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Troubleshooting Sturmey Archer 3-Speed Hubs

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What's wrong with my hub anyhow?


Getting Started

Sturmey Archer hubs definitely have their personalities.  They are not the strongest hubs in the world and are not suitable for abusive riding styles but many models are quite well made with quick decisive shifting, smooth operation and are generally quite reliable.  However things DO go wrong from time to time.  This article will tell you how to diagnose problems with your Sturmey Archer hub and how to keep it in tip top operating condition.



Cable Adjustment

By far the most common source of problems for Sturmey Archer hubs is the shift cable adjustment.  There's nothing in the hub itself that 'clicks' in to place at any particular gear, that job is left to the actual shifter itself.  This means that the adjustment of the shift cable is CRITICAL for proper operation of the hub.  In fact riding around with your shift cable out of adjustment will not only make your bike difficult to shift but will cause a lot of wear in the hub as the pawls won't be able to engage properly or two gears will try and grab at the same time.


There's a lot of information out there that says your hub should be adjusted by looking at some little notches on the indicator spindle itself - ignore all that.  It's not a very reliable method to begin with and a LOT of Sturmey hubs don't have their original indicator spindle anymore.  Since the EXACT placement of the notches varied hub model to hub model this method is unreliable at best.


By far the simplest way to adjust a Sturmey shfter cable:


1. Put the hub in HI gear, the cable should have very little tension at all or even be slightly slack on some hubs
2. Put the hub in LOW gear, the cable should be quite tight.  You should have enough slack to be able to pull about 1/3 of a link of the indicator spindle chain out but that's IT!

On some hubs you may have to turn the pedals a bit to get it to go between gears - this is especially true on the older AW/S3C/TCW hubs where things are built a bit heavier.  The shift cable should be checked at LEAST every few times you go riding.  Just put the bike in low and give the cable a little tug - if the indicator chain moves more than 1/3 of a link at the hub then it's too loose!  if it won't move at all then it's too tight.


Chances are any problems you were having with your Sturmey hub are now gone.  If not, read on!




Pre-1991 Sturmey Archer hubs are all oil lubricated.  They're also not sealed particularly well so they will seep out their oil a bit over time.  Therefore it's important to give them a little shot of oil every now and then. I personally use 10W30 motor oil in my oiled Sturmey hubs - it has detergent in it which will clean out any deposits that have formed in the hub, good 'cling' factor like a heavier oil but is light enough not to interfere with the hub mechanism.


You can tell if your hub needs oil by the sound.  The pawls in a 'dry' hub will have a very 'bright' loud tick to them.  When the hub is properly oiled they'll sound smoother and a bit quieter.  You should always be able to hear the pawls on an AW, AWC, S3C, TCW or any of the other non-silent Sturmey hubs when the hub is in 2nd or 3rd gear, if the pawls sound sluggish and sticky then you've probably got old nasty oil in there or the oil is heavily contaminated.  You MIGHT be able to get away without a teardown for cleaning by spraying a healthy dose of a very light penetrating oil like WD-40 or  carb cleaner into the hub and then giving it a thorough exercise.  Expect to have a lot of it wash out the sides of the hub and drip all over the floor - that's just how these hubs work.  Afterwards put at least a tablespoon of proper oil into the hub and expect some of that to run out as well.  This will flush out the old junk in the hub and can often free sticky pawls without having to actually get in there, one of the benefits of an oil-filled hub!

Cone Adjustment

Cone adjustment on Sturmey Archer hubs does NOT work the same as on regular single-speed hubs!  Repeat after me - DO NOT mess with the right hand *(drive side) cone unless you know what you are doing.  The only time the right hand cone should be touched is during hub service.  Then and only then adjust it as follows:


1. Tighten the cone finger tight until it bottoms out and won't go any further.
2. Back off a half turn and replace the lockwasher.  Loosen the cone up to 1/4 turn more to get the lock washer to fit, NEVER tighten it.
3. Don't touch it any more!

The right hand cone adjustment also sets the clearances for all the 3-speed parts internally, incorrect adjustment will quickly savage your hub.


Now, on to the left side cone... A correctly adjusted Sturmey Archer hub should have very slight play at the rim.  If you spin the wheel and the hub is 'grabbing' and turning the pedals or you notice the pedals turning when you push the bike then the cone is probably too tight.  If there's excessive play in the rim then it's too loose.  You'll know you've got it right when the hub operates smoothly and will freewheel for a long time but there isn't much play.



