Time on his hands: Rear hub maintenance?

Hey Lee,

A little bike maintainance question concerning the hub/pawl drive assembly on modern mtb wheels like mavics or azonic outlaws, etc. Since these wheels have sealed bearings, should you put any lubrication inside the freewheel or on the drive pawls? If so, should I use grease, oil, or what? (It seems like the lubricant just attacts dirt to me) Or should I just clean everything and leave it dry? After all the bearings in the wheel are sealed. Also, what about the skewers? Grease them or leave them clean and dry? Hope you can solve this mystery for me?


Hey Walt,

It looks like you have some time on your hands! Dude — I keep the chain semi-clean and the tires aired up, and I just ride. Quickly:

– Every hub is different, and I suggest checking with your manufacturer. Some freehubs are rebuildable; some aren’t.

– If you have sealed wheel bearings, leave them alone.

– You should probably leave your freehub alone as well. Don’t spray water in there, and don’t take it apart unless you have to. This is where a good bike shop pays off. Again, read your manual.

– Most freehubs use grease. But this is tricky. Too much or too thick of grease, and the moving parts don’t move correctly. Here in Colorado, when it gets really cold, my cheaper rear hubs start to skip. Funny: My Chris Kings and Hadleys are always perfect.

– If your freehub is sticking really badly, you can set your bike on its side and drip oil (Triflow) into the outside of the freehub body. Spin your wheel to let the oil work its way in there. I’m not proud of this, but it works. I have kept many an ancient XT hub alive this way.

– Cover your skewers with a very thin layer of grease. This prevents rust.

– Keep your bike reasonably clean, and just ride it!

— Lee

6 replies
  1. Walt says:

    Yeah a lot of time. I still have 3 feet of snow here in my yard where it was dry this time last year. I can just see the tops of the tops of berms on the pump track which are something like 4′ high. And all the great downhill trails in the mountains … covered with 20 feet of snow! I’m jonesing to ride bad. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

  2. Daniel says:

    I am a professional bike mechanic and do a lot of hub overhauls. Once a year you should check out the cartridge bearings and pop the seals off to see if there is any dirt or water in there. If so, flush it with WD-40 and then repack it with a thickish grease (use nothing made for automotive). All freehubs should be lubed with oil. Just use a thick oil like Finish Line Wet lube or Dumonde Tech or Phil Wood Tenacious oil or 20wt fork oil. Don’t use motor oil unless it is 10wt or lighter. Just my 2 cents.

  3. Lee (different one) says:

    The inside of the Mavic freehub will require a little bit of oil every now and then (like when your wheel starts making a horrible howling noise during fast descents). I believe Mavic recommends ~10 drops of their mineral oil, but Phil’s Tenacious works fine, too. Only use mineral oil, however, because the wrong stuff can damage the rubber lip seal on the inside of the assembly. For more info, search online for the directions for accessing Mavic’s tech docs site.

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