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Freeing up frozen spoke nipples

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Freeing up frozen spoke nipples

Old 11-08-13, 10:52 AM
  #1  
zacster
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Freeing up frozen spoke nipples

A spoke nipple broke on my Easton Orion front wheel, and the shop had a hard time getting it off so they could replace it. Then they had trouble truing the wheel once they did because the adjacent spoke nipples were also frozen. This wheel is 6 or 7 years old at this point, and I'm not the original owner. The rear I had rebuilt myself a few years ago. These Easton wheels have double threaded spokes, so you can't just cut the spoke off and replace it, unless you have a spoke threader, which most shops don't, or you order them from Easton. The shop also broke the loctite seal on the thread in the hub, but as long as it was tightened this doesn't matter.

Should I just drop some lube or WD40 into each nipple and let it sit? I'm in no hurry, I've already replaced the wheel with another on the bike. I always get nervous about gripping the spoke with pliers in order to turn the nipple.
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Old 11-08-13, 10:56 AM
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I'd try a product that's designed for that purpose like Liquid Wrench. I doubt WD40 will do much more than make an oily mess.
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Old 11-08-13, 12:11 PM
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The WD in WD40 stands for "water dispersant." It does contain petroleum distillates, so it will penetrate and lubricate, to a degree, but that is not what it was designed to do.

The official shade tree mechanic's shop manual says to use a brown cola (Coke, Pepsi, etc) to free frozen parts, unless they're titanium, in which case ammonia is called for. Brown fizzy cola beverages all contain a mild phosphoric acid (it's even listed among the ingredients on the label). The theory is the capillary action will draw the fluid into the recesses where the acid can loosen the galvanic corrosion causing the seizure.
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Old 11-08-13, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by NattyBumpo View Post

The official shade tree mechanic's shop manual says to use a brown cola (Coke, Pepsi, etc) to free frozen parts, unless they're titanium, in which case ammonia is called for. Brown fizzy cola beverages all contain a mild phosphoric acid (it's even listed among the ingredients on the label). The theory is the capillary action will draw the fluid into the recesses where the acid can loosen the galvanic corrosion causing the seizure.
That's a new one to me. I'll give it a try. Maybe I'll eye-dropper it in from the top of the nipple where there will be a well for the liquid.

Should I mix it with rum first?
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Old 11-08-13, 01:01 PM
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Use the right tool for the job. Try a product which is specifically made to loosen threaded connections; the best IMO is Kano Kroil and PB Blaster comes in a close second.

A close-fitting spoke wrench (there are available ones which grab all four corners) or one which can be tightened onto the nipple will minimize rounding the nipples off.

If the nipples are aluminum (alloy) this is liable to happen again. Brass nipples do not exhibit the problem nearly as much.
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Old 11-08-13, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
That's a new one to me. I'll give it a try. Maybe I'll eye-dropper it in from the top of the nipple where there will be a well for the liquid.

Should I mix it with rum first?
No, drink the rum first, then go ahead.

Actually "brown cola" works very well for cleaning auto battery posts and cables. I can believe it can work for galvanic corrosion on spoke nipples though I have not tried that.

I have aluminum alloy nipples on my 15 year old bike that have no corrosion and turn as freely now as the day I installed them. I suspect the problem nipples have been exposed to salt or they were poor quality to begin with.
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Old 11-08-13, 05:09 PM
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I decided on a Negroni (Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Campari) instead.

I think tomorrow may be "bike maintenance day". I've got a lot of little things to do, this being one of them. Chain cleaning, pulleys, fender adjustments... I have 4 bikes to take care of.
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Old 11-09-13, 01:35 AM
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Unless it's a fancy self-locking nipple with a plastic insert, putting the wheel on its side and using a cigarrette lighter to get some heat into the nipple can work wonders too.
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Old 11-09-13, 03:34 AM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
the best IMO is Kano Kroil....
+1 I used to have to contact the maker, to buy it. Don't know the situation now.
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Old 11-09-13, 04:50 AM
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I've read a home-brew solution that works even better than Kroil for freeing seized parts is 50/50 acetone (IIRC) and auto tranny fluid.

Here we go: https://www.bmwlt.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53261

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Old 11-09-13, 09:53 AM
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Tha Acetone/ATF sounds like a super-penetrant. Has anyone verified it's that good?

Spoke nipple threads take a long time to penetrate once there is contaminating corrosion filling the spaces, so I use light oil that won't evaporate over the considerable length of time that I let a wheel sit after lubing. I think the time factor is the key and advise patience to the tune of one week or more.

For "right now" repairs, I hit the affected nipple with a 4 or 5-second blast from a propane torch, and apply the wrench immdiately.

I wouldn't expect cola to wick into the spaces along the threaded interface between spoke and nipple. Oils are much better at wicking into micro-gaps than anything that's water-soluble.

A purpose-blended penetrant should work nearly as good as anything, but don't use oil if the amount is going to flow into the hole in the rim since it will make a long-lasting mess. I've seen many wheels contaminated with oil such that the rim tape got saturated and ruined the rim tape. Oil needs to be applied accurately and sparingly or will attract dirt for a long time.
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Old 11-09-13, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by dddd View Post
Tha Acetone/ATF sounds like a super-penetrant. Has anyone verified it's that good?
I've used this too but in my own experience it works well but not as good Kroil. All the suggestions so far are good. Try using what you have on hand first before buying anything else. As a last resort I'm seeing a lot of success with the freeze off sprays available at auto parts stores and Finish Line just came out with "Chill Zone Freezing Penetrant" which is the same thing . The sprays work much faster too.

Last edited by Crankycrank; 11-09-13 at 10:28 AM.
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