Removing a Handlebar Stem

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Bmhansen75

On Training Wheels
Jul 14, 2020
4
31
Iowa
I'm trying to remove this stem so I can media blast my frame and forks. I believe the bike is a 1941 Wards Hawthorne and it looks like a Rollfast stem. Any tips or tricks? I have had the bike upside down and soaking with Kroil for 5 days. Still won't budge. I haven't beat or pried on it to hard because I dont want to break it. Any advice would help.
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GTs58

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Sep 2, 2012
12,621
Central Arizona
Looks like the old Tom Sawyer whitewash job.

I have to ask so we all know what's going on. Have you ever removed a stem before? Sorry for asking, but some newbies come here looking for help and we later find out working on bikes is all new to them.
 
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Bmhansen75

On Training Wheels
Jul 14, 2020
4
31
Iowa
You are correct on the paint. Its horrible. They did sand the bike down before painting 30 years ago so there is no saving the original paint.
I am a 100% newbie when it come to bicycles. I have mechanical skills from owning many old cars but bikes are definitely new. I have searched up and down on how to do this. I stopped before getting to far and ruining anything
 

GTs58

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Sep 2, 2012
12,621
Central Arizona
Here's a picture to show what you are dealing with. There are two basic types of wedging, this one and the one with a round tapered cylinder that goes inside the bottom of the stem that has slits in it.

Unscrew the wedge bolt about a 1/4"- 3/8" above the stem. Then tap it down with a hammer to push the wedge down. You don't want to completely unscrew it from the wedge. Some wedge bolts are shorter than others too so try not to back it out too far. I'd loosen that head set nut also since all the paint might be a problem. Put the wheel between your legs and then try to turn the stem. If it turns, start pulling up while twisting. Sometimes after loosening the wedge bolt the 3/8" and tapping it back down, it may need to be unscrewed a bit more and tapped back down. Hopefully that will do the trick.
 

Balloonatic

Riding my '39 Silver King 26X
May 26, 2011
1,330
Altadena, CA
That's good advice GTs58. My experience removing stuck stems is doing what GTs58 says, but if that doesn't work, I gently tap down on the stem to send it deeper into the fork tube, then tap the other direction, up on the underside of the stem.

I have also tried flipping the bike over and putting a long bolt into the fender mounting hole and gently tapping from the inside/underside of the wedge.

And when that doesn't work, I get out the torch or industrial heat gun and make the stem hot enough to sizzle when spit on or hotter.. if you get it glowing red a bit with a torch then smack with a hammer as it cools down and darkens again it will often break loose.

Good luck, it's a conundrum we have all faced at one time or another.
 

GTs58

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
Sep 2, 2012
12,621
Central Arizona
That's good advice GTs58. My experience removing stuck stems is doing what GTs58 says, but if that doesn't work, I gently tap down on the stem to send it deeper into the fork tube, then tap the other direction, up on the underside of the stem.

I have also tried flipping the bike over and putting a long bolt into the fender mounting hole and gently tapping from the inside/underside of the wedge.

And when that doesn't work, I get out the torch or industrial heat gun and make the stem hot enough to sizzle when spit on or hotter.. if you get it glowing red a bit with a torch then smack with a hammer as it cools down and darkens again it will often break loose.

Good luck, it's a conundrum we have all faced at one time or another.
Here's a video on that, saying how not too remove a stem.



I'd get a block of wood and beat the stem up from the under side where the bars bolt up.
 

Mr. Monkeyarms

I live for the CABE
Oct 30, 2018
1,370
Colorado
Pretty much follow suggestions above with some lubricant/penetrant. Use a dead blow hammer to prevent damage to wedge bolt & stem. The main thing is to free the wedge. ;) Having said that, I have gone completely aggro trying to get stuck stems out of forks occasionally. Pipe wrench, vice, torque amplifier, etc.....
 
