and the bearings? Did you dry out the FH body completely or is there still some liquid acetone in there?

Set the wheel on it's LH side. Place some paper towels between the RH spokes and the back of the FH body, jam them in there best possible. Drip some oil into the FH body's outer end. With the wheel being nearly flat there will be a "cup" like ability for the oil to pool up and slowly seep through the body. Rotate the FH body periodically. Replace the paper towels as they become oil soaked. At some point decide the oil has worked it's way all the way through the body, the acetone is fully gone and no more oil is leaking out. You're done.

Some might continue with a thicker oil. If the axle was still in place it's bearings will need overhauling and they will need grease, not oil. If your version of the FH body has "rubber" seals these will inhibit the oil from seeping in and draining out as quickly as without seals. Compressed air can help rid the body of whatever liquid is in it at the cost of a mess. Andy
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Old 05-31-20, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Is the axle in the hub still or did you remove it and the bearings?
Axle still in the hub. And there's no wheel right now, just the hub assembly.
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Old 05-31-20, 07:38 PM
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So my comment about the acetone cleaning also effecting the axle bearings holds true. Generally this stuff is easier done with a built up wheel, better to leverage and handle with a rim laced up then a bare hub. BTW when you pull the axle look inside the hub shell and see if you can spot the FH body's fitting. If so and if the hub was laced to a rim one could then remove the FH body from the hub shell and make the cleaning and lubing that much cleaner/easier. But you need the leverage of a laced rim to work against the hex wrench that will loosen the FH body's securing fitting. Andy
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Old 05-31-20, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
So my comment about the acetone cleaning also effecting the axle bearings holds true. Generally this stuff is easier done with a built up wheel, better to leverage and handle with a rim laced up then a bare hub. BTW when you pull the axle look inside the hub shell and see if you can spot the FH body's fitting. If so and if the hub was laced to a rim one could then remove the FH body from the hub shell and make the cleaning and lubing that much cleaner/easier. But you need the leverage of a laced rim to work against the hex wrench that will loosen the FH body's securing fitting. Andy
What if after acetone is cleaned up, I soak the freehub section of the hub inside a jar of lubricant? I am hoping to do this without disassembling the hub any further

Let me reread the whole thing again, if I only need to remove the axle and then I can lube it, maybe I can give that a try.

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Old 05-31-20, 08:34 PM
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The method of using gravity to bleed oil through the FH body works well, especially if time is on your side. Sure one could just dunk the entire FH body in the oil but what one wants to know is that the oil has coated the whole insides and not just entered the outer portions. By watching for the oil to exit into the paper towels you're insured the oil has come all the way through. Can you take the hub/FH body to a gas station and ues their air hose to blow air through it? Or can you heat up (less then boiling water temps) the FH body to evaporate any remaining acetone? Andy
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Old 05-31-20, 09:41 PM
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What condition is the hub currently in right now after being soaked in acetone? Are all the lubricant and grease gone after 3 hours? What's a good cheap fluidy lubricant for this?

What happens if you take this hub and ride without any lube in it?

For now I think I will leave the hub near a fireplace for a day or 2 so I know for sure all the liquid will be evaporated by then.

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Old 05-31-20, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by CaptainPlanet View Post
What if after acetone is cleaned up, I soak the freehub section of the hub inside a jar of lubricant? I am hoping to do this without disassembling the hub any further

Let me reread the whole thing again, if I only need to remove the axle and then I can lube it, maybe I can give that a try.
Hmmm... if the bare hub (axle removed, freehub not) were placed so the freehub were immersed in lubricant... I don't think this will work. The Shimano freehubs I've worked on have a large rubber seal on the side of the freehub that faces the hub. This seal will prevent oil from flowing up into the bearings and ratchet of the body. This seal would is impossible to remove with the freehub attached to the hub. I'd also worry about acetone attacking the rubber seal.

IMO, the correct way to go about this is to remove the freehub body from the hub shell (which is far easier on a built wheel), remove the seal, and clean the freehub body thoroughly. Only when clean and dry should you lube the freehub body with light (10-weight) oil. Reassemble and enjoy.
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Old 05-31-20, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
So my comment about the acetone cleaning also effecting the axle bearings holds true. Generally this stuff is easier done with a built up wheel, better to leverage and handle with a rim laced up then a bare hub. BTW when you pull the axle look inside the hub shell and see if you can spot the FH body's fitting. If so and if the hub was laced to a rim one could then remove the FH body from the hub shell and make the cleaning and lubing that much cleaner/easier. But you need the leverage of a laced rim to work against the hex wrench that will loosen the FH body's securing fitting. Andy
Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
IMO, the correct way to go about this is to remove the freehub body from the hub shell (which is far easier on a built wheel), remove the seal, and clean the freehub body thoroughly. Only when clean and dry should you lube the freehub body with light (10-weight) oil. Reassemble and enjoy.
You are right, without a complete wheel, it doesn't look like I will be removing the freehub from the hub assembly. I could remove the axle with any 2 wrenches, but the hex wrench don't have any leverage to remove the freehub.

