Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 3 (whew!)

My Maxi-Car hub overhaul experience has spanned many weeks now.  When I left off in Part 2, I was working on a set of Maxi-Car hubs from a 1977 Jack Taylor tandem.  After running into some issues with those hubs, I went back to the older hubset that I was using as my platform for learning the process.  Those hubs were soaking in penetrant for several weeks.  I had been unable to drop the axle through the hub by striking it with my mallet.  Several readers suggested using a regular hammer with a piece of brass to protect the axle, or a copper or brass hammer.

That turned out to be good advice.  But, I didn’t have a copper hammer or a piece of brass.  And, my local hardware store doesn’t carry copper or brass hammers, so I purchased a much heavier dead blow rubber mallet and finally got the axle of the rear rub to drop down.  The top photo above shows what you see when this happens.  The axle carries with it the two outer seals, plus the bearing set and inner race.  The outer races are permanently attached to the hub and do not need to be removed for the overhaul process.  The hubs and parts were very dirty so I soaked everything in alcohol and then used a pipe cleaner to get at the nooks and crannies inside the bearing rings.

Bearing ring before cleaning

Inner races looking good

Once I had the parts cleaned it was time to begin the lubrication, assembly and adjustment process.

Since the hubs are sealed, I operated on the theory that it would not be a good idea to heavily grease the races and bearings.  The grease has no place to go in a sealed system, so I modestly applied grease, as shown above, using Phil’s waterproof bearing grease.

Now comes time for the assembly and adjustment process.  The above two pages from Yellow Jersey’s Maxi-Car tech manual are the most important resources for the process.  The tech manual was translated from the original French, and so there is the potential for lost meanings and nuances.  The assembly process proceeds in this order:

1.  Assemble the non-adjustable end of the axle with the flat washer and the cambered washers, the bearing cage, and the inner race.  Then insert this into the hub.  On a rear wheel, the fixed end of the axle always corresponds to the freewheel side of the hub.

2.  Put the fixed end of the axle into the hub axle vise.  Now assemble the adjustable side’s inner race, bearing cage, and two washers in the same order as disassembled (See diagram above).  You will note that the inner race will not fully seat onto the axle.

3.  Screw on the adjustment nut until the inner race begins to move downward over the axle, leaving a slight amount of free-play.  Unlike a regular cup and cone adjustment, this is a one-way venture, and if you over tighten the nut, as I did the first time I tried this, you’ll have to disassemble everything and start over.  But, practice makes perfect.  I slowly screwed down the adjustment nut until I felt approximately the same amount of free-play as I would want in a cup and cone hub with a quick release axle.  The instructions say to “take the wheel by the rim and try to move it up and down”.  You want “a little play”, according to the tech manual.

4.  Reassemble the lockring, outer nut and dustcap onto the adjustable end. Lock the nuts against each other.

5.  Now flip the hub over and do the same thing on the fixed end.

The hub should spin freely but without excessive side to side play when mounted in the dropouts.  I ended up doing the adjustment twice because my initial attempt was too tight.  The above video shows the hub spinning smoothly after the final adjustment.

This undertaking was challenging but also rewarding, and I’m looking forward now to working on the Maxi-Car hubs that are part on the 1980’s custom Meral that landed in my shop last Summer.  Stay tuned!

Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 2 (hmmm…)

When I left off from part 1 of my Maxi-Car hub overhaul project, I was having trouble disassembling the 1950’s Type 2 hubs that I was using as my training ground for learning the process of servicing and adjusting these well-regarded vintage components.  Those hubs are still soaking in penetrant in the hopes of freeing up the axles from the inner races of the annular bearings.  Now, I have pulled the Maxi-Car wheelset off of my 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, and am looking forward to achieving better results.  That hubset is laced to 650b rims, and features a front hub with a drum brake (as an addition to the front cantilevers), and a rear hub with a freewheel.

The freewheel, axle and nuts were showing some rust, so I was prepared for the eventuality that it would not come off on the first try.  That meant that the rear wheel of my 2nd Maxi-Car project is also soaking in penetrant, so I turned my attention to the front hub, which I was hoping to put off due to also having to address servicing the drum brake.

I don’t have a lot of experience with drum brakes and am not a big fan.  But, they can work well for some applications.  In this case, a tandem needs more than one front brake to safely descend steep hills, so the drum brake (which is actuated by the same lever as the front cantilevers – a double-cable mafac brake lever) is meant to augment the effectiveness of the rim brakes.

I started the process of removing the outer nuts and washers of what I thought was the fixed end of the hub, documenting each step as I went along.  When it came time to remove the drum brake shoes from the hub shell, the component came out easily by gently lifting it up from the axle.

However, one brake liner was left behind, having become dislodged from its proper position on the shoe.  Rather than worry too much about that, I continued with my process, thinking I would find the fixed side’s dust cover underneath the brake assembly.

But, that’s not what happened. Instead, I saw a black dust cap underneath the nuts and washers, with no holes for a pin-spanner.  Hmmm…

When I flipped the hub over to the “adjustable side” that’s when I realized that this hub looks different from other Maxi-Car hubs.  The dust caps are anodized black, and don’t have holes.  Are these cup and cone hubs?  The answer is yes!

I was kind of almost overjoyed to see these bearings peaking out from underneath the dust cover.  But then I realized that I may not in fact be overhauling a Maxi-Car hub, but some other kind of hub.  What could it be?

