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Wobbly freehub

Old 05-04-09, 02:56 PM
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Banzai
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Wobbly freehub

On one of my bikes my rear cassette has perceptible wobble when spinning the wheel on the repair stand while letting the hub "freewheel". It oscillates horizontally, like a precessing top, without the rotation, about 2-3mm.

Having done some searches of various sites, I see that this is a common "problem", and does not interfere with mechanical function. However, I don't like it.

Before I pull apart the freehub body, do you think it can actually be fixed, or is this a manufacturing flaw that will always be present.

Advice appreciated. Cheers!
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Old 05-04-09, 03:16 PM
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Hmm. I know that is pretty normal on freewheels, but I've never heard of it happening on a casette freehub. Ask you LBS about it.
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Old 05-04-09, 03:20 PM
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My LBS is not very knowledgeable, and there's just the one.

I taught the guy there how to install a bottom bracket, and there's no way anyone there can build a wheel...I doubt that they'd know how to pull apart a hub. All my friends come to me for work, for everything from routine tune ups to full wheelbuilds. It keeps the fridge full of beer.
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Old 05-04-09, 03:20 PM
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Cassettes tend to have a wee bit of play, but if you get a regular osciliation, it could be that your rear hub axle is bent. The normal wobble of a cassette looks different from the wobble of a bent axle.

Before pulling apart the freehub body, you may want to open up the rear hub and extract the axle. The bend may obvious, or it may be hard to see. The best diagnostic is to remove all cones from the axle and roll it on a glass table. Make sure to note the exact position of the cassette-side cone before removing it.
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Old 05-04-09, 03:25 PM
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Yeah, I intend to check the axle...but I don't think that would be it. After all, bent axle or not, the axle doesn't turn with the hub...the hub bearings turn on the axle.

I think it's an issue with the freehub body and how it's seated on the hub body itself. I just don't know if it's fixable.

Ah...let's face it, I'm gonna pull this thing apart anyway, I'm just looking for a bit more illumination before diving in.
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Old 05-05-09, 09:05 AM
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No one else?

Dang. I was hoping for someone with actual experience sorting this out...

For further illumination, I discovered this when trying to track down a clicking noise in the wheel. When spinning while freewheeling the rear wheel had a click...the click is directly correlated to the precession rate of the cassette/freehub.
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Old 05-05-09, 09:29 AM
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i wish i could help but i suspect you will help me when you find out the cause so i will keep an eye on this thread. i noticed this wobble in my rear hub body recently.

i first noticed it when i was doing some work on the chain and had the bike upside down and so the speed the wheel moved at was fast. i took off the cassette and put it back on making sure it was tight so it's not just a loose cassette. i abandoned the search when i couldn't find it with the tools i had.

have you got a 15mm allen key to take the hub body off? i thought that might be the cause but i didn't have the tools
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Old 05-05-09, 09:30 AM
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i should add that my wheel was hardly used when i noticed the wobble. nothing bad has resulted though
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Old 05-05-09, 09:38 AM
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Near as I can tell from research I've done, nothing bad will result...but it bugs the heck out of me, and I want to fix it.

I have the tools to pull the freehub body, I just need to find some time, hopefully this weekend, to dive into that.
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Old 05-05-09, 09:58 AM
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Found this in the Mountain Bike Performance Handbook by Lennard Zinn:

"5.2C: Tightening up a Wobbly Freehub.

Many freehubs wobble as they spin. You can see it when the bike is free-wheeling. Grab your freehub and rock it to see how much play yours has. Eliminating the wobble will improve shifting and reduce freehub wear and friction.

You can practically eliminate the wobble in a Shimano freehub by removing one internal shim. The shims are inside to account for possible deviations in manufacturing tolerances. Since it is better to have a wobbly freehub than one that is too tight to turn, the shims are automatically installed in all freehubs to add a little play. Remove the thinnest shim, and reassemble the freehub, tightening the hub bearing race down fully with the tool. The freehub should spin freely without rocking. The cogs will now stay in line and shift faster.

If removing the shim tightens the freehub too much, yet there is play in it with the shim installed (or if there is still play after removing the shim), you can eliminate the play with some sanding. Sand the bottom of the hub-bearing race by rubbing it on a piece of sandpaper held down on a flat surface. You are sanding the surface at the end of the threads. Reassemble the freehub with one or both shims installed, whatever works best."

I'm going to give this a try.
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Old 05-05-09, 10:14 AM
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thanks for sharing, banzai. looks like i need to buy yet another tool.
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Old 05-05-09, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by hernick View Post
Cassettes tend to have a wee bit of play, but if you get a regular osciliation, it could be that your rear hub axle is bent. The normal wobble of a cassette looks different from the wobble of a bent axle.

Before pulling apart the freehub body, you may want to open up the rear hub and extract the axle. The bend may obvious, or it may be hard to see. The best diagnostic is to remove all cones from the axle and roll it on a glass table. Make sure to note the exact position of the cassette-side cone before removing it.
you have to remove the axle to access the freehub body anyway.
so i'd remove the axle (which is probably not bent) and tighten the freehub body onto the hub shell. If that takes care of it, there we go. If not, freehub bodies are not terribly expensive, unless you're running an xtr or dura ace, in which case they can go for up to $100.
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Old 05-05-09, 11:28 AM
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I wonder if I'll need a freehub disassembly tool to get those shims out, or if I can get to them via removing the freehub body with an allen wrench?
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Old 05-05-09, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Banzai View Post
I wonder if I'll need a freehub disassembly tool to get those shims out, or if I can get to them via removing the freehub body with an allen wrench?
no, you'll need the special tool. hopefully though you'll just need to tighten the freehub body to the hub shell.
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Old 05-05-09, 12:17 PM
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Assuming a Shimano freehub, you'll need to not remove it (ie no big allen wrench) and then disassemble it (actually easier on the wheel). Ideally you want the tool, but, a correctly sized piece of steel often works as well. I recommend leaving a few gears on the freehub and having a friend use a chain whip to hold things still.

