Squeaky wheel gets the?
November 19, 2023 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I have just bought a new bike for my child. To take it home, the front wheel needed to be removed. We took it for a test run and now the front wheel squeaks.. help?

This is the bike. It squeaks whenever the front wheel turns, whether on or off the ground. I notice that if I loosen the nut so it's basically not holding the wheel in place on one side the squeaking stops, but that doesn't seem like a good solution!

I guess the answer may be grease, right now we only have wd40 and I guess we need the proper type? But just wanted to rule out anything stupid I did in putting the wheel back on the bike.

I did note that the two washers, which I assumed went on the outside, had two little pokey bits. There was an obvious hole for these that I put them into, but am second guessing that I didn't do something dumb...

Assume I know essentially nothing about bikes. Also I am an in the UK if that matters
posted by Cannon Fodder to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
You need to figure out what is squeaking exactly; it's rare that the axle itself is what is squeaking. Have someone hold the front end of the bike up and keep the handlebars straight while you stand in front and spin the wheel. Look for wobbliness of the wheel and try to discern where the squeak is coming from.

Is the wheel wobbling such that the tire is rubbing against the front fork? Then the tire isn't seated/centered exactly correctly; sometimes this can be difficult to get right.

Disc brakes are difficult to adjust, so another prime contender is that the disc is rubbing against the brake pads, or when you put the wheel back on you didn't make sure that the disc was inserted between the brake pads and it's actually rubbing on the outside of them. There should be a set screw or something to adjust the caliper/spring that holds the brake pads together to make it looser or tighter.
posted by misskaz at 12:17 PM on November 19

That bike has disc brakes, and in my experience getting a wheel back on with disc breaks perfectly aligned can be a bit of an art. Squeeking is one of the possible things that could happen if this is wrong, but the real test for that is whether the tire spins freely. If it doesn't, there's various things you can try but the simplest technique is to hold the front brakes as tight as possible while tightening the front wheel (helpful to have someone else to do it), so that the disc is centered relative to the tightened calipers.
posted by advil at 12:46 PM on November 19

Nthing that you will need to zero in on the source of the squeak.

I am assuming it's NOT the tire hitting the fork. That wouldn't be a squeak, but rather a scuffing/scraping sound.

The bike has mechanical disc brakes in the front (but not in the rear WTH), so my vote is for the rotor hitting the pads. Mechanical disc calipers are notoriously difficult to get aligned right, because the calipers are pushed from only one side. Also the rotor could have gotten bent somehow in transit, or even if somebody looked at it funny.

Those little nubs on the washers are to help keep the nuts in place. I am assuming you used a 15mm wrench and sufficiently tightened the axle nuts. You should tighten the s*** out of those. Preferably do not use an adjustable wrench on these bolts, as it's easy to strip them, especially on cheaper bikes.

Please don't ever use WD40 on a bike. It's not lubricant, it's anti-lubricant.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:39 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

My first guess would be the brakes rubbing against the rotor, but that would be less of a squeak and more of a periodic scraping sound. I would still make sure to rule this out since as mentioned above it's not uncommon for the brakes to come out of alignment after removing the wheel. Turn the bike upside down, spin the wheel slowly and see if it seems to "grab" instead of spin freely. You can also shine a flashlight into the brake and see directly if the rotor is spinning freely or rubbing against a pad.

If you do think the brake is rubbing, loosen the axle and re-seat the wheel in the dropout. Tighten the axle again and see if the situation has improved. If you do think it's the brake rubbing and re-seating the wheel a couple of times doesn't help you may need to adjust the caliper. The caliper may have been knocked out of alignment in transit. Look this up on youtube -- it can be a bit tedious but it should be within the abilities of a patient amateur. The third reason the brake could be rubbing is that the rotor got bent in transit. It is possible to straighten a rotor at home with the right tools but you'd probably want to take it to a shop if you think this is the problem.

Disclaimer: don't fiddle with the brake caliper unless you're fairly confident it is the rotor rubbing against the pad that's causing the sound.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:18 PM on November 19

I have removed a wheel only to find it has a loud high pitched squeak when it rotates once replaced. It seems in the process I’d not noticed that I’d accidentally adjusted (tightened) the nuts which squeeze the wheel bearings. The squealing sound was made by the bearings being overtight. It’s a slightly fiddly adjustjent to get right, I had to loosen the nuts a tiny amount so that the wheel glides round on its axle without noise, but not so much that it introduced any lateral / side-to-side wobble or looseness. It was a question of ‘dialling’ it in, then mounting the wheel back in the forks and tightening the quick release lever again.
posted by Joeruckus at 12:40 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

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