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Jeff54

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Sep 11, 2013
2,447
Ft Myers, Florida
I had an aluminum stem, on a 83 Trek stuck for 6 months or more. I just kept spraying it, kept wet with oil and or Krill and tapped it every so often, twisting etc and one day it finally broke lose. Patience verses fighting or burning it, finally worked out..

In the mean time, ya ought-a get that paint cleaned off and insure the oil is penetrating everything it can. . And understand, as in my case, it wasn't the wedge but the stem and fork tube were rusted, frozen, locked together that took months to penetrate. Heat could have worked quickly but didn't wanna burn stuff.

And so, it's not always a stuck wedge but can be as mine, compressed together , rust welded stem and fork tube .
 

Balloonatic

Riding my '39 Silver King 26X
May 26, 2011
1,330
Altadena, CA
GTs58 (and Jeff54 above) are right... I should clarify when putting a long bolt up into the fender bolt hole that you're only gently tapping, not sledge hammering! The idea is to break it loose going the opposite direction, otherwise as the video shows you'll just jam it up even more.

Looks like in Jeff54's case with an aluminum stem in a steel steer tube is galvanic reaction, a much harder problem to overcome than Bmhansen75s problem of a rusted steel wedge or stem.

I would use some Goof Off to dissolve that paint (it also works to dissolve rust a bit) and warm it up to get the molecules moving; tap gently from both ends. Keep soaking with penetrant and tapping from time to time on both ends and it will eventually come loose.

Your best tool here is patience!
 

Jeff54

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Sep 11, 2013
2,447
Ft Myers, Florida
GTs58 (and Jeff54 above) are right... I should clarify when putting a long bolt up into the fender bolt hole that you're only gently tapping, not sledge hammering! The idea is to break it loose going the opposite direction, otherwise as the video shows you'll just jam it up even more.

Looks like in Jeff54's case with an aluminum stem in a steel steer tube is galvanic reaction, a much harder problem to overcome than Bmhansen75s problem of a rusted steel wedge or stem.

I would use some Goof Off to dissolve that paint (it also works to dissolve rust a bit) and warm it up to get the molecules moving; tap gently from both ends. Keep soaking with penetrant and tapping from time to time on both ends and it will eventually come loose.

Your best tool here is patience!

Yeah, in my case; electrolysis from steel and aluminum bound em together. But another note, when I reassembled em, 1. made sure it was not back in exact same place where stem and fork tube would be irregularly dented or pushed in by the wedge,, potentially causing this area to become weaker. And, even if at some point somebody does,, clean off any oils or lubes, especially krill and WD-40 or verities for this purpose, , Because they dry eventually, in many cases, a few days if your work space is warm an ya ain't gonna like that.. It's not made, regardless of claims, to act as a lube. Simple sewing machine oil, 3 and 1 or machine oil, lasts way, way longer. However, I want the metals clean and dry at this point. .

Then; Red marine grease sloped inside tube and on stem between the two to help prevent from reoccurring and I don't want any crap oils on it to dilute the grease. Whether, alum too steel, alum too alum or steel too steel: Red Marine grease, is your friend.
 
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Rivnut

I live for the CABE
Nov 24, 2012
1,610
Shawnee, United States
Acetone and ATF (automatic transmission fluid) is the best I've found for breaking up rust. A couple of times I've completely removed the wedge bolt and the stem then screwed the wedge bolt back into the wedge. Loosen up the head set bolts and take the fork out of the frame. Fill 'er up with the Acetone/ATF mix and let it sit for a while. Then using some rags to protect the finish, clamp the fork into a vice. Take a slide hammer and put the forked fitting on the slide hammer. Hook the forked fitting under the head of the stem bolt and use the slide hammer to start yanking on the stem bolt. Pretty soon it will pop loose. If you don't have a slide hammer , you can borrow one from your local auto jobber - Advance, Autozone, NAPA, O'Reillys. GO BIG!
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