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Stubborn quill stem

Old 06-26-21, 08:19 PM
  #1  
bicyclepost
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Stubborn quill stem

Hey all, the quill stem on my bike is extremely difficult to move up or down and remove from the fork. I thought maybe it was seized but when I finally got the bolt loosened (though it still doesn't turn easily) I was able to wiggle out the stem after probably almost an hour of work and some chain lube. The stem would twist back and forth but moving it up and down was an extremely slow process and impossible without the wiggling. Here are some photos. Does this look normal to you? I'm new to bike mechanics and it doesn't look how I thought it would. It also doesn't slide back into the fork, though I haven't tried too hard yet. What could the problem be and what should I do next? Thanks.


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Old 06-26-21, 08:29 PM
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I'm wondering if it was over tightened and that flared the stem at the bottom.
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Old 06-26-21, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post
What could the problem be and what should I do next?

It looks like you may not have loosened the bolt enough as the wedge still appears to be engaged with the stem. You should usually be able to loosen the bolt until it starts to extend out of the stem and then rap it with a soft mallet or block of wood and that should loosen it enough for removal.
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Old 06-26-21, 08:57 PM
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The top part of the wedge shape on the stem is broken or chipped badly. The bottom of the stem should have wedge shape that is similar to the wedge on the expander nut. Totally unscrew the bolt and you'll see what the wedge shape looks like.

Tightening the bolt should cause the 2 wedge shapes to slide against each other and expand to lock against the steerer tubes inside.
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Old 06-26-21, 09:14 PM
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Old 06-27-21, 01:35 AM
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The wedge is in backwards. Post 5 shows how the wedge should be oriented on the bolt at the bottom of the stem. Also, the first pic in the op makes it appear as if the bottom of the stem is damaged.
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Old 06-27-21, 07:28 AM
  #7  
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SurferRosa nailed it. Clean it up and check for gouges before trying to reuse. If that one gouge is real bottom of the stem will need to be repaired. If there is sufficient length cut a quarter inch off the bottom of the stem then taper all the sharp edges with fine grit sand paper.
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Old 06-27-21, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
SurferRosa nailed it. Clean it up and check for gouges before trying to reuse. If that one gouge is real bottom of the stem will need to be repaired. If there is sufficient length cut a quarter inch off the bottom of the stem then taper all the sharp edges with fine grit sand paper.
The wedge was definitely in backwards. I've cleaned it up but the end of the stem is rough. I live in an apartment and don't have any tools to cut the stem. Do you think I could just sand this with lots of manual labour?
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Old 06-27-21, 02:12 PM
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A bit more cleanup is needed. The wedge shaped portion of stem and the expander needs to be able to slide against each other when the bolt is tightened. This sliding pushes each part against the inside of the steerer tube and holds the stem in place.
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Old 06-27-21, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post
The wedge was definitely in backwards. I've cleaned it up but the end of the stem is rough. I live in an apartment and don't have any tools to cut the stem. Do you think I could just sand this with lots of manual labour?
I think this stem can still be used. Just clean up the outer edges and the face where the wedge slides against the stem. It may be a bit of work because the stem is probably steel. If it's aluminum, it will be a bit easier. Be sure to use plenty of lube (I just use ordinary grease) when you reassemble.
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Old 06-28-21, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post
Do you think I could just sand this with lots of manual labour?
You can do it with an iron file. Check out the cheap ones that harborfreight sells. They work.
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Old 06-28-21, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post
The wedge was definitely in backwards. I've cleaned it up but the end of the stem is rough. I live in an apartment and don't have any tools to cut the stem. Do you think I could just sand this with lots of manual labour?
Looks like an alloy stem. Take it out to the concrete sidewalk and use that for the rough "sanding" then finish off with sandpaper/emery cloth for the final clean up.
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Old 06-28-21, 06:47 AM
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You could take the stem outside and use the sidewalk or a flat stone as an abrasive to remove the burrs.
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Old 06-28-21, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post

Are you really, really sure that you tightened the bolt instead of loosening it? We all do dumb things at times, but that thread looks like the wedge was recently much further down the bolt.
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Old 06-28-21, 09:30 AM
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Probably need to cut off about a quarter inch at least to make it useable. Chop saw with abrasive blade or a grinder. Or just find a replacement and install correctly.
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Old 06-28-21, 10:02 AM
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I wouldn't say it's backwards - more like 180° out of place. PO installed it incorrectly.
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Old 06-28-21, 02:29 PM
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I'm wondering if the stem, with the length of bolt there, has been cut down.
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Old 06-29-21, 04:47 PM
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Alright so I sanded it down with some 60 grit sandpaper but the wedge and stem end don't have the same angle. I put the bolt in the stem and the wedge on the end and tightened it up outside of the headtube to see what would happen and it works ok but it seems like it might twist around and go backwards again like it was in my original post if I'm not careful. Also, the stem itself barely fits in the head tube. I did some sanding around it to thin it out but I still have to apply some pressure and wiggle it to fit it in despite the stem measuring ~21 mm and the head tube ~22.2 mm (with a tape measure, I don't have caliper's). Is this worth saving or should I just get a new stem? Thanks everyone for your responses, much appreciated!
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Old 06-29-21, 06:54 PM
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Looks pretty good. Shouldn't be hard to sand a little more and get the angles to match.

