stem quill stuck in forks

Got an old track bike out of my dad’s shed on the weekend, it’s been barely used for the last 20 years…

The stem is completely jammed in the steerer tube. Any tips on how to get it out?

It’s a Cinelli stem, with the round expander-type bit. I loosened the bolt from the top, tapped it down, and now the bolt can jiggle a bit, so that part’s fine.

Seems like probably the aluminium of the stem has started to react with the steel of the steerer, and they’ve fused. The frame has a tiny bit of rust on it but no too bad really. I’ve tried WD40, Ballistol, Singer oil, etc, but I guess there’s a fair bit of surface area in there. Any ideas?

Try penetrine it’s an oil specially designed to loosen ceased parts and leave it there for a couple of days and hopefully that will free it. Or as a last resort turn you forks upside down and fill it with caustic soda, the caustic soda will dissolve the stem leaving the fork untouched. It’s a fairly drastic measure but it may be what it takes. Here’s a guide using a seat post, different part same principal.

dissolve the stem? i hope it doesn’t come to that!

i’ll see i i can find some penetrine when the shops open.

Caustic soda will just dissolve the corrosion (white stuff) that builds up on aluminium. It won’t hurt anything.

It will dissolve the aluminium too, not just the oxide. It won’t hurt steel. Hope the headset isn’t alloy.

BTW it’s penetrene, or penetrating oil.

It’s a chrome campagnolo headset. I was thinking rather than caustic soda, maybe something mild like vinegar, since it’s alkaline and apparently eats corrosion off aluminium. Trouble is I don’t think there’s much chance of getting it to seep into tube, and besides, it’s still basically water-based.

With a fair bit of effort I’ve managed to turn the stem 90 degrees in the tube. Made a good squeaking noise, and really isn’t going anywhere.

This was using way more leverage than I’d like to though (I took the wheel off and wedged a block of wood between the forks). Think I’ll have to take it to the bike shop and see if they can have a go with it in a vice. After i’ve let some penetrene soak in for a day or too. (assuming the hardware shop has something like that).

Vinegar is acidic, not basic (alkaline), it’s acetic acid. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is alkaline. Both are weak, both won’t do anything. Stronger acids will, but they’ll also attack steel.

They’re all water based when you make up a solution. Unless you were planning to mix NaOH with an alcohol or oil :? (neither of which will work mind you).

If you want to brace the fork, you’re better off clamping the crown and top of the blades in a vice (with wood either side so you don’t damage it.). Putting a piece of wood in the fork ends and using that as a lever is likely to bend the blades, ruining the bike’s alignment.

Heat up the fork crown and steerer. Stay away from the stem with heat.
Try and keep turning till the stem heats and expands.
Another trick I have used is if the fork has the steerer hole all the way through. Take our the top bolt and then the quill taper of the stem through the bottom of the fork. Turn it all upside down and try driving the stem out with a drift of some sort. Works good on old fucing bianchi’s
You need a good vice and good mix of patience and biffo.


It will also lead to blueline medic, which is an amazing thing in anyone’s book. I highly encourage taking actions leading in this direction.

Sounds like someone’s having a mid youth crisis.

Back on topic though. I had a fork that had done exactly the same, and I feel your pain. Good thing for me though it was only off a shitty beater so I was able to cut the stem and get all caveman on it. If you can move it, it sounds like you’re in a much better position then I was in. Are you sure that the sizes are right and that the stem wasn’t forced in? On mine it was easy to tell that it was alum/steel bonding due to a noticeable gap between the fork and stem.

thanks for the help guys. the frame is still sitting on my balcony waiting for me to take it in to cheeky transport - in the meantime there’s (hopefully) all sorts of oil soaking into the gaps… it’s a good frame so i’m trying to be patient with it.

i’m pretty sure with a vice and some careful manouvering it’ll come out.

I tried the mad hippie’s idea of driving the stem out from the underside, but when i undid the cone/wedge piece, instead of dropping out the bottom it just sat inside the steerer tube - I discovered (thanks to sheldon) that the inside of the steerer tube is tapered, so that little piece won’t quite fall out, also meaning i can’t stick anything up there to drive against the stem…

I guess it’s possible that the stem may have always been a fraction too large for the tube, since it’s a Japanese bike (apparently Ishiwata tubes, says my dad) with an Italian stem, and i think italian stems are bigger? But i think my dad knew what he was doing…
Just wish I’d got him to pull the thing apart back in his workshop before i carted it all the way to Sydney…

man have you ever seen so much writing about a head stem? what a joke, i should get a life…

so is he gonna build you a frame, or did he cop out by giving you an old one from the shed? :evil:

He didn’t quite get around to building a frame for me, funnily enough. (couldn’t find all the old jigs amongst the heap of rusty metal that is his shed.)

He was going to re-paint his old Kuwahara track bike for me, but I was too impatient/he was too slow, so when I was home for easter I dug it out from the cobwebs and eloped with it to Sydney on the train…

I think I’m going to take it out to Star Enamellers in Bankstown for the paint. Apparently they’re worth the money - about $220 but i figured it’s best to get it done properly.
(unless anyone knows of a cheaper Sydney place that’s good…?)

btw are you coming for the ride tonight?

I’m reviving this thread being stuck with the same problem. I read somewhere else that regular ammonia will do the job of dissolving the corrosion. Does anyone have any experience with this? Should I be concerned that (like caustic) it will dissolve my stem? What about my paintjob?

I ask because ammonia is all of $1/litre at safeway, whereas penetrene requires me to get off my ass to a hardware shop.

I’ve only used ammonia for aluminium dissolving, never caustic soda. Commercial strength stuff is good, supermarket strength doesn’t seem to do the trick all the time. The last tricky removal job I did was a stuck seatpost. It would just twist in the frame, but could only budge it 1 or 2 mm for 20 min sweating and heaving. The aluminium would heat up, expand more rapidly than the steel and wedge itself in place, further exacerbating the friction problem. The solution was to fill the seatpost with ice (through the BB): The seatpost was kept cool, and as a bonus, the water going everywhere was a super lubricant. As a bonus, the ice doesn’t destroy the paint work like a blow-torch to the outside.

Wow ancient thread.

My problem was that I didn’t have a vice handy, or any proper tools.

I’d say before you try something caustic, spray a heap of WD40/INOX/Ballistol/Penetrene in there, let it sit overnight, and try again.

i just wanna know how you ended up getting it out (out of curiousity) and a pic of the end product? (again curiousity lol)

Took it to a bike shop - Cheeky Transport in Newtown, Sydney.

Had the same problem with a steel road frame and Shimano AX seat post. Multiple wd40 types used with no luck. Ended wrapping the post in a piece of thin leather, and using a pair of Stilson’s to grasp the post and remove it in a unscrewing action!