The bearings in the hub of your rear wheel allow the wheel to spin around freely. If you didn't have them, you would have to work against the friction of the rear wheel coupled with your weight as a rider when pedalling in order to get the bike to move. Unfortunately old, dirty, and ungreased bearings provide much the same sensation and can be a hassle to try and ride on. Rather than dealing with bad rear bearings, learn how to open your rear hub and grease the bearings inside it.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Bearing grease
- Freewheel remover
- 13mm cone wrench
- Adjustable wrench
- 15mm wrench
- Flathead screwdriver
Remove the rear wheel from your bike by loosening the two 15mm axle nuts on the outside of the frame. If you have quick-release style wheels, simply lower the quick-release lever. Pull the wheel out of the dropouts of the frame and take it to your workbench.
Insert a freewheel remover into the front of the freewheel on the drive side of the hub. Twist the freewheel remover counterclockwise using an adjustable wrench to loosen the freewheel. Pull the freewheel off of the hub and give it a good spin to make sure it spins easily. If not, think about getting it replaced. Freewheels are relatively cheap and make a big difference in the quality of your ride.
Set a 13mm cone wrench on the axle nut closest to the hub body. Use this wrench to hold the axle in place and twist the outer axle nut counterclockwise with an adjustable wrench. When the nuts come loose, twist them both off of the axle and slide the axle out of the hub.
Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the bearing cover on both sides of the hub. Be careful not to bend or damage the covers as you will need to set them back in place when you're finished. With the covers removed you should be able to see the bearings inside. Apply a very liberal amount of bearing grease to the bearings and the bearing races around them, then replace the bearing covers.
Slide the axle back through the hub and twist the two nuts removed previously back onto it. Twist the smaller nut until it stops against the bearings but do not tighten it against them. Instead, hold it in place with your 13mm cone wrench and tighten the larger outside axle nut against it to keep it from spinning. Twist the freewheel clockwise onto the freewheel threading until it stops. It is not necessary to tighten the freewheeling excessively, as your normal pedalling motion will tighten it as you ride.
Slide the axle of the wheel up into the frame dropouts and set the chain on the freewheel. Replace and tighten the 15mm axle nuts to hold the wheel in place. If your wheel is a quick-release style wheel, simply close the quick-release lever to secure the wheel to the frame. Take your bike out for a ride to feel what a difference a bit of grease can make to your bike.
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