How to Troubleshoot a Bicycle Wheel That Does Not Turn

How to Troubleshoot a Bicycle Wheel That Does Not Turn
Planning a bike ride only to discover a frozen wheel puts a damper on your trip. Frozen wheels, or wheels that do not turn, are a common form of internal component damage. Riding your bike introduces it to dust, debris and water, which slowly wears internal components. Additionally, not riding your bike for a period dries out the grease. Lack of internal component protection leaves metal parts vulnerable to corrosion. Repairing damaged components, such as frozen wheels, can save you money and get you back on the trail.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Double-ended cone wrenches 13mm -- 18mm
  • Grease
  • Bicycle-cleaning solvent
Step 1
Secure the bicycle by the top tube in a bike stand. Gently pull the wheel one direction attempting to break the frozen wheel loose. If you cannot break the wheel loose, remove the wheel. For cantilever and center-pull brakes, loosen the brakes before removing the wheel.
Step 2
Using the double-ended cone wrench, remove the outer locking nut. Remove the spacer and set it aside with the locking nut. Remove the outer locking nut on the opposite side of the axle. Loosen the cone slightly with a double-ended cone wrench. Apply pressure to the axle; if it moves, your cones were too tight. If the axle is still frozen, remove the cone from the axle. Take the bearings from the wheel and set them aside.
Step 3
Pull the axle by the locking nut to remove it from the hub. Clean the bearings and cones using bicycle-cleaning solvent. Apply grease to the bearings thoroughly covering the unit. Rub a thin layer of grease on the inside of the cone. Slide the axle back through the hub and place the bearings against the inside hub wall.
Step 4
Thread the cones back on the axle. Tighten the cones with your fingers until you feel slight pressure against the bearings. Using a double-ended cone wrench, tighten the cones slightly more than finger tight. Holding the axle, spin the wheel. After adjusting the cones until you have no play and the wheel spins freely, place the spacers on the axle and tighten the outer locking nuts in place.
Step 5
Place the wheel back on the bike. Tighten the brakes if you are using cantilever or center-pull style brakes. Spin the wheel on the bike. Wheels that still do not turn need bearings and cones replaced.

Tips & Warnings

Use quality waterproof grease
Do not over-tighten cones as doing so can permanently damage the bearings

Article Written By Jeremy Slaughter

Jeremy Slaughter is a tax, accounting and small business expert. After completing his master's degree in accounting at Keller Graduate School of Management, Slaughter co-founded an accounting and tax firm where writing plays a daily role.

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