I have Ultegra 3x9 shifters and derailleurs that were installed just a couple months ago. I purchased them on eBay and although they were new, they had been sitting in inventory for a couple years so not "new" in that sense. New cabling was used when they were installed.

Today my rear shifter suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason. When I attempt to shift up to a smaller cog, the entire brake lever moves with the trigger, so they basically cancel each other out. I inspected the cables and derailleur and everything seems fine. Shifting still works perfectly if I hold the brake lever so it doesn't move with the trigger, and downshifting to larger cogs works fine also. This tells me it's probably the shifter itself, not cabling or derailleur.

Googling around I find many posts advising the use of WD-40 to free up a sticky shifter. The idea is that the grease Shimano uses hardens with age and WD-40 will clean it out.

Two questions:

  1. Is this likely the problem?

  2. If so, how do I re-lubricate the shifter after the WD-40? To do it properly would require at least partially disassembling the shifter, which from what I've read and having seen the schematics, is something I really don't want to do.


5 Answers 5


Well, I tried soaking it with WD40 and then re-lubing it with spray lithium grease. No improvement whatsoever. So I took it to the LBS, which declared it DOA. They say they've seen this before with Shimano shifters. Some internal part gets even slightly bent and the shifter fails completely. And they're not really serviceable, so that means replace it.

This was a one-month old high-end shifter. It was never damaged or misused. Next bike will sport SRAM or Campy components. They use half as many parts, work just as well, and can be field serviced.

So thanks for the answers.

UPDATE: Contrary to what I'd been told about eBay purchases, Shimano honored the warranty and replaced the shifter. I spoke to a customer service rep about it first because I was told I needed an RMA to return it, but that's not true either. Simply fill out the warranty form available on their web site and ship the item to them with the completed form.

  • Is it covered by warranty? If it's only a month old, it seems like the manufacturer should pay to replace it.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 20, 2013 at 22:15
  • @amcnabb Although it was new, I bought it on eBay and from what I've been told Shimano won't honor warranties on eBay purchases. Jun 21, 2013 at 15:49
  • That stinks. I can't blame you for holding a grudge against Shimano. Do SRAM or Campagnolo have more customer-friendly policies? This could affect my decisions for future purchases.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 21, 2013 at 17:09
  • @amcnabb I don't know what their warranty policies are but I like the fact that they sell replacement parts and mere mortals can repair them. Although there are a few people out there who have disassembled and repaired Shimano shifters, they're few and far between. Plus you have to have another shifter to cannibalize parts from since you can't buy them. Jun 22, 2013 at 0:18
  • 3
    @amcnabb I'm happy to report that Shimano honored the warranty and replaced the shifter. So +1 to Shimano for standing behind their product even though it was purchased on eBay. Dec 24, 2013 at 1:53

There are 2 possible causes for this type of failure.

The first is a need to be cleaned and lubricated, as you have noted. That is usually a gradual failure, an would usually not result in sticking both shift levers together like you describe.

On the STI lever, at the top where it joins the lever body, there is a small screw. If this screw has loosened enough to have the head stick out, it will also cuase the symptoms you are describing, and it is more likely to be an immediate change from working, to not working.

Good news is if this is the problem, its likely an easy fix. Just tighten the screw.

I'll try to post a photo later.


1) Yes, it is likely the problem 2). Aerosol Grease - comes out mixed with a volatile carrier that gets it in nearly as many places as the WD40 gets. Not as good as pulling apart and targeted greasing with small amounts in the right places as to be certain you have enough where its needed, you need a lot to go where it is not needed.

Options are to do it as described, or pull the Brifter apart. What have you got to loose - you need new brifters if you don't try, or you try and it doesn't work. If you have a crack and it works, great.

  • 1
    If you take this bike to an LBS asking them to fix your shifter, they will almost certainly spray it full of some generic spray-lube (maybe not something that eventually gums up, like WD-40), and that's about it. The aerosol grease is probably a good follow-up. If you want to see what disassembly entails, you probably ought to look before you leap. You can get some of the flava here: bikeforums.net/showthread.php/… Jun 20, 2013 at 2:03
  • @ZippyThePinhead - Yeah, I already looked at a few sites that show disassembly, plus the schematics on Shimano's site, and quickly ruled that out as an option. They're ridiculously complex and full of springs and tiny parts. It would be a mechanical nightmare. Jun 20, 2013 at 18:34

For fear of repeating what others have said - I had this exact issue recently with a 2003 road bike I recently purchased which has 2x9 Ultegra.

I was initially fearful having read around but I managed to completely fix the problem and my shifters now work flawlessly.

First, assuming the right shifter is the problem, loosen your front brake (the thing you flick open on the calliper to allow the wheel to come off). Then squeeze the brake lever to open up the mechanism. There should be a hole on the right of the mechanism where you would insert the inner gear cable if you were installing a new one. Squirt a good amount of WD-40 or similar solvent in this hole. This could get a bit messy and drippy but don't worry.

Then, with the rear wheel raised, pedal the bike and shift all the way through the gears several times, holding the brake lever as you do to enable upshifting to smaller cogs. If it doesn't get any better, repeat the above process several times.

Once (if) you have improved the shifter allow the solvent to dry away by leaving it for a bit. Then finish by squirting some decent bike lube (chain lube is fine) in the same hole on the shifter. I used Finish Line dry lube, and repeat the process of shifter though the gears. You don't need to disassemble anything or remove from the bike. Re-degrease and relube periodically to maintain smooth working.

If this method fails it is probably an indication that the shifter mechanism itself is worn or bent in which case I believe you need to replace it as unfortunately Shimano shifter are non-serviceable.

  • As I posted above, I tried this. Did not work. Jun 21, 2013 at 15:49

Boeshield T-9 is what WD-40 wishes it could be when it grows up. Open the brake quick release and spray it down with that stuff. If that doesn't work, a rebuild may be required - good luck! I wouldn't bother, personally, unless out of curiosity. A light rebuild is usually more successful - underneath the brifters is a tiny allen set screw. Unscrew that and push the hinge bolt through the lever and you should be able to take the whole assembly out of the hood, providing better access to the internals for lubrication purposes.

  • If you take a look at the accepted answer you'll see it wasn't just a lubrication problem. All the lube in the world wouldn't have helped. Apr 23, 2018 at 13:52

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