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Propeller hub info, removal, and installation

By Had Robinson

Introduction

DO NOT HIT THE HUB WITH A HAMMER!  DO NOT USE A PULLER!  DO NOT PRY IT OFF!  SEE THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

Propeller vibration is usually caused by a hub that has been damaged and has excessive face runout.  The hub must be checked with a dial micrometer to be sure that the runout is not more than 0.013mm (0.0005").  If you do not have a dial micrometer and the base to hold it or if you are in doubt about the condition of the hub, replace it.

Hubs on redrives made before 2004 are different (see red arrows) and they are NOT interchangeable.  The shafts are shorter and there are no seals in the redrive which is why they were lubricated with grease.  However, they are removed in the same manner.

Top 80 propeller hub new version and pre-2004

The propeller hub should not easily slide off the shaft.  This is by design and why a loose hub must be replaced.  Loose hubs are usually caused by propeller strikes against the cage or the ground.  Severely unbalanced propellers can also cause damage to the hub.

Removing the aluminum hub with just a puller or banging/prying it off will likely bend or warp it.  It must have a tight fit on the shaft or it will quickly be ruined by the vibration transmitted from the engine to the propeller shaft.  If you can pull the hub off the shaft by hand, it must be replaced.

DANGER! Use of a loose fitting or a damaged hub could cause catastrophic failure of the propeller and other parts.  Putting threadlock, RTV, or silicone cement in the hub bore or on the propeller shaft will not fix this problem.  I am not sure exactly what happens when the hub bore wears past a certain point but it probably would not be good to find out.  If you want to find out if there is life after death, this might be a good way to find out.

It is extremely rare that the shaft or bearings are damaged.  Propeller strikes, improper propeller installation, or propeller disintegration can damage the aluminum hub.  If a balanced propeller vibrates excessively, the hub is likely bent or warped.

Because the hub is aluminum and the shaft is steel, it is an easy job to remove it but only if you have these special tools and follow the correct steps here.  These tools can be purchased at Harbor Freight or an auto parts store and are good enough for occasional use.

You will need these tools if you had a propeller strike and you experience vibration, no matter how carefully you have balanced your propeller

Hub removal

1. Hub and shaft evaluation – preparation

The redrive should be removed from the engine.  (It is harder to reinstall the hub properly if the redrive is not removed.)  Spray copious amounts of WD-40 in and around the center screw of the hub and let it sit an hour or more, overnight is best.  This screw is usually installed with threadlock, making it difficult to extract.  The WD-40 will help ensure that you will not destroy the head of the screw or break it off – a difficult thing to fix.  DO NOT REMOVE THE CENTER SCREW AT THIS TIME.

Check the face (or axial) runout (FR) of the hub.  Then measure the total indicated (or radial) runout (TIR) of the propeller shaft before taking it all apart.  A good hub should have a FR less than 0.0005".  Excessive FR will cause the propeller to vibrate, sometimes severely, and can lead to failure of the redrive and other parts of the paramotor including engine mount failure and frame fatigue cracks.  The TIR is less important but should also be less than 0.001".  If it is more than this, the redrive will have to be rebuilt.

The hub below had a FR of > 0.025" and had to be replaced.  This was indicated by severe vibration the pilot experienced when the paramotor was run at full speed.  The tools (of sufficient quality) needed to measure this are a magnetic base tool holder and a dial indicator and are available together for under $30 from Harbor Freight.  (Note: the professional tools pictured here are not from HF.)  After setting up the dial indicator as shown, press firmly down with a finger on the center of the hub.  This will eliminate any vertical movement of the shaft while rotating it.  Slowly rotate the hub from the clutch bell side and note the FR – the difference between the high and low values.

In the photo here, the magnetic base is fixed to the anvil of the vise.  If you do not have a vise, a piece of steel must be attached to the engine upon which the base can be attached.

Miniplane Top 80 hub circular runout measurement

In the photo here, the propeller shaft runout was checked and was less than 0.0001".  It is extremely rare that the shaft might be bent from an accident but it should be checked, nonetheless.  Thankfully, the hub is aluminum and not steel.  It is much less expensive to replace a hub than rebuild the entire redrive.

