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How to Flush and Fill an old Sturmey Archer 3-Speed hub?

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How to Flush and Fill an old Sturmey Archer 3-Speed hub?

Old 04-11-11, 05:51 PM
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How to Flush and Fill an old Sturmey Archer 3-Speed hub?

I recently purchased this '51 Armstrong - My 1st ever 3-speed:


The Sturmey Archer AW hub works fine but it is filthy - and since it is working OK and I have no prior experience with these hubs, I was advised that it would be better NOT to disassemble it, and instead just flush it and fill it with 20-weight oil.

Unfortunately, all it has is this lone Zerk fitting -
- So how am supposed to flush and fill it?



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Old 04-11-11, 07:33 PM
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Unscrew the Zerk from the hub and use an oil can or syringe to infuse a light solvent into the hub (i.e. WD-40, kerosene, etc). Spin the wheel and work it through the gears. When things are moving internally again, infuse a decent lubricant (i.e. 20W oil) into the hub to replace the solvent. Things will be messy for a while until everything works its way through.

N.B. What's the problem with just opening it up and cleaning things up nice & proper? AW hubs are not that complicated, and replacement parts can be scavenged pretty easily if you don't want to get NOS parts from e.g. Harris Cyclery or Yellow Jersey.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
Unscrew the Zerk from the hub and use an oil can or syringe to infuse a light solvent into the hub (i.e. WD-40, kerosene, etc). Spin the wheel and work it through the gears. When things are moving internally again, infuse a decent lubricant (i.e. 20W oil) into the hub to replace the solvent. Things will be messy for a while until everything works its way through.

N.B. What's the problem with just opening it up and cleaning things up nice & proper? AW hubs are not that complicated, and replacement parts can be scavenged pretty easily if you don't want to get NOS parts from e.g. Harris Cyclery or Yellow Jersey.

Thanks John. The reason is that I have never serviced one and the instructions in the on-line service manuals are less than clear - and so I was fearful I'd mess up a good original hub.

I found a terrific picture of an AW hub though - and now I am rethinking it.

(Apart from ball bearings) will I have to install some kind of new parts once I crack it open? -Or can I just clean and reuse what's there?
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Old 04-11-11, 09:02 PM
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Or ignore the fitting in the hub shell , and take out the indicator chain
and run your kerosene rinse thru hollow Axle hole..
maybe take off that axle nut, too.
then after washed out and evaporated , Phil Tenacious oil ,
just a squirt, is good. not a Fill.
I take out the axle cones and grease the hub bearings..
keeps the lighter oil in better too.

My 94 AW3 hub has no oiler in the shell , thats what I did.

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Old 04-12-11, 06:00 AM
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That's actually not a Zerk (grease gun) fitting - it's a fancy lubricator (oil cap) with a spring loaded ball stopper. Most of the hubs had the S545 metal or HSA106 plastic oil caps.

it is working OK...
Any chance you could just leave it alone and not muck with it beyond adding a couple drops of fresh oil?
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Old 04-12-11, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Any chance you could just leave it alone and not muck with it beyond adding a couple drops of fresh oil?
Agreed. The best fix for a working AW hub is no fix. Just lube it and go.
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Old 04-13-11, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
Agreed. The best fix for a working AW hub is no fix. Just lube it and go.
Thanks guys - but it seems there is no consensus on whether to crack it open or not.

On one hand, it would be prudent "not to fix what ain't broke" but on the other hand "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

- So how is a Sturmy-Archer newb supposed to choose between cliche's like that?
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Old 04-13-11, 09:50 AM
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Crack it open. It is not hard at all -if you can open up and reassemble a regular bicycle hub and repack the bearings then opening up the AW is no harder. You will be amazed at just how filthy the insides are on an older hub. A simple flush isn't going to do it right IMHO and maybe make things worth as it'll leak more when all the old grease is flushed out of the bearing races.

You do not HAVE to pull apart all the parts in the insides if you don't want to. All you really need to do is remove the bearing cone an locknut on the non-drive side which is like any hub cone and then unscrew the ball retainer cup on the drive side and the entire guts come out in one big assembly. It is as simple as that and you really don't have to take the rest apart if you don't feel it is that dirty. You could simply flush it out of the bike and flush the insides of the hub shell and reassemble. The whole job doesn't require any special tools but ordinary cone wrenches, a vise (not really required) and a hammer and punch (an old junky screwdriver will work of you don't care about it.)

Here is a good video showing just how simple it is. Ignore the part where he fully disassembles it and just watch how easy the guts come out of the shell. Also, you he has a bare hub in this video but you can do it with a whole wheel. He is just demonstrating on a hub that isn't built up because it is easier to show on the video.