This all assumes that it is loose inside. If it is not loose inside, and if it is still wobbly, and properly fastened to the hub, you can figure out where the wobble is and sometimes place a thin steel shim between the hub and freebody on one side to straiten it out.
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Old 05-05-09, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by une_vitesse View Post
no, you'll need the special tool. hopefully though you'll just need to tighten the freehub body to the hub shell.
I may try this first. If that doesn't work...

Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
Assuming a Shimano freehub, you'll need to not remove it (ie no big allen wrench) and then disassemble it (actually easier on the wheel). Ideally you want the tool, but, a correctly sized piece of steel often works as well. I recommend leaving a few gears on the freehub and having a friend use a chain whip to hold things still.

This all assumes that it is loose inside. If it is not loose inside, and if it is still wobbly, and properly fastened to the hub, you can figure out where the wobble is and sometimes place a thin steel shim between the hub and freebody on one side to straiten it out.
That's a good tip. I think a drag link socket could work there instead of a special disassembly tool.

It is a Shimano freehub. LX (M-585).
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Old 05-11-09, 07:53 AM
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Follow up:

Started as an easy procedure. I followed jccaclimber's advice, and kept the freehub body installed, used a chain-whip to hold the cassette (well, half the cogs) and my needle-nose pliers to unscrew the bearing race inside the freehub body. It's reverse threaded, so keeping the freehub body installed makes the job easier.

Then I went to lift up on the bearing race. That's when everything went to hell.

I didn't hold the body down while lifting the bearing race out, and it "caught", lifting the body with it. But the "guts" were still anchored down. The result? Little tiny bearings, lots of them, spilling everywhere. I pretty certain I collected all of them, but then I couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. The races/channels that the tiny bearings on the inside of the freehub body roll on circle the "guts", but there's no shelf for them to rest on. I can't retain them there and then slide the freehub body back over them.

A buddy of mine had an older, used, XT freehub body to give me after this disaster. I've saved all of Humpty-Dumpty's pieces, but I don't think it will ever go back together again.
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Old 05-11-09, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Banzai View Post
Follow up:

Started as an easy procedure. I followed jccaclimber's advice, and kept the freehub body installed, used a chain-whip to hold the cassette (well, half the cogs) and my needle-nose pliers to unscrew the bearing race inside the freehub body. It's reverse threaded, so keeping the freehub body installed makes the job easier.

Then I went to lift up on the bearing race. That's when everything went to hell.

I didn't hold the body down while lifting the bearing race out, and it "caught", lifting the body with it. But the "guts" were still anchored down. The result? Little tiny bearings, lots of them, spilling everywhere. I pretty certain I collected all of them, but then I couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. The races/channels that the tiny bearings on the inside of the freehub body roll on circle the "guts", but there's no shelf for them to rest on. I can't retain them there and then slide the freehub body back over them.

A buddy of mine had an older, used, XT freehub body to give me after this disaster. I've saved all of Humpty-Dumpty's pieces, but I don't think it will ever go back together again.
There you go. No more wobble.

Moral of this story: Some things aren't worth obsessing over.
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Old 05-11-09, 11:53 AM
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If you coat them in a bunch of grease (and I do mean a bunch) they will stay in place while you put the entire thing back together. Old freewheels were the same way. For a school project I had to turn a couple freehub bodies into reverse drive bodies, and a couple into ones that coasted both ways, a little patience and it can be done.
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Old 05-11-09, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
If you coat them in a bunch of grease (and I do mean a bunch) they will stay in place while you put the entire thing back together. Old freewheels were the same way. For a school project I had to turn a couple freehub bodies into reverse drive bodies, and a couple into ones that coasted both ways, a little patience and it can be done.
I saved all the parts...I might try that this weekend if I have time.

It was all going so well up until that point. I'm glad I had the spare though!
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Old 05-25-09, 11:56 AM
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Just one last follow up: I put humpty back together again! It actually didn't take a bunch of grease...just a bead of it in the bearing tracks, and then very careful lowering of the shell onto the core.

As far as fixing the wobble goes;

According to Mr. Zinn, whom I quoted above, there are two spacers behind the bearing race; one thick and one thin. He says to dispose of the thin one, and the whole thing will work wonderfully. However, things have changed since he wrote that.

There are 5 spacers: One thick and 4 that are as thin - or thinner - than a piece of paper. All four together are as thick as a "nice" sheet of paper. So, I decided to just leave all four out, and re-assemble with the thick only. The whole thing was so tight that it made terrible grindings when trying to spin. No good.

So then I put 2 of the 4 in. Still get the grinding, only not so bad. Then I thought "hell with it" and put all four in, and tightened down the bearing race really tight. Spins free and clean. Then I decided, on a whim, to remove one of the super thin spacers. Spins as smooth as with all 4.

It was very interesting. 2 spacers equal grinding, but 3 was just right. That's some tight tolerances there. With 4 the body wobbled while freewheeling.

By the way, the wobble and the "tick" is gone. Repair successful, and I now join the ranks of the very few who have overhauled a Shimano freehub body.
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