How to troubleshoot strange noises: creaks, squeaks, clicks, or ticks

The easiest things to check are at the top of the list. When you have worked your way through (or as far as you need to) your unicycle should be creak free, unless the problem is unfixable (assuming you don’t want to rebuild the wheel).

Note: This is a wiki post, so (almost) anyone can edit. So please help make a complete list on how to troubleshoot and fix, creaking and squeaking noises coming from your unicycle. Ideally, to keep it from being overwhelming, the list should be kept fairly short, meaning long explanations on how to do repairs should not be in the list itself. Use a footnote, or link to another post or website with more detailed information.


How to troubleshoot noises: creaks, squeaks, clicks, or ticks

Before taking things apart. Listen to the offending sound and see if it repeats with each turn of the wheel, or follows a different pattern. If you have a suspect, check that first, otherwise follow the list.

  1. External sources

    :warning: Problem:
    The noise is coming from something other than your unicycle

    :wrench: Solution:
    Eliminate other sources of noises than the unicycle itself. Empty your pockets. Check clothes and shoes for zippers etc.

  2. Nuts and bolts

    :warning: Problem:
    Loose nuts or bolts causes noise.

    :wrench: Solution:
    Check all the nuts and bolts and make sure they are tight. A drop of threadlocker will prevent them from coming loose.

  3. Tyre Part I (tire :us:, dekk :norway:)

    :warning: Problem:
    There is a clicking sound coming from the tyre.

    :wrench: Solution
    Check the tyre for small rocks or stones that are trapped in the tread.

  4. Saddle

    :warning: Problem:
    Broken saddle

    :wrench: Solution:
    Wiggle the handle/bumper to see if it moves excessively. If it does, replace the saddle.

  5. Bearings part I

    :warning: Problem:
    Bearing housings are too tight or too loose.

    Broken external bearing casing normally caused by over tight bearing housings.

    Broken inner bearing housing. Can be caused by incorrect installation or damage from hub/spacer.

    Worn bearing race. Normally by items getting in to the bearing, mud, water, grit or rust. Emphasised by over tight bearing housings.

    :wrench: Solution:
    :feet: Step 1: Rotate the wheel and see if it rotates freely. A 20" wheel should carry on rotating for 4 or 5 rotations with only a gentle push.

    If it does, check if the bearing housings are too loose. The bolts should be tightened just past snug.

    If the wheel doesn’t spin freely, then loosen the bearing housings and check again. Keep in mind that even if it seems ok after loosening the bearing housing, the bearings might be damaged.

    :feet: Step 2: Remove the wheel and inspect the bearings.

    The bearings should appear undamaged and feel smooth to rotate, and not feel loose laterally. Inspect the inner race of the bearing, and make sure it’s not broken.

    If you detect a problem, replace bearings (always good policy to replace bearings in pairs). Don’t replace them if they seem ok. Because the bolts shouldn’t be very tight, you should put a drop of threadlocker on the bolts, so they don’t come loose

    :point_right: PS: Whenever you remove the wheel, you should inspect the brake pads if you have a disc brake. Always check that the wheel is inserted back in the frame correctly, right pedal on right foot, left pedal on left foot - simple check and save you walking home!

    :link: Links:
    Video: Removing Unicycle Bearings - UDC UK
    Video: Unicycle Bearings Overhaul - Terry Peterson
    Text: How To Change Bearings - UDC UK

  6. Pedals

    :warning: Problem:
    Pedal bearings are too tight: Pedal clicks when you put lots of load on the pedal. When you Spin the pedal it will not spin freely and you can feel the pedal grind.

    Pedal bearings are too slack: Pedal clunks. Grab the pedal and wiggle… (you only get noise when it is very slack and the pedal bearings are running over each other.)

    :wrench: Solution:
    Step 1: Replace the pedals to check if they are causing the noise (borrow if you don’t have any extra, or go to step 2). Right and left pedals have different threads. They are tightened to the front (direction of travel) and loosened to the rear. e.g. the left pedal unscrews clockwise.

    Step 2: If you, under step 1, concluded that pedals are making noise, you can re-grease and set the pedal bearings to try to fix them.

    :link: Links:
    Video: Remove pedals (UDC UK)
    Video: Pedal adjustment (UDC UK)

  7. Rim brakes

    :warning: Problem:
    Rim brakes rubs the rim. This is not necessarily visible as the frame and wheel can flex a little.

    :wrench: Solution:
    Check that the bearing housings are not loose. If they are, tighten.

    Remove, or adjust the rim brakes all the way out, to check. If the noise goes away, true the wheel and/or adjust the brake.

  8. Disc brake

    :warning: Problem:
    Brake pads are rubbing the disc brake rotor. Brake pads can be worn down, but then the noise will only appear while braking.

    :wrench: Solution:
    Check that the bearing housings are not loose. If they are, tighten.

    Make sure the disc is running straight. If not, there are several vidoes available on how to true a disc rotor. The easiest is of course to get a new one.