It's Still Not Working!


So, still no luck?  Here's the most common faults in the hub that will prevent things from working as they should:


Fault Probable Cause
High gear will not engage
Worn pinion pins, worn drive clutch
Replace pinion pins and drive clutch - ALWAYS replace both!
Low gear will not engage or slips
Broken pawl springs
Replace pawl springs
  Worn pawls
Replace pawls and pawl springs
  Low gear drive separated from hub shell
Replace hub
Middle gear will not engage or slips
Broken pawl springs
Replace pawl springs

Worn pawls
Replace pawls and pawl springs
Coaster brake not functional
Hub is a TCW
Replace hub

Cones too loose
Adjust cones properly (note on late AWC, SRC3/S30 loose
cones can cause brake failure)

Brake band worn (S3C, early AWC)
Replace brake band

Brake shoes worn (late AWC, SRC3/S30)
Replace brake shoes

Low gear/brake separated from hub shell
Replace hub


The good news is most of the common wear parts are dirt cheap and readily available from a few different places.  The pawls, pawl springs and pinion pins are pretty much the same across a lot of these hubs but the actual drive clutch varies by model.  The most commonly available parts are for the AW hubs but will fit some other hubs as well.  Check the service manuals for specific part numbers.

Document Actions

3sp sturmey archer problems

Avatar Posted by Greg at Apr 10, 2012 01:48 PM
By way of a quick fix I've completely detached my gear selector and cable and used a short length of brake cable and used the existing adjuster and bracket to fashion a tensioner that retains the gear in mid-position. The brake cable nipple nestles nicely in the the crook of the bracket on the stay and the other end nipped up in the adjuster bracket as per the original set-up. By adjusting the adjuster barrel I'm now in single speed mode which is fine for my short and flatish journey to work each day.

I can forward a photo if my explanation is a bit vague. Cheers.

Disabling Gears

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Apr 10, 2012 01:49 PM
Yep, that's a totally easy way to lock it in a particular gear. Other options are pulling it all the way tight (for low) or just disconnecting the indicator spindle completely, which will drop it in to high.

What's the problem you are trying to work around?

Indicator spindle

Avatar Posted by Not So Fresh at May 05, 2012 11:54 AM
If you disconnect the indicator spindle, take it right out, or it will unscrew itself and you won,t have one any more. Another tip is to take the cheap pinch bolt type of anchorages, and wrap where the hook goes through the bolt eye with copper wire and solder it to keep the bend in it, if this makes sense. I have pulled the hook straight in a few, and had some caught in the bike rack, messing up the hub adjustment

Right cone adjustment?

Avatar Posted by Pedro at Nov 30, 2012 12:16 PM
Hello, I'trying to adjust properly the cones of my 3speed sturmey (2010). I have adjust the right cone but despite loosening it half turn the driver has no play. Everything looked ok, it spins smoothly and there are no strange noises. It changes ok but in first and third gear there is a very light slip, really light, I do not really feel a tracking drop. Am I spoiling my hub? Is it a cone issue? Adjustment is not easy,mit took me a long time to get no play with cones too tight.


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 30, 2012 12:19 PM
Do you mean you think the hub is slipping internally? I'm not 100% sure what the problem you are describing is. There should be a little bit of play at the rim when the adjustment is right - if there is none at all then it is too tight.


Avatar Posted by Pedro at Nov 30, 2012 01:05 PM
Not really slipping, just a little play in the cranks after engaging first and third gear. Not too much -and not always-, after this delay the hub spins nicely. No tracking drops even stand up pedalling. Difficult to explain in english...
There is no rim play. Right cone is at least half turn loose after finger tighten it. Left cone tightened not too much, just till there is no axle play.


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 30, 2012 01:08 PM
Overall that is pretty normal. There are pawls that need to engage in 1st and 3rd, and they require the hub to turn a bit before they pop out. 2nd is direct drive so it feels a little better usually.

Thanks so much!

Avatar Posted by Pedro at Nov 30, 2012 03:29 PM
I'm not used to this hubs, so I really apreciate your help. Thanks again.

broken hub

Avatar Posted by Justin at Jan 17, 2013 07:42 AM
I bought at '74 hub that has not been used. Unfortuantely, all the gears seem to be bad. When the indicator is all the way in or all the way out, the ratio is 1:1. When it is in the middle, it freewheels. Do you have any idea what's wrong?

