From the workshop: Alfine internal gear hub oil change and deep clean
Updated: Apr 14
This is another article in our article series: "From the workshop". In these series we write brief notes on bicycle maintenance, ranging from wiring of dynamos to basic service of internal gear hubs. These articles will sometimes deal with the most obvious of maintenance tasks, but still we find them useful as reminders for our future selves, and perhaps also for some of you other amateur mechanics out there..
This article deals with two basic maintenance tasks for the Shimano Alfine internal gear hub; oil change and deep clean. The Shimano Alfine comes in two main versions: Alfine 500, which is 8-speed and Alfine 700, which is 11-speed. Aside from the gearing range, there are also quite a few other differences between these two versions. For example, although both uses oil bath for lubrication, only the Alfine 700 can be drained and refilled without disassembly. There are also some differences (and incompatibilities) between the parts used. This articles deals with the Alfine 700, sometimes also referred to as Inter-11.
The oil change should be done every 5 000 kms or about every 12 months, whichever comes first. The procedure is super simple. All you need is a canister or similar to dispose of the used oil, some sheets of paper, a syringe with a capacity of at least 25 ml, an Allen key of 3 mm, two tubes with bleed nipples and 50 ml oil for the Alfine-system.
Step 1 - Preparations
Start out with positioning the bike so the wheel is upright, either by using a stand or by turning the bike upside down. Rotate the wheel so the oil port is facing upwards. Give the bolt of the oil port and surrounding area a quick clean. You have to reuse the same bolt after you have inserted new oil, so make sure not to toss it away, and keep that o-ring in place on the bolt.
Step 2 - Drain old oil
Unscrew the bolt of the oil port and attach one of the tubes with bleed nipples. According to the instructions you should use a wrench to secure it with 1-3 nm, but we have always gotten by just fine securing it finger tight. Once the tube is in place, connect it to the syringe. Make sure the piston is fully inserted at this time. Turn the wheel so the oil port is facing downward and wait about 5 minutes to allow the oil to trickle down to the oil port. When the 5 minutes have passed, slowly retract the piston to draw out the used oil from the hub. Take your time, and you might also move the piston back and forth a little, to get out as much of the oil as possible. When you are satisfied, rotate the wheel so the oil port is facing upwards once again and remove the syringe. Dispose of the used oil in the syringe using a canister.
Step 3 - Cleaning
Fill the syringe with 25 ml of clean Alfine oil. With the wheel still in the same position, secure the syringe to the hub with one of the tubes with bleed nipple. Its not a big deal, but we usually use one tube for unused oil and the other tube for used oil. Now, insert the 25 ml of new oil into the hub. Take your time and do it slowly, so it wont push back as the pressure in the hub increases. After you have inserted the oil, secure the bolt for the oil port to about 2-3 nm with the Allen key. Turn the pedals while you alternate through the gears, so all the barrels inside the hub are cleaned with the new oil. You should do this for about 1 minute.
Step 4 - Fill new oil
When you are done cleaning the inside of the hub, cf. step 3, repeat step 2 to drain the oil once again. When the oil is drained, you are ready to insert another 25 ml of new oil, cf. step 3. After you have done this, you are all good to go, with 25 ml of fresh oil well in place inside the now cleaned hub.
Doing this regular oil change is also a good opportunity to check the hub and rims for cracks. Make sure to not get any of the hub oil on the brake rotor.
The oil clean procedure outlined above is certainly quick, and as recommended by Shimano, but it wont help you much in cleaning out the tiny pieces of metal shrapnel that can build up inside the hub over time, particularly during the break-in period. To do that you need to disassemble the hub and clean the interior. The disassembly process consists of four main steps:
Removing the hub from the shell
Disassembling the hub itself (optional)
Cleaning the shell, cassette joint and hub
Refitting the hub to the shell
Step two is optional, and way too complicated for us, as it entails disassembly of the hub itself. So far we havent seen the need to do this and get by fine by just cleaning the exterior of the hub and the interior of the shell, including the cassette joint. If you feel frisky and want to do the full disassembly, JB over at Cycling UK Forum has an excellent walk-through. The three other steps are described below, inspired by a great article from AdamK's Cycling & Travel. In the following we name the different parts according to Shimanos dealer-manual for the Alfine SG-700.
Step 1 - Removing the hub from the shell
Remove the wheel from the bike and start on the non drive side by removing the disc brake rotor (C). Its a good idea to get the rotor out of the way as soon as possible, so it wont get contaminated during the process. This is also a good opportunity to clean the rotor itself, if thats needed.
