How to Rebuild a Bicycle Front Wheel Hub Using Simple Tools




Introduction: How to Rebuild a Bicycle Front Wheel Hub Using Simple Tools

This instructable is intended to help you learn how to rebuild a front wheel hub on any bicycle. Any avid cyclist should know how to rebuild a wheel hub. Rebuilding the hub on your own also saves the time and money that many people spend at bike stores, when they can do the maintenance themselves. Rebuilding a wheel is a very simple procedure, and it can be done with very simple tools. If you can turn a wrench, you can rebuild a bike wheel hub. Plus, it takes no more than 30 minutes.

All modern bicycle wheel hubs are the same. One can use the same tools on a mountain bike wheel hub just as he/she can on a road bike wheel hub. In this demonstration, I will show you how to rebuild the front wheel hub on a road bike. There are many ways to rebuild a wheel hub. I discovered this method on my own, using simple, nonspecialized tools.

Step 1: Understand Component of a Front Wheel Hub

It is important to understand the components of the bicycle before attempting to take it apart.

Axle : Runs through hub and rotates

Bearings : Orbits around the axle on both sides of the hub

Cone : Secures the bearings in place

Hub shell : Encloses the axle

Locknut : Secures the cone nut in place

Step 2: Assemble Tools Required

As mentioned before, the tools needed to rebuild a wheel hub are simple, everyday tools. The tools you need to rebuild a front wheel hub are:

13 mm wrench:

The 13 mm wrench is for the cone nuts.

13 mm is the the universal diameter for all front wheel cone nuts

Comment: Some people recommend the use of cone wrenches. The only difference between a cone wrench and regular 13 mm wrench is that the cone wrench is thinner. This allows the biker to adjust the tightness of the cones without having to disassembling the hub. Cone wrenches cost around $10. Personally, I believe they are unnecessary.

Adjustable wrench:

The adjustable wrench is for the locknuts, which sometimes vary in size.

Locknuts typically range from 14 mm to 17 mm


Over time, the bike wheel will accumulate dirt. Combined with bike grease, it creates very thick grease that clogs up the hub. This grease will stain clothes and cause a lot of mess.

There are many ways to remove grease. My personal favorite is a combination of aluminum foil and vinegar. It removes not only grease, but also rust.


When the unwanted grease is removed, new grease is needed to lubricate the wheel hub

Any grease from a department store will suffice

Dirty rag/Paper Towels

Working with a bicycle is often messy, especially with grease. This is why it's best to have an abundant supply of paper towels or a dirty rag to help collect the grease.

Gloves (optional)

Bike grease is difficult to clean off. Some people prefer to keep their hands clean.

Step 3: Disassemble the Wheel

Disassembling the wheel is a fairly simple process. Simply start with the outer nuts and work your way in toward the bearings.

Tip : Be careful when unscrewing the cone nuts, because beneath these are the ball bearings. If not carefully handled, the ball bearings may drop out of the hub and scatter everywhere. You don't want to loose these bearings. Instead, carefully unscrew the cone nut and let the bearings drop into your hand.

Tip: Align the various nuts in the order they were disassembled. This helps you keep track of where the parts belong when you put it back together.

Step 4: Clean the Parts of the Hub

For this particular step, I like to use aluminum dipped in vinegar as degreaser. Other people like to use dish detergents. Either way, they both get the job done.

Step 1: Dip a small piece of aluminum foil into vinegar

Step 2: Rub the aluminum foil against any metal surface to remove the grease

Comment: Rubbing aluminum foil against rusted parts of metal will also remove the rust. This is also important because rusted metal causes friction in moving parts.

Step 3:  Dry the metal surface with paper towel.

Comments: Paper towels are easily disposable, whereas rags accumulate grease.

Step 4: Repeat this cleaning procedure to all the parts of the bicycle.

Tip: It may be difficult to clean the inside of the hub shell using aluminum foil. What I like to do is to roll a paper towel into a long, thin strip, and run that through the hub.

Step 5: Lubricate All the Moving Parts

One of the most important concept in bicycle maintenance is to lubricate the moving parts of a bicycle. In this case, grease is used instead of regular, liquid lubricants. This is because liquid will seep out of the hub over time. However, grease is a solid gel, allowing it to remain inside the hub for a long time.

Step 1: Extract a small amount of grease with your finger. The pictures provide a good illustration on the right amount of grease to use.

Tip: Too little grease will cause friction in the bicycle hub, thereby speeding up erosion of the bearings. Too much grease will attract dirt, thereby forming that nasty, unwanted grease.

Step 2: Scrub grease around the outer end of the hub shell. (seen in first picture)

Tip : Try to keep the greased parts away from dirt. These sediments will speed up erosion of the bearings inside the hub.

Step 3: Scrub grease around the smooth section of the axle. This is the part that makes contact with the inside of the hub shell, so it's important to put a good amount of grease here.

Step 4: Scrub grease around the slanted edge of the cone nuts. This the part of the cone nut that makes constant contact with the ball bearings, so it's important to keep this part well lubricated.

