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I have a DT Swiss 350 rear hub and the axle does not rotate freely. Rotation is smooth (not rough) but with noticeable amount of resistance. I have to pinch the axle hard with my fingers to even rotate it. In contrast the front hub (also DT 350) rotates both smooth and easy.

When the wheel is on the bike, it is noticeable that rear wheel slows down and stops much faster if I spin it. I even tried with the wheel flipped in the frame to eliminate the freehub drag contribution.

The hub is only ~ 6000km old and had a relatively easy life.

I would like to take it apart and see what exactly contributes to axle not turning easily. My dilemma is that all manuals that I see (including DT Swiss one, recommend hammering the bearings out with an axle (which has shoulders). This will put pressure and shock on bearing inner race which is normally a no-no. That would not be an issue if I wanted to throw away the bearings and replace them with new ones, but I suspect that bearings are in fact fine and probably not preloaded correctly (too much?).

Hence the question: Is there a way to remove DT 350 bearings without hammering the inner race and risking damaging them?

Update 2023-05-08

TLDR:

The answer to original question is: No, for DT Swiss and and similar hubs removing bearings from the hub without damage and re-using them is not an option

Correct answer is from @Criggie with plenty of useful info and a bonus link for Hambini fans.

Long story

I was contemplating bearing service before a bikepacking trip in Morocco and decided against it as axle rotation felt smooth, not rough at all, though with a noticeable amount of resistance. The bike survived ~360km of road and gravel, loaded. Upon return, I decided to investigate further.

Removing rear axle bearings

The first thing I found out that the recommended and seemingly the only way to get the first axle bearing out of the hub is to hammer it out. One could argue that the benefit of DT Swiss design is that you don't need an additional tool to extract the bearing. The axle is your tool and you use it to hammer the bearing out. Here is a diagram (shamelessly stolen from DT Swiss website). This is for the front hub but the principle is the same. Axle is shown in read. Note the shoulders that effectively leave axle trapped between bearings:

Diagram

To my surprise both bearing felt smooth and very easy to rotate as soon as the axle was out. Which leads me to conclusion that it was wrong amount of preload after all. Preload is not adjustable on DT Swiss hubs, so my best guess is either

  1. Bearings pressed too hard into the shell during assembly

  2. Bearings not pressed enough during assembly

  3. Hub build tolerance?

Drive side hub lock ring

This procedure is demonstrated in DT Swiss video around timestamp 2:39. I want to warn fellow cyclists about buying cheap ringnut removal tools. I sourced one for ~ £10 and it shattered when I applied torque to it. Not only did the tool break, it also damaged the axle which I now need to replace as it won't go back in. I bought a second tool (slightly burlier yet still very cheap) and this one worked...

Removing freehub body bearings

For completeness I share my notes on removing freehub bearings too. Situation with these is even worse. There is a nylon sleeve with no shoulders trapped between the freehub bearings. I could not find any material on how DT swiss recommend removing these. I assume DT swiss treats the entire freehub body as replaceable unit? The only way (that I could think of) to get the first bearing out is to shift the sleeve inside bearings and keep hammering it with a screwdriver alternating the sides until it comes out... The method is beautifuly demonstrated by a gentlement with a classy accent in this video.

Cost of the bearings

I would like to also respond to the comment by @Vladimir F about bearings being cheap. The hub in question is DT Swiss 350 rear. It needs two 6902 bearings for the axle and two 6802 bearings for the freehub body. I would put aside the idea of buying bearings made of cheese (widely available on eBay) and costing ~£5. My LBS sells Enduro bearings ( which are lower quality than what is originally installed in DT Swiss hubs) for £12 a piece. Actually decent quality bearings (SKF, FAG, NTN and or similar) can be sourced for a comparable price online £12 pounds a piece.

I can buy a brand new DT 350 for around £100. Quick math:

  • Replacing only axle bearings would be ~25% of the new hub price
  • Replacing all bearings would be ~50% of the new hub price

This is still cheaper than buying a new hub, but not cheap by my standards...

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  • Bearings are cheap. It may be harder to get them, you may have to wait for some mail from somewhere. But if you think it is preload, can't you just loosen it without removing the bearings in the first place? Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 13:38
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    While preload is not adjustable by design it is not a non-issue and can be wrong. There are multiple reports on forums of people getting preload wrong by either not sitting bearing deep enough or pushing end-caps too far (overtightening the axle?) Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 15:07
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    I will bite the bullet and take it appart in about a week's time. I have ordered a bearing press and a locknut tool online. Will report back here on how it goes Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 15:07
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    TBH, I think most people only remove bearings to replace them entirely. That said, a good bearing press should remove it without damaging the inner race. You could use a small punch and a hammer, and gently tap the bearing out (e.g. hit at 12 oclock, then 6, then 3, then 9, gradually working it out). That would certainly kill the inner race. I wonder if it could also damage the bearing bore, since the steel outer race is going to be harder than whatever aluminum the hub shell is made from.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 16:11
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    To be honest, "I have ordered a bearing press" is an answer, and you should consider writing that as an answer, because it is likely correct. I can't see how a bearing would be removed other than a press or a punch (which would be destructive), barring speculative physics (e.g. telekinesis).
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 16:17

1 Answer 1

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You can get an idea of the condition of a cartridge bearing while it is in place inside the hub. Simply turn it with your finger and it should feel smooth and easy to turn.

At that point you either reassemble the wheel because the bearings feel OK, or you take them out AND replace them.

There is minimal servicing one can do to a cartridge bearing, and that tends to be race mechanics getting every last watt by using oil not grease and stripping off bearing seals, eliminating any longevity the bearing might have had.

If the wheel only feels "a bit off" then continue riding till your replacements arrive, but if the bearings are stiff and hard to turn then put the wheel aside - you risk the bearing locking up and spinning inside the hub. This would cost you a new hub or new wheel, significantly more expensive than a set of 2 or 3 bearings.

It is up to you if you change one or all bearings. It may be one went faulty and the others have thousands of rides left in them, or they may fail like the existing bearing. I'd do them all at once, personally, and log that somewhere. Even writing the date on a ptouch label or in sharpie on the hub can be a good idea.


Coindidentally, here's a recent short Hambini video about pulling bearings from a bore using a blind bearing puller. Right at the end there's mention about how reusing bearings that have been pulled through the rolling element (ie the bearing balls) is bad practice.

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  • Answer is 99.98% real based on 250 tokens. phew
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 22:52
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    Not the case for DT 350. Axle has shoulders on it and is captive inside the hub while the bearings are in place. No way to check bearings individually until you remove the axle. But axle is only removed by hammering one of them out. Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 2:34
  • @ArtGertner okay thanks good to know. On that basis, if a bearing feels at all bad, just replace it.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 3:15
  • @ArtGertner see new relevant link - you're totally right and a bunch of wheel makers agree with you.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 2:15

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