Author Topic: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear  (Read 29921 times)

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« on: October 31, 2011, 01:45:02 pm »
So, I've finally done it! The Alfine 11 hub gear service.

According to Shimano this should be done after the first 1000km and then every 5000km thereafter.

Alfie my recumbent trike has done a shade over 2,000 miles already and this is my first hub gear service. This is because the original hub started misbehaving and Madison replaced it under warranty. The new hub had done 700 miles so it was time for its spa treatment.

So what do you need to do this operation?

(a) A bike with an Alfine 11 hub gear
(b) The replacement mineral oil (Shimano part SG-S700).

As will become clear, in the photographs below I have used the wrong oil! The correct oil is dark green and treacly, as pictured above, not pink. Read on...
(c) The Oil Maintenance Kit (Shimano part TL-S703)

First thing to note is that the oil was extremely hard to come by (it was out of stock almost everywhere but I managed to get some from a small mail-order bike shop). It's also expensive at £16 for 50ml. (And it was the wrong stuff anyway, as I now know!)

I initially thought I'd get a local bike shop to do the job but once I'd downloaded the servicing instructions from Shimano it seemed fairly easy. I'd need the oil maintenance kit which was about £45 but once I had that I could always do my own servicing so it should work out much cheaper in the long run.


Preparation
The instructions say to do this outside in the fresh air. A slightly less windy day would have been preferable as my instructions had a tendency to want to fly away.

I also needed a size 10 spanner and a small allen key. I also wore latex gloves as suggested but didn't bother with the eye goggles - that seemed a bit overkill.

I got the trike ready on the grass with the front wheels chocked.



The back wheel was on some cardboard in case any small bits got dropped.

So here are the two bits needed - the very pink oil and the Oil Maintenance Kit.



Note that the £45 Maintenance Kit consists of a syringe, a bit of pipe with a metal end, and a big jar for your waste oil. This is not good value for money - I reckon that lot should cost less than a fiver. Ho hum.

Here am I, latex gloves in hand, ready to start.


The Service

So, firstly I have to undo the oil port bolt with a small allen key.



This is surprisingly difficult on my trike as with the spoke lacing there is barely any room. A shorter allen key would have been much more helpful but I managed it eventually.



This is what came out - a small bolt and an O-ring (which actually needed to be back on the hub the whole time; I was always paranoid about losing it though!)



Now to screw on the pipe that will go from the syringe to the hub.



Once again, it was difficult to do this as the pipe is long and the spokes don't leave much room for wielding a spanner. I think this would be fine on a normal-sized wheel but a 20" one is a bit of a challenge.

The instructions say to hold the syringe within the spokes as you rotate the wheel 180 degrees but this wasn't possible with my 20" wheel and it was easier to just thread the syringe round the chainstay and mudguard metalwork.



The instructions say to leave it all for five minutes like this for the oil to drain down.

Then I had to very slowly use the syringe to suck out the old oil.

The oil begins to appear:


It came out as thick, black grot.


It was actually quite hard to do this well without getting loads of air bubbles. I don't think the air bubbles matter much in themselves but the syringe was only 30ml and I was expecting 25ml of oil so didn't want too much air. The slower I pulled the syringe the better as I had to wait for the oil to flow down to the bottom of the hub to be sucked out.

The whole procedure probably took about 10 minutes.

Here I am with about 20mls of old oil which is about all I was able to extract.


Now the instructions said at this point to turn the wheel again so the oil port was uppermost and then remove the bleed nipple and pipe along with syringe. Due to the difficulties of getting tools onto the hub, and the fact that the pipe seemed pretty much clear, I decided to just remove the syringe.

Here it is - yuck!



And here it is poured into that vastly-expensive pot that came as part of the kit. It was like thick, black treacle and was quite hard to squirt out of the syringe.



The next set of instructions are to use half of the oil in the kit to flush through the system, i.e. it would be put in the hub, sloshed around a bit and then drained out again.

The instructions said to add the pipe first before the syringe. Mine was already in place, of course.

I then looked at the oil bottle and discovered a crack in the plastic at the top. James helped me to fix the tube that came with it to the syringe and he held up the bottle as I used the syringe to drain 25ml but it was clear the top was leaking as oil was running down the side of the bottle. And this is expensive stuff!

In the end we took the whole top off the bottle and put the pipe in it, using the syringe to suck it up from there. I wasn't sure how much oil had been lost so only picked up 20ml.

It's a lovely pink colour! (Or at least it is if you're putting the wrong oil in there, hydraulic mineral oil, instead of hub gear oil! It should have been dark green...)



I put the syringe onto the pipe coming out of the hub and started slowly squeezing it in. I had to pull the syringe plunger back a couple of times to let some of the air pressure out but the whole job was pretty easy and all 20ml was in the hub after 30 seconds or so.



I then had the fun of undoing the bit of pipe and putting the oil port bolt back in without losing the O-ring. This was quite tricky again but I managed it.

