Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Stripping and an oil bath – Alfine 8 speed hub service

Posted by Tony | April 6, 2011 | 41 comments so far

Having a knee injury that has kept me off the bikes for a month, it has had a few (limited) positives. The main one being that all my bikes are now fully maintained and even those jobs that I have been putting off for ages have been done. Top of the “put off for a rainy day” job list was to strip down my 8-speed Alfine hub and to give it an oil bath.

Shimano Alfine 8-speed internals

There was a fair bit of research and planning for this project. First stop for anyone looking to take apart an Alfine should be the excellent site which is an oracle for anyone wanting to find out more about hub gears. The Alfine page is detailed and importantly gives a pictorial guide to stripping down an Alfine hub.

Before starting I had to get the LBS to order the large £17 Shimano ring spanner which undoes the plastic nut that locks in the hub internals. I gave the £90 “Shimano service kit” a miss and replaced it in best Blue Peter fashion with a 2l plastic drinks bottle (Diet Coke!) cut in half and a bottle of automatic transmission fluid.

Taking the hub apart was really straightforward after all the research. First came off the centre lock rotor, then the parts that locate the gear lever arm. Then the C-ring that holds on the sprocket. Next off came the sprocket and the large plastic lock nut cover. At this point I couldn’t find the specially bought Shimano O ring spanner, so with the spirit of Old Iron Hands (Keith) I wrapped the lock nut in a towel and moved the nut very slowly with prolonged pressure. All that was left to do was to take off the disc brake side cone and nut, and the hub internals could be drawn out of the hub.

So what was the hub like after three full winters? Well in very good condition. The disc side ball race with very clean with grease almost like new. For the hub itself, the large caged ball race around the hub was slightly dirty but easily cleaned up. The rest of the hub internals / roller bearings sparkled like new.

Shimano Alfine 8-speed oil bath

Alfine hub oil bath – Blue Peter style

Soon the hub was sitting happily in it’s oil bath and I moved the hub around to work the oil in.

After 10mins in the oil bath it was left to drain. I repacked the disc side hub race with new BB and very lightly greased the roller bearing races in the hub shell. Then the hub was slotted back in and the fitting was the reverse of disassembling. Even the sprocket wasn’t worn, so it went back on. The only tricky bit as usual for any hub was getting the cone tightness just right.

Although the hub internals looked clean I did note that there was a fair bit of particulate matter at the bottom of the auto transmission fluid after I left it to stand for a day. Fitting the hub back on the bike, the hub spun much more freely than before, with a fraction of the drag it had given previously. Gear changes were as smooth as when the hub was new.

When the Alfine 8spd hub was first introduced I think that we all wondered how reliable it would be. Well after three full winters (this hub was one of the first imported) I was impressed as to how well it has held up. Plus now that I have taken one of these hubs apart I will be giving my hub more regular maintenance and I think that hub gears are definitely a solution to our bike destroying winters.

Filed under Components, Reviews in April 2011


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  1. DaveW says:

    Good effort Tony. When my knees decide they can’t handle the one true gear, I will probably try the internal gear thang.
    Whether I can be ar5ed to service it myself is doubtful though… How long did it take and how long do you think it will take next time, now that you know what you are doing?

  2. Tony says:

    Hi Dave

    It’s still working sweetly so I am pleased how the service went. It took me about 45mins to do however I reckon that I could do that under 30mins next time.

    The reason why I did it though was because the hub needed a service – it was getting draggy – and the LBS shop didn’t want to do it since that would involve buying in the full shimano service kit. This was the first one they had seen to service so you can understand their reluctance. Lack of local service may be a problem for other owners but I say it’s no harder to service than any cup and cone hub. Obviously as more bikes with Alfine/Nexus hub appear at the LBS the service situation might change.

  3. Tony says:

    Hi Dan. I used DextronIII automatic gearbox oil since that is what I had in the garage! Shimano won’t tell you what their £90/I oil is and the hub gear forums reckon car auto fluid is OK.

