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Advice on saving a freewheel

Old 09-11-10, 07:40 PM
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Advice on saving a freewheel

I've always been scared to attempt opening up a freewheel, but I may have to...

I had a guy at the flea market make me too good of offer to take an early eighties DB Ascent off his hands. I had planned to just make use of the sugino triple and shimano wide profile cantis.

After I got home I noticed that the 5spd shimano freewheel is a 13-28, which will work perfectly with Raleigh GS project's 46-30 chainrings. Of course as I'm removing it, I notice there is alot of sandy grit on the outside. Sure enough, it sounds like a cement mixer when I spin it. I'm going to try to hit the co-op tomorrow long enough to borrow a second chain whip to get it loosened. Any advise before I make a mess?
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Old 09-11-10, 08:05 PM
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I just rebuilt my Suntour Freewheel and it was a piece of cake. I had second thoughts about doing it after reading all the threads warning against it, but it is very simple. Most important thing is be careful with all the ball bearings as not to lose any, other than that it's no more difficult than rebuilding a hub bearing.
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Old 09-11-10, 08:09 PM
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When you can get a brand new 5-6spd freewheel for $20, I don't see how it's worth it. I kinda consider them consumables, and on my heavier-use bikes, swap them out at 5,000 miles whether they need it or not.
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Old 09-11-10, 08:21 PM
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A second chain whip lets you remove the cogs, not take apart the freewheel body. You need an appropriate freewheel tool for the make and model of the freewheel to remove it from the wheel.

From reading your post, I think what you are talking about is taking apart the body of the freewheel to clean the insides. My opinion is that it really isn't worth the trouble (but no harm doing it out of intellectual curiosity though). Just remove the freewheel from your wheel, spray something like WD-40 into any gap in the freewheel body to flush out as much dirt as possible and see if it makes a difference. If not, it is much, much, much easier to replace the freewheel for your mental health.
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Old 09-11-10, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jebejava
.... it is much, much, much easier to replace the freewheel for your mental health.
+10
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Old 09-11-10, 08:29 PM
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Even a clean freewheel will sound like a cement mixer when they're not lubed. When I run one through my ultrasonic cleaner for 20 minutes it sounds like it's going to fly apart when you spin it. Once lubed they're fine.

If I were you I'd do this if you want to try to use it:

1) Get it off the bike.
2) Saturate the freewheel body with WD-40 while spinning it...you want the WD-40 to get inside and completely permeate the bearings. Keep squirting it in until it starts to run more or less clear out of the backside of the body.
3) Set the freewheel on a few paper towels to help wick out as much WD-40 as possible.
4) Lube the freewheel again with your favorite oil-based lube. Spin it and keep adding lube in the gap until the pawls change noise. Then keep adding it until it flows out the back of the body just like the WD-40.
5) Set it on paper towels again to wick out as much lube as possible.

I but she'll spin a ton quieter.
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Old 09-11-10, 08:47 PM
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Take it apart & clean it. From your post it doesn't sound like you know how to take it apart. Read up on how to do it. It isn't hard. 20 minute job max. Make sure you have a couple 1/8 inch bearing replacements in case you drop a few.

I'll bet most folks who tell you not do this have never done it and are just repeating what Sheldon said.
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Old 09-11-10, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mparker326
...

I'll bet most folks who tell you not do this have never done it and are just repeating what Sheldon said.
It's true that I havent done it. (- successfully.)
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Old 09-11-10, 09:04 PM
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Well, I decided after a couple of beers to go for it. Worst case scenario, I toss it anyways. Bearings are out, only lost one it appears. I counted the upper as having 30 balls and I'm assuming the bottom has 38? I have 37 in my cup. Is Park green grease to heavy or will I be alright with a thin layer of it?
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Old 09-11-10, 09:25 PM
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I purchased a freewheel really cheap that was already taken to bits internally. I cleaned, lubed & assembled the bits, and it works fine.
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Old 09-11-10, 09:32 PM
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Ok, that wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Found the lost one (gotta love an old harddrive magnet), installed 38 lower bearings in lite grease. Started dropping bearings into the upper race, accidently dropped one down into the removal splines. I went ahead and installed the outer race/cover while I tweeze the last bearing out and it feels tons better. I might just have to tackle some of my Suntour Pro Compes
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Old 09-12-10, 07:14 AM
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I told you it was easy to do, I just do not understand why so many shy away from doing it. Sure, I can buy a new freewheel for 10-20 bucks but I enjoy rebuilding my old ones as log as the cogs are still good. I'm glad you had good luck with your project......

Oh, the grease you used is fine, I just use Kendall High Temp Automotive Wheel Bearing Grease on all my bike bearings.
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Old 09-12-10, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Capecodder
I told you it was easy to do, I just do not understand why so many shy away from doing it. Sure, I can buy a new freewheel for 10-20 bucks but I enjoy rebuilding my old ones as log as the cogs are still good. I'm glad you had good luck with your project......Oh, the grease you used is fine, I just use Kendall High Temp Automotive Wheel Bearing Grease on all my bike bearings.
If you're going through the trouble of breaking down your freewheel bodies why not swap out cogs? By comparison it's MORE than easy. Source of cogs? Used freewheels from the local co-ops. Swapping cogs lets you tune the gearing too. I pay $3-$5 a freewheel.
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Old 09-12-10, 08:17 AM
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I suppose my being an automotive Tech for over 25 years has something to do with my enjoying the process... I just find no need to replace it if I can repair or rebuild it, and it's not about the money. Seems that these days people rather just replace things rather than repair or rebuild them. It may just be lazyness or the simple fact they do not have the mechanical ability. Hey, why not just throw out your hubs and wheels instead of cleaning and repacking the bearings cause a freewheel is no more difficult? When I started in the automotive field we would remove spark plugs sandblast them and put them back in, you just don't see that anymore, and do you know why, people are just too lazy and in a hurry to make a buck.......
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Old 09-12-10, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Capecodder
I suppose my being an automotive Tech for over 25 years has something to do with my enjoying the process... I just find no need to replace it if I can repair or rebuild it, and it's not about the money. Seems that these days people rather just replace things rather than repair or rebuild them. It may just be lazyness or the simple fact they do not have the mechanical ability. Hey, why not just throw out your hubs and wheels instead of cleaning and repacking the bearings cause a freewheel is no more difficult? When I started in the automotive field we would remove spark plugs sandblast them and put them back in, you just don't see that anymore, and do you know why, people are just too lazy and in a hurry to make a buck.......
+1000

However I would add, many of the products we buy today have a defined service life and are made in a non-serviceable manner whereas I think many products from the time we're talking about here were designed to be used, serviced, and further used. Let's face it, with proper care I seriously doubt any one of us could actually wear out a freewheel body in our riding lifetimes. Cogs yes, but not the bodies. And cogs are replaceable
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Old 09-12-10, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by khatfull
+1000

However I would add, many of the products we buy today have a defined service life and are made in a non-serviceable manner whereas I think many products from the time we're talking about here were designed to be used, serviced, and further used. Let's face it, with proper care I seriously doubt any one of us could actually wear out a freewheel body in our riding lifetimes. Cogs yes, but not the bodies. And cogs are replaceable

You are correct........ I suppose those of us who have been at it as long as we have (LOL and I will speak for myself) just can't understand the waste of good usable parts being thrown away just to slap on a new one instead. I do sometimes wonder why I bother when I can just replace it with a new one for cheap and be done, but that's not in my blood..... Life is coming at me too fast I suppose.
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Old 09-12-10, 09:45 AM
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Done quite a few.

If possible, leave it mounted on a wheel, it is easier to loosen/tighten the ring nut that holds it together.
Most oldies have a ring/ring nut that requires a pin spanner to remove.

Set the wheel on a large towel to catch any little balls that fall out when you lift the cogset off of the main bidy.
Remove the ring nut.
Gently lift the cogset off the freewheel body.
Little ball bearings will probably fall out all over the towel.
Notice the pawls and very small springs that hold them outward. They must be very clean.
Get everything clean and bright (carb cleaner works well.)
Apply a bead of lite grease to the ball bearing channels in the outer body. this will hold the balls in place.
Apply a small amount of lite oil to the pawls and ring of ratchet teeth on the inside of the outer body.
As you reassemble the cogset/outer bidy slowly turn it counter clockwise to allow the pawls to retract and let the outer body slip on.
Reinstall and tighten the ring nut and your done.
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Old 09-12-10, 09:55 AM
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I've done it a few times, and I won't do it again.

I did, however, replace a sprocket on a freewheel this week. I hadn't done that in a long time. I was lucky to have an unused freewheel to provide the spare sprocket.
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