I've got a nice used rear wheel that's slightly out of true. Simple fix is true it up.

But the nipples are stuck to the spokes and won't turn freely. I managed to get one spoke to do two full twists and still it wouldn't release.

The spokes are round profile, so there's no good way to hold them firmly while turning.

Without replacing all the spokes, what are my options to release the nipples?

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    @mattnz - Penetrating oil should be a last resort, since it is almost certain to soak through the rim joint and degrade the rim strip and tube. Oct 4, 2020 at 2:43
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    A pair of small "Vice Grip" clamping pliers is a feasible way to hold a spoke and keep it from twisting. Oct 4, 2020 at 2:44
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    @DanielRHicks It would be trivial to remove the rim strip and tube beforehand.
    – MaplePanda
    Oct 4, 2020 at 3:27
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    Kudos for making it into the «HOT» Network Questions shortlist. This certainly lured some lurkers with bras on their mind to the Bicycles SE — myself included… Oct 4, 2020 at 18:22
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    – ojs
    Oct 4, 2020 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


I agree with Daniel’s comment, I’ve had success with using vice grips to hold spokes myself. Be careful not to use excessive force to prevent crushing the spoke. It may help to add a small “flag” made of tape to each spoke to help visualize spoke vs nipple rotation.

Matt’s suggestion of using penetrating oil and heat is a good idea, provided you removed the tube/tire and rim strip first like Daniel suggested. Brass does in fact expand more than steel when heated.

Of course, be sure to use a high quality spoke wrench to prevent rounding the nipples.

  • 1
    If the wheel builder has used thread locker it may be near impossible to unscrew the nipples.
    – Carel
    Oct 4, 2020 at 11:36
  • 2
    @Carel At that point, heat will be required to release the threadlocker.
    – MaplePanda
    Oct 4, 2020 at 18:09
  • @Carel good point - I didn't build the wheel originally, so don't know what was used. Personally I use copper clay as a thread prep
    – Criggie
    Oct 4, 2020 at 21:21

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