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

Road bike brakes upgrades

Lastest post 5 hours ago

Hello everyone im looking to upgrade my brakes on a project bike that I'm doing, it currently has traditional lock bolt brake calipers can you upgrade to new style and how to do so? Kris....

Read more

I bought a Schwinn Signature Sport Hybrid 21 Speed by mail (first mistake) and it came with the rear wheel off and derailleur off with the chain twisted with 2 loops. The derailleur is inside out and I have tried everything to untwist this thing with no luck. I can't find a "master link" in the chain anywhere. Any ideas or help would be appreciated. Supposed to be a Christmas present.  &n...

Read more

Hello ) I was wondering if any of you also fill up your bathtub or a large bucket with water in order to look for a leak in a flat inner tube? That's how I do it ... other methods our there? Holiday greetings...

Read more

Brake pads and metallic pieces

Lastest post 1 month ago

Ciao. Is it normal to have small metallic pieces stuck within brake pads? How do they appear there? Is it from the rims and braking or did I get them from "the street"?...

Read more

As the title states, what feels like my pedal is creaking when Im on the downstroke on my left side. I say my pedal but based on what I have diagnosed so far I’m not sure if that’s it? I can feel the creak happening in my pedal though. I’ve looked into this and done a few preliminary things to see what could possibly be the problem. So far what I have done is: Removed the pedal, regreas...

Read more

Deep paint scratch or frame crack?

Lastest post 1 month ago

Hi, everyone! I'd like to ask you about your opinion on whether or not this is just a deep scratch (scuff?) on the paint or a crack on the frame of my aluminium road bike (please see photos below). For context, the area shown on the photos would be the seat tube, right about where it is joined by the seat stays. I already did the "coin soundcheck" test to help me diagnose the problem but I'm still...

Read more

Gears slipping

Lastest post 2 months ago

I recently changed the cassette on my MTB and ever since doing so the gears seem to be slipping when I put the power down how do any of you suggest adjusting it it changes perfectly and peddles fine until I really try to lay it down on the trials thanks in advance Alan 👍...

Read more

Gravity Bike Crank

Lastest post 2 months ago

Hello Everyone, I have a Gravity road bike and I don't know what type of crank remover will work on my bike? There is an Allen type of bolt that I can take off fairly easily, but inside there looks to be a spline type nut. Lately every revolution of the pedals I can hear a clicking sound and it seems to be coming from inside the crank and I wanted to see if there is any lubricant in there? I ap...

Read more

Disk Brake Spacers

Lastest post 2 months ago

Good morning! I purchased a new mountain bike a few weeks ago and picked up a frame adapter so I could put it on my trunk rack. The problem is that the front wheel is really low. A hitch mount is in the future but for now I figured I would just remove the wheel. My question is whether I should pick up a disk spacer or could I just use a chunk of cardboard? Not traveling all that far but don't wan...

Read more

I've tried searching for YouTube assistance but to no avail. Cycled to the shops this morning and the gears weren't functioning, had a look and something has gone horribly wrong. It's as though the chain is suddenly inches longer than it should be and it isn't holding any tension unless the derailleur sits all the way back (image attached) almost so the chain is touching itself as it travels throu...

Read more

Shimano tourney

Lastest post 2 months ago

My Apollo feud rear gear set was trashed when the bike was loaned ,the click on lock on was damaged how can I fix it please so I can be mobile again.thank you...

Read more

Removing Front Derailleur on a 3x?

Lastest post 2 months ago

I'm a newbie but I'm planning to remove the front derailleur off of my 3x8 GT Agressor Pro. Could I get some pros and cons of doing this and what I should next if I remove it? Thanks ...

Read more

3speed hub problem

Lastest post 2 months ago

hi. i sometimes have a weird grinding sound but this only happens in shift 1 and never in 2 or 3 and most of the time it happens when after a traffic light stop. 1/9 of the time orso. but quickly goes back to the normal sound after i stop pedalling and pedal again. my question is: do you think its a planetairy gear problem inside the hub . i need a cone wrench to open the hub to look tomorow. ...

Read more

Hi Folks, I hope someone on here will be able to give me a steer. I'm trying to upgrade my wifes old Marin Bear Valley SE (1995) but I'm really struggling to work out what Shimano replacement parts I need. The current spec is:- https://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/BikeSpecs.aspx?item=32407 Crankset Shimano STX-RC, 22/32/42 teeth - ideally I'll replace the chainrings Cassette Shimano 7-speed, 11 - 2...

Read more

Weird brake hose

Lastest post 2 months ago

Hi I bought these SRAM force 1 brakes and they seem to be really unusual. Has anybody ever seen a hose like this? I need to shorten it to run it through the frame but I'm baffled by these hose ends. These were sold as "pre-bled", which I didn't notice until I had them. How can I shorten these hose ends?   IMG-2735.jpg (Size: 54.74 KB / Downloads: 41)   IMG-2736.jpg (Si...

Read more