  4. Ray Glover says:

    No mention in any of the shimano literature, or other places online, of the part called “driver plate” which looks like a dust shield. This must be taken off the Alfine 8 speed hub to be able to then remove the lockring, and the sprocket. I’ve tried to pry it off with a screwdriver, and it hasn’t moved. A little more prying, and I can imagine the darn thing being ruined. Any advice on this?

  5. tony says:

    Hi Ray. I’m not sure which part you speicfically mean. Once you take off the gear selector arm, there is the snap c-ring (item 31 Shimano literature) to take off the sprocket. Once the sprocket is off you take off the small rhs bearing race dust cap(item 14), the big plastic rhs chain gaurd (item 13) to display the big bevelled rhs dust cap (item 12) that O ring spanner (item 40) attaches onto. PM me with pics if you need further assistance.

  6. Brian says:

    Hi Tony. I am half way through stripping my Alfine 8. I have had no trouble at all with the sprocket side. The disc side has me stumped – do you need the shimano tool (TL-LR10) for removing the disc? All of the web sites I have looked at concentrate on the sprocket side, so I am guessing it is a straightforward job. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • tony says:

      Hi Brian. TL-LR10 is a shimano cassette lockring tool. They are the same tool to remove centre lock rotors. Just go to any bike shop and ask for a cassette/centre lock tool and they will have one. Once the rotor is off you will see the cone nuts. Tony

  7. tammiller247 says:

    Hi thanks for posting this . i am just about to fit a new sprocket, chain and 32t chain ring on a 2009 genesis io id.. after reading this i think i really should give it a go.

    just a thought what di think of this idea
    how about drilling and tapping two plug holes in the hub body and forcing transmission fluid through with a couple of syringes?
    worth a try?
    cheers tam

  8. Dean Carless says:

    Hi Tony, I plan on doing this soon myself but I have a few questions.

    Did you seperate the gear inards as in the photos on the Alfine page or just remove the gear inards and clean them as one unit, hope this makes sence.

    Could you please tell me what you mean by BB?
    (After 10mins in the oil bath it was left to drain. I repacked the disc side hub race with new BB)

    Also do you know if it would do any harm to use fluid gunk to bath the gears.

    And finnaly which greace did you use.

    Thanks Dean.

  9. tony says:

    Hi Dean. Yes you need to remove the gear innards to service them. Although this is not difficult to do. I used motor car dextron II automatic transmission fluid to dunk and wash the innards. Afterwards you just put the hub back in without grease. The repacked BB was a ball bearing race.

    Please note that this is all for the Alfine 8 and the Alfine 11 is a different hub with an oil filler/drain hole so that the hub can be serviced with being taken apart.

  10. Dean Carless says:

    Hi Tony, Thanks, it is the 8 I’m going to service not the 11. I’ve only just got the 11 and need to get it laced onto a rim.

    I had presumed you would have to regrease the gears to prevent them from seizing. Was this wrong?

    Thanks again Dean.

  11. tony says:

    Hi No. Oil baths are fine. If you are worried turn the hub upside down for 5 mins before you go for a ride.

  12. Dean Carless says:

    Hi Tony

    I took the hub apart to service it, it looked really good inside. Put it back together, now I can not get gears 1 – 4. Geards 5 – 8 seam to work ok. Cable is set up as before and shifts the gear selector on the hub as normall 1 – 8.

    Any sugestions?

    Thanks Dean.

    • tony says:

      Hi Dean

      It sounds like the gear selector isn’t back in the correct place. Also was the gear lever in 8th when you reattached the cable?

      It sounds like the hub is working but the gear selection is misaligned somewhere?

      I’d post to Hubstripping and see what they say

  13. Dean Carless says:

    Thanks Tony

    Will keep you informed, Dean.

