Why Is My Bike Hub Loose And How Do I Fix It?

When riding on a bicycle, it is reassuring whenever the bike feels like a compact unit. However, at times the bike hub may get loose and make the bike wobbly. In such a case, you should be asking,

“Why Is My Bike Hub Loose?”

Your bike hub could be loose due to loose cones or damaged bearing cups. In addition, it could be that the axle or the cones threads are worn out. Also, if the axle has a bend, it could lead to the unwinding of the lock nuts that keep the cones in place. 

`The other possible reason why your bike’s hub is loose could be defective housing. Definitely, bike components degrade with continuous use, and a wobbly wheel could result from a damaged hub.

Why is my bike hub loose? A bike hub under repair

What Makes Bikes Hub Loose (Quick Tips)

As noted above, there are several reasons why your bike’s hub could be loose. All the same, what are some of the leading causes of a wobbly bike hub?

1. Defective Hub Housing

Your bike’s hub condition makes a significant difference in performance. If the housing is damaged, the wheels together and the whole bicycle will feel rickety.

Actually, damaged hub housing will adversely affect the functionality of the cones and the locknuts. 

In addition, once the housing is impaired, it will make the bearings grab at intervals. As a result, the cones may end up unwinding, leaving your hub loose.

Once the housing is damaged, the best remedy is to get a new hub. 

Technically, bicycle hubs come in different sizes; therefore, you need to verify the hub spacing and width to match your specifications.

For MTBs, you may consider going for the TOBWOLF 36 Holes Front & Rear Hubs. They are compatible with 6-bolt disk brakes and have sealed cartridge bearings that protect the inner parts from water and dirt.

2. Worn Out Threads On Axles And Cones

Another reason your bike hub is loose could be that the axle’s or the cone’s threads are worn out. Actually, for the cone and the lock nuts to stay in place, the axle and the nuts must have threads that are in good condition.

Unfortunately, if the axle or the nuts have worn out threats, you can’t set your wheel right.

If the hub setup has been loose for some time, a little play in the components could damage the threads, making it impossible to fasten the lock nuts and the cones.

As a result, your bike’s hub will be loose no matter how much you try to tighten it.

3. Loose Lock Nuts

Locknuts are essential in keeping the cone nuts and the bearings in place. In case they back off one-sixteenth of an inch more than necessary, you can be sure the wheel will have some play.

The integrity of your bikes axle threads will greatly determine if the lock nuts will hold on or not will hold on.

When the lock nuts are loose, the bearings will also be loose making the wheel wonky.

4. Damaged Bearing Cups

Bearing cups help in holding the bearings in place. However, the cups may stretch to the inside with time, making extra unwanted space for the bearings.

 As a result, you may realize that your bike’s wheel is closer to the frame than it should be.

If the lock nuts are loose, definitely the cone nuts will unwind. Once this happens, you might feel your bike getting shaky.

A bikes from hub with disc brakes - Why is my bike hub loose?

What Happens When A Hub Goes Loose?

At times, it is hard to tell if your bike’s hub has issues. One of the problems that come with a faulty hub is wobbling. If the setup is loose, the small amount of play is transferred to the wheel and magnified by the whole frame.

When this happens, it greatly affects your bike’s efficiency. Consequently, your ride becomes difficult and uncomfortable.

At the same time, you might hear a clunking noise that seems to come from your bike’s suspension.

Without a doubt, a loose hub could lead to more damage to its components.

For example, a loose hub could cause harm to the axle’s threads. Unfortunately, it becomes hard to tighten the cones and the lock nuts on the same axle again when this happens.

In addition, a loose hub can cause damage to the bearings as well. You may have to replace them sooner than expected.

All in all, you should avoid riding on a loose hub at all costs because it might cost you more than you could possibly imagine.

How Do You Fix A Loose Bike Hub? 

Fixing a loose hub shouldn’t be an uphill task at all. Actually, it’s something you can easily hack by doing it yourself. However, for those who dread DIY, they can visit local bike shop and get help.

All the same, let’s look at how you can fix a loose bike hub at home.

To ascertain whether your bike has a loose hub, you only need to hold the wheel at the highest point and try moving it laterally. If your feel wheel moves with some clunky noise at times, then the hub is loose.

To tighten a loose hub, you need to locate a pair of cone nuts on the axle. Typically, they are thin and help to hold the bearings in place.

With the help of open-end wrenches such as the DURATEC Super-Thin Wrench Set, loosen the outer nut and tighten the inner cone nut.

However, you shouldn’t overtighten the cones to avoid damaging the cups. Actually, the cons should snuggly touch the bearings.

Once the inner nuts are in place, spin the wheel. It should turn smoothly without any wobble or grinding.

Once you are satisfied with the result, it is time to tighten back the outer nut to lock the inner one without moving the cone.

You will need two wrenches to tighten the lock nuts while holding the cone in position. If you don’t hold the cone stationary, you might end up with a tight hub which is also not right.

How Do You Tighten A Front Bike Hub

How Do You Tighten A Front Bike Hub?

A front wheel isn’t all that different from the rear one when it comes to loose hubs. The mechanism in the two is the same. They use cones to hold the bearings in place.

So, to tighten a loose front hub, you will need to screw in the cones until they snuggly touch the bearings, and then use the lock nuts to fasten the cones.

On the other hand, if your bike uses a press-fit front hub, they most like to use cartridge bearings. In that case, it relies on the quick release skewer to hold the bearings in place.

So, if your bike doesn’t have cone nuts, you need to buy a new cartridge once the hub goes loose.

How Do I Know If My Bike Hub Is Bad?

For a beginner, it is hard to tell when your bike hub goes bad. All the same, if you are keen enough, you will realize some differences in how your bike rolls.

First, once the hub is bad, the wheel may start producing some squealing or chirping sounds. In addition, you might feel the bike start to wobble. 

At the same time, if the damage is significant or has broken cups, the hub will have a grinding effect that will significantly affect your ride.

However, you don’t have to wait until you are on the road to tell whether your bike hub needs repair. With regular wheel checks, it is easy to tell when your bike hub develops some abnormal characteristics.

Holding the bike wheel in your hands, spinning it, and trying to move it sideways will most times tell you when your bike hub is bad. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Do You Lubricate Bike Hubs?

The best way to lubricate bike hubs is by greasing the bearings. For you to access the bearings, you need first to remove the locknuts. Remove the bearing and clean them, then re-grease the hub by applying grease on the bearing race. Once you do that, it’s time to refit the axle.

2. How Tight Should You Tighten Wheel Bearings?

You should snuggly tighten the wheel bearings to avoid damaging the hub and its components. Actually, the locknut should be touching and not pressing the bearings. Technically, once you tighten the bearing such that there is no play, back it off about one-sixteenth of an inch.

3. Is It Safe To Ride A Bike With A Wobbly Wheel?

The safety of riding a bike with a wobbly wheel will depend on the reason why your bike’s wheel isn’t true. 

Though most of the causes of untrue wheels don’t pose any danger to the rider, they may cost you a new wheelset.

Also Read: Why Are Bmx Hubs So Loud?

Final Word

When your bike hub is loose, the first suspect should be lock nuts that have backed off. If they are loose, just screw them back, and you will be good to go.

Notably, riding a bike with a loose hub may eventually damage the wheelset. If the cones, the axle, or cups are worn out, replace them early to prevent more damage.