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Scraping sound from newly-serviced headset

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Scraping sound from newly-serviced headset

Old 12-01-21, 03:39 PM
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wheelywheel
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Scraping sound from newly-serviced headset

I've got a 1980's vintage bike (new to me) that I have been overhauling. The headset and fork are Tange and appear to be mid-range quality. I completely disassembled and cleaned everything and replaced the bearings in holders with loose, grade 25 new bearings. Put everything back together well greased. The races were not perfect but looked pretty good.

I adjusted the headset and removed all play when facing forward. There was a little bit of play when the bars were turned past 90 degrees, but that seemed irrelevant. I noticed while adjusting that once, fairly suddenly, there was a scraping sort of sound when I rotated the bars. It did not feel like too-tight bearings (not that bumpy feeling) but more like dry metal scraping on dry metal. There was a noticeable sound, as well - like a smooth scraping noise. I took everything apart, removed a ball from each race (there is now about 2 balls worth of free space in the races) and put it back together with a bit more grease. All seemed fine and remained so while doing other adjustments over a period of a week or so.

But today I went for a short ride (200 feet) and then noticed the same thing again. The amount of play does not seem any different. Races pressed into the frame seem fine and are not rotating or loose as far as I can tell. I'm mystified. Any ideas?

Thanks!

Last edited by wheelywheel; 12-01-21 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:18 PM
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Did you install one of the bearing ball retainers upside down? They only properly install one way.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:19 PM
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Assuming you have the correct size and quantity of bearings installed (it sounds like you are at least one ball short), I would guess one of two things - 1) the races are brinnelled (unevenly indented/worn) beyond saving, or 2) you have a bent steerer tube.

To check the steerer, remove the fork from the bike and roll the steer tube over a flat surface (granite countertop would suffice) - if it doesn't roll straight, it is likely bent. If the races are worn, a new headset may be in order.

Not to sound disrespectful, have you serviced a headset before? It's not hard but there is some technique involved to make sure you get the locknut tight with a proper adjustment.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Did you install one of the bearing ball retainers upside down? They only properly install one way.
It sounds like he ditched the retainers and went to loose balls.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:29 PM
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Thank you all for the replies. I have serviced headsets before -- I'm an amateur but have probably done 10 to 20 over the years. I did replace the retainer bearings with loose bearings. I left more space in (took out one additional bearing) the first time around in case I had too many bearings in there. But I guess that was not the issue. Locknut is tight.

I will check the steerer tube for straightness, did not look at that before. But odd that this problem would come and go like that. It has been perfectly fine and then the sound and scraping tightness appears for no obvious reason.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:42 PM
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Make sure a ball did not get down into the headtube before everything was tightened up....I think I had that happen once with similar results.
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Old 12-01-21, 04:45 PM
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I’m guessing you might need to add ball bearings. I assume you used the same diameter.

John
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Old 12-01-21, 05:06 PM
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Looking at it again just now, I'm wondering if the problem is the order in which I installed the lock ring and the washer. When I took it apart (it may have been incorrect then) first the bearing race went onto the steerer tube on the fork -- obviously. Then the washer (with the bump in it to fit on the groove in the tube) then the notched lockring, and then the top nut. But perhaps the lock ring should have gone on first (right on top of the race) and then the washer, then the top nut? I think the sound I hear may be the bearing race sliding past the washer and the two rubbing on each other.
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Old 12-01-21, 05:25 PM
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While others are suggesting that you are a bearing or two short, I'm going to suggest that you might have too many bearings.

Even one bearing too many will have the bearings not able to get in their proper place on the race where the geometry of the races want them to be. They will be crammed tightly together and won't be able to turn freely.

IMO, I'd rather run the headset with way too few bearings than one too many.

Did you count the bearings you took out and replaced with the same number and size?
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Old 12-01-21, 05:45 PM
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On customer headsets I generally leave the notched lock ring on the bike and just deal with the added hassle it has during the adjustment process. For my personal bikes (and this goes back to the 1970s Fujis I've had) that lock ring gets ditched, an additional spacer is used instead and I rely on the top lock nut for keeping it all tight. Andy
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Old 12-01-21, 05:49 PM
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There may be something wrong with this headset -- perhaps it was installed incorrectly. I would post photos, but cannot due to my low number of overall posts on this forum.

At the race and cone at the fork, the bearings are visible -- you can see them when the headset is all together. The race does not cover them. That seems odd and not very weather-resistant but this is how it installs and how it was when I got it. At the top race -- it is a bit unusual in that the race does not have flats for a wrench to hold it. I suppose you have to hold it with big pliers (that's what I did). Then there is a notched lock ring and then a washer and a top nut. When I got it, the washer was in between the race and the lock ring. In the photo they are switched but not sure that is any better.

Perhaps I have some mis-matched components here?

Regarding number of bearings, when they were in the retainer of course there were fewer of them due to being spaced out. But there is plenty of space between them as there are about 2 open spaces when they are all packed into the race. I may be wrong but this scraping I feel does not seem like a bearing issue. Even when I tighten the race down a lot it is a different feeling. I have adjusted a fair number of bearings in my time and I've never had them feel like this or make this kind of vibrating scrape. Somehow this feels like two pieces of unlubricated metal rubbing together. Don't know where, though. I could always go back to the bearings in retainers and see what that does.

Last edited by wheelywheel; 12-01-21 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 12-01-21, 08:57 PM
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You do realize that more loose balls are required than the number in a cage/retainer.

John
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Old 12-02-21, 04:36 AM
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You state that it looks like you could fit two more bearings. I believe that it should look like you could add one more ball bearing, not two. I had a similar problem with the first threaded headset I replaced. My problem turned out to be one of the ball bearings got into the head tube. That was my fault as I put in one too many bearings.
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Old 12-02-21, 07:03 AM
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Thanks again to all for the suggestions.

When I first put the headset together, I had space for one more bearing in each race. This problem occurred then, and so I tried with space for two bearings. Still happened.

I just now fished the old retainers out of the trash, cleaned them up, and installed in newly cleaned and greased races. It may be that there is some quirk about this headset where a loose ball jumps out somehow and gets jammed (maybe on the top cone?). So I'll try it with the retainers for a while. When all set up and adjusted it feels just like the loose balls did -- no play facing forward, a bit of play when forks turned 180 degrees.

If you don't hear back from me, it must have worked. Thanks again!
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Old 12-02-21, 09:29 AM
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I'm wondering if you have a bend in the steertube.
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Old 12-02-21, 10:17 AM
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If there is no play when facing forward and there is play when the forks are turned 90 degrees, then there is an issue within the headset, the head tube, the cups or races where they are not faced correctly.
Missing one or two bearing balls when using loose bearings is not a concern and will not cause this issue. Having an extra ball will cause this issue as the race is riding on only that extra ball and not in contact with all of them.
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Old 12-08-21, 05:12 PM
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So far so good on using the old bearings in retainers. Thank you all for the suggestions. I never had a problem with loose bearings in a headset before, but perhaps that was the issue here and it just needs the retainer to keep everything in place.
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