  14. Paul Boden says:

    Hi Tony, Just wondering if you have any tips on reassembling the hub gear after my current stage…
    I stripped the hub down to the stage of you oil bath picture. The large ball bearing race was very dirty so decided to undo the C clip and remove the two main halfs of the alfine. I’m at this point now where Im strugglingly to mate the main housing up to the bearing race. All the drives along the spindle are inline and the two halfs go back together except for the final section when the C clip grove is visable…….any ideas why I can not slide the cover over the inner spindle bearing to the final assembly point? any help would be appreciated…..Thank Paul

  15. Nick Foster says:

    Going to be attempting the budget oil bath myself this weekend. Thanks for a nice little insight into things to come! I’ll pop a link up on my blog!

    Thank you!

  16. Related: Bad Boy – Shimano Alfine Oil Bath | NF

  17. Lauritz K. Andersen says:

    Hello. Nice description pf how-to maintenance the alfine 8. I Just wonder what kind of oil you used? It does not look like the Shimano WB oil.

    Best Regards Lauritz / Norway

  18. Alex says:

    Hi Tony

    I have been riding my Alfine hub for the past 3 years and covered more than 15,000 miles. I have not experienced and issues at all with the gearing system but have been dithering over the last few months on whether I should service it or leave it alone. “If it aint broke dont fix it” ringing in my ears.

    I decided that surely, it must need a service so researched the task in hand and found your site and links invaluable in guiding me through the process.

    On removing the hub, I was suprised to see that the inner workings looked in pristine condition and were still well lubricated and greased. I then had the dilemma – should I reassemble or do the oil bath? I decided that as I had got this far, I might as well go for it and dunked the mechanism in a bottle of Halfords ATF. All went back together, though it was a bit fiddly getting the tension right on the cone nuts. I didn’t want to over or under tighten.

    And the result? Just the same………….. slick, responsive and quiet! There was no noticable difference, but as I said at the beginning, I didnt have any problems prior to this project.

    I suppose, based, on my own personal experience in this task I would give the following advice. If you are not experiencing any gearing issues, be really confident that you can cycle at least 20,000 miles without worrying about it!

  19. Stuart says:

    Hi I have just bought a 2nd hand Alfine off ebay and I found your page when looking for servicing tips, its made me feel a bit less nervous about taking it apart. When you say you moved the hub around in the oil do you mean you span the gears to get oil into the workings. Or did you just agitate the hub in the oil and let it drain without moving the gears themselves.

  20. Related: Inspecting my Shimano Alfine 8 IGH… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

  21. Allan says:

    Hi…If you have an Alfine 8 WH-S501 like me you don’t need the Shimano spanner because the dust cap on that model does not have the grooves for the spanner to connect too ….I wasted my money on the spanner. The cap just prises off with a small screwdriver. cheers. Al

    • Joe says:

      Hi Allan, I am trying to regrease my wh-s500 which I think is similar in not having the knurled dust cap, however I am struggling to get the dust cap off as it appears to be covered/held on by a black flange cap that seems to clip over the spokes and isn’t apparent as to a non-destructive removal technique. Any help appreciated.

  22. dog says:

    really good advice here-thanks

    thinking of doing my alfine 8 -its v draggy when freewheeling & also whilst pedalling ,even with the disc brake removed

    do you advise using a grease stripper before oil bath conversion ?
    I was considering turps/water wash then oil immersion after drying

    many thanks for you comments


  23. Mart says:

    First off great piece that is inspiring me to have a go myself.
    My question is what sort of grease did you use when rebuilding the hub
    I am not finding much info about this. Any recommendations would be welcome


  24. benE says:

    Thanks for the advice. My old Shimano Nexus 8 speed has been running well since 2004 in my commute bike. 2000 km/ year until 2012, and now 5000km / yr. The hub has been serviced twice, in about 2011 and 2013, using the expensive Shimano oil bath at the local bike shop. That is great advice to use auto transmission fluid at one tenth the price of Shimano oil. Does anyone know if its really the same stuff?
    I wash it in turps, blow out with compressed air, then dunk in the oil bath before reassembly. A lot of metal crap comes out each time, so it must be wearing out but still works well.