Testing Procedure

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jan 17, 2013 07:44 AM
Sounds like it might need some surgery... How are you testing it? Is it laced in to a wheel?

It is very hard to check out a hub "on the bench", though it can be done.

broken hub

Avatar Posted by Justin at Jan 17, 2013 08:24 AM
It is unused in its original box, and not laced into a wheel. I just put the coaster arm into a clamp to test it.

Do they come unoiled? Is it possible I need oil to get it to work?

Might Be OK

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jan 17, 2013 08:28 AM
There is a good chance it is perfectly fine then...

These hubs are very picky about where exactly the indicator spindle is at. There is a position mid-way through where it will freewheel like you are describing. It is also quite difficult to keep enough tension on the indicator spindle without it moving while turning the driver enough to actually have the gears engage.

Are you sure the hub is at 1:1 when the indicator spindle is completely released? If it is moving at all it is practically impossible for that to happen as the driver ends up engaged directly on the planetary pins. It does sometimes take a few revolutions before it "clicks" in to place but I'd be very surprised to find it wasn't working. It should be in high gear at that point.

3 speed cone adjustment

Avatar Posted by paul needham at Jun 12, 2013 06:01 AM
Hi there

Excellent how to , but it has me a bit confused ?
I have been given a wheel with a NOS AW 3 speed in it , it has never been ridden.
The person giving it to me removed the Driver assembly to changed it from screw on sprockets to the more normal circlip type.
He then tightened up the right hand cone and said there you go !
However go I don't ! As when you wheel the bike the pedals are turning also it sounds like a bag of nails and very rough when it free wheels.
In your instructions for adjusting the right hand cone should the left hand cone be loosened off first ?
I assume I should also put a quantity of oil into the hub before I ride it ?

regards Paul

Circlip Normal

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jun 12, 2013 06:08 AM
Screw-on sprocket Sturmey hubs are pretty rare - even the 1950s ones I've seen have circlip style drivers on them. Any idea what year the hub is from? They usually have it stamped in the hub shell somewhere.

There are lots of small variances between years especially over long periods of time. Quite a few of the hubs have slightly different / incompatible parts if you swap from one hub to another especially if there is a big gap in age between them.

My guess is the new driver is not really compatible with the guts in your hub. You can try playing with the cone adjustment a bit - I would back off the left side then set the right side according to the instructions above, then reset the left side to get the play correct on the hub. These hubs definitely will act up if the driver side adjustment isn't correct so it is worth a shot.

Yes, they need a little bit of oil though that won't typically cause issues like you describe. Give the hub a few drops through its oil cap every few months.

Right hand cone adjustment

Avatar Posted by PaulNeedham at Jun 12, 2013 10:37 AM

Thanks for your prompt reply.
The guy is an old timer and so has lot's of this rare stuff , I think he had added the screw on sprocket driver because he though I wanted to run 1/8 chain and had a 18t sprocket that was screw on.
However the Williams crank I have is 3/32 and I have a cluster of sprockets that I can grind off the surplas tabs and so get them to fit.
The hub says 85-6 so in SA years it is not very old !

regards Paul

Right hand cone adjustment

Avatar Posted by paul needham at Jul 24, 2013 06:40 AM

Finally had a crack at this adjustment but seem to have created another problem ?

I slackened off the left hand side and adjusted the right as screwed up tight backed off 1/2 turn than backed off enough to get lock washer on.
Then on left tightened up till it locked hub , backed off 1/4 turn hub now a little loose and put on lock nut.
1) pedals still go around a little bit when pushing bike but only about 1/2 turn , as of yet I only have the crank on no left pedal crank and no pedals so my adjustment is close and may even work with the added weight of the other components ?
2) the axle has seems to move towards the right hand side and now on the left the axle is only half in the wheel nut [ about 1/4" short ]and on the right there is about 1/4" axle sticking out past the wheel nut. This is made worse by the frame having very thick cast lugs and so the threads will be only just long enough [ no room for washers though ]

regards Paul



Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jul 24, 2013 06:53 AM
OK that is a strange one!!

The first part (pedals going around a bit) is not unusual - even a brand new Sturmey hub will do this so I think you are ok there.

The second part - that one is concerning! Are you sure all the locknuts are where they are supposed to be? The 'sun' gear is fixed to the axle, so if it were not in the hub in the right spot then it would not engage with the planetary gears. Also there is a slot in the axle that the shifting mechanism moves back and forth in - if the axle were out of alignment it wouldn't engage with the clutch components properly.