    It can be hard to see the brake pads properly, so you should remove the wheel or the brake calipers to check if they are worn down. If so, replace them (you may also have to replace the disc rotor).

    Adjust the calipers. The easiest way is probably to loosen the calipers, squeeze the brake lever, and then tighten the calipers.

  9. Tyre Part II (tire :us:, dekk :norway:)

    :warning: Problem:
    The tyre rubs the frame.

    :wrench:Solution
    If the clearing between the tyre and the frame is very tight, and the frame and wheel flex a little, it is possible that the tyre rubs the frame. This can be hard to detect. You can check for rub marks on the frame, or you can mount a camera on the frame.

    You can try to true the wheel/adjust the spoke tension, but you may need a smaller tyre or larger frame.

  10. Spokes

    :warning:Problem:
    Spokes making noise because of slack or dissimilar tensioned spokes, or because spokes are not relieved. It can also be that the spoke crossover points are making noise.

    :wrench:Solution
    True the wheel and adjust the spoke tension. Squeeze the spokes with your hands and put some lubricant on the spoke crossover points.

    A good way to stress relieve the wheel is to remove the wheel from the frame, and remove the tyre and cranks, and then stand on the rim while it is on the ground. Put a piece of wood under the axle. After using this tecnique, check that the wheel is true and the spoke tension even steven.

    :point_right:Tip on fixing the wheel: Check the spoke tension, adjust so it’s fairly even. True the wheel: Work on the problem which is worse at the moment. Find the spot where the rim is closest to the frame and work on that. Keep an eye on the spoke tension while truing the wheel. And so on.

    :link: Links:
    Text: Building A Unicycle Wheel - UDC UK
    Video: Basic Unicycle Maintenance Workshop - STFU London
    Video: Wheel Tightening and Truing
    Text: Sheldon Brown Wheelbuilding

  11. Cranks part I

    :warning: Problem
    Cranks makes noise because of wear, or if they have come loose. Noise found on a powerful downwards stroke of the crank is typical.

    :wrench: Solution
    Cotterless crank/axle interface:
    Replace crank and pray the hub is not damaged. If you have Profile cranks (48 splines; older Munis), get used to the creaking sound.

    ISIS crank/axle interface:
    If you have recently changed to different cranks, check if the crank fully seats on the spacer. If there is a gap even with the crank bolt fully tightened, a bigger spacer is needed.

    Remove the cranks, clean the crank and the axle, grease the axle, put the cranks back on. Note: cranks should face the weakest point on the rim which is the valve and split in the rim. If you want to rotate, move 180°. Put a drop of threadlocker on the crank bolts. The best is to tighten the bolts to the torque recommended by the manufacturer, but if you use a regular allen key (hex wrench [:us:]) and tighten it hard by hand, it should be ok.

    If the noise didn’t go away, or if the noise comes back, see ‘Cranks part II’ below.

    :point_right: Important: When you put your cranks back on, make sure you put the left-side crank on the left side, and the right-side crank on the right side, or else your pedals will fall off. The cranks are marked L or R.

    :link: Links:
    Video: Remove cranks (UDC UK)
    Text: How To Change Cranks - UDC UK

  12. Bearings part II

    :warning: Problem:
    The bearings makes noise even though they appear to be ok.

    :wrench: Solution:
    Unless the bearings are new, replace them to make sure. Bearings are relatively inexpensive, and have to be replaced now and then anyway.

  13. Cranks part II (ISIS)

    :warning: Problem:
    Cranks still makes noise, after going through ‘Cranks part I’

    :wrench: Solution:
    :footprints: Step 1: Remove the cranks and replace the spacers between the hub and the cranks with the next smallest spacer available, min size = 4.5mm

    :footprints: Step 2: Replace the cranks. Usually the cranks are weaker (?) than the axle, so hopefully only the cranks are damaged.

    :point_right: Important: When you put your cranks back on, make sure you put the left-side crank on the left side, and the right-side crank on the right side, or else your pedals will fall off. The cranks are marked L or R.

  14. Hub

    :warning: Problem:
    Old hubs made up of several parts bonded or pressed together can make creaking noises.

    :wrench: Solution:
    Live with it, or rebuild the wheel with a new hub.

The initial version of this text (above) was written by @UniMyra but we figured it would work best as a wiki post, where any user can add and adjust it. Since I have the required trust level to create that, I am therefore posting it on his behalf.


4 Likes

I must admit that recently I started to have a ticking noise, once per rev on my 26" that I meant to look into. But of course, every time I finished my trip I either forgot about it or figured, “Ah, I’ll fix it next time!”. Then I would curse myself on my next trip out. :rofl:

Recently I noticed the noise is completely gone. I would be tempted to suggest people just wait it out but for the fact that this is clearly terrible advice! It could easily get worse instead of better, and in certain cases may mean something gets slowly damaged.

