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cleaning sealed bearing headsets

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cleaning sealed bearing headsets

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Old 01-27-11, 10:33 PM
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max5480
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cleaning sealed bearing headsets

hi. my sealed headset was getting stiff and making a lot of noise when i was pulling hard on the handlebars so i decided to try to clean it. i searched for how to do it, but most people just recommended replacing them. i decided to try cleaning it anyway. it's a low quality stock cane creek 1" threadless headset on my bianchi pista from 2007. the top bearing was spinning pretty smooth, but the bottom was almost completely locked up, so i just cleaned it out and sprayed a ton of tri-flow into the creases while spinning the bearing. now it works great! not as quiet as a new one, but super smooth. anyway - hope this will save someone $30 for a new headset like it did me.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:01 PM
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If you remove the seal (carefully) you may be able to force some proper grease in there. Triflo isn't much of a bearing grease I'm thinking.

I'm fairly sure I remember Barnett mentioning doing something similar in his book.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:09 PM
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The reason the lower bearing wears out more quickly is because of all the road grime/water/??? that's regularly launched up into it off of the tire as it comes up toward the fork crown. In the case of notchy feeling in the bearing, the lower bearing will likely be worse than the top because it's the one that supports the weight as it's transfered to the fork. In addition to cleaning and re-lubing (I agree with the above that you should try and get real grease into it) if the upper and lower bearings are the same model exactly, you can swap the smooth one to the lower position and put the rougher one at the top. At the point that the second lower bearing wears out, it truly is time to just replace the bearings with new ones. They are a cheap part, and because of a headsets connection with proper bike handling, it's DEFINITELY worth spending the money to replace.

-Jeremy
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Old 01-28-11, 03:22 AM
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once you do the seal removal and repacking with fresh grease, cut a section of old inner tube
and stretch it over your lower headset. then put the fork back in.
it will put an additional layer of stuff for crud to penetrate to get to the lower bearings.
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Old 01-28-11, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
once you do the seal removal and repacking with fresh grease, cut a section of old inner tube
and stretch it over your lower headset. then put the fork back in.
it will put an additional layer of stuff for crud to penetrate to get to the lower bearings.
Is there anything similar that I can use without having to take off the fork?
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Old 01-28-11, 07:55 AM
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how are you gonna clean and grease the bearings without taking the fork off?!
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Old 01-28-11, 10:48 AM
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Pulling the fork is easy on a threadless headset. It's a breeze with cartridge bearings.
If you're getting grinding from the headset, I'd get in there and fix it.
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Old 01-28-11, 11:30 AM
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you could also just replace the bearing cartridge. Much cheaper than replacing the headset, much easier than trying to repack an old sealed cartridge, and you can put a boot on there afterwards, like fietsbob suggests.

-rob
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Old 01-28-11, 02:13 PM
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+1 on Tri-Flow not being an adequate bearing lube. Now that the cartridge is reasonably clean and moving freely, pack as much grease into it as you can get.
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Old 01-28-11, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by 531phile View Post
Is there anything similar that I can use without having to take off the fork?






http://lizardskins.com/store/products/headset-seal
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Old 01-29-11, 02:55 AM
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Triflo isn't much of a bearing grease I'm thinking.
but that'll buy him 4-6 weeks until he's ready to tear it down/whatever.
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Old 01-29-11, 06:20 AM
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Just what I was looking for. Thanks.
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Old 01-29-11, 08:17 AM
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Just a heads up, if you value your paint, put some electrical tape under the seal. It can scuff up/dull the paint on your fork crown and top tube over time.
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