My bet is there is a locknut in the wrong place or something similar!

Right hand cone adjustment

Avatar Posted by Paul Needham at Jul 24, 2013 09:39 AM
Well I di dnotice that there were 2 spacers one on each side between the cone nuts & the lock nuts , maybe they can be removed ? at least on the lefthand side where I am short of threads.

Also I found that my cone spanner gets trapped on the left side between the hub and the spacer when I am tightening this side up.

regards Paul

Axle Washers

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jul 24, 2013 09:42 AM
Noticed you mentioned above that there was no room for washers - does that mean you cannot use the anti-rotation washers (they have flat sides that engage the axle, and a tab that prevents the axle twisting in the dropout) with your frame? If so you are going to have massive problems!!

You may be able to remove the spacer, in my experience the lock nut has been directly on the cone.

Right hand cone adjustment

Avatar Posted by Paul Needham at Jul 24, 2013 10:09 AM
Yes got both the the anti-rotation washers fitted , do they go inside the rear triangle ? or outside ?

I thought it usual to have normal flat washers between the wheel nut & the frame ?


ps thanks very much for your help


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jul 24, 2013 10:10 AM
Great - the washers can go inside or outside, whichever works best for you with your frame.

It is definitely better to have a washer between the wheel nut and the frame, this can be just the anti-rotation washer - they work quite well for that.

3-spd, non-coaster brake won't shift

Avatar Posted by Bill N at Jul 27, 2013 03:44 PM
1969 Schwinn Breeze non-coaster brake SA 3-speed hub. It had been sitting around for 20 years, and wife wanted to ride it again. Planned to clean out old grease from bearings, so after reading the maintenance guide, I removed the cones but didn't completely remove the internals. Sprayed out the bearings with carb cleaner, dried it out well, repacked the bearings and put it back together. Now the gear selection rod/chain won't pull out. It's stuck in high gear (1:1.3). Before I "cleaned" it, it would pull to both 2nd and 1st.

Any suggestions before I go buy a spanner tool and take the internals completely out?



Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jul 27, 2013 03:50 PM
Depending on what exactly you did it is possible one of the pawls has come out of place on the drive side. There are a few different driver setups on those hubs depending on the year but my guess is that something got dislodged. On some SA hubs there are some pawls held in on the driver with a circular spring - they can pop out of place and flip sideways causing issues like you are describing. I haven't had a '69 era hub apart for quite a while so I can't recall exactly the shape of things in there but most likely you'll find something that isn't where it is supposed to be. You almost certainly will have to pull it apart.

You'll need a hook spanner to get the hub apart properly. You can substitute a hammer and a punch but the hook spanner is way easier and less likely to damage anything.

3-spd, non-coaster brake shifts now

Avatar Posted by Bill N at Jul 29, 2013 07:41 AM
Well, I have been letting the hub sit with 3-in-1 oil while waiting for your first response. I went out, spun the hub, then pulled very firmly on the changer chain and it moved. I worked it up and down and now it's normal.

I guess it sat with no oil after I cleaned it long enough that something seized, but came loose after sitting in the oil. Yay, I don't have to take this thing apart.

Thanks for your insight anyway, Bryn. I guess one lesson on these hubs is "give it some oil and give it some time."


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jul 29, 2013 07:42 AM
Glad it is working in the end! I suppose I should have mentioned sometimes the driver needs to be turned a bit for it to shift, especially on some of those older hubs. :)


Avatar Posted by Bill N at Jul 29, 2013 07:41 AM
Thanks for the info. I was hoping not to pull it apart, but the diagram doesn't too awful. Are there any "gotcha"s that I need to watch out for regarding springs/pawls, etc. The figure that shows the pawls on the maintenance sheet is kind of fuzzy, and based on other things I've taken apart, it's really easy to mess up the directions of hook-type springs.

Sturmey archer hub

Avatar Posted by Taous at Aug 16, 2013 08:30 AM
I have a ladies' vintage bike with a Sturmey Archer hub. I can easily change gear, but the 3rd (harder) one is sometimes a bit dodgy and just stops working when I'm cycling normally (without touching anything special on the bike). When this happens I can hear a click and then I can pedal, but it's getting me nowhere, i'm pedaling for nothing, which is sometimes pretty dangerous. Whenever this happens, I shift to the middle gear and it's fine, and the 3rd one randomly gets back to normal whenever it wants to. I could cycle using the middle gear, but it's really slow and too easy....Is there any chance I can get rid of the gears and set my bike as a single speed using only the 3rd one? And if so, will it solve the problem, or do you reckon it will still be dodgy?