It really is this simple but as you take more stuff apart it gets more complicated. If you decide to pull it all apart just be methodical. I would advise against taking the pawls out as that gets more difficult and easy to lose the tiny spring and putting them back in is more finicky. There really is no reason to remove them unless the teeth are broke or the springs are shot.

Just flushing it out on the hub is not going to help the grease in the bearings which should be replaced. Not only do the bearings deserve new grease on a 50 year old bike but without this grease the oil inside the hub is going to be constantly dripping out of the hub and down onto your rim. This grease really helps keep the oil in.

Just do it. Anyone who claims to be any kind of home mechanic can pull it apart and you will slap yourself for being afraid of doing this. It is not nearly as hard as I feared and feel silly for being apprehensive about it before I tried it. It is NOT a big deal. No harder than working on a regular hub, BB, or headset -just a little different. If you do nothing more than pull out the guts and repack the bearings it is really a cakewalk.
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Old 04-13-11, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
Crack it open. .......
Just do it. Anyone who claims to be any kind of home mechanic can pull it apart and you will slap yourself for being afraid of doing this. It is not nearly as hard as I feared and feel silly for being apprehensive about it before I tried it. It is NOT a big deal. No harder than working on a regular hub, BB, or headset -just a little different. If you do nothing more than pull out the guts and repack the bearings it is really a cakewalk.

Amesja - Thank you VERY much for that! - and that Video is tremendous. Based on what I saw there, I should be able to do it handily. Reading through old service manuals referring to the various parts I don't even know the names of was intimidating - but that video makes it all clear.

Thanks so much.
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Old 04-14-11, 06:46 AM
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I say just flush it, add a few drops of 30 weight, and ride it. No need to open it up.
We see 25 to 50 3-speeds a week.
These hubs are bomb-proof.
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Old 04-14-11, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by oldroads View Post
I say just flush it, add a few drops of 30 weight, and ride it. No need to open it up.
We see 25 to 50 3-speeds a week.
These hubs are bomb-proof.
If you want to put up with clunky shifting, more crunchy noises/louder pawl ticking, and oil constantly oozing past the bearings because the 60 year old grease is long gone or dried to a filthy & crusty earwax I guess you aren't going to hurt the AW since, as you correctly said, it IS bombproof.

I'd rather just do the 30 minute job and act like a real bicycle mechanic rather than "bombing" a part by failing to do the proper routine simple maintenance that the bike deserves after sitting around for a half century that only takes 30 minutes to do.

Working on the hub is less work than working on a non-cartridge BB -especially dealing with the cottered cranks to get at the BB on an old 26tpi English 3-speed. I suppose you could just "flush it and go" with the BB as well and it would work OK -they are pretty bomb-proof too. Many of the older bikes have oil ports on them so it would be possible. If that's the kind of bike mechanic you are then go for it.
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Old 04-14-11, 06:36 PM
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>> If that's the kind of bike mechanic you are then go for it.

Ah the Interwebs...
The OP says they have "no prior experience with these hubs".
The hub is functioning fine right now, as it will for another decade or two of daily use.
S/he was given GREAT advise when told NOT to take it apart.
This person believed the oil port was a zerk, and you’re telling them to open up the thing for no reason at all…


>> You will be amazed at just how filthy the insides are on an older hub

I'd say you'd be amazed at just how CLEAN the insides are on an older hub

Flush it, add some 20 or 30 weight motor oil and get out on the road.

I’d listen to your LOCAL mechanic who makes a living doing this stuff.
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Old 04-14-11, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by oldroads View Post
>> If that's the kind of bike mechanic you are then go for it.

Ah the Interwebs...
The OP says they have "no prior experience with these hubs".
The hub is functioning fine right now, as it will for another decade or two of daily use.
S/he was given GREAT advise when told NOT to take it apart.
This person believed the oil port was a zerk, and you’re telling them to open up the thing for no reason at all…


>> You will be amazed at just how filthy the insides are on an older hub

I'd say you'd be amazed at just how CLEAN the insides are on an older hub

Flush it, add some 20 or 30 weight motor oil and get out on the road.

I’d listen to your LOCAL mechanic who makes a living doing this stuff.
Knowledge of the correct terminology in bicycle mechanics != mechanical aptitude. There are many people who can spout chapter and verse using all the correct words who I wouldn't trust airing my tires while there are many competent mechs that can't speak a word of campo-slang who could figure anything out. If someone can't figure out how to loosen the ball-retainer and remove the guts of an SW hub they have no business working on any bike.

I've never seen a 60 year old hub that was clean -or many other parts. Grease and oil just doesn't last that long -no matter how many times it was "flushed."

I stand by my words. What kind of mechanic are you?
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Old 04-15-11, 10:27 AM
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Other posts have given this advice, but I will second them.

You have to use grease on the bearings and oil for the internal transmission inside the hub.

If you flush the hub with solvent, it will ruin the grease, so you have to plan for that.

