Using cold temps to "shrink" a headset for installation?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Using cold temps to "shrink" a headset for installation?

    Ok here's a long shot. I'm building up a new frame and would like to press the headset myself. I know I can make a headset press easily with a threaded rod, nuts and some washers, which I'll probably end up doing.

    Anyway, I was watching a TV show about car restoration a while ago and one trick they used was putting metal parts in the freezer to shrink them which makes it easier for installation.

    So if I put my headset in the freezer for a while, will it shrink it just enough to press it easier into the head tube? Is this possible with aluminum? I'm very curious about this for sort of general knowledge.
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  2. #2
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    It would make it a bit easier yes, but I have never really found it that difficult to grease up a headtube/headset and just press it in. Either way you will need the press - it will not just drop into place.

  3. #3
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    Yup, your going to need a press of some sort no matter if you freeze it or not. And, I do not think the common freezer is remotely cold enough to shrink metal.
    "We can always find excuses if we want to find them, but if we really want to do something, we have to just go."

  4. #4
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    if they're aluminum bits the thermal expansion is more than double that compared to steel so maybe worth a try, but since you should use a press anyways ?, unless you need to.
    Round and round we go

  5. #5
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    What's the intended purpose besides making the cups easier to press in the frame? Seems like a lot of work to press in a couple headset cups. Plus, if you can't get the cups into your frame the headtube needs to be reamed and faced, that is the proper solution..a pair of greased cups should go into your frame without hesitation.

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    When I worked in the aircraft industry the shrink and fit
    shop used dry ice.

  7. #7
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    I usually toss the cups in the freezer for a bit before pressing them in, usually while I install the crown race and get my ghetto press together. Not sure how much it helps, if at all, just a habit. It's definitely not going to save you from needing a press though.

  8. #8
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    Using cold temps to "shrink" a headset for installation?

    Need dry ice. The average 30 degree freezer is not going to make much of a difference.
    Its all Shits and Giggles until somebody Giggles and Shits

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sasquatch rides a SS View Post
    What's the intended purpose besides making the cups easier to press in the frame? Seems like a lot of work to press in a couple headset cups. Plus, if you can't get the cups into your frame the headtube needs to be reamed and faced, that is the proper solution..a pair of greased cups should go into your frame without hesitation.
    1/2 the reason I'd like to try it is to get the cups to press in easier, the half is sheer curiosity. I'm going end up using a homemade press anyway.


    Quote Originally Posted by Brewtality View Post
    Need dry ice. The average 30 degree freezer is not going to make much of a difference.

    Yeah I spoke to one of my friends who's a chemistry teacher and she told me same thing: a freezer won't get aluminum cold enough to make a difference.
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  10. #10
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    Yes it does make a difference. This is a pretty regular practice for installing some cranks which have a tight tolerance. Freezing them for about 20 minutes allows them to slide through the bearings a little easier than if done at room temperature.

  11. #11
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    Yes you can use a freezer or put outside ( -12* here ) also warm up head tube with a hair dryer if you like. Definitely works from the automotive side of things. You just have to have all things ready to go such as tools, and work really fast. It may slide in by hand if heat and cold is used ?????
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  12. #12
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    Don't know if it is cost effective but I use liquid nitrogen.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by VTSession View Post
    Ok here's a long shot. I'm building up a new frame and would like to press the headset myself. I know I can make a headset press easily with a threaded rod, nuts and some washers, which I'll probably end up doing.

    Anyway, I was watching a TV show about car restoration a while ago and one trick they used was putting metal parts in the freezer to shrink them which makes it easier for installation.

    So if I put my headset in the freezer for a while, will it shrink it just enough to press it easier into the head tube? Is this possible with aluminum? I'm very curious about this for sort of general knowledge.
    Might just work but you will probably have to heat the frame as well...

    The big problem is the parts are so small the don't hold the heat (cold) very long and equalize with each other quicker than larger parts...

    Dry Ice is probably your best bet for the cold and steam from a kettle for the hot.

    PS be sure to check and true up the hole in the frame this is often left tot eh assembler rather than the factory.

  14. #14
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    I think it is funny how some people say it is too much effort to do this. You just throw them in the freezer, go watch tv or something, get them out a little later and press them in. Its actually a great idea and I do it often. I also boil the crown race in water before installing on the fork so it goes on with less force. And for the chemistry teacher who said it won't make a difference, here is a chart showing thermal expansion of aluminum (applies equally to contraction). All alloys are about 13 micro inches per degree F.

