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Install a headset in a bike

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Ever need to install a new headset in a bike? Well it couldn't be easier, it only takes 15 minutes and some basic tools.
 
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Step 1: Tools

To do this you need an adjustable wrench, hammer. screwdriver, another wrench.

Supplies: To press in the headset cups, you some washers and a big bolt.

Step 2: Install the race

You need to install the race first.

Wedge the shim if you need to, if not just put a small bead of grease on the fork and slide the race as far down as you can. Now you need to beat the race down to sit flush with the fork.

I use a large adjustable wrench and tap the race down using a hammer on the wrench. Keep turning the wrench so you tap it down straight.

Step 3: Remove the old.

I had to remove the old headset. I did this by tapping out the cups using a LARGE screwdriver and a hammer. You don't want to hit it on a funny angle. If you don't have the screwdriver on straight it will gouge the cups. So tap them out carefully.

Don't hit the screwdriver up towards your face. If the screwdriver goes awry you may hurt yourself.

Step 4: Grease the cups

Grease the cups and line them up in the head tube.

I refused to buy the Park Tools $170 headset press. Don't get me wrong, it is very nice and I have used it quite a bit. But for $5 at McGuckins Hardware I made one. Just buy some long bolts, nut and a few washers. Get 8 washers, this will allow you a lot of flexibility when it comes to tightening down the cups.

Step 5:

Tighten the bolt down and watch the cups go in! Well the only thing to watch is that you don't over tighten and crumple the head tube.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself - yo!

Grease the bearings and tighten everything up.
this was awesome, thanks for the help. i managed to install my headset over the weekend, and now i'm stoked to put the rest of my bike together.
josh7 years ago
that totally beats the old way that we used to put new cups in our old schwinn cruisers; with a hammer, just bash them till they are in... However i just put an internal headset in my brand new aluminum-framed bike, borrowing/renting the real deal can be worth the extra bucks. I really do not feel like replacing a brand new frame.
josie7 years ago
A 'real' headset press is way overpriced. But it comes with guides that guarantee the cups will go in straight. I just use a big bolt for the press, but I only do 1 cup at a time. It takes longer, but that way I only have to make sure 1 is going in straight. Like you said - remember to grease those cups before putting them in!
Danny7 years ago
what do you meen by headset? i thought you ment headset as in mp3 player or something... although that would be a good instructable
gammatron Danny7 years ago
triplenine7 years ago
Awesome instructable! I don't want to pay to do something I should do myself - and this makes it affordable.
jordan.day8 years ago
Using a lubricant on the fork is actually somewhat acceptable if the stem to be used is wedge-style. Because the wedge works inside the fork tube, the added lubricant won't effect the stems ability to remain tight. If you are going to use a "clamp-style" (I forget the proper name) stem, meaning a stem that is tightened down around the outside of the fork tube, then absolutely follow prometheus' advice, DONT lube the tube!
Thanks for taking the time to make this. I was really frustrated when I first started to work on my own bikes at the lack of practical info for the repair of common bicycles. You should do another one for the bottom bracket. I don't think enough people realize how easy it is to work on most bikes.
Park Tools makes a really nice tool for this job, about $30 USD I think. I personally use a set of handlebars, grips removed, as a sort of slide hammer.
dennisrex8 years ago
This is such a good idea it's not even funny. Even if overtightening is a risk, this is such a great work-around for us home mechanics.
Prometheus8 years ago
Once the cups seat with this method, use a rubber mallet and give each of them a few solid whacks to ensure that they are seated comfortably. Do not exceed 40 ft-lbs when seating cups on any thread-grade of fastener used as a press. in this fashion. The cups will require a certain torque to move them into postion, and then it will reach a point of simply compressing the bolt. Once it feels reasonably firm, you have pressed them into place. As a rule-of-thumb not mentioned here, periodically recheck headset preload for looseness every 5 miles for the first 20, every 20 for the next 100, and every 100 for then next 300. Once set properly, no further check is necessary until a problem develops. Never ride with a loose headset or permanent damage to the bearings WILL result. When determining proper preload, hold the front brake while trying to rock the bike forward and back, no "clunk" should be felt. Now raise the bike on it's rear wheel so that the down tube (goes from headset to bottom-bracket, or cranks) is vertical. Tilt wheel 5° and it should fall to that side. Put your ear to the frame and listen for a rumble when you turn the wheel, which indicates "too tight". If all is good, you have set preload properly, recheck after 10 miles and adjust as necessary. Now and only now, are you done.
Prometheus8 years ago
The preferred method is to use a screwdriver or punch working from the inner part of the head tube, as shown above, pressing them outwards in a circular motion to avoid yoking out the head tube, where the press-fit of the cones will not be so effective thereafter. Try to tap them out as evenly as possible. A safety measure is to tie wire or string through the headset to prevent cups from flying out of control once they break free...
Prometheus8 years ago
NO NO NO NO! Never grease the fork to get an inner headset race onto it! The proper method is to drive the lower cone on with a suitably-sized pipe section just large enoughj to slip ofer the steerer tube of the fork but not so big as to collide with the bearing race surfaces. The lower cone is to be driven on by hammering on said pipe until it lands on the lands above the fork crown. If you must use an adjustable wrench as your press, do so at 90° angles to ensure the cone is not warped when fitted. The only time the lower headset cone should be removed is for replacement.
braddk8 years ago
Here is a little fancier version of a homemade headset press, although, I do not know that it works any better than a stack of washers: http://www.mindspring.com/~d.g1/headset.html
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