Thanks, Taous.

Cable Adjustment

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Aug 16, 2013 08:39 AM
I'd check the cable adjustment first - for 3rd gear the cable should be basically slack; if it has any tension it won't allow the clutch to engage properly. If that doesn't help, try unscrewing the indicator spindle (the little chain) completely from the hub - the hub should go in to 3rd gear on its own and stay there. If it will stay in 3rd without the indicator spindle in place then check and make sure the indicator spindle isn't bent and the chain isn't rusty or sticky. The spring inside the hub pulling it inwards isn't particularly strong so any sort of binding will cause issues.

If the hub will stay in 3rd without the indicator spindle you probably can sort it just with some lubrication - make sure the shifter itself plus the shifter cable is well lubricated and moves freely too as binding in either of those will also cause this problem. Most likely it will work fine once you check this stuff out.

If it won't stay in 3rd without the indicator spindle then something in the hub is probably broken. Usually it will be pawl springs - they are tiny little hair-sized springs that press the pawls in the hub outwards. They definitely do break after a while. The other possibility is wear on the clutch itself - if it is a vintage bike then it probably has the "cross" style clutch - they are generally pretty dependable but if the hub has been used for a long time while poorly adjusted they do tend to wear down. 9 times out of 10 though just getting the indicator spindle moving freely in the hub will take care of 3rd gear issues.

srf5 (5) adjustment

Avatar Posted by sangrena at Sep 17, 2013 10:28 AM
hi, so many thanks for the adjustment explanation, i wish i had researched a bit more the internet before i spent hours and hours trying to figure out how to adjust my sturmey archer hub. I have a dahon ciao d5 folding bike, it has a sturmey archer S-RF5 (w) 5 speeds hub, aparently i adjust it right, but, between 3 and 2 speed i dont feel any change in the gear change, and between 2 and 1 speed the change is obvious, is more easy to ride uphill, but is not enough to climb a short city hill without lots of sweating, i feel like my 1 speed is a sort of mix between a 2nd speed and the beginning of the 1rst speed, i dont know if i am right, but i was expecting from this 5 speed hub, 5 y 4 speed (velocity speed) 3 speed (direct drive) and 2 and 1 speed (city climbing speeds) but i only have 5,4,3 (velocity speed) 2 (kinda direct drive) 1 (kinda short climb speed).Do you have any idea what could be wrong with my hub?

thanks so much for your help.

Cable Adjustment

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Sep 17, 2013 10:34 AM
The SRF5 has a (1) - super low, (2) - low, (3) - direct drive, (4) - overdrive, (5) - super overdrive

If the adjustment is not correct you can end up in a situation where you can get 4 of the 5 gears, which is sort of what it sounds like has happened to you. Alternatively if your shifter cable is binding you may find that you have a hard time getting the highest gear (though you should still be able to get the lowest one). Try tightening the cable just a little and see if you get a lower gear. If it is direct drive in 2 then you are definitely off by a gear in the adjustment.

I'm not sure if you have the SRF5-W or the older SRF5 - the step between the gears on the 5W is larger than on the original SRF5. My SRF5-W definitely has had some issues with both high and low gear at times though, mainly they were solved by lubricating the shifter cable well. I did eventually have to replace the gear selector key inside the hub to get it to work right, mine was worn out.

Cable Adjustment

Avatar Posted by sangrena at Sep 17, 2013 01:19 PM
Thanks for your fast answer bry, mine is srf5 (w), i tightened the cable and i was able to have a more easy 1 speed, but then it started to spin freely, not moving the wheel at all, just the pedals, and, in the 3 speed it starts to make a horrible noise, like if the speed was not engaging at all. i had to loose the cable to be able to use the bike, and the result is what i described in my previous message. this hub is new, sturmey archer sent it to me to replace the one my bike had (stopped working in the 4 speed i think, disabling any pedal movement) and it has been a pain for me to use the bike, since this hub seems impossible to adjust the right way =(

Getting there

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Sep 17, 2013 01:20 PM
OK, that means you are getting there!! The freewheeling means you are still not right on your cable adjustment, but the fact that low gear is kicking in now means your are close.

