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


Discuss this topic in the Headset Forums

Head Stem Replacement

posted 1 year ago

I am trying to remove the head stem on a Jamis X3.  The top screw will turn but, not release.  The head stem is not separating as seen on instructional videos.  What I am doing wrong? Thanks, Brian...

Read more

I'm refurbishing my Cannondale: I'm trying to replace the bearings from the headset, but am finding it difficult to get the right size. They are 30mm (inside diameter) X 44mm (outside diameter). Regarding the angle, I'm not sure as I don't have a clear way to measure. I contacted Cannondale and t...

Read more

Acros headset recall

posted 3 years ago

Has anyone heard about a recall on Focus bikes with the acros headset. I have seen something on their website relating to the Izalco. I have a Cayo that seems to share the same headset. Just trying to do some research before I contact my LBS. They haven't been overly helpful since I bought a very good but expensive bike from them. Cheers Stevo...

Read more

On the top of a traditional 1" threaded fork you install the bearing retainer, threaded race, keyed washer and lock nut. All of this went ok although I have to take it apart and replace the lower fork crown face. The compression nut on the very top is where I have the problen. The fork is 1/2 inch too long. Can I use spacers to fill the gap between the lock nut and the very top compression nut? Or...

Read more

Ive run into a problem and would like some assistance from others who may know, before I buy parts. I have a Walmart 29" GX7 beach cruiser chrome, 7 speed. Someone replaced the forks and the headset, but not correctly. I need to fix this, but im unsure of what to buy. you can see in the pictures, the bicycles headtube is flared on top and also on the bottom. the inside diameter of the flared spa...

Read more

I'm installing a new RST fork on my Schwinn Sidewinder, and I ran into a few problems today. Steerer tubes on these forks are interchangeable, meaning that the tube is sold seprately, and installed by the customer.I chose a 160mm threaded steerer tube, because I wanted to keep the existing headset. I installed the steerer tube today without any problem, but when I went to put the new fork on the b...

Read more

I'm going to be installing a new fork on a bike with a threaded headset, and the new steerer tube doesn't have a keyway, the way the old one did. What's the better option, to cut a keyway into the steerer tube, or file off the tab on the keyed washer? Is there some other choice I haven't thought of?...

Read more

Headset parts order

posted 4 years ago

Hello first post, but I have found a lot of good info on this site. I have an old garry fisher Hoo Koo E Koo 1997/1998. The headset was missing the top seal part and I couldnt find a good replacement part. I found a cheap techno glide j-27 to replace the whole thing. Now I have 2 problems. 1. I need a new crown r...

Read more

If I have a threaded headset with a 1-1/8" steerer tube, would I have to have the bearing cups on the frame replaced to use a threadless steerer tube?...

Read more

Help with threaded stem

posted 4 years ago

I brought a new 1" threaded rigid fork to replace old one. The Old fork tube diameter is 22.2mm, however I've just found out the new one has tube diameter of 21.1mm therefore my stem doesn't fit into the forks. Is there any way around this or do I need either a new stem or new set of forks again. I can return the forks as I I've scratched them when fitting the crown race thanks. They are both 1", ...

Read more

FSA Headset

posted 4 years ago

I have a 2006 Bianchi 928 with a FSA Orbit ZS headset. I have a creaking sound coming from the head tube when I am out of the saddle and climbing. I replaced the headset parts other than the plastic cups that are pressed into the frame and the crown race which is pressed onto the fork. I have tightened the headset bolt up to almost 4 NM but I still have the creaking sound. I cannot tell exact...

Read more

Headset/Stem confusion

posted 4 years ago

Hello. I've recently rounded off a screw (pictured) and firstly I'm confused weather that part comes with my headset or my stem? Also can any headset fit with any stem? I'm sure I could just buy a new screw but I'd rather buy a new headset. If it helps I have a Social Narc 2013 bmx and the stem is a social freeloader it says the headset is just a "internal headset" now I don't know if that is ...

Read more

Hi Everyone. New to the forum. I have an older dual suspension mountain bike, a giant ATX900. It has a weird head tube inside diameter of 42mm, which puts it somewhere in between the old 1 1/4" standard and the 1 1/2" standard. Anyone know what type of head set was intended for this diameter head tube? Cheers Cam...

Read more

Headset wont tighten

posted 4 years ago

So I got a cheap bike from craigslist that I'm trying to fix up. The headset to this thing is really loose, if I lift the handle bars I can shake the whole fork easily. (Sorry if my terminology sounds retarded, I'm not super bike savvy) I tried to loosen handle bars and tighten the bolt the youtube guy told me to tighten, with no luck. The bottom of the fork near tire seemed just fine, but the to...

Read more

Won't come off

posted 4 years ago

Hello! I am trying to remove a headset so I can service it but one part won't come off, I'm trying lubricating it and leaving it overnight. But I don't know if I should be trying to screw it off or trying to bang it off. Any help would be appreciated!...

Read more