I have seen old SA hubs with oil that gets so dried and crusty that it looks like old dried varnish. So, if you really want to bring the bike to life, do flush it. I use gasoline or mineral spirits because it evaporates. You should give the hub at least a week for the solvent to evaporate after flushing.

Don't take the hub completely apart. It is a mess to get together.

DO take of the covers of the hub so you can access the bearings and grease them. Take meticulous notes as you dis-assemble.
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Old 04-16-11, 07:54 AM
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I would ride it.
Then plan to overhaul the entire bike at some point, maybe over the winter.

If you want to keep the look, wait until the hub stops working. Maybe it never will.
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Old 04-17-11, 08:22 AM
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Hi!

I am trying to put an old bike together. Took this hub apart to clean, then I found out that the big thin bearing was broken. Do you know where I can get this bearing. I tried google it but got no where. :-(

Thanks
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Old 04-17-11, 03:38 PM
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I had one years ago and they are not hard to take apart if you need to. Find an older Sutherland's Handbook at the local library. I think it was number 6. It had a good step-by-step how-to on the SA hub.
If it's working I would clean the outside and begin putting 20 weight oil into it. It flowed out of the hub I had. This is as good a way to flush it as any.
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Old 04-17-11, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by KNguyen View Post
Hi!

I am trying to put an old bike together. Took this hub apart to clean, then I found out that the big thin bearing was broken. Do you know where I can get this bearing. I tried google it but got no where. :-(

Thanks
https://sheldonbrown.com/harris/sturm...tml#smallparts
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Old 04-17-11, 05:26 PM
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Hi Auchen,

I'm ambivalent as to whether or not to open it up. It really isn't too bad even to do a full rebuild down to the last ball bearing, and I find them fun to do, but you can get away without it remarkably often. These hubs are fantastically reliable, more so given that you have a '50s specimen that was made with fewer cost-cutting measures than my '70s hub. One thing to think about is that you're putting wear on some delicate parts whenever you mess with the hub or even take off the wheel. The dust caps are easily marred by prying them off. There is a thin locknut in the assembly, and the axle has flats milled into it, both of which encourage stripping. A new axle I'd put into my AW broke some threads rather quickly. It's hardened steel, but I think it might have had a bad heat treatment. And I've certainly stripped a locknut and axle nut at least once (each).

Here's how I'd decide. If the shifting is clean and reliable and there is no discernible drag in the hub when driving it forward or freewheeling it, just put a few drops of car engine oil into the hub, wipe off the hub shell for self-respect, and go ride. Remember you can change an indicator chain without disassembly if it's been damaged by a right-side crash.

If you feel the hub is not performing up to its potential, do a full overhaul. Likely you'll find dried-up grease and enough wear on the clutch (and maybe other parts, such as the sun pinion on the axle) to warrant replacement. The pawl springs will probably be a little feeble from hundreds of thousands of ticks; I replace these as a matter of routine. Strip off all the muck (I soak/brush in undiluted Simple Green and then rinse/dry, but organic solvent is more traditional), replace what needs replacing, and put it back together with grease in the bearings and oil elsewhere. Unless you're a lucky one who can get AW small parts locally, Harris Cyclery will get a lot of your money. But these things bounce back like none other. You'll typically get several thousand high-quality all-weather miles between overhauls.

One thing I've learned through many AW overhauls: use penetrating oil (I use WD-40) to assist opening the big threaded ring on the right side (I forget the proper name). Also, use a robust, fat punch to get it open, as it can take some major force to get it started. Pedaling torque tightens this fastener, so it can get extremely tight.

Good luck and congratulations on owning one of the greatest pieces of cycling kit since the pneumatic tire!

Last edited by FLYcrash; 04-17-11 at 05:35 PM. Reason: Extra details...
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Old 04-17-11, 06:17 PM
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Background on me: the first time I took a 3-speed hub apart was when it was the only 3 speed hub that I had, on a slightly rare Dutch bike. AKA: I'd be screwed if I didn't do it right.

Now I know that a Sachs hub isn't a Sturmey Archer hub, but as someone who completely took apart and re-assembled a 3 speed hub last summer, it's really not that hard. All you need to have is a clean table, some string, a piece of paper with a marker, and patience.

First thing is to print out that giant picture of the AW hub. The second thing is to make sure you have the right tools, as in box wrenches, cone wrenches, etc. all readily handy. Third is to just methodically take apart the hub from one side to the other, while carefully placing the pieces IN ORDER across the table, or drawing them on that piece of paper while stringing them together to keep them in order. I did both. Third is to just methodically go through it, making sure you understand what does what.

This is a great way for you to learn about tools and hubs - you'll gain mechanical skills, as well as a tangible product!

Other solution: get another 3 speed wheel and do a test run on it. I'm sure you'll find a bunch in the ghost town that is Detroit.
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