I've just made my first attempt at trueing the front and rear wheel of an older road bike that I'm in the process of reviving. I was successful in truing the wheels and am happy about it. Unfortunately I didn't seem to use the right wrench for this (only had two sizes available on a multi-tool...) so I scratched a few nipples. Three nipples are also slightly rounded. I guess this isn't to the point of making future trueing impossible with a decent sized wrench (already ordered) but should I replace the nipples just in case? Some also squeaked when turning so I treated all of them with a drop of chain lube afterwards. Or should I just ride the wheels and see if the nipples hold up?

rounded spoke nipple

  • With regard to only the "rounded over" nipples, you can usually use a pair of pliers to manipulate them (if nipple wrench won't work). You only need to replace them when the pliers thing gets too irritating. And, of course, replacing the nipples now will make on-the-road repairs more feasible. Jul 6, 2022 at 23:31
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    Note that rounded-off nipples aren't much of a structural problem. It just makes them really difficult to work with for service/repair.
    – MaplePanda
    Jul 7, 2022 at 2:18
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    Next time use a proper spoke wrench which firmly contacts the nipple from 3.5 sides instead of just 2. It can also be a good idea to apply penetrating oil (e.g. WD40) before starting the truing process. I like to install new nipples with lots of grease.
    – Michael
    Jul 7, 2022 at 5:55
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    As a last resort, many nipples can be turned with a flat head screwdriver from the opposite end by removing the tire and rim tape.
    – Kibbee
    Jul 7, 2022 at 13:02
  • @DanielRHicks The problem with using pliers is that they can leave gouges in the nipple from the teeth on the jaw surfaces of the pliers. Those gouges can cause the nipple to crack - either immediately when turned, or later from fatigue. Jul 7, 2022 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


If that nipple turns out to be in a trouble spot that needs attention again, it's easy to imagine it stripping out all the way and needing to be replaced at that point.

Sometimes when it's mangled like that, there's still a "good" orientation of the wrench that fits nice and snug and if you just use that, you can avoid any more rounding.

Replacing it preemptively now that you've got it trued and rideable probably isn't worth the time.

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