Switch over to the drive side and remove the cassette joint (1). This is done by turning the small plastic lever on the cassette joint counter-clockwise. Once the two yellow dots are aligned, simply lift it up and remove it.
Remove the driver cap (2). You can easily pry it up with a flat screwdriver. As with all things on these hubs, be gentle. Remember which side is up on the driver cap.
Remove the snap ring (3). This one you must also pry off with a flat screwdriver, but it is a good bit more fiddly than the driver cap. The snap ring has no up or down side, so you dont need to pay attention to which way it is facing.
With the snap ring out of the way, the sprocket of choice (4) should now be loose and can simply be lifted up. Although it is obvious for some sprockets which side should be facing up, e.g. for belt sprockets, its good practice to take note of which side is facing up. On some chain sprockets the sprocket can be flipped in order to adjust the chain line.
Remove the right hand dustcap b (5). At this point the dustcap will be completely loose and can just be lifted up. Note which side is facing up.
Remove the chain guard. You might need a flat screw driver to pry it up, but usually you can also just do this by hand. Note which side is facing up.
Switch over to the non drive side. Unscrew the lock nut (D) and cone (E). Use a spanner to keep the cone from spinning when undoing the nut. You need 15mm and 17mm cone spanners for this purpose. Also, note which side is facing up on these two items.
Switch back to the drive side and position the wheel horizontally. Unscrew the right hand dustcap (6) and remove it. Note that you must turn it clockwise to unscrew. Be particularly careful not to damage this part, as this is the main seal for the hub. Pay attention to which side is facing up. You might be able to unscrew the dustcap by hand, but Shimano also offers a special tool for this purpose, the Shimano TL-AF10.
At this point, the top of the hub internals (F) should be visible and nothing, except gravity, is holding the hub internals in place in the shell. Remove the hub internals from the shell by simply, gently, lifting it straight up. It will be dripping of oil, so have a suitable, and clean place, ready to park it. Thats it for the disassembly. Next up is the cleaning.
Step 2 - Cleaning the shell, cassette joint and hub
Let the hub internals rest for a while so most of the oil will seep out.
Clean the interior of the hub shell. At this point AdamK recommends to pack the non-drive side bearing with fresh grease and grease the seals in the cone and drive side dust cap.
Use a cloth to clean off the different parts. Do not use water or any detergents. The cassette joint is an exception to this. To rinse the joint we find it useful to submerge it completely in water and then rotate the gear lever back and forth repeatedly. We believe this to be ok since the cassette joint is mounted outside all the seals in the final assembly.
Step 3 - Refitting the hub to the shell
Once all the parts are cleaned, you are ready to re-assemble the Alfine. Start on the drive side, by gently reinserting the hub internals into the shell. You may need to wiggle the hub internals a bit, so it matches up with the internal grooves of the hub shell.
Attach and fasten the right hand dustcap (6). Do not overtighten, as this could damage the threads and seal. Hand tight will do. Remember that you have to screw counter-clockwise to tighten.
Flip over to the non drive side and fasten the cone (E) and lock nut (D). Pay attention to get the correct side facing up, particularly on the lock nut. You must get the tightening of these two items right - unless you will strain the bearings when riding. JB over at Cycling UK Forum has an excellent tip to dial in the tightening correctly. He says: "Place finger and thumb over the lock nut so that they are touching the hub, move the wheel rim up and down and feel for a slight bit of play through your thumb. If none is detected back of the cone until it is. Then by small increments turn back the cone and nip the lock nut until the play is almost undetectable then tighten the lock nut."
Switch back over to drive side and snap on chain guard (5). It should just click into place.
Slip on right hand dustcap b. It just sits there and will be kept in place by the sprocket.
Fit the sprocket of choice (4). Some sprockets just slip on, while others may be need to be snapped on. If you have a sprocket that requires to be snapped on, the Gates SureFit installation tool will be of great help. Although a bit more fiddly, it can also be done without this tool, which is quite costly by the way. Note that some sprockets for chains may be flipped in order to adjust the chain line. So take care to mount it with the same side facing up, as when you removed it.
Fit the snap ring (3). This can be a bit fiddly. We find it to be a good tip to use two small flat headed screwdrivers, and pry it on. Make sure that the snap ring seats correctly.
Click on the driver cap (2) and pay attention to have the correct side facing up.
Attach the cassette joint (1). Make sure the two yellow dot are aligned, and then secure the joint in place by sliding the lever clockwise.
Switch over to the non drive side and attach the disc brake rotor (C), followed by the rotor spacer (B) and finally the disc brake rotor installation ring (A). Tighten the installation ring according to the recommended torque.
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