important: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.

How to Overhaul a Threaded Headset

Overhaul your headset at least once a year to check for wear and re-grease the ball bearings.

If you ride your bike a lot, you should overhaul your headset at least once a year to check for wear and to make sure the bearings have enough grease.

Required Tools

For this tutorial, you’ll need some waterproof grease, an old toothbrush and some cleaning solvent. If you have an older 1″ headset, you’ll need a set of 32mm spanner wrenches. Larger 1 1/8″ headsets usually require a set of 36mm spanner wrenches.

Brake Cable, Wheel and Stem Removal

Before you begin, you’ll need to disconnect the front brake and remove the brake cable from the lever. You’ll also need to remove the front wheel. To remove the stem, simply loosen the stem’s tightening bolt far enough so you can give it a light tap with a hammer. This will knock the inner wedge loose and allow the stem to slide up out of the fork.

Headset Disassembly

Now loosen and remove the locknut. Holding the fork in place with one hand, remove any spacers and unthread the adjusting race. Make sure to note how many spacers there are, and what order they came off. Gently slide the fork down and out of the frame. Make sure to make a note of which way the bearing races are facing before you remove them.

Headset Cleaning

Wipe clean all of the bearing races located on both the frame and fork as well as the upper threaded race. Inspect all four of the bearing races to make sure they are not grooved or pitted. If so you will likely have to replace the entire headset unit.

Thouroughly clean the ball bearing cages with your toothbrush and solvent. Then wipe them dry with a clean rag, and set them aside to air-dry. Inspect the ball cages to make sure they aren’t bent or worn. You can replace the cages without replacing the entire headset, but you’ll have to bring the old set to your local bike shop for proper sizing.

Headset Greasing

If all of your parts are ok, apply a layer of grease to all of the bearing races. Then install the ball cages the same way they came out and add another layer of grease on top of them.

Headset Assembly

Once the bearings are in place and fully greased, carefully slide the fork back into the frame and finger-tighten the adjusting race. Wipe off any excess grease that may have squirted out the sides. Slide the spacers back on and thread the locknut on finger tight.

Headset Adjustment

To adjust the headset, hold the lower adjusting race with a spanner wrench and use a second spanner to tighten locknut against the adjusting race.

To test the adjustment, check that the headset turns freely and check for play by rocking the fork back and forth in the frame. Re-adjust as needed until the bars spin freely and have no play.

Brake Cable, Wheel and Stem Installation

Reinstall the front wheel. Before reinstalling the stem, coat the shaft and wedge with a thin layer of grease. Then reinstall and tighten the handlebar stem, and reconnect the front brake.

Final Adjustment

Then re-test the headset adjustment by making sure the bars spin freely, and using your front brake, rock the bike back and forth to double check there is no play in the headset.

Related Links

Related Tools

Categories

Discuss this topic in the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics Forum

Inner Tube Issue

Lastest post 6 hours ago

In the spring I installed a new Fenix 26 x 1.90/2.125 inner tube on my year old mountain bike front wheel. It has been fine all summer until my last ride this fall. The following day after my ride both front and rear tires were flat. I thought that they might have lost air due to the cooler temperatures. But that was not the case. The tubes had failed. The tubes were inflated to the recommended 50...

Read more

Broken spoke - what to do?

Lastest post 1 day ago

Had an accident on the way home today. Luckily no one got hurt except for my bike. Front wheel now has one broken spoke. Can I still save it somehow? Or do I need to get a new spoke and are they sold one by one just like that? Or better to visit local bike repair?   broken-spoke.jpeg (Size: 162.16 KB / Downloads: 29) ...

Read more

Nexus hubs

Lastest post 4 days ago

Hi. I don't get why would you choose nexus hub over the classic derailleur shifters? Isn't it much pain when the hub brakes? Or am I just too used to the derailleurs and shifting .. #justasking...

