Not long after a recent bike wash I noticed a pedaling-related squeak when riding my Mukluk. I figured it to just be some seal noise, so after today’s wash I removed the cranks and set about investigating the snap-on seals that came with the crankset, figuring it to be one of those. Instead it turns out that the noise was coming from the non-drive side cartridge bearing, which was also feeling a bit rough.
I had two spare bearings from the last time I needed to do bearing work, so I figured I’d try and salvage these. Pulling the seals off I found that they had a bit of creamy (likely water-spoiled) grease inside, but seemed to be in otherwise good shape. I removed the grease and found them to be spinning very smoothly when clean, so I lubed them up with some ProGold EPX Cycling Grease. This is a nice, sticky grease that seems like it’d be good for bearings in harsher environments. (Disclaimer: I received a free tube of this as part of the large set of stuff donated to MMBA Metro North / CRAMBA in 2011.)
Everything went back together nicely, and now the cranks spin smoothly without any irritating squeak. I hope that this new grease will be a bit more weather resistant than whatever came in the eBay special bearings I’d purchased and these bearings will last for a while. They were nice and clean and spinning smooth once cleaned out, so I’m hoping I caught them before any damage was done.
Here is the general process I used for cleaning the bearings:
- Use a sharp T pin to carefully remove the seals from the bearings.
- Wipe out as much grease as possible with a paper towel.
- Soak the bearings in citrus-based degreaser. (I use ZEP, it works just as well as the bike specific stuff.)
- Alternate between rinsing the bearings in hot water, brushing them with a degreaser-soaked toothbrush, and swirling them around in the degreaser bath until they are clean.
- Once the bearings are very clean, rinse in as hot of water as possible, then shake dry.
- Blow dry with a blower or air compressor, if available.
- Submerge the bearings in 99% isopropyl alcohol and agitate to get any residual water off of the bearings and dissolved in the alcohol.
- Remove the bearings from the alcohol, shake them out, and set them upright to dry. Occasionally spin the bearings to help the process along. (This will only take a few minutes.)
- Liberally apply grease into the ball bearings and cage, then spin the bearing a few times to ensure it’s moving freely and grease is evenly distributed.
- Lightly grease the seals then snap them back in place with finger pressure. Spin the bearings a few more times to ensure the seals are properly seated.