Replacing Novatec Front Hub Bearings

For some time I'd been aware that my front hub bearings felt a little rough. I don't know anything about bearings. I knew that my hubs have cartridge bearings but that was the full extent of my knowledge, I had no idea what size bearings they were or how I should set about acquiring replacements. Then, after a very wet ride, the water round my front hub was rust coloured. It was time to learn about bearings!

My immediate thought was to take the wheel to my LBS and let them sort it out. They replaced the bearings in my rear hub last year but they charged me £40 for the privilege which seemed an awful lot of money. I do like to do things on my bike myself so I decided to give it a try. As I said I had no idea what bearings I needed or where I could get them from so decided the easiest course of action would be to phone Harry Rowland who built my wheels and ask him. Harry is a mine of information and very helpful. He told me the number of the bearings that I needed (6092RS) and that they were very common bearings available from any bearing supplier. When I told him that I was not at all sure that there were any bearing suppliers on the Isle of Wight he kindly offered to post me what I needed. Excellent! Fitting them, he told me, was 'a piece of cake', 'a five minute job'. It sounded promising but I wasn't convinced that his five minutes wouldn't be more like an hour or two!

The bearings duly arrived and so armed with 'Zinn and the Art of Roadbike Maintenance', a 2mm allen key and a large rubber mallet I set to work. I removed the wheel then closed the door on Roberta so that she couldn't see as I took a mallet to her vital parts! After removing the quick release skewer the next task was to remove a tiny grub screw with a 2mm allen key.

hub bearings 002

Grub screw that holds the end cap on

Now for the mallet! Tap the axle gently to loosen the end cap on the opposite side. According to a thread on the internet removing the cap could be quite tricky but once loosened it twisted off quite easily as if it was being unscrewed.That just left the bearings. A few more whacks with the mallet on the end of the axle and it shot out with the bearings attached. I replaced the axle and hit it again to dislodge the bearings from the other side. This was going better than I'd dared hope!

Hub bearings 002

Axle and bearings

Hub bearings 004

All the bits safely in a magnetic dish

According to Zinn
'Reinstalling the bearings in most of today's cartridge-bearing hubs is relatively easy: simply press the bearings with your hand, or use the shoulder on the axle as a punch to press the bearings into place.
.......However, with some cartridge-bearing hubs it isn't so easy. The tolerance between the hub cups and the outer surface of the bearing is so tight that these bearings must be pressed in or pounded in with a hammer.'
My hubs are firmly in the latter category! To avoid wrecking the new bearings I had to place the old ones on top and then hit them with the mallet. This was easier said then done. I couldn't hold them in place without hitting my fingers and so every time I hit them they fell off and I couldn't seem to get them straight. Eventually Dennis came in and pointed out that unless I held the wheel straight I would never be able to hammer them in straight. Why hadn't I thought of that! With Dennis holding the wheel straight from the other side they went in relatively easily. With one set of bearings and the axle fitted I now had another problem, how to hammer the bearings in without hitting the end of the axle. I used both sets of old bearings on top of the new ones and, to my surprise, with the wheel held straight they hammered in quite easily. Job done!

When I looked at the old bearings one side was fine but the other set were very rough. I prised off the rubber seal and found that they were really rusty and full of gunge. My front wheel now runs beautifully smoothly and bearings are no longer such a mystery to me.

hub bearings 001

No wonder it felt rough!

10 comments on “Replacing Novatec Front Hub Bearings”

  1. Chris wrote:

    Hilary wrote: They replaced the bearings in my rear hub last year but they charged me £40 for the privilege...

    That does seem expensive, but does it include the price of the bearings?

    Last weekend I rode more than a hundred miles on cup and cone bearings that are well over twenty years old and have never even been regreased. They're, ahem, a bit notchy.

    I'll get them done, probably at the LBS that built the wheels for me. I remember once retightening a front hub and looking down later to see two cracks appear where the hub casing flared around the bearings. Ouch.

    A couple of weeks ago I replaced the chainset on my MTB. The original was a cheapo Shimano one. Alivio chainset + plug adaptor to convert my square taper crank removal tool for Octalink = £40.

    I fitted it. It looked nice, but there was a problem. The original Octalink sealed bottom bracket cartridge was wider than the one required for the replacement chainset. Back on t'internet and two days later replacement bottom bracket arrived (+ tool for removing/installing Octalink bottom bracket). Another £20 on the credit card.

    I couldn't shift it. I even began to suspect that the bloke on YouTube had uploaded a spoof video and that the driveside thread on the bottom bracket casing wasn't a reverse thread after all. Not for the first time I knocked on the door of my retired engineer neighbour. He produced his top quality tools and eventually all was well.

    There is something very satisfying about doing your own repairs. Well done having a go; the hub bearings obviously needed replacing. I'm just a bit worried that I put too much torque down when inserting the cartridge from the driveside... 😕

  2. Kern wrote:

    'Zinn and the Art of Roadbike Maintenance'

    I also have Zinn on my bookshelf where it gathers a healthy layer of dust. For some reason I have a pathological fear of anything to do with a bearing. I save up all bearing-related maintenance for my son-in-law when he comes over from Ireland. I really must get over this.

    Good job, well done, and good photos.

  3. Hilary wrote:

    Kern wrote

    For some reason I have a pathological fear of anything to do with a bearing.

    😆 That was exactly my position. It turns out that they are not so scary after all.

  4. Chris wrote:

    I may just be tempted...

  5. Patrick wrote:

    Worth the effort Hilary. I have replaced loose bearings once or twice and they are still okay. It's always worth having a go as long as expensive tools aren't needed that you only use very occasionally – like a headset press for example – and if you've got a spare bike in case you get really stuck.

    Knowing which replacement part to buy is often more difficult than the actual job.

  6. Chris wrote:

    I wimped out and got the front and rear wheel bearings on my Raleigh replaced at the bike shop I bought it from 27 years ago. £20 for supply and fit, plus the chap trimmed my brake cables and fitted ferrules. I can live with that.

  7. Hilary wrote:

    £20 sounds very reasonable. As I said my LBS charged me £40 just to replace the rear bearings. It did include the cost of the bearings but the front ones were only £3 each so I presume the rear ones are the same. When I queried it they told me it was a very good wheel!

  8. Chris wrote:

    Earlier today I dropped off the tourer I mentioned earlier at the LBS. If anything the hubs are worse than on the Raleigh, so I am waiting for a phone call to say that the cones are shot.

    I'm also splashing out on a new sealed bearing bottom bracket as the one my resprayer fitted for the Shimano Deore Biopace (trekking) chainset is too wide for the Shimano LX (MTB) chainset I fitted earlier in the year. The chainline was way out. Last job before cleaning up and setting aside the steel-framed bikes for the winter :smile:

  9. Patrick wrote:

    Chris wrote: ... setting aside the steel-framed bikes for the winter

    Perhaps it's time for a bike shed Chris.

    Some of the jobs I've done myself have been more expensive than at the bike shop, or at least I have not saved much money. I think hubs, headsets etc are worth doing yourself once or twice just to understand how the bike works.

  10. Chris wrote:

    Indeed, and I know how to do the jobs. I just couldn't be bothered to buy cone spanners, the right bearings, order a bottom bracket with a bit of guesswork, yet another (square taper) bottom bracket removal tool etc etc.

    The bike is ready to pick up – I'll get some bearings tomorrow for the squeaky SPD-SL pedals on my winter bike. The tool for that job is permanently fastened in the jaws of my vice – although for the life of me I can't remember buying it 😕

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