2 Likes

Clearly one way to troubleshoot this would be unicycling naked. Just make sure you don’t have studded pedals to save your feet! :rofl:

Oh and perhaps, don’t test this out near schools or kindergartens as the excuse, “I was just troubleshooting noises coming from my unicycle” might not be enough to get you out of trouble with the police.

In fact, maybe the whole idea is not well thought out! :thinking:

3 Likes

Maybe some of the experts would like to contribute, that would be great. I’m especially thinking of manufacturers like Jakob (@jaco_flans), Roger (@rogeratunicycledotcom), Josh (@JoshBuilt), and Marco (@MAD4ONE). Also Kris Holm (@danger_uni) if he’s still around.

1 Like

If you are looking for people in the industry, see the Unicycle Business group.

Others include: @AJATA_Einradversand, @amedea, @qu-ax, @unikum and @wendino

1 Like

Kinda surprised it’s not there, but the first thing I’d check is bearing caps! There’s not alot on a uni, but making sure everything is tight because taking things off would be the first thing I would try!

2 Likes

Ok, remember you can edit yourself! :wink:

But I have added something in there as a placeholder for the time being. Someone else can edit and make it better

It occurs to me now that I recently switched to a studded tyre for the winter months. Hmm… perhaps it was one of my bearing caps that was loose! :thinking:

1 Like

The “wki post” link does not work. Do you have a link to the wiki post?

1 Like

Fixed it.

Also if you want to edit my (well @UniMyra’s) post above yourself, you can just click on the edit button (above). It looks like this:

image

1 Like

Fantastic, this is something we have to deal with all the time. Can I suggest a format change? I could not find a way of doing it as an excel spreadsheet.noises.pdf (418.7 KB)

This is very rough but I think will be better focused.

3 Likes

The point of doing it here is that is is editable by all, so a PDF or speedsheet won’t work but if I understand correctly what you want to achieve is a table like format and Discourse (which powers the forums) does support that with its variant of Markdown. See: “Create a table using markdown on your Discourse forum”.

For those to lazy to click the link, you can create a table like this (using the first row of you linked document as an example):

| Sound | Location | Cause | How common? | Detection | Remedy | HowTo
|-------|----------|-------|-------------|-----------|--------|------|
| light click | Bearing, but can resonate through the spokes | Broken external bearing casing normally caused by over tight bearing housings. |  5 | Rotate the wheel and see if it rotate freely (a 20" wheel should carry on rotating for 4 or 5 rotations with only a gentle push). If it does not then loosen the bearing housings and check again. Once the wheel is out of the frame on the worse instances, the casing will actually collapse. The noise may disappear with correctly set bearings but the damage is already done | Replace bearings (always good policy to replace bearings in pairs) |

The forum would then format that as follows:

Sound Location Cause How common? Detection Remedy HowTo
light click Bearing, but can resonate through the spokes Broken external bearing casing normally caused by over tight bearing housings. 5 Rotate the wheel and see if it rotate freely (a 20" wheel should carry on rotating for 4 or 5 rotations with only a gentle push). If it does not then loosen the bearing housings and check again. Once the wheel is out of the frame on the worse instances, the casing will actually collapse. The noise may disappear with correctly set bearings but the damage is already done Replace bearings (always good policy to replace bearings in pairs)

Before I consider taking more of your document, it isn’t clear if you are offering for public use (I presume this is something you developed for yourselves and your customers), or you are just suggesting this layout. So?

3 Likes

This is for public and for editing. I produced it this evening just for this thread. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Oh nice! I can probably format it and get it in there then.

1 Like

Thanks.

I will say, I wrote it very quickly so the English is probably not very good and there will be more to add… please do not take it as perfect.

Well here is your document, marked up (formatted) @rogeratunicycledotcom. Now I just have to think about the next step. If I should replace what is above entirely. I suspect not because that includes other stuff not covered by yours, e.g. external noises, brake noises, tyre rubbing, etc. So I would need to find a way to blend those in. Additionally I expect the CSS on these forums is going to squash this table and make it unreadable on mobile devices. So for now I just added it below the original, while I think about how best to do it. Or perhaps others can make suggestions.

1 Like

Well it is readable on my wife’s iPhone but it isn’t exactly ideal…

@Canapin Any thoughts on using the table layout? Some way I could do it better, or perhaps some CSS tweaks to make it look better and be more readable.

I think there is not enough width to make it look good, even with CSS… :man_shrugging:

I have a couple of additions, but don’t want to foul up the formatting by being in a hurry. I will drop them here and if someone can add them above that would be great:

  1. Before taking things apart. Listen to the offending sound and see if it repeats with each turn of the wheel, or follows a different pattern. Before taking things apart, check your tire tread for small rocks. That often causes a clicking sound for me on my 36"
  2. For the Cranks area: If you have Profile cranks (48 splines; older Munis), get used to the creaking sound. It can be quieted for a ride or two, but always seems to come back. :frowning:

I have a 27" monitor… :stuck_out_tongue: