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Troubleshooting headsets

Troubleshooting headsets - Step 1

Symptom Cause Solution
Steering sluggish, unresponsive Headset too tight Loosen headset
Headset clogged Service headset
Front of bike rocks when braking Headset loose Tighten headset
Bike uncertain when cornering Headset loose Tighten headset
Headset rotates in distinct steps rather than smoothly Bearings dirty or worn Service headset, replace bearings
Headsets don’t last long, wearing out frequently Bearing surfaces pitted Take to bike shop for new headset
Headset cups not parallel in frame Take to bike shop to have headset repressed into frame
Take to bike shop to have faces of head tube reamed flat
Creaking noises when bars turn Brake and gear cables flexing in cable stops Check that all sections of casing have ferrules and oil ferrules
Headset dry – insufficient or contaminated grease Service headset, repack with plenty of good quality grease
Aheadset – top cap won’t tighten any more, but headset still rocks Not enough washers on steerer tube, so that top cap tightens directly onto top or steerer Remove top cap, fit an extra washer above or below the stem, replace top cap, readjust, tighten stem securely
Aheadset – bearings work loose after adjustment Stem bolts not tightened enough Remove, clean and regrease stem fixing bolts, tighten firmly
Steerer tube too slippery to grip stem Remove stem, clean off excess grease, refit securely, test for stem tightness

Troubleshooting headsets - Step 2

Source : BIKE MAINTENANCE TIPS, TRICKS & TECHNIQUES
See also bike maintenance tips, tricks and techniques “Headset bearing types and servicing cartridge bearings”