I have heard that one should clean the ball bearing frequently for smooth performance. But how to? ??? I wathed some diy videos which include some tools which I dont have acess to. I want to remove the ball bearings in the wheel hub and clean the dust and old grease . How do I do this? I have a single gear bicycle.

  • 2
    If there is still grease in the bearings and the axle spins smoothly, there's no need for an overhaul
    – BSO rider
    Dec 23 '15 at 10:29
  • If you don't have the tools in the video then you think you are going to get some magic here of how to do it without tools?
    – paparazzo
    Dec 23 '15 at 11:08
  • 1
    Unless the bike has been laying down outside in the rain for days, ridden through sea water, or some other particularly nasty situation, the bearings only need repacking maybe every 5-10 thousand miles. Bearing adjustment does need to be checked more frequently -- perhaps every thousand miles. Dec 23 '15 at 14:38
  • 2
    As a general rule: if things work properly don't touch them.
    – Carel
    Dec 23 '15 at 15:52

I would not touch the bearings without the correct tools. You may get them apart, and will probably get them back together, but won't be able to adjust them very easily and won't be able to get the lock nut tight.

For a novice, with the right tools, the job can be a but fiddly as getting the adjustment right will take a few goes. Without the right tools,a novice will likely take two steps back for each step forward.

Given you do not have the tools, you have a few choices - by far the best is leave them alone if they wheel is running smoothly. If you establish the bearings NEED fixing, be prepared to buy new cones and bearings and the cups could be hosed - you won't know till you get them apart what needs replacing. Two ways to do the job are to give it to your LBS, or buy some tools.

If you choose to buy tools, its possible to pick up cheap tool kits that are although a low quality, will give the home mechanic all the tools needed for about 95% of repair jobs. e.g. here Keep in mind cheap kits cost the same as one workshop quality tool, so be gentle - if things are rusted or over tight, they may do more damage than good.


Overcleaning is just as bad as undercleaning. Aim for the happy medium.

How do you know if your bearings need adjustment? While standing beside the bike, grab the top of the wheel and wiggle it laterally (sideways) There should be no discernible (or very minimal) play or movement.

If you have to open an axle to adjust it, the common best practice is to replace the ball bearings on both sides. It costs about $5 for a set. Reusing the old ones is okay too as long as they're round and shiny. Any pitting or dull grey look and they're scrap.

EDIT: The special tool required for this task

  • cone spanner - this is a metal open ended spanner made from relatively thin stamped metal. Thickness is between 3 and 5 mm. You need one that is the correct width for the flats on your cones. ~$10-$30 depending on quality

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If its the back wheel you may need to remove a freewheel to get to the bearings, or maybe able to service the bearings in a freehub without removing the cassette. Depends totally on the construction.

  • Freewheel removal tool to suit your freewheel on an older bike. Here's a Park tools FR-1 that suits most shimano freewheels.

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  • Or a Cassette needs a lockring removal tool and a chain whip. Park FR-5

Chain whip

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Plus you'll want at least one big adjustable spanner/crescent, and rags/solvent(petrol) for cleaning, new ball bearings, suitable grease, and time and patience to repack the bearings.

  • 2
    It's important to note that if you have to replace one ball (because it rolled across the floor and disappeared under that stack of lumber) you should replace all of them. This is because the used balls will have a slightly smaller diameter than the new one, and hence pressure on them will not be even. Dec 24 '15 at 2:09

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