The instructions say to pedal for a minute, changing up and down the gears, so with James's assistance (can't lift the back of the trike and pedal and change gear on my own!) we did so.

Then it was back to the beginning of the procedure - oil port facing up, adding the pipe, adding the syringe, rotating the wheel 180 degrees, leaving it for five minutes to settle, then using the syringe to slowly drain the oil.



This time the oil came out much more readily as it was clearly thinner - but look at the colour change!



From pink to black in five and a half minutes!

Really black, but it came out with fewer air bubbles which was a relief!



A good 25mls extracted so it's clearly helped some more of the original oil to come out.



Once all the oil appeared to have been drained I once again spun the wheel 180 degrees ready for the second 25mls of oil which would be what stayed in the hub for the next 5000 miles.

It was tricky to drain the oil out of the bottle seeing as I had to use the tube. It picked up lots of air when it got near to the bottom (and I could see I only had about 19mls) and then, horror of horrors, I had pulled the plunger a bit too far out and a trickle of oil was leaking out that way. Argh! I pushed it back in and hoped I hadn't lost too much.

In the end I managed to get about 22ml from the bottle; there was still a tiny bit left in there but it seemed almost impossible to remove. I hope that Alfie doesn't mind being down a few mls.

I pushed it in very easily as before.



I then did up the oil port bolt, having managed not to lose the O-ring at all which was a bonus!

I wiped a few drops of spilled oil (that came out of the pipe when I removed it) from the hub and we were ready to go.

So this is what everything looked like afterwards:



It wasn't a particularly mucky job and was basically very easy. it would be easier on a larger-wheeled bike of course.



I shall take Alfie out this afternoon to check all works OK. I did the oil port bolt up reasonably tightly but it was very hard to wield the allen key in such a small space so I shall check it again in a day or two to check it hasn't worked loose at all.

I now have 5000km or two years until the next oil change, whichever is sooner.

I sent a link to my blog post of this to ICE trikes and also to Huw at Madison (the Shimano distributor) who swapped my original hub for me. As events transpired, the fact that Huw read it was a Mighty Good Thing!
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2011, 02:01:49 pm »
What a palaver, well done!

Hope changing the oil in the Rolhoff on my Moulton tandem next year will be more straightforward.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2011, 02:04:01 pm »
I imagine it's a similar procedure except I believe the Rohloff snake-oil is even more expensive.

Basically, it's just:

Drain old sludge
Squirt in new oil
Drain new oil which is now sludgy
Squirt in new oil

It's just gravity gets involved!
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


pdm

  • Sheffield hills? Nah... Just potholes.
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2011, 02:38:07 pm »
Thanks for that...
I am coming up to my first oil change on my hub, though I am very tempted to use the Rohloff stuff (spülöl and orniry öl are both 39€ per litre) instead!

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2011, 02:45:31 pm »
STOP PRESS!

I emailed my blog link to the chap at Madison who helped me when my hub needed to be changed and got this response:

Quote
Hope all is well.

Well done on the servicing, it seems you’ve got the procedure correct.

Unfortunately, the only thing I noticed from reading through your blog is that you may have used the incorrect oil.

From what I can see from the photos (and colour of the oil) its hydraulic brake fluid you’ve used.

The Alfine oil is a dark green sort of colour, and is very thick. (which would explain the difference in thickness/colour of the oils).

The shop that sold you the oil, did they say it was for Alfines specifically?

I phoned back the supplier and he seemed terribly vague but, on further reflection, decided he had sent me hydraulic brake oil. So I am now in the market for some of the correct oil. The chap at Madison is going to ring me with some advice...
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2011, 02:45:43 pm »
Thanks for posting this.

Very similar to the Rohloff oilchange except they use a separate flushing oil.

Oops! sent before I saw the Stop Press.  I doubt if you have done anything bad, the thin hydraulic oil will have done a good job of flushing out the old oil.


Biggsy

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2011, 03:32:19 pm »
Wow!  I award 20,000 Knowledge points to Auntie Helen.  This thread easily earns a place in Links to some useful topics.
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Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2011, 03:47:59 pm »
Thanks Biggsy, but generally it is preferable if one uses the correct oil for this procedure!

So, an update.


The very nice Huw at Madison (who swapped my previous hub) phoned me to say that the hydraulic oil won't have been terribly good for the internals and that it needs to be stripped and cleaned. He has offered to arrange a courier to collect my wheel from me to do this for me. I am currently draining the oil again to reduce any further issues and the wheel will be collected tomorrow. He said he'll clean it all, do the full oil change for me and send it back, then I won't have to do it for another 5000km.

I have to say that Madison have been absolutely excellent with me. They swapped out the first hub free of charge with no cost to me, and it looks as though they are now rectifying a mistake which is a mixture of mine and Cranbrook Cycles and nothing to do with them. If they send me a bill then that's fine as there's no reason they should do it for free but it sounds as if they are going to.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


interzen

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2011, 03:53:53 pm »
Wow!  I award 20,000 Knowledge points to Auntie Helen.  This thread easily earns a place in Links to some useful topics.
Definitely - mine is probably due for its oil change fairly soon, and I know for certain that I'll have to change the lube on OrangeGina's 8-speed.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2011, 04:47:27 pm »
So here is the wheel ready to go:



I wonder if the Rohloff Öl is the same stuff if it's so much cheaper – I had thought it was much more expensive, shows what I know about these things!

