Wheel Bearing Adjustment


Old 12-30-01, 08:23 AM
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Question Wheel Bearing Adjustment

The wheel bearings on my kids' schwinn stingray bikes are loose. The wheels move side to side on the hub. How do I properly tighten the bearings without overtightening them? This is true for front and rear wheels.
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Old 01-03-02, 08:34 AM
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This is easier on the front wheel, but should work similarly on the rear wheel.

1. Slightly loosen the nuts that hold the wheel in the fork.
2. Slightly loosen the thin nut that is between the fork and the cone nut ( the innermost nut that is in contact with the bearings ).
3. Slightly tighten the cone nuts to snug them up against the bearings.
4. Tighten the thin nut while holding the cone nut stationary.
5. Tighten the nuts that hold the wheel in the fork.
6. Check the wheel to make sure it spins freely.
7. If it doesn't spin freely ( the cone nuts are too tight ), repeat steps 1-6 to loosen the cone nuts slightly.

These adjustments are most easily made with a cone wrenches. These are wrenchs made of metal that is significantly thinner than regular wrenches. Check at a bike shop. Somewhere like Wal-Mart might even carry them. You will need the narrow wrenches to hold one cone while adjusting the other and also to hold the cone while tightening the thin nut.

Usually, if the bearings are well-greased and not full of gunk, you can test for optimal adjustment as follows. Hold the bike such that the wheel is off the ground ( or turn it it upside down and allow it to rest on the seat and handlebars ). Rotate the wheel until the valve step is at the top. Let go of the wheel. The weight of the valve stem should be enough to start the wheel rotating such that the valve stem eventually ends up at the bottom. You may need to give a slight nudge. If the wheel does not rotate freely, it is either too tight or not lubricated well.

A well-adjusted wheel should have virtually no play and should rotate freely.

It should be noted that the rear wheel will spin freely in only one direction. So be aware of that when testing.

If the bikes get rough use, it helps to overhaul the hubs occasionally. Simply remove the wheel, take all nuts off of the axle. Clean the bearings and hubs with something like mineral spirits. Grease the bearings and hub. Reassemble. Readjust.

For very high mileage riders on nice bikes, new bearings are typically used in an overhaul.

Good luck!
Old 01-03-02, 04:28 PM
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Thank You.

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