Removing a bottom bracket can be pretty difficult depending on the type of bracket and the tools you have available. Although you’d typically need a bottom bracket tool to complete the maintenance, you can make do using a few common household tools if you don’t have access to one.
It won’t be easy but, with some elbow grease and patience, you’ll get the job done.
Even if you don’t have a bottom bracket tool, you can still remove the bottom bracket from your bicycle’s frame. First, remove the crank arms from the bottom bracket and use a wrench to loosen the bolts that hold it in place. Finally, use your hands to pry the bottom bracket out of the frame. The trick, though, is to use caution to avoid damaging your bike.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to remove bottom bracket without tool. We’ll carefully walk you through the step-by-step process and give you some background information to make the process easier. So, if you’re ready to get to work, let’s dive in!
What is a Bottom Bracket?
The bottom bracket is the name for the bearing and spindle assembly around which your bike’s crank arms rotate. It’s what allows your pedals to move the chain, which in turn, propels the bike forward. However, there are several varieties of bottom brackets, including:
- Press fit brackets that press into the frame
- Threaded systems, such as cup-and-cone brackets, cartridge brackets, and external bearing systems
- One-piece crank brackets
The most common bottom bracket shell size is 68mm, but there are also shells that measure 73mm and 83mm. The width of your bottom bracket shell will dictate which type of bottom bracket you can use.
Why Would You Need to Remove the Bottom Bracket?
There are a few reasons why you might need to remove the bottom bracket from your bicycle. The most common reason is to replace the bearings. Over time, the bearings in the bottom bracket can become worn down, causing the crank to feel loose or wobbly.
Another reason why you might remove the bracket is to replace the spindle. The spindle is the part of the bottom bracket that attaches to the crank arms. If it becomes damaged, you’ll need to replace it. And finally, you might remove a bottom bracket to clean away built-up mud or grime that’s preventing your wheels from properly turning.
What is a Bottom Bracket Tool?
A bottom bracket tool is a specialized tool that’s used to remove and install the bottom bracket from the frame. The most common bottom bracket tool is called the Shimano tool. It has a notched head that’s designed to fit into the bottom bracket’s bearing cup, allowing you to turn and loosen the bracket without bending the metal or scratching your bike’s paint.
However, if you do not live near a bike shop, you may struggle to find a Shimano tool when you need one. If possible, we highly recommend ordering one from the Internet and waiting until it arrives. Removing certain styles of bottom brackets can be quite difficult without the proper tool and you could make a mess of your bike’s bottom brackets if you’re impatient.
If you absolutely cannot wait for a bottom bracket tool to arrive, though, there are a few ways to get the job done without one. In the next few sections, we’ll explain how to remove bottom bracket without tool, giving careful instructions for the three main types of brackets.
How to Remove Bottom Bracket Without Tool: Step 1 – Remove the Left-Hand Cranks
Regardless of which type of bottom bracket your bike uses, you’ll need to remove the cranks before you can access the bracket. To do this, unscrew the 8mm Allen key bolt that holds the arms in place and then pull them off of the spindle. The bolt should be positioned in the left-hand crank arm and will unscrew by twisting it counterclockwise.
With the axle fully exposed, remove the added spacers, making sure to count how many you remove and keep them together as a unit. You will need these spacers when you reassemble the crank arms. Take photos of how they are arranged before removing them to make the reassembly process easier.
How to Remove Bottom Bracket Without Tool: Step 2 – Remove the Right-Hand Cranks
On some bikes, the right-hand crank arm will simply slide out of place as soon as you’ve removed the left-hand crank arm. However, if your bike’s right-hand crank is particularly stubborn, you may have to use a rubber mallet to gently but firmly knock the arm out of place. At this point, do not use a metal hammer, though, as it could damage the metal.
Now that you’ve removed both crank arms, the only thing left to do is remove the dust caps. They shouldn’t be too difficult to remove by hand but if they won’t budge, spray them with a bit of lubricant to loosen them up. Once removed, you’ll have a fully exposed bottom bracket ready for extraction.
How to Remove Bottom Bracket Without Tool: Step 3 – Remove the Bottom Bracket
Before we get started, we want to reiterate that learning how to remove bottom bracket without tool is incredibly challenging, depending on the type of bracket. If you have access to a bottom bracket tool, we recommend using it. After all, it’s always best to use the right tool for the job. If you don’t have access to one, though, follow these steps to the letter:
Removing a Threaded Bottom Bracket
If your bike has threaded bottom brackets, consider yourself lucky. As far as bottom brackets go, these are the easiest to remove without a special tool. You’ll simply need a pair of locking needle-nosed pliers, a screwdriver, and a piece of cloth. Once you have your equipment, follow these steps to remove the bottom bracket:
- Cover the frame of your bike – Use a piece of cloth to cover the frame of your bike. If your hand accidentally slips, the cloth will help protect your bike from scratches.
- Break the seal – This is the hardest part of removing a threaded bottom bracket. The bracket itself its usually quite flush against the frame of the bike, giving very little surface area to grip onto. Using a pair of locking needle-nosed pliers, clamp down onto the bracket until it’s firmly in place. Twist counterclockwise as hard as you can to loosen the bracket.
- Fully unthread the bracket – The bracket should have a few indented spaces meant for a bracket tool. You can use these to slowly unthread the bracket with a screwdriver. Simply press the tip of a flathead screwdriver into the indents, pushing the bracket around until it’s loose enough to come out.
- Remove the bracket – Once it’s fully unthreaded, you should be able to pull the entire bracket from the frame using just your hands. If it won’t come out, the bracket is still threaded in place and you’ll need to keep going.
Your hands are likely going to get greasy during this process so use it as an opportunity to clean the bracket while you’re at it.
Removing a One-Piece Crank Bottom Bracket
A one-piece crank bracket is made from a single piece of metal and is designed to fit onto a bike frame with just a few parts. Thanks to its simple design, the one-piece crank bottom bracket is fairly easy to install and remove but you’ll need a set of pliers, a flathead screwdriver, and a spanner to get it off. Once you have your tools, follow these steps:
- Remove the left pedal – This first step isn’t necessary but, by removing the left pedal, you’ll give yourself more room to work with and make the job a little easier. Some bike shops recommend using a pedal wrench but you can remove a bike pedal by clamping two hex bits from a screwdriver set between an adjustable wrench and giving it a good twist.
- Loosen the locknut – At the bottom of the left-hand crank, you’ll find a left-threaded locknut holding the crank in place. Using a 30mm spanner, loosen the locknut by twisting it clockwise and then unthread it by hand. Remove the underlying key and washer and place them in a safe spot. You’ll need them to reassemble the bracket.
- Loosen the bracket cone – Once you’ve removed the locknut, you can then access the cone holding the bracket in place. Insert the tip of a flathead screwdriver into the depressions in the cone. These depressions are designed to be used with a bracket tool but are larger enough to accept a screwdriver head. Press down at an angle to turn the bracket clockwise until it’s loose.
- Remove the bracket cage – After you’ve loosened the cone, there will be a small metal cage holding the bracket in place. Use a pair of pliers or your screwdriver to remove it from the inside of the bracket.
- Rotate and remove – The last step is to simply rotate the one-piece crank counterclockwise until it comes out from the bracket. It may be a little awkward at first but there’s nothing holding it in place and you should be able to remove it by hand.
When you set the crank down, be sure to position it with the gears facing up so that they aren’t damaged.
Removing a Press Fit Bottom Bracket
If your bike is fitted with press fit bottom brackets, you’ll have to do some work to get them out. These are by far the most difficult to remove without a tool because they are held in place by internal pressure. The bracket snuggly fits against the internal wall of the cup and you’ll have to firmly knock it out of place with a hammer to remove it.
We do not recommend trying this without the appropriate tools. Even with a bottom bracket tool, you could still damage the cup, making it impossible to place a new bracket within the bike frame. This is further complicated by the fact that there are several different sizes of press fit brackets. Even some bracket tools cannot remove narrower press fit brackets.
If you’re stuck with press fit brackets, save yourself the trouble of replacing a broken bicycle and invest in the proper tools. There’s no point damaging your bike just to learn how to remove bottom bracket without tool.