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frame is cracked? cost of welding?

Old 08-07-20, 04:53 PM
  #1  
subtleluck
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frame is cracked? cost of welding?

I noticed what appears to be a crack where the seat tube is welded to the bottom bracket. I sanded the paint off for inspection (see pics). The frame is a 13 year old Surly Pacer (4130 chromoly) with around 15k miles on it. I'm the original owner weighing 160lb and haven't been hard on the frame. I thought these things go to 100k miles. The crack didn't look like it goes all the way through, so I touched it up with nail polish and took it for a ride. After the ride there was a brown residue all along the crack, which makes me concerned.


Is the frame toast?

Can it be welded inexpensively at a weld shop?






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Old 08-07-20, 05:00 PM
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I just looked up the warranty. Three years seems a bit stingy. A frame builder might be best qualified to tell you whether it is repairable. I wouldn't get my hopes up. Sorry.
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Old 08-07-20, 05:14 PM
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Try contacting Surly/QBP and tell them what you have. They may give you an extended warranty or offer a replacement new frame at a significant discount.
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Old 08-07-20, 05:32 PM
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Take it to a welding shop, A decent welder can Tig weld that up no problem.
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Old 08-07-20, 05:42 PM
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That crack will only get worse. There's a lot of stress on a bottom bracket shell, which should have been addressed by the design and method of construction. I'd say that Surly should attempt to do right by you as this sort of defect could affect their reputation.

Good luck.
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Old 08-07-20, 06:19 PM
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check in frame buiilders as to best options your are talking not just welding but also major paint removal and fix Thin tubes in bike are not always "any welder can fix"
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Old 08-07-20, 06:25 PM
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Take a flap sander with some 60 grit and sand off the paint an inch on either side of the crack then take it to a Tig weld shop, this is not the space shuttle, they will know it's thin and it is NOT a big deal to run a bead across that crack. Tell them you want a full pen weld.
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Old 08-07-20, 06:29 PM
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quindecima: any rough idea what it would cost to weld it up?

The Surly warranty is 3 years. For an inexpensive frame it's reasonable. Is it really worth contacting Surly over a 13 year old frame? It seems I got plenty of use (though not miles out of it). The only thing I can think of is I push high gears up steep hills or maybe a pot hole.
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Old 08-07-20, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Try contacting Surly/QBP and tell them what you have. They may give you an extended warranty or offer a replacement new frame at a significant discount.
+1 this. Having worked as the warranty return inspector for Trek BITD, I can say that dealing with failed product is as much public relations as it is following the letter of the warranty policy.
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Old 08-07-20, 07:00 PM
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It is going to take an hour to set up the welding booth and screens and to dial their machine in. What ever their Min. cost is I would guess. 4130 is not tricky to weld so it won't take long for them to do it.
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Old 08-07-20, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
+1 this. Having worked as the warranty return inspector for Trek BITD, I can say that dealing with failed product is as much public relations as it is following the letter of the warranty policy.
+1 There's no way this should have happened in 15,000 miles on a decent frame. (Well, I did have my Peugeot UO-8 welded an inch from there after 19,000 miles but I had ridden that bike in snow, ice, salt and crashed it about 2 dozen times.)

You've posted this for the world to see that it crashed across the original TIG weld. Surley might be happy to give you a new frame so you can report back to the forum Surley's outstanding customer service.
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Old 08-07-20, 07:28 PM
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I have no doubt that a weld fab shop (or builder who does welding) can lay a bead along the crack. I do wonder about the long term reliability though of said repair. I think it's fair to wonder about the why and wonder about whether there's more to come. So I see this as either the frame gets a replacement under some sort of customer service (not warranty and maybe at a cost lower then retail) offer or it gets repaired at some unknown cost and the future question remains. How one balances these possibilities is their own to decide. Please do follow up and post here on that. Andy
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Old 08-07-20, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by subtleluck View Post
quindecima: any rough idea what it would cost to weld it up?

The Surly warranty is 3 years. For an inexpensive frame it's reasonable. Is it really worth contacting Surly over a 13 year old frame? It seems I got plenty of use (though not miles out of it). The only thing I can think of is I push high gears up steep hills or maybe a pot hole.
It is a defect in manufacturing. I agree the warranty isn't good, but you can get similarly priced frames (eg Kona) with a lifetime warranty.