I took a closer look at the hub and saw that it is completely unbranded.  There are no markings anywhere on the hub.  The flanges and drum are steel, and the hub body is aluminum.  The style of the rivets and the flanges matches up to a number of older Maxi-Car hub styles.   Did Maxi-Car build regular cup and cone hubs?  I don’t know.  I do know what the hub is not.  It is not a:  Sturmey Archer, Sachs, Arai, or Shimano.  The hub appears to be of older vintage than its rear counterpart.  Perhaps the wheel was built up by Ken Taylor with the customer’s favorite older front hub?

Cam with spring on the right, pivot on the left, lower brake lining missing.

Brake drum before cleaning

Brake drum after cleaning

While those thoughts cogitated, I went forward with cleaning all the parts and thinking more about how to attach the dislodged brake liner to its shoe.  I know that drum brakes can build up a lot of heat, so using an adhesive that can tolerate high temperatures will be critical.  The liners still have about 2.5 mm thickness, so if the adhesive problem can be solved, then I can complete the hub overhaul.  If not, I’ll have to discard the hubs and build up a new 650b wheel using the original Weinmann rim, which is in good shape, and decide on what kind of front hub to use that would be appropriate for the 1977 JT.  But, the next step for now is to get the freewheel off of the rear hub.  Stay tuned!

Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 1 (sigh)

1980’s Maxi-Car front hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been looking forward to starting a new project.  A recent purchase – an early 1980’s Meral Randonneuse with a Reynolds 531 frame – is equipped with many desireable components:  custom racks and fenders with integrated lighting, Huret derailleurs, T.A. crankset, and best of all:  Maxi-Car hubs.

Maxi-Car hub with drum brake – 1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m also planning to begin restoration of my 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, which is equipped with Maxi-Car hubs.  Feeling the need to experiment first, I purchased an older 1950’s wheelset (one that I wanted anyway) that also featured Maxi-Car hubs, so that I could learn the service procedure on that wheelset first.

1950’s Type II Maxi-Car hub

Hub shell engraving

Drive side slotted spoke holes – 1950’s Maxi-Car rear hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These older hubs hail from the 1950’s, and were very dirty, looking like they hadn’t been attended to in many years.  Type II Maxi-Car hubs can be identified by their solid, undrilled flanges.  The rear hubs have the “key-hole” spoke holes on the drive side, which allow for easy spoke replacement but can make building up the hub a little more “interesting”.

Maxi-Car hubs were manufactured with “annular” bearings which are essentially cartridge bearings, in this case of the highest quality, and were atypical in that the hubs were adjustable as well as serviceable.  The recommended service schedule is once a year, so about as frequent as regular cup and cone hubs.  The difference is in the life of the bearings – lasting over 100,000 miles or more according to cycling lore.

There are several excellent resources on the web which provide technical and service specs, as well as historical information:

Bike Cafe (France):  detailed article on the history of the company, and a step by step guide on servicing (in French)  https://bike-cafe.fr/2015/06/maxi-car-la-rolls-du-moyeu-vintage/

Yellow Jersey (US):  Maxi-Car technical manual with detailed illustrations and instructions in English  http://www.yellowjersey.org/maxtek.html

In addition, Velo-Orange Blackbirdsf, and Ebykr have paid tribute to these innovative components, first introduced before WWII.  There is also an article in the Summer 2004 Bicycle Quarterly which provides step by step overhaul instructions.  Unfortunately, that edition is longer available as a reprint.

I started with the front wheel, which takes a 16 mm wrench for the locknuts, and a 14 mm wrench for the adjustable cone.  Following the instructions noted above, I removed the nut and red dustcap from the fixed side of the hub (identified by having no adjustable cone).  Then I flipped the hub over to remove the nuts and washers on the adjustable side.

I photographed each step and also laid out the parts in order, so I wouldn’t forget their orientation when replacing them after cleaning and lubrication (not knowing what would come next!).

The next step involves using a small length of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe (or wood block with 1 1/2″ hole bored) and placing the fixed end of the axle into the opening so that the hub rests on the flange.  Then, taking a rubber or wood mallet, one should tap “lightly” to cause the axle to drop down.  When it does so, it should take with it the fixed side’s cartridge bearings and washers.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The above photo, courtesy of Bike-Cafe, shows what you should have after tapping the axle through.  However, my axle would not tap through, even with some very robust strokes of my rubber mallet.

Not wanting to damage the axle, I decided to switch over the the rear hub.  After removing the freewheel, I followed the same steps to remove the nuts and washers.  When I attempted to remove the adjustment cone I discovered that it’s locknut was embedded into the cone and could not be removed.  That meant unthreading the cone with the lock nut attached – not in any way ideal as doing so could damage the axle threads.  Fortunately, I was able to get the cone off with too much destruction to the axle, and then proceeded to the next step of attempting to tap the axle out.  Again, the axle would not budge.  That’s when I realized that probably after 70 years of not being serviced, the axle had become permanently attached to the inner races.

After soaking the hubs in WD-40 for several days, I still could not budge the axles, so decided to try something a little more drastic.  Right now, I’ve got the hubs soaking in PB Blaster, which is a smelly and environmentally questionable solvent.  I’m going to give the hubs a week of soaking, and then again try to tap out the axles. If that doesn’t work, I may try the mysterious brake fluid solution.  In the meantime, I’ve decided to pull the wheels from the Jack Taylor tandem and begin working on servicing those hubs, which I hope will yield better results.