When everything is set correctly you should see the yellow stripe on the indicator spindle in line with the end of the axle when the shifter is in second gear.

adjustment srf5 (w)

Avatar Posted by sangrena at Sep 17, 2013 01:20 PM
another thing i find, i dont know if this is right, when i am down shifting to the 1 speed, i have to make a more hard twist in the shifter because this is the hardest speed to shift from all the 5 speeds in the handlebar shifting.

my IGH is just like this in the image, the same system[…]/1312532481_201108051021.jpg

my shifter is like this[…]/gr800.jpg

thanks for your help, and sorry if i am asking so much questions, i am in a kind of desperate situation, since where i live no one know how to work with and IGH


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Sep 17, 2013 01:22 PM
Yeah it is harder to get the hub in to the lowest gear for sure, that is because you are pulling against the maximum spring tension inside the hub. Totally normal to have there be more resistance.

I don't really have much good to say about "grip shift" style shifters when used with internal gear hubs. In my opinion they are nothing but trouble as they do not shift super precisely.


Avatar Posted by sangrena at Sep 18, 2013 06:07 AM
oh well, thanks for your help and advices, i will keep fine tuning this thing until is right, now that i am very close =)


AW FKB5 - No Difference between 1st & 2nd

Avatar Posted by Duncan at Oct 01, 2013 09:46 AM
I've attempted to adjust the gears in the many different ways suggested but I'm struggling with 1st & 2nd gear there seems to be no difference in the gearing and I do not hear/feel it change gear unlike changing from 2nd to 3rd.

Does this suggest that my adjustment is not unto scratch or is there a problem with the internal workings of the hub?


Direct Drive

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Oct 01, 2013 09:51 AM
You'll need to sort out what gear you are actually getting. 2nd gear should be direct drive and you should still hear pawls clicking. 1st gear (cable tight) is usually silent on AW hubs as all the pawls are engaged.

Broken pawl springs can definitely cause what you are describing. That's a pretty common issue for these hubs. The springs are cheap and available, however servicing the hub is a bit fiddly. If you are buying parts, get new pawls as well as pawl springs. Good chance one spring broke a long time ago so it's been running on one pawl since then. Most of the time that one remaining pawl gets chipped up because it's having to do the work of two.


Avatar Posted by david at Nov 12, 2013 08:03 AM
sorry if this is already answered. I took off the rear wheel to fix a puncture. Now when I cycle I can shift gear OK but whatever gear it is in it does not really engage. Probably 1 in 4 turns of the pedals actually catch and drive the bike forward. Do I just need to tighten then cable that I undid when I took off the wheel?


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 12, 2013 08:04 AM
Yep, you definitely need to adjust the cable. It probably needs to be tightened.

S3C grinding after reassembly

Avatar Posted by James M at Mar 28, 2014 07:18 AM
So I rebuild AW hubs primarily. I decided to branch out and start working on TCW and TCW-III's, as well as the S3C. Last night, I decided to tackle the S3C. Replaced driver pawl springs with the proper HSA-469 springs, replaced all planet cage pawl ring springs, and gear ring pawl ring springs. Reassembled it, but I have a serious issue. It's grinding like nobody's business regardless of any situation. I can't figure this out, and I stumbled across this site, I thought I'd ask "what the heck is going on?".

I tore it down and reassembled 3 times, and it sounds like there's sand caking the inside of the hub despite it being scrubbed clean and dried. All parts fit back together properly, all parts are lubed, but it still grinds. Any suggestions?


Something Missing?

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Mar 28, 2014 07:22 AM
Sure you aren't missing a set of bearings in there somewhere?

Otherwise, they can be picky about the alignment of the axle to the hub shell. I can't recall off the top of my head the specifics of the S3C in terms of how it 'likes' to be set but I vaguely recall having the exact same issue with one of mine a long time ago. Try shifting the hub a little to one side (ie loosen the cone on one side, tighten on the other) by a very small amount and see if it has any effect on the sound.

Rear Hub

Avatar Posted by Dennis kirkpatrickw at Apr 24, 2014 06:15 AM
72 aw rear hub. When I push down on the pedal with my left leg there is no tension. Right pedal downstroke works fine. Any ideas, this is my first classic bike and first ever with a internal hub. Thanks so much for any help.


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Apr 24, 2014 06:25 AM
Now that's just strange!