Here's the thing though, if acetone can seap through the freehub despite the rubber stopper, is there some kind of liquidy lubricant that can also seap through and enter the freehub?

In normal operation, after you remover rubber stopper, you apply lube and then it seap out the other side, then can't I just apply lube from the other side, and let it work its way down to the rubber stopper? I just need a lube that's free flowing enough to do that.

Alright **** it, it seems apparently Mavic mineral oil can be used for freehubs, I know mine is not Mavic freehub, it's the same one as the RJ bike guy's freehub cleaning video, but maybe it's worth a try. Tomorrow I am going to the dollar store, and if I can't find any cheap generic lubricant, then I am gonna go with baby oil (mineral oil), and just soak the freehub in it. I know for sure mineral oil is at least as liquidy as acetone, and that's the type that will seap through the seams.

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Old 06-01-20, 07:26 AM
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I would suggest mineral oil from the hardware store, baby versions likely will have some other additives for smell and such. Like Jeff said, 10 weight machine/motor oil would do too. Sewing machine oils are generally 10 wt or thinner.

And you can always lace up a rim to remove the FH body. The spokes don't have to be as tight as a riding wheel. Andy
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Old 06-01-20, 08:12 AM
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If you are going to rebuild the wheel with the old hub then it should be no problem to take it apart and properly clean and lube it. A 10mm allen wrench will remove the freehub body.
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Old 06-01-20, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
I would suggest mineral oil from the hardware store, baby versions likely will have some other additives for smell and such. Like Jeff said, 10 weight machine/motor oil would do too. Sewing machine oils are generally 10 wt or thinner.

And you can always lace up a rim to remove the FH body. The spokes don't have to be as tight as a riding wheel. Andy
Is there any serious warning against using baby oil? Like temperature issues, compression issues, or anything like that? Has there been success or failure stories?
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Old 06-01-20, 07:59 PM
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Out of curiosity what is the end game with this hub/freehub? If you're going to use it in a wheel then get off your pot and lace it up, remove the FH body and do the service in the best way. If you're just playing around then do whatever. Knowing the complete story always helps plan the path. Andy
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Old 06-02-20, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Out of curiosity what is the end game with this hub/freehub? If you're going to use it in a wheel then get off your pot and lace it up, remove the FH body and do the service in the best way. If you're just playing around then do whatever. Knowing the complete story always helps plan the path. Andy
I am not sure what more I could do for the freehub by taking it off hub assembly. Unless I also disassemble the freehub itself and clean up the springs and needles, I can't really clean it any further even if I remove the freehub and then take off the rubber stopper.

Then end goal is to return the bike to working condition and then give it to a friend who wants to get back into cycling but doesn't want to spend a lot of money. That's why I am cheaping out so much.
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Old 06-02-20, 09:13 PM
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So if the goal is to return the hub to useable service that means lacing a rim to it. Then all our better suggestions can be followed. Simple and done. Andy
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Old 06-02-20, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
So if the goal is to return the hub to useable service that means lacing a rim to it. Then all our better suggestions can be followed. Simple and done. Andy
Ditto. Build it into a wheel and removing the freehub body is a piece of cake.

FWIW: I would not disassemble the freehub body once you've removed it from the hub. There are lots of small bearings and tiny springs that go flying inside. All I've done (and I've done this a bunch of times) is removed the seal on the back of the freehub body, cleaned it, then put some light oil inside before putting the seal back in and reassembling the hub. The result is a nearly silent coasting action, very different from stock. The difference in sound is worth the effort.
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Old 06-04-20, 07:41 PM
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What Jeff Wills said ^^.
You should service the hub's bearings properly. They are hard-working bearings and need good lubrication and adjustment. The freehub bearings, pawls, etc., only function when the bike is coasting, and there's not as much load on them. You *will* appreciate the silence of a properly-lubricated freehub, as Jeff noted.
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