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Noisy freewheel after coming back from the shop

Old 03-11-22, 08:45 PM
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jonny7
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Noisy freewheel after coming back from the shop

Hi guys, I bought a marvelous Vitus this week, equiped with a Record hub in the back, and a Maillard freewheel. The freewheel was a bit sticky so I brought it to my LBS to clean it up as I don't own the correct tool to unthread it. My guess was that they would simply add a few drops of oil, but since it was quite dirty they gave it an ultrasonic bath first, and they soaked the whole mechanism in oil.

The freewheel sure turns a whole lot better now, but it makes a crazy creaking sound (especially at low speed) which worries me. Is this the sound of bearings which aren't well lubricated or is my problem somewhere else? I'm really not familiar with the inner mechanism of a freewheel!


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Old 03-11-22, 11:51 PM
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I'm not partial to ultrasconic cleaning of freewheels, the problem is that the bearings need grease on them, usually why I find it better to just soak in a heavy weight oil which can also loosen up the old grease without stripping it out. I'd just drip in a much heavier weight oil and call it a day unless you want to get the tool to open it up and get grease in there. Not the worst idea, just grease the bearings, but time consuming and annoying if done wrong.
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Old 03-12-22, 01:49 AM
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I used to clean freewheels the way your LBS did, but I learned my lesson. You can't just use "oil" as a permanent bearing lubricant. It simply doesn't last. You need to fully overhaul it, and grease the bearings properly.

Normally, freewheels are really easy to overhaul as long as you can remove the lock ring. It's usually reverse threaded, so a hammer and punch normally does the job just fine.

Or, as long as the hub is standard thread, buy a new Sunrace freewheel on ebay. I only use the chrome ones.
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Old 03-12-22, 07:21 AM
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Sounds more like the pawls clicking.

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Old 03-12-22, 10:45 AM
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If you are doing this in the quiet of your home, then it's probably what you will have heard in a brand new freewheel. Time makes them quieter as they get gunked up with lube and dirt.

You removed all the sound deadening when you cleaned it.
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Old 03-12-22, 11:01 AM
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You are unhappy with their results. Take it back to the shop!
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Old 03-12-22, 11:23 AM
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Sure sounds like there's a lot of grit still inside. I have little experience w/ ultrasonic cleaners but I winder how well they flush out grime from inside VS just loosen it up. If the shop has a traditional parts cleaner with a flowing solvent feature I might ask them to use that on the freewheel before opening it up.

Interesting that at least two here suggest greasing the bearings when adding grease to a freewheel is one of those no-nos as old as the hills. I have to admit I use to (likely still have my Stein FW Injector) greasing many back in the day. I stopped offering the service after we had a couple issues with the FW ratchet not engaging (both times no harm was done and we recleaned the FW and used Phil Tenacious oil after).

Freewheels come from the factory with a fairly thin oil in them. But it washes out over time and really likes periodic refreshening. I have sometimes joked that the slight slop most FWs have, in the bearings, is so the FW can still spin freely after all the lube is gone and the insides are starting to rust.

I wonder if that's what has happened to this one. The insides are all rough and, even with grease or oil, will still make the gritty sound when coasting. A thorough flushing and oiling after should tell a lot. Andy
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Old 03-12-22, 11:26 AM
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The lube that is in there is too light, or if they used a heavy weight oil such as Phil Wood Tenacious Oil, then the wrench did not get enough solvent out of the internals before adding the lube.
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Old 03-12-22, 01:40 PM
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The old (decades) approach I use was to remove the cogs, soak the body in gasoline (I no longer do this), let dry or blow out with compressed air and drip Phil’s oil through until it quieted down. Usually from the rear of the freewheel body. Basically any place where there is a gap between the inner (doesn’t spin) and outer (spins) shells.

Some freewheel bodies have an oil port and that makes it easier. My Sachs Aris freewheels get really quiet and when they start to get a little louder, I just add more oil.

John
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Old 03-12-22, 07:45 PM
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I used to dribble in a bit of motor oil now and then. The cogs always wore out before I ever felt the need to disassemble it.
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Old 03-12-22, 10:03 PM
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I guess I'll buy the tool, flush it thoroughly myself with WD40, let it dry (what my bikeshop curisously didn't do after the ultrasonic bath) and then will lube it again. Simple job once you have the tool. Because as of now it seems like the noise is getting worse and worse as I wait.
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Old 03-12-22, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by jonny7 View Post
I guess I'll buy the tool...
Do you have a hammer and a punch? Or even a nail? You might research removing that particular lockring before you proceed.
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Old 03-12-22, 10:15 PM
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As many have mentioned, it just needs some grease. I wouldn't use WD-40 as that may dry it out even more. Get a heavier weight oil (I usually just use motor oil) if it's not possible to get proper grease in there.
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Old 03-12-22, 11:05 PM
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When oiling a freewheel the trick is to place the freewheel on a paper towel after cleaning. When the towel's absorption is clean oil you know the insides are as clean as you will get. This can take two or three sessions if the cleaning wasn't up to par. If you can't remove the FW from the wheel wrap a couple of paper towels behind the cogs and above the spokes with the wheel facing cogs up. Again watch for the bleed through of the oil you add and it's color. Andy
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Old 03-13-22, 09:50 AM
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Freewheels are inexpensive. Why not just look for a new one and not have to worry about trying to make the old one last an unpredictable amount of time more.
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Old 03-13-22, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Freewheels are inexpensive. Why not just look for a new one and not have to worry about trying to make the old one last an unpredictable amount of time more.
One reason might be the available (or lack of) the gearing ratios that the OP wants. These days 14-28 or 34 are about the only new ones made in 7 cogs. The imaged freewheel looks to be about a 13-21, a far cry from the common options today.