Take it to a frame-builder. If they can fix it for $100 or less, do it. Otherwise, buy something else.

I cracked my steel framed Bianchi in 1989. These things happen. The 3 year warranty suggests they don't have a lot of confidence in their own product.
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Old 08-07-20, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
It is a defect in manufacturing. I agree the warranty isn't good, but you can get similarly priced frames (eg Kona) with a lifetime warranty.

Take it to a frame-builder. If they can fix it for $100 or less, do it. Otherwise, buy something else.

I cracked my steel framed Bianchi in 1989. These things happen. The 3 year warranty suggests they don't have a lot of confidence in their own product.
Not sure I would describe the business choice in this way. Business choice of how long to provide warranty coverage. There's a number of factors as to how long to state warranty replacement besides the companies confidence in their product.

One example of this is found with forks. Back in the day forks were considered a frame device and thus were subject to the same warranty coverage as the rest of the frame was. With the advent of suspension this changed and now forks (both suspension and rigid in many cases) are considered a component with a 1 year warranty. Given that many forks (both sprung and rigid) are out sourced and are subject to a limited market cycle I have no surprise (disappointment yes) of this shift of warranty. Today most bike brands (especially the smaller ones) no longer have a vested interest in their source factories, for the frames and all else. The source factories likely have their period of contracted reimbursement due to warranty claims.

But what is a business choice is what John Thompson mentioned, that any written policy has it's un written exceptions. This is where the consumer/dealer relationship becomes vital so that a bigger player can go to bat for the consumer and ask for consideration beyond the posted warranty. I work at a Trek dealer and we do this many times a year for a range of situations. More often then not we get some amount of consideration for our customer. Hopefully the dealer who sold this bike will step up too. Andy
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Old 08-07-20, 11:20 PM
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Thank you everyone for chiming in. Your confirmation of the failed weld is very helpful. The crack looks innocent and I rode it thinking it's no big deal.
I will not be riding it anymore. This was my main reason for posting here, to have confirmation of a failed weld or I'd convince myself it's no big deal.

Is it really a manufacturing defect? The Pacer was their light weight frame. I don't know how delicate these things are supposed to be. Maybe they expect you to be extra careful with them? I have the Surly 1x1, it's a beefier frame which gets a lot of heavy use without any problems. I'm very happy with it.

I'm reluctant to contact Surly because of the age of the frame, but based on your recommendations I might do that. I like the idea of welding it. If it's under $100 it's probably the cheaper option. Thank you for your input everyone.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:43 AM
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I build TIG welded frames as a hobby and I would have no concerns about grinding that crack back and welding it up again. It is a bit odd that it cracked through the weld, but that spot is a common place for failure of all joining methods. I wouldn't call it a manufacturing defect for cracking after 13 years of use.

It would help people to suggest a possible location for repair if you had a location in your profile. If you were near me, I would repair it for significantly less than $100.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by subtleluck View Post
quindecima: any rough idea what it would cost to weld it up?