The rear hub doesn't know which foot you are pushing with - it just sees tension on the chain. If you've got a lot of slop in the bottom bracket you could be seeing varying chain tension depending on which foot you are pressing with - that's the only thing I could imagine.


Avatar Posted by dennis kirkpatrick at Apr 28, 2014 07:03 AM
It's like the hub won't catch up to itself, if that makes any sense. On my down stroke with my right foot there is tension but as it rotates and I press with the left foot there is an empty spot for about a qtr of the turn. on a stand it seems to work fine. its only while peddling. Basically when I ride it it's like peddling with one leg. Gonna mess with it a bit more and then search out a mechanic here in San Francisco who can work on this thing. Thanks for the response anyways. Cheers

much drag

Avatar Posted by Chad Shepard at Aug 21, 2014 07:50 AM
I'm having a lot of drag between the gear ring, and the RH ball ring (bull nut). I have rebuilt several Sturmey 3s in the last few months, and this is the first time I've had this issue, RH cone nut is correctly adjusted. Should the surfaces be at a fine polish? There isn't any noticeable wear just rough cast surface

Original Parts?

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Aug 21, 2014 07:53 AM
Are all the parts originally from that hub? I have had issues like that when bits have been mixed and matched between hubs (of course sometimes that's the only way to get one working again though!)

Nothing in the hubs was really polished all that fine to begin with. Bearing races and things shouldn't be actually ROUGH but they certainly weren't made to modern standards.

I've had bad cones before too now that I think about it - make sure your cone nut doesn't have any bad spots on it.

Pawl Springs

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Sep 15, 2014 07:22 AM
Assuming you have tried adjusting the cable already the most common problem will be broken pawl springs inside the hub. There are two small hair springs that keep the pawls engaged - they break, stopping the pawls from engaging. The other possibility is that things have seized up inside - if the hub sat dry for a long time the pawls can freeze in place. If that's the case it might not take anything more than a little cleaning.

I'd open the hub up and take a look - chances are the problem(s) will be pretty evident, though the pawl springs themselves are quite small and hard to see if the hub has a lot of muck in it. The parts for these are cheap and readily available. You can TRY dousing it in something like WD-40 or something similar first through the oil hole (assuming your hub has one) but I'd dive straight in to opening it up personally. Gotta learn somehow!

3rd gear clicks every 20 or so wheel revs

Avatar Posted by Tony at Nov 19, 2014 08:01 AM
Hi, can you help at all with this? I have just built a 26" MTB wheel with a new CS-RK3 hub. Low and middle gear are fine, but when in top gear it "clicks" about every 20 or so wheel revolutions. By "clicks" I mean that it is like a derailleur that is not properly adjusted and wants to go to another gear. I have done ~ 20km and I initially thought it was a derailleur problem but it is the hub, and it is happening only in 3rd gear. I have tried all sorts of tuning of the cable, but to no effect.
Many thanks,

Click Click

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 19, 2014 08:05 AM
Interesting problem... It is normal for a Sturmey hub to make a clicking noise in high gear, but it is generally a regular 'pawl' sound and happens much more frequently than every 20 wheel revolutions.

If you completely disconnect the cable the hub should go in to third gear and stay there. If the noise is still happening with the cable disconnected then you've got something wrong in your hub - to be honest the description of the noise you've given sounds a lot like a damaged bearing or something similar.

3rd gear clicks

Avatar Posted by Tony at Nov 19, 2014 02:05 PM
The click is more of a clunk, and is a bit like it is trying to find another gear. It only happens when I am pedaling, not freewheeling. When I am pushing hard it can be enough to almost throw my foot off the pedal. I have slackened off the cable so that I can push the indicator chain in as far as it will go, but there is no difference. I can push very hard in 1st and 2nd and it will not clunk in those gears.


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 19, 2014 02:31 PM
Doesn't sound good. That sounds like something is broken inside your hub - it isn't engaging properly.

3rd gear clicks

Avatar Posted by Tony at Nov 20, 2014 09:28 AM
DAMN! The hub is new, but I'm in Australia and I bought it from an ebay seller in England, so to unlace it and send it back to be fixed will be too much of a hassle for me. I'd much rather pull it apart and (try to) fix it myself. Any idea what I'd be looking for?


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 20, 2014 09:29 AM
To be honest your best bet would be to contact Sturmey Archer through their Facebook page - I've seen them help folks get their hubs sorted, including assisting with warranty work. They've been pretty awesome that way!