Read more

Hello, bike riders! Our community member Gabriel has shared his unpleasant experience with Deore T610 brake levers: "After 2 years of very limited use ... I'm still trying to understand why is there so many holes in such a critical place" Can anyone help by explaining the reasoning for such lever design and what might be the cause of the particular break (material quality, usage, design flaw). ...

Read more

Dented top tube on a steel frame

Lastest post 1 week ago

Hello! I was forwarded here from from Reddit, where I asked around about this dent I caused. So long story short, I dropped this frame by accident on a sharp corner and it caused a smallish dent. I've been told that this is no concern on a steel frame, but I'd like to be 100% certain, if possible. Edit: added the picture...   IMG_05102019_215231_(1080_x_1080_pixel).jpg (Size: 181.86 ...

Read more

Double butted frame

Lastest post 2 weeks ago

Ciao. I have been looking at road bikes and most of them (unlike my Giordano) have double butted frame. Can anyone explain what are the advantages or characteristics of such bicycle frame? Like an elderly would explain it to a child ...

Read more

Bike pedal nut spins in place

Lastest post 3 weeks ago

Hi All, Got a new Trek MTB and attempted to change the pedals. Unscrew the drive side pedal easily by turning anti-clockwise; all good there. This is where my noob mistake happen... Did the same by turning the left side pedal the same way (anti-clockwise) and over crank it such that the bolt is now just spinning clockwise and anti-clockwise without coming off. It's not loose.. just spinning in ...

Read more

Schwinn 3rd Avenue 700C hybrid

Lastest post 4 weeks ago

The bike, new, was $199 from an Amazon dealer, and it came with a load of great reviews and very few negative ones. That should be a warning to anyone looking for a new bike; the shills are out there. If anyone buys one with the idea of putting it together and going for a ride, they would be disappointed. Walmart bikes are better. Seriously! I knew that it would need some work because you do...

Read more

Oil can spouts

Lastest post 1 month ago

Years ago, oil cans had long spouts. Even the throw away cans had long spouts, but makers started putting little nubby spouts on the cans which makes it hard to get into some places such as my bike derailleurs. To oil those I have to pour oil onto a screwdriver blade and let it run down. The cans of '3 in 1' oil I used as a kid, on my bike, had a long spout. So after digging around I found cans w...

Read more

Brake lever hood replacement

Lastest post 1 month ago

Does anyone know of an aftermarket brake hood that (reasonably) fits Suntour GPX brake levers?...

Read more

Replace disc brake pads

Lastest post 1 month ago

First time doing this, I have to be 100% confident. Are there any risks and potential failures that have to be considered before switching the disc brake pads? I just bought the same pads I have had before, Shimano B01S resin. Will switchem th tomorrow hopefully. Nothing much can go wrong, right?...

Read more

Hi all. Couple more questions from the mountain biking beginner. What tool is the best for unmounting/mounting disc brake rotors? I currently have CUBE ZX20 32H wheelset if that helps. Also how can I fix a very slightly bent rotor? It's not very noticeable but still bothers me with that sound ... squeeks against the pads once in a while....

Read more

Using Evapo-rust for bolts

Lastest post 1 month ago

I just wanted to show how I rescue rusty bits and pieces using Evapo-rust. does a decent job for just soaking, letting it work, then rinse and lightly scrub and then off to the bench polisher. this is how to start off and I will post pics of the finished bolts when complete. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. ...

Read more

Hello, bike riders! In order to improve forum members' experience, we have implemented an option to mark your threads/questions as solved ✅ Currently we have added this option only for the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics section, and threads can be marked as solved only by the thread's author or forum moderator. Such addition will allow forum members and new visitors to identify 1) already solve...

Read more

I am the original owner of Cannondale Quick 2016, which I have purchased from one of the Authorized Cannondale shops. Everything went well to begin with, and the bike rode very well. But one day, while cycling on a straight, tarmacked road, all of a sudden my front wheel begun to wobble uncontrollably; the wobble was strong enough to set me straight under a heavy traffic, it was a very near miss. ...

Read more

Post your own question in the forum