The Surly warranty is 3 years. For an inexpensive frame it's reasonable. Is it really worth contacting Surly over a 13 year old frame? It seems I got plenty of use (though not miles out of it). ...
The worst that will happen is that they will say "No".
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Old 08-08-20, 07:00 AM
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The last frame repair I had our framebuilder do was replacing a Campagnolo drive side dropout which is more complicated and $120, including the $20+ for the drop out. I would also be happy to have him look at the damage as he is the kind of professional who will tell you straight up if he saw risks or "no worries". Any chance of a pro in your area?
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Old 08-08-20, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by dsaul View Post
It would help people to suggest a possible location for repair if you had a location in your profile..
Good reminder in general. You never know when it can lead to something useful or helpful.
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Old 08-08-20, 11:07 AM
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It is not a difficult repair. The crack needs to be ground out and gas tungsten arc welded.
Usually you see a crack in the heat affected zone rather than in the center of the weld.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:09 PM
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It's a chromoly frame people, not a space craft that may explode... It was joined with welding, it can be fixed with welding. The Gary Littlejohn I have was the shop bike. we had a road racer fellow that had never been out on BMX so we took him out to our favorite place at the time. We were going down a raven for about 20-30 foot, hitting a jump, clearing the next berm and diving between two trees like we always did... Well we forgot this was his first time out and he jumped and made the berm but failed to navigate the two trees. Best crash we had seen in a while. It wound up breaking the forks, elongating the lower head tube (just at the back of the tube) almost 3/32 of inch towards the downtube from the pressed in headset race. It bent the gussets but didn't bend the top or down tubes, and there were stress cracks forming at the seat tube. After lamenting its loss for a while back at the shop I started working on it.. I found an old frame, took part of bottom bracket shell (about 1/2" in length) ground out the threads, work on the headtube to it get it back to round and pressed that ring onto the outside of the lower headtube. I then took it to a local welder (welding shop, not a frame shop) He ground off the gussets and made some new ones for it. Then I had him weld some extra gussets on the seat tubes, weld the replacement gussets to the frame and weld the ring on the headtube top and bottom and fill the lower headtube inside with weld. While we were at it I had the piece of pipe I pressed into the Landing gear forks I had purchased and had him weld that up also and had him further weld the lower crown race with extra material. I then took the frame back to the shop, ground the lower headtube race round on the inside and faced/reamed it for a normal 1" cup. I then cut the crown race to 26.4. I used a stronglight radial bearing lower cup and a GT BMX upper cup for the headset. All that was done not with TIG like original with but with MIG welding. I rode it like that for a further 5 years then loaned it to a friend who kept it for another 20 years. When I finally got it back his son had been riding it. It was the same except my original wheels were missing, But the repairs and the headset were still good after 25 yrs of abuse. I am in the process of restoring it now, grinding off the replacement gussets in favor of something more like the original, grinding off the added seat gussets and having the seat tube rewelded where it is cracking. This time I want the welding to be done with TIG instead of MIG. I don't think I want to replace the headtube... I think I will leave it as repaired.. 1) its part of the bikes history, 2) the stronglight lower radial bearing just works better on a BMX bike than round bearings. 3) The forks are already fixed and who can afford old school cruiser forks, let alone find them.
All that to say... Things can be fixed, and sometimes better than original.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by subtleluck View Post
The frame is a 13 year old Surly Pacer (4130 chromoly) with around 15k miles on it. I'm the original owner weighing 160lb and haven't been hard on the frame.



I'd be curious to see what the inside of the tube looks like using and endoscope. Perhaps the inside of any tube that one could get a camera into.

There are a few types of weld failures.

In this case, the crack does seem to move around a bit, but is largely going right down the middle of the weld.

I'd be concerned about potentially having poor penetration and the weld bead just sitting on top of the tubes.

If that is the case, then this could potentially be a manufacturer's defect that was discovered late. I can't say how that would impact the warranty.

As mentioned, it could probably be welded over, and you should be able to get another 13 years out of the bike.

Yet, the other risk is that if a welder did a poor job on this joint, it could also have bad welds elsewhere.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:52 PM
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Where are you?

If you list a location, you might be able to solicit local suggestions.
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Old 08-10-20, 08:40 PM
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I contacted Surly, they are understandably busy due to the coronavirus and said it's about 4 days for a response.

CliffordK: I'd rather not post my location. I'm in a medium size city. Sorry but an endoscope is one gadget I do not own. I took the cranks off to look inside, but could not see inside seat tube on the other side of the crack. Your point about the welder doing a poor job on other joints is what I'm concerned about too. I'll see what Surly says, maybe this is an (internally) known issue. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

I would prefer to use a welding shop rather than a frame builder due to the cheaper cost and easier accessibility. I'm one of those living car free people.
Due to the coronavirus I don't see myself renting/having access to a car anytime soon, so the shop would have to be relatively near by. There seem to be many shops in the area but I'm having a hard time finding one that seems suitable, i.e. TIG precision welder. Do I call places until I find one that does freehand TIG welding? It seems all the places that explicitly say TIG welder are all driving distance.

Luckily I'm not in a rush to get this fixed as I've had more occasion to ride my 1x1.
Thanks everyone for your insights.
canopus: great story.
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Old 08-12-20, 09:46 PM
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Heard back from Surly. Frame is too old for a "grace period" on the warranty. They suggested I buy one of their new frames.

I think I will find a welding shop nearby first.
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