I would say this is a good example of how to do a really good job of something that turns into a "return to manufacturer" special...!
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2011, 04:58:28 pm »
What a shame! Does that mean that you will be hors concours on Thursday?
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2011, 05:00:22 pm »
I still have the Trice Q which I can use so no probs. I suspect Madison will have the wheel back to me by then anyway, they were super-quick last time.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2011, 05:34:35 pm »
I was chatting to someone with an Alfine 11 and she said that hers just locked up and stopped working and had to be sent back, so I wonder if there's a problem with the early models of this hub?

pdm

  • Sheffield hills? Nah... Just potholes.
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2011, 05:43:19 pm »
I wonder if the Rohloff Öl is the same stuff if it's so much cheaper – I had thought it was much more expensive, shows what I know about these things!

Rohloff Öl is only "cheap" if you buy it in 1l lots from Germany. In the UK, 50ml for an oil change (25ml each of rinse and replacement oil) costs about £12 just for the oil - £240 per Litre!  ::-) The 1l versions in the uk are about £50 each so a lot cheaper for the bulk purchase.

interzen

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2011, 06:17:44 pm »
I was chatting to someone with an Alfine 11 and she said that hers just locked up and stopped working and had to be sent back, so I wonder if there's a problem with the early models of this hub?
Interesting.
I can't say that I've had any problems with mine, even when giving it a hammering off-road, although it's still early days yet. I know that my LBS have sold quite a few bikes with Alfine-11s, including a fair number of Koga Signatures, and I'm not aware that they've had any returns.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2011, 06:36:28 pm »
Mine was the second return that ICE had heard about (the initial return, I mean – this return is entirely the fault of the bike shop that sold me the wrong oil and of me for not double-checking I had been sent the right oil). I gather than the Alfine-8 and the Nexus hubs are generally very reliable.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2011, 06:49:21 pm »
We've got a Ridgeback with a Nexus 8. It's about 6 years old but hasn't done all that many miles - possibly between 2000 and 3000 - but the only problem I've had with it has been to do with cable adjustment. That can be annoying.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

interzen

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2011, 07:00:15 pm »
Early Nexus 7s and 8s were pretty unreliable, but the 'red band' version which is rated for off-road use is an extremely robust piece of kit, in my experience at least - the Alfine designs are based on the red-band Nexus.

The jury is out on the Alfine-11, although I can't fault it so far. The red-band Nexus on the orange Genesis has a fair few thousand miles on it now and has had precisely zero maintainence apart from a couple of new cables and the occasion tweak to adjust the tensioning. It probably needs some new grease, but it still runs perfectly well.

Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2011, 08:27:29 pm »
The very nice Huw at Madison (who swapped my previous hub) phoned me to say that the hydraulic oil won't have been terribly good for the internals

I think from the thread he thinks you've put hydraulic brake fluid in the (like you'd use in car and motorbike brakes and Hope Mono Minis, for example) whereas you look like you put in Shimano mineral oil for their disc brakes.  So you probably haven't done any harm - maybe some good, in fact, as a good quality flushing oil for a first oil change will have helped to dislodge more of the running-in swarf.  So don't worry!

Mr Arch

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2011, 12:24:50 am »
Anyone know what the properties of the hub oil are?
Just pondering if an EP90 Hypoid gear oil would do.  I used to have that by the gallon for Land Rover axles so not too expensive.

Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2011, 10:41:28 am »
Judging by the new oil that went into my Rohloff, don't think it's as thick as that.

Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2011, 03:00:37 pm »
£45 maintenance kit = complete rip off,

£16 for 50ml of oil: works out at £320 per litre!


Is it possible to open the drain hole, rotate the hub with it at the bottom and let the old oil drain out by itself overnight?

And maybe use a funnel to put new oil into the hub.

Surely any car gear oil at a few £ per litre is good enough for this.

tiermat

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Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2011, 03:09:15 pm »
From y trawl around the tubes a popular alternative seems to be auto-transmission fluid, which I guess is a bit more viscous than normal engine oil, but not as much as axle or chainsaw oil.
I feel like Captain Kirk, on a brand new planet every day, a little like King Kong on top of the Empire State

Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2011, 03:37:34 pm »
Problem is, to maintain the warranty, the correct oil should be used.

Did find the Rohloff oil cheaper on ebay, an enterprising character seems to have bought the large bulk containers to distribute in small quantities.

Re: Servicing my Alfine 11 hub gear
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2011, 03:54:42 pm »
Problem is, to maintain the warranty, the correct oil should be used.


Maybe drain the hub and flush with solvent before sending it back and say you've cleaned it.