3rd gear clicks

Avatar Posted by Tony at Nov 20, 2014 02:02 PM
Thank you!!

2nd gear slips ladies vintage

Avatar Posted by Poppy at Feb 11, 2015 11:45 AM
I have a 1993 Classic ladies Raleigh with a three speed gear hub and the 2nd gear often slips suddenly and then goes straight back to normal. Its particularly bad going up a hill and if I'm cycling quickly even on the flat. Would this be a case of replacing the pawls and pawl strings? I've taken it to a bike shop many times to have the gears fixed (started off with no gear two, then all gears completely slipping at some point or another) so this is the best its been so far, but I think their knowledge of old bikes is limited. Any advice appreciated!

Good Chance

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Feb 11, 2015 11:47 AM
Quite likely - though you won't really know till it is opened up.

If it's a 1993 it might be a Shimano 3-speed instead of a Sturmey...

If you aren't super bike technical (and don't really want to get inside something fiddly like a hub) you might want to consider getting it replaced with a new Shimano 3-speed, they are a LOT more reliable.


Avatar Posted by Poppy at Feb 11, 2015 01:01 PM
Thank you that's really helpful! I'm not very bike technical at all so I'm searching for a bike shop that knows a bit more. I'll tell them you're advice!

Fiddly Bits

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Feb 11, 2015 01:05 PM
There are very few bike shops who will open up a Sturmey hub - they are very hard to work on with lots of small parts, meaning they are quite labour intensive. There are also many different versions of the hub so you can't just replace the innards easily. If it takes a few hours for someone to try and fix it the shop usually has to charge you more than they would for just installing a new one, otherwise they won't make any money (or even charge you enough to pay the wage of the person who did the work!). Don't be surprised if most shops tell you it needs to be replaced; they really are giving you the best advice.

Most of the folks who actually repair these are collectors with a lot of time on their hands - the type of folks who enjoy the challenge and would rather spend an afternoon covered in grease than to just have it fixed quickly.

SRC3 hub does not engage at all....

Avatar Posted by Jeff at Feb 22, 2015 12:37 PM
Hi! I had a customer bring me a Sun Atlas Cargo trike with a 3 speed conversion (Hub is SRC3). Regardless of which gear setting it is in you can pedal with zero hub engagement (you pedal and it goes nowhere). Coaster brake does function. I told the customer that replacement of the hub is the best and quickest option (used as warehouse transport)since it will cost them more for me to tear it down and resolve then just installing a fresh unit. My own personal curiosity has me inquiring as well as if it is actually worthwhile to service this hub for them as a spare. Thanks!


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Feb 22, 2015 12:40 PM
An easy way to deal with them is to just remove the entire gear assembly and replace it with a 'good' one - that way you don't have the time/expense of relacing the wheel. With the newer stuff you can get away with that since they're a lot more consistent in the parts used. The pre-2000 Sturmey stuff is all pretty fiddly; they changed parts around fairly regularly so trying to do that kind of a swap doesn't usually work out too well.

If you do go that route you can probably figure out what broke. It's somewhat rare for all 3 gears to go out, though the actual driver mechanism inside the hub could have failed causing that.

SRC3 hub does not engage...

Avatar Posted by jeff at Feb 23, 2015 10:06 AM
Great info and help! Thank you! I will pass it on to my customer and see if they want a "spare". The hub actually is bolted to the frame by itself (not laced to a wheel) and is driven by a chain off the crank. there is a second chain on the hub that runs to one of the axles on the trikes rear wheel.

Drivetrain seizes randomly -- Raleigh Twenty with Sturmey Archer 3-speed internal hub

Avatar Posted by mchen at Apr 09, 2015 11:07 AM
I've recently developed a problem where my drive train will randomly (although it seems to happen more often after riding over bumpy, crappy parts of the road) make a huge clunking noise, then completely, abruptly seize -- it stops me from pedalling forward. If I move the pedals back a bit, it unseizes and I can carry on riding. Nothing seems to be wrong with the chain/crank/pedals, so I'm wondering if it's the hub. Any thoughts/suggestions?

Broken Parts

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Apr 09, 2015 11:12 AM
Could be something broken inside your hub. Something loose floating around in there getting in between the gear teeth every now and then... Shifter adjustment etc generally causes it to jump gears but not lock up.