  25. Vincent says:

    Thanks much for the great article.

    > The only tricky bit as usual for any hub was getting the cone tightness just right.

    I’ve close to zero competence in things mechanical, and was wondering which part in the Alfine 8 is that, and why tightening must be done carefully on any IGH:

    ALFINE 8-Speed Internal Hub SG-S501

    Thank you.

    • MuddyDave says:

      Hi Vincent,

      Parts 16 and 26.

      This applies to most Shimano hubs (probably others) that use the cup and cone style of bearings (as opposed to seal ball races such as Hope and most Taiwan/Chinese hubs). The tightness is crucial, too little and there will be movement in the axle, causing early wear, too tight and the hub will feel tight and this will cause early wear of the bearings!

      Hope that helps.

  26. Paul Spreadborough says:

    Informative article, nice how others have benefitted from your down time.

    Recently purchased a second hand commuter with my first hub gear, a Nexus 8, that was very draggy on freewheel. Removed innards from outer casing and stripped out all of the grease with lengthy de-greasing in ultrasonic cleaner. Confused as to whether I now need to buy the toold to strip down further and re-grease internal bearings and pawls (as in service diagrams) as there are some who have said the oil bath alone is not enough if the unit has been fully de-greased. Any feedback on extended use after oil bath alone (following a thorough de-grease)?

  27. Donal says:

    Hi, This is great information. I gave my Nexus 8 an oil bath last year, and I just topped it up today (I have pictures). I simply undid the cone on the left hand side and squirted in some ATF. I would say I put in about 30 to 40ml in total (squirt, wait, squirt, wait, you know what I mean). Then I greased the bearings (which should also help to keep the oil in) and did it back up.

    Hope this is helpful to some 🙂

  28. Dominic Foy says:

    HI, I am looking at buying 13 hybrid bike the Intuitive Gamma (Halfords newish brand) which is less than 1 year old. It has alfine 8 hub. However on reading reviews the 11 speed is even better in terms of performance and I understand that you can just drain & refill the 11 speed oil. You can’t do that with an 8 then? Your post is very useful and informative thanks. I’m just not sure I would want to attempt what you did. Any comments please? Cheers

  29. Richard Palmer says:

    I’ve serviced (cleaned and regreased) my Nexus 8 hub but find that the freewheel is very stiff. I may have overtightened the right hand lock upon reassembly and wonder how to correct this so that the freewheel is again free.

  30. Trevor Bulley says:

    Thanks to all for posting good information on these hubs. I have a Shimano Nexus 8 – WH-8R25. Dust cap got mangled in a gear change, so took wheel and hub off to the point I could assess damage. Externally the hub looks fine (I have not pulled this apart), seems to turn etc. My plan was to order new dust cap and shimano grease, give hub a bath in auto trans fluid.
    My first question, do I need to pull hub apart to make sure all races, bearings etc are good – or can I judge that if it seems to work still (on stationary bike – I have not tested bike on road due to lack of dust cap), I can just oil bath and put on new dust cap and test it? If it works it must be OK?
    My second question, should I do a full degrease on with degreaser before I do oil bath?

  31. Related: How to Convert a Shimano Alfine 8 Speed Internal Gear Hub to Oil Bath | The Hokkaido Wilds

  32. Mr.IAN J COPP says:

    Hi. Great post. Many thanks-inspires confidence.

    You mention a 2L coke bottle as being the right size for a hub wash. Coke itself is a noted metal cleaner, (as in old coins), and though I haven’t tried it yet, it’s a LOT cheaper than anything labeled-up as such. Have you any reasons not to use it?

    ATF does contain detergent additives; Coke,sugar of course. Both may affect (soften) any seals.

  33. Hello from Canada. Just took apart my Shimano SG-S501 and the bearing at one end has failed. Not the big ball bearings, the roller bearing on the palling. I can send images. Thank you James Raleigh

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