Another might be to retain some originality of the bike. While I doubt the OP is a serious collector I deal with some that would never consider using an Asian freewheel on an Euro bike.

Last reason might be to discover what you can do and how much you can fix up a bike. Andy
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Old 03-13-22, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
One reason might be the available (or lack of) the gearing ratios that the OP wants. These days 14-28 or 34 are about the only new ones made in 7 cogs. The imaged freewheel looks to be about a 13-21, a far cry from the common options today.

Another might be to retain some originality of the bike. While I doubt the OP is a serious collector I deal with some that would never consider using an Asian freewheel on an Euro bike.

Last reason might be to discover what you can do and how much you can fix up a bike. Andy
Reasons 2 and 3 !

I'm surely not a "serious" collector, but I own a few CV bikes (although you can tell from the fact that I don't own the freewheel tool that most of these bikes are from the 80s) and whenever I can, I try to keep them as original as possible. In this case a Maillard freewheel on a Vitus bike is a lovely combo and I'd like to keep this way. And yes, as you mention Andy, it's just curiosity on my part. I'm not going to ride this bike anytime soon (still meters of snow on the ground where I am), so why not use the time at disposal to learn some more about freewheels?
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Old 03-13-22, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
These days 14-28 or 14-34 are about the only new ones made in 7 cogs.
The two chrome models Sunrace markets that I use are offered in 13-25 and 14-28. They have ramped cogs, so they work a lot better for me.

I totally understand the originality issue. These Sunrace freewheels certainly don't look as "vintage" or as beautiful as a nos Suntour unit, but at least they don't have any ugly writing on the big cog like those Shimano sells.

discover what you can do and how much you can fix up a bike.
And it's usually pretty easy to remove the lock ring and fully overhaul the old ones. You don't even have to adjust it like with a hub or bottom bracket. So ... why not?
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Old 03-13-22, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
You are unhappy with their results. Take it back to the shop!
Agreed. Best answer here.

If you paid an LBS to do a repair and not satisfied, why are you expecting strangers on the internet to fix it instead?
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Old 03-13-22, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by soyabean View Post
Agreed. Best answer here.

If you paid an LBS to do a repair and not satisfied, why are you expecting strangers on the internet to fix it instead?
A bit more complicated than that. I know the guys at the shop. Stopped by after the normal working hours. A guy helped me real quick and didn't charge me anything. Figured afterwards that I might just fix it myself and educate myself at the same time. BF strangers remain my main source of info when I want to fix things.
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Old 03-13-22, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by jonny7 View Post
I guess I'll buy the tool, flush it thoroughly myself with WD40, let it dry (what my bikeshop curisously didn't do after the ultrasonic bath) and then will lube it again. Simple job once you have the tool. Because as of now it seems like the noise is getting worse and worse as I wait.
When you say “I’ll buy the tool” I’m assuming you mean the tool that removes the entire freewheel from the hub, which will make your project easier to manage. As mentioned by others, a punch (or even a nail) and a hammer is all that’s needed to disassemble the freewheel but I’d go with the non-disassembly method first. Also, as mentioned by others, WD40 might not be the best choice for flushing the gunk from the innards of the freewheel. I’ve used both kerosene and mineral spirits with good results. I’d start by a long soak in your chosen solvent followed by flushing from either out to in or in to out, using something like a turkey baster, large syringe or ear bulb syringe. Do so until, as Mr Stewart says, the solvent come thru clean then allow the remaining solvent to flow out on to a paper towel or something similar. Before adding the heavy oil (I generally use Phil’s Tenacious Oil) check to be sure that the freewheel spins freely in the counter (anti) clockwise direction and that the pawls engage the ratchet mechanism in the opposite direction. And yes, without lubricant, it will be noisy! With the freewheel placed flat (again on an absorbent something like a paper towel or rag) dribble the heavy oil of choice into the mechanism. I usually do so outside to inside but I’m not sure it really matters.
If the freewheel is still “noisy”, a complete disassembly may be necessary. Doable for sure but kinda putsy. If you go that route, I’d recommend working on a flat surface with large towel place down first. Tiny bearings are likely to “go everywhere”! You may not need to ask me how I know.

Last edited by sovende; 03-14-22 at 08:39 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 03-14-22, 12:40 PM
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After flushing the freewheel it is clearly noisier, but the noise isn't the one which annoys me. One thing I've just noticed is that when I spin the freewheel alone, not on the bike, the sound almost entirely disappears. However, when I lay the wheel on its "back" and manually rotate the freewheel, applying pressure on it, the gritty noise is clearly there. I'm not sure I understand what this means. From what I understand in such a case I'm not applying extra pressure on the top bearings. Perhaps the faulty/noisy bearings would be the "lower ones" ? I've also noticed that there is quite a bit of play in the mecanism. Could this be the source of the noise?
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