Are you greasing everything when you put it back together? Check your headset and make sure it isn't torn up from the last go around.

As long as the stem is seated well inside the headset your should be OK. I think the only way to get what you had would be to insert it incorrectly from the get go.
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Old 06-29-21, 07:57 PM
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This might not have helped in this situation, so take following instructions with a grain of salt.

Here’s what I do with quill stems.

1) Hose it all down with penetrating oil. Let sit for a couple days. Might even be worth it to flip bike upside down spray penetrating oil from other side. Charcoal lighter fluid makes a passable penetrating oil if you don’t have any.

2) Turn the bolt on top counterclockwise maybe 3 rotations. The bolt that goes through the wedge.

3) Strike that bolt down pretty hard and fast with a hammer.

4) Strike the quill stem down. Everything should now be freed up. If the quill stem is hard up against the bearing lock nut, maybe don’t strike it.

5) Grip front wheel with your legs and wiggle the handlebars back and forth while pulling them up. Should slide right out.

These steps won’t work if the previous owner messed things up, or if the aluminum stem corroded to the steel fork tube.

These steps work good for generically old rusty parts.

It should be like a 3 minute job.
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Old 06-30-21, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinGriz View Post
This might not have helped in this situation, so take following instructions with a grain of salt.

Here’s what I do with quill stems.

1) Hose it all down with penetrating oil. Let sit for a couple days. Might even be worth it to flip bike upside down spray penetrating oil from other side. Charcoal lighter fluid makes a passable penetrating oil if you don’t have any.

2) Turn the bolt on top counterclockwise maybe 3 rotations. The bolt that goes through the wedge.

3) Strike that bolt down pretty hard and fast with a hammer.

4) Strike the quill stem down. Everything should now be freed up. If the quill stem is hard up against the bearing lock nut, maybe don’t strike it.

5) Grip front wheel with your legs and wiggle the handlebars back and forth while pulling them up. Should slide right out.

These steps won’t work if the previous owner messed things up, or if the aluminum stem corroded to the steel fork tube.

These steps work good for generically old rusty parts.

It should be like a 3 minute job.
In general, a reasonable solution for a rusty/stuck stem quill. I’m sure many cringed at the “flip bike upside down” suggestion (without further qualifications)! I rarely (if ever) do so but the times I have, I always placed the mid section of the handlebar on a block of wood tall enough to prevent the brake cables from being kinked and/or to prevent damage to the brake levers! I also place a pad of some sort underneath the saddle to prevent scuffing or any other damage.
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Old 06-30-21, 07:40 AM
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The first and second pic in the OP seem to show that (in addition to the wedge being 180 degrees out of position) the wedge has been pulled into the stem quill and has flared it out a bit. I know it’s beyond the capabilities (tool wise) of the OP but I would definitely (as suggested in another reply) trim a bit of length from the quill to get rid of the flare and to correct the mating angle with the wedge.
The “field expedient” method of using a concrete sidewalk to remove some of the damage on the quill came immediately to mind for me too! SurferRosa’s suggestion (an iron file from HarborFreight) is a bit more elegant tho. Unfortunately, no HarborFreight stores in Canada (plus there it would be HarboUr Freight)! I believe the Canadian equivalent is Princess Auto
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Old 06-30-21, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinGriz View Post
...or if the aluminum stem corroded to the steel fork tube.
Somewhat OT, but one thing I'd like to comment on is that a couple weeks ago, I removed a stubborn quill stem from an old school Marin MTB. It just didn't want to "act right" as I would remove it similar to what you've described above, but it just didn't want to come out. It took quite a lot of taping on the bolt to free it up, and only then was I able to remove it. Come to find out, the wedge on the end of the stem was made of aluminum! I've never seen that before. The wedge had corroded and welded itself to the inside of the steerer tube. I cleaned it out and greased everything up and it slid back in like butter. Weird though. That particular Marin model wasn't notable for being lightweight or particularly high-end, so why the effort to save weight on that particular component?
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Old 06-30-21, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by J.Higgins View Post
Somewhat OT, but one thing I'd like to comment on is that a couple weeks ago, I removed a stubborn quill stem from an old school Marin MTB. It just didn't want to "act right" as I would remove it similar to what you've described above, but it just didn't want to come out. It took quite a lot of taping on the bolt to free it up, and only then was I able to remove it. Come to find out, the wedge on the end of the stem was made of aluminum! I've never seen that before. The wedge had corroded and welded itself to the inside of the steerer tube. I cleaned it out and greased everything up and it slid back in like butter. Weird though. That particular Marin model wasn't notable for being lightweight or particularly high-end, so why the effort to save weight on that particular component?
Maybe they just ordered in bulk and it was the part on hand.
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Old 07-01-21, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bicyclepost View Post
The stem itself barely fits in the head tube... Is this worth saving or should I just get a new stem?
I think you mean either the stem barely fits in the steerer or it barely fits through the top of the headset. I'd much rather it be a little too tight in the steerer than too loose. When it's too loose, you really have to crank down on the wedge, which isn't good. And it still may give a false impression, like the headset is loose.

If you like the stem, it's the right size, and fits the purpose of the bike, yes, go ahead and keep it. I like what another poster said about continuing to sand the angle a bit at the bottom to be a little more flush with the wedge. It doesn't have to be perfect. And be sure not to overtighten it in the steerer. If you crash, you want the bars to move with you.
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