    Metal Thermal Expansion (microinch/(oF))

    Aluminum Alloy - 2011 12.8
    Aluminum Alloy - 2017 13.1
    Aluminum Alloy - 2024 12.9
    Aluminum Alloy - 3003 12.9
    Aluminum Alloy - 5052 13.2
    Aluminum Alloy - 5086 13.2
    Aluminum Alloy - 6061 13.0
    Aluminum Alloy - 7075 13.1
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ljsmith View Post
    I think it is funny how some people say it is too much effort to do this. You just throw them in the freezer, go watch tv or something, get them out a little later and press them in. Its actually a great idea and I do it often. I also boil the crown race in water before installing on the fork so it goes on with less force. And for the chemistry teacher who said it won't make a difference, here is a chart showing thermal expansion of aluminum (applies equally to contraction). All alloys are about 13 micro inches per degree F.

    Metal Thermal Expansion (microinch/(oF))

    Aluminum Alloy - 2011 12.8
    Aluminum Alloy - 2017 13.1
    Aluminum Alloy - 2024 12.9
    Aluminum Alloy - 3003 12.9
    Aluminum Alloy - 5052 13.2
    Aluminum Alloy - 5086 13.2
    Aluminum Alloy - 6061 13.0
    Aluminum Alloy - 7075 13.1
    Very interesting. Thanks for the info, I'm definitely going to use the freezer technique.
    Vermonter - bikes, beers and skis.

  16. #16
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    This strikes me as odd. If you can press in without freezing then why bother? If you can't then maybe the sizing/tolerances are off...?
    I guess freezer would be safe. But I'd stay away from dry ice or liquid nitrogen. Metal can become very brittle at very low temperatures.

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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by borabora View Post
    This strikes me as odd. If you can press in without freezing then why bother? If you can't then maybe the sizing/tolerances are off...?
    Exactly. If I want to ride, am I going to press in the headset cups and ride? Or wait however long it takes them to chill to make it marginally simpler to install (if even that much) and then ride? I'm gonna throw the cups in and go. No sense in adding more steps in such a simple process.

    But again, I work in a shop, so I'm thinking about efficiency and simplicity. If a customer is waiting, I'm not gonna make him wait any longer than the job should take and hold up other customers, too.

    Here's my headset press for home use.



    Get some 3/4" threaded rod, nuts and washers and a set of Park HHP-2 Cup Guides and you've got nearly the same thing as the Park press. I'm gonna be welding pieces of handlebar to it for a handle and using lock-on MTB grips for cool factor

  18. #18
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    Seems like a lot of expense and effort. I found my Park HS press at a bike swap for $25.
    Its all Shits and Giggles until somebody Giggles and Shits

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brewtality View Post
    Seems like a lot of expense and effort. I found my Park HS press at a bike swap for $25.
    I've got less than $30 in my press if I remember correctly. I don't consider that expensive and it definitely wasn't any effort to make. Welding a handle on may be a bit much for some, but two adjustable wrenches get the job done, too.

  20. #20
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    I usually warm the headtube itself with a heat gun. The problem I've found with chilling the headset cup is that they're not very massive and heat back up quickly.
    whatever...

  21. #21
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    I would recommend going to a small shop and ask to use their press. Your going to need to set your crown race anyhow. They will have the right tool for that and probably wont want any $$$ for letting you use the tools. But then again you might hurt their feelings if you bring in a headset you bought online and ask to use their tools.

  22. #22
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    I installed my headset last week, and threw it in the freezer for a few hours before I installed it. I really don't think it made any big difference, (or any at all), but I thought it couldn't hurt anything either.

    For the install, I just used a homemade press, and went slow and did one cup at a time and ensured everything was square. For the crown race, just use a length of 1.5" abs plumbing pipe to seat it.

  23. #23
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    Well I installed my headset last night and it was a success. I put the headset in the freezer for about an hour and then installed it using come clamps and a flat piece of wood. The headset pressed in fairly easily and I tapped it flush with a rubber mallet. I can't say if freezing the headset made a difference, but it did go in pretty easy. I also tapped the crown race on with a piece of pipe.

    A headset press may have been ideal, but not necessary.
    Vermonter - bikes, beers and skis.

  24. #24
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    Stop watching Fast 'n Loud.

    Frozen or not as others said you need to press it, I use the rod, nuts and washers method and goes in quickly and neatly.

  25. #25
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    Dad used to do this sort of thing with a mallet and years of experience. He made the mallet out of lead poured into an oj can with handle sticking out of the side.

    Tap-tap-tap, working around evenly. He saw some of my tools and just grinned and shook his head.

    I just checked the Park Tool Catalogue and they didn't have any experience for sale.
    I don't rattle.

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