Step 6: Install the Bearings

Some people find it necessary to use special tweezers to place each individual ball into its place; but this is not necessary. You can successfully put in the bearings without using any tools at all.

Step 1: Screw one cone nut onto the end of the axle

Step 2: Run the axle through one end of the hub. Make sure that the bare end of the axle is pointing up.

Step 3: Carefully drop the bearings into place. (see first picture)

Comment: The axle is blocking the hole so that the bearings won't fall through the hole.

Step 4: Screw the other cone nut to the bare end of the axle. Make sure to screw all the way down.

Step 5: Flip the wheel over such that the side of the hub that is still without bearings is facing up.

Step 6 : Unscrew the cone nut on top such that there is enough space for bearings to go through. (see second picture)

Step 7 : Drop in the Bearings.

Step 8 : Screw the cone nut in such that it closes the hub, securing the bearings in place.

Step 7: Close the Hub

Step 1: Ensure the axle is evenly spaced on both sides. Adjustment can be made by slightly unscrewing the cone nut on one side and screwing in the cone nut on the other side.

Tip: Make sure the cone nuts are not too loose or too tight. If the cone nuts are too loose, the wheel will shift from side to side when it turns. If the cone nuts are too tight, it will cause friction and resistance when the wheel turns.

Step 2: Screw in the lock nuts.

Tip: The locknuts should not be too tight. All they need to do is to make sure the cone nuts don't slide. Screwing them on too tight will push the cone nuts in toward the bearings.

Step 3 : Install the axle nuts, or whatever other parts that came with the bicycle. These parts vary due to the different release mechanisms built on bicycles.

You are all done! This concludes my instructable on how to rebuild a bicycle front wheel hub using simple tools. You are now ready to rebuild your own bicycle wheel hub.

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    Question 1 year ago on Step 6

    hi, what size are the front wheel bearings? Are they standard? and what type is it loose ball bearings?


    2 years ago

    like people have been saying, i really dont think it is safe to not tighten the lock nuts against the cones. one time i took apart my front hub and i didn't have a cone wrench so i wasn't able to properly tighten the lock nuts. i thought it would be ok since the quick release kinda squeezes everything together, but somehow the cones worked loose. Everything was fine in my case, but it makes me think "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing"


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Everything basically looked ok to me, besides greasing the center of the axle. There is not friction on that part at all, all the weight/friction is on the outer hub where the bearing go, the cone and bearings. So the inner cone, bearings and the outer hub where the bearing sit need greasing. Also clean the bolt/axle threads of debris/grease/dirt so the nuts/cones go on smooth.


    9 years ago on Step 7

    This instructable is full of bad information, some of the worst being not to tighten cones and lock nuts. Doing this correctly is crucial or you will ruin your hub. This instructable should be removed. Park Tool Company has a great data base of bicycle repair instructions by professional bicycle mechanics.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I am going to "nicely" point out some inaccuracies:

    All cones do not take the same size wrench. Many are 14 mm and some even 15 mm.

    Cone wrenches are necessary to properly disassemble as well as adjust hub bearings. Not using them can damage threads and allow the bearing to become too loose or too tight upon riding.

    The center of the axle does not contact the hub tunnel at all, so needs no grease applied.

    There is insufficient grease applied in the photo. There needs to be enough to form a seal against water contamination.

    It is best not to re-use balls, definitely not if there is less than a bright, mirror finish.

    Locknuts need to be firmly tighted against the cones, which again shows the necessity for cone wrenches.

    Proper adjustment is to allow minor play with a quick-release bearing that disappears when mounted in the bike.

    Old McGrama
    Old McGrama

    9 years ago on Step 7

    Hi! I just had to thank you for such a nice tutorial. I have lots of bikes leftover from the kids, and have been NEEDING this information! I don't need the bike done to "last" as many do, since it won't have the weight of a bike and body on it going over different road types; I plan to incorporate my wheel into a penguin type quill wheel-for spinning fiber into yarn. Also, living where I actually do, buying another tool is out of the question, as I would just do this wheel differently, but I really want to make several for some others that want to learn how to spin. I guarantee I would have used another method for the axle AND a different wheel were I not able to find a tutorial like this. I will now be able to use up my wheels, start now instead of "when I can get a tool" and put the saved work into another spinning wheel! Since leather bearings would work for my purpose, this is going to work great-AND I'll be able to modify the axle shaft placement as needed now as well. My questions are answered-Thanks! I'll be backlinking to this article.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    I'm sorry, but this is not a good way to adjust your bearings or to tighten the locknuts. Cone wrenches are not so you don't have to disassemble the hub, they are so you can properly adjust the bearings and tighten the locknuts. The cones need to be tighten against the locknuts. If you try to tighten the locknuts without holding the cones, the cone will rotate, making bearing adjustment impossible.

    This is a good way to destroy either the cones or the hubs. Proper bearing adjustment is needed to ensure long life of the cones and hub. Overhauling and bearing adjustment is not difficult with the proper tools, it is nearly impossible with out them. There are many websites that will explain the proper way to do it. Check out Sheldon Brown's site.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the Instructable, especially the use of common tools and ordinary grease. My front bike wheel just started squeeking so the timing is perfect!