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Re-use old bearings? What is the consensus?

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Re-use old bearings? What is the consensus?

Old 09-06-18, 07:58 AM
  #1  
mkeller234
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Re-use old bearings? What is the consensus?

Iím rebuilding a mid-80s Schwinn Tempo and I just started cleaning the bottom braket and headset. Itís got those ubiquitous ball bearings that are set in a steel retainer ring. The races and bearings look good to the naked eye and the grease was easy to remove.

The snob in me feels like I should ditch the old bearings and buy new loose bearings. The practical and cheap side of me says itís not a Campy headset / bottom bracket and the old bearings are perfectly fine.

So, what do YOU usually do in this situation?
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Old 09-06-18, 09:04 AM
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My two questions when considering bearing replacement are -
1. Is the bike in question going to be ridden often and not just on occasional weekends?
2. Do the bearing races show any wear other than a contact line?

​​If yes to either question then I just toss the old bearings in the scrap bucket and replace. Usually I will go with loose ball instead of caged but have been known to pop the old bearings out of the cages and install new ones
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Old 09-06-18, 09:26 AM
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Replace. I hold to this nearly 100% and pop the old balls out of retainers to re0use the cages IF those are in good shape. Grade 25 balls are "cheap", or at least cheap enough, when bought in bulk. Old balls are nearly always "worn" in ways you'll never see unless you magnify the surfaces, so to me it's false economy to use old ones, even for flippers. maybe why I'm not making money in the used bike game!
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Old 09-06-18, 09:42 AM
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+1. REPLACE! One of the biggest issues with old bicycles is finding replacement cups and cones with compatible race profiles. Reusing old bearings only increases the probability of accelerating race deterioration because, as noted in the previous post, ball wear is undetectable to the naked eye. It's easy and inexpensive to replace the ball bearings, as opposed to hunting down something like an out of production hub cone with a proprietary race profile.
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Old 09-06-18, 09:48 AM
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Really depends on what initial quality and condition the components that you buy are in.
If you buy only new and NOS stuff, the chances of them having bad bearings is quite small, unless you buy the cheapest brand stuff in the first place.... If you buy used components, then, of course you will have a bigger chance of finding bad/knackered bearings in them but you can minimize such if you get a good brand in very good to like new, used condition.
I had been buying a lot of used top line Campy components lately to help keep the costs down on my most recent builds and I noticed that as long as I try to just buy the ones in best condition I can find, there has been no problems so far with bearing and race condition. I suspect that the chances of encountering problems with similar age/condition components from lower tier makers will be much bigger, because of lower initial quality..... Although frankly, I have not had that experience with the ones I had bought in the past.

Last edited by Chombi1; 09-06-18 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 09-06-18, 09:54 AM
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I've always reused them and never seen a difference. They cost almost nothing though so do what you want.
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Old 09-06-18, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
Replace. I hold to this nearly 100% and pop the old balls out of retainers to re0use the cages IF those are in good shape. Grade 25 balls are "cheap", or at least cheap enough, when bought in bulk. Old balls are nearly always "worn" in ways you'll never see unless you magnify the surfaces, so to me it's false economy to use old ones, even for flippers. maybe why I'm not making money in the used bike game!
+ 1. That said, I have occasionally reused ball bearings when it was clear that the bike had little or no use and so the bearings were for all practical purposes new.
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Old 09-06-18, 11:44 AM
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1. I always replace the bearings.
2. If a bike comes with ball cages, I get rid of these in favor of loose bearings.
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Old 09-06-18, 12:08 PM
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If I'm servicing something with bearings and the only issue appears to be worn grease, I'll reuse bearings that aren't evidently worn or discolored.
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Old 09-06-18, 12:21 PM
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As The World Turns

Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
+1. REPLACE! One of the biggest issues with old bicycles is finding replacement cups and cones with compatible race profiles. Reusing old bearings only increases the probability of accelerating race deterioration because, as noted in the previous post, ball wear is undetectable to the naked eye. It's easy and inexpensive to replace the ball bearings, as opposed to hunting down something like an out of production hub cone with a proprietary race profile.
+1, or is +5 as I roll in? There may be no noticeable imperfections, but most imperfections, including "out of roundness", are not noticeable to the naked eye. Near every bit of efficiency to the machine that is a bicycle turns on bearing balls.

Bearings are inexpensive if purchased prudently. Pretty much enough for a bike for an undefined yet lengthy period of time can be had shipped on Amazon for under $10.

"Product features
Each size is individually packaged and labeled (see photos)
Precision grade G25 balls
100 balls each of the following sizes: 1/8", 5/32", 3/16" 7/32" & 1/4"
AISI 52100 chromium steel"

That said, if I've overhauled a bike and somehow accidentally run it off the dock into the ocean that same day, I may clean and reuse the bearings. But that almost never happens.

Last edited by machinist42; 09-06-18 at 12:26 PM. Reason: qualification
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Old 09-06-18, 12:34 PM
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You guys are opening my eyes to replacing bearings. I have never done so, but I am now considering it.
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Old 09-06-18, 01:26 PM
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I dont replace bearings if they are in good condition:
  • the bearings roll smoothly
  • grease is not contaminated
  • balls or rollers are mirror-like, not dull, gray or discolored
  • races are perfectly smooth without pits or damage
Properly maintained bearings can last longer than their owner. Perhaps they should be replacing you due to your excess wear. :-)
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Old 09-06-18, 02:59 PM
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I'd say ditch 'em and replace in the interest of long term economy--worn balls can crack or even split and thus damage bearing surfaces in hubs and bb's that are increasingly difficult to buy replacements for.
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Old 09-06-18, 04:29 PM
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I re-use them
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Old 09-06-18, 05:38 PM
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Wow, this is much less of a debate than I expected. You guys have swayed me, Iíll spring for new bearings. Iím taking the frame in to have them spray some frame saber in it, so no use in cheating out
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Old 09-06-18, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by machinist42 View Post
+1, or is +5 as I roll in? There may be no noticeable imperfections, but most imperfections, including "out of roundness", are not noticeable to the naked eye. Near every bit of efficiency to the machine that is a bicycle turns on bearing balls.

Bearings are inexpensive if purchased prudently. Pretty much enough for a bike for an undefined yet lengthy period of time can be had shipped on Amazon for under $10.

"Product features
Each size is individually packaged and labeled (see photos)
Precision grade G25 balls
100 balls each of the following sizes: 1/8", 5/32", 3/16" 7/32" & 1/4"
AISI 52100 chromium steel"

That said, if I've overhauled a bike and somehow accidentally run it off the dock into the ocean that same day, I may clean and reuse the bearings. But that almost never happens.
Thanks for the link, that is pretty affordable. I believe I pay more than double that at the LBS. itís hard to remember, I havenít bought bearings in probably 5 or more years
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Old 09-06-18, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by djm323 View Post
I dont replace bearings if they are in good condition:
  • the bearings roll smoothly
  • grease is not contaminated
  • balls or rollers are mirror-like, not dull, gray or discolored
  • races are perfectly smooth without pits or damage
Properly maintained bearings can last longer than their owner. Perhaps they should be replacing you due to your excess wear. :-)
#3 has it, here. If the balls have a mirror polish, by definition, they cannot be meaningfully damaged (unless some lunatic destroyed them, then polished them by hand). Damaged/worn bearing balls are readily identifiable.

I find, personally, the best old bearings are found in the scuzziest, most disgusting bike. It [they] may be dirty, but the over lubrication/oil sheen has done a fantastic job protecting all the steel parts.
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