Top 80 redrive measuring shaft runout 

2. Remove the center screw

Use an inexpensive oil filter wrench to keep the hub from rotating.  Press down HARD on the 6mm hex bit as you turn the screw CCW.  This helps keep the screw head from being deformed.  If the screw does not budge, heat the hub as in step #4 below.  If the WD-40 starts to smoke near the screw, things are too hot and you should stop applying heat.  If things still do not move, you may have to repeat this step after more WD-40 is applied and allowed to soak for an hour.  Removing things that are stuck requires patience.  Of course, you can twist the screw head off but then you will have to send it to us or a machine shop and it will cost $100 to remove it.

3. Attach the gear or wheel puller

The aluminum hub is easily damaged by the improper the use of a puller so it must be carefully done and the directions here followed exactly!

Attach the puller to the hub and tighten the center bolt on the puller with a wrench so that it is JUST snug.

If the puller is tightened excessively, it will bend the hub and ruin it!

You want just enough force to slide the hub off the shaft after it is heated up.  The puller applies uniform force to the hub which is difficult to do without it, especially if the hub is hot.  A wheel puller, bolt type, (below) is safer to use because it pulls closer to the center of the hub and is less likely to bend the aluminum hub and damage it.

wheel puller, bolt type

4. Apply heat

READ THIS SECTION COMPLETELY AND CAREFULLY BEFORE APPLYING HEAT.  IT IS VERY EASY TO RUIN THE HUB AND THE OIL SEAL!

Use the propane torch to heat the hub for 30-45 seconds, as shown in the photos below.  Direct the flame about 1/2" (1.2cm) below the bottom face of the hub.  Rotate the hub as the torch is applied so that the heat is evenly distributed around the center of the hub.  Be very careful to not get the flame near the base of the propeller shaft where the neoprene seal is.

The aluminum hub will expand and the joint between it and the shaft will loosen.  When this happens, the puller will suddenly become loose and its job is done.  Remove heat and turn the center bolt of the gear puller by hand to begin the removal of the hub from the shaft.  Depending on the diameter of the center screw on the puller, you may to complete the removal by hand.  Immediately use a rag and wrap the hot hub with it and pull the hub off.

As the hub cools, it may grip the shaft and you will have to apply heat again.  If you see the slightest bit of smoke, STOP IMMEDIATELY and let things cool down.  DO NOT OVERHEAT THE HUB or you will wreck it and, possibly, the seal.  Once the hub is removed, immediately cool the shaft with water so that the neoprene seal does not get too hot.

Note the position of the seal in this photo.  It had been jammed into the casing bore by glider lines getting caught in the propeller.  The turning propeller wrapped the lines around the shaft, like a winch.  The smooth lines worked their way along the shaft, pushing the seal in and ruining it.  The puller here is a jaw-type puller which is quick and easy to apply.  I used it because the hub was ruined in an accident and I was not worried about damaging the hub.  It was easy to get off, anyway.  Some are not easy to remove!

Top 80 redrive hub removal

using heat to remove a propeller hub

You can use a wheel puller, bolt type, which is THE BEST AND SAFEST to use, especially if you have less experience as a mechanic. 

Top 80 propeller hub being removed with a puller

4. Hub installation

Preheat the oven to 177ºC (350ºF).  Let the temperature stabilize for at least 15 minutes.  Be certain that the oven temperature is correct.  When aluminum is heated to 205º C (400º F), it enters the danger zone for its metallurgical properties.

The redrive must be placed as near as possible to the oven if it is in your woman's kitchen.  During the next step, the hub will cool down too much if you have to carry it to your work area in some adjacent building or room.

While the oven is heating up, thoroughly clean the hub and shaft with solvent, using a brass wire brush.  There must not be the slightest bit of threadlock, silicone, corrosion, etc. on the shaft or in the bore of the hub.  Use a pick tool, if needed, to remove stubborn bits of whatever, just like the hygienist does to get plaque off your teeth.  If this is not done, the hub will not go on smoothly during the next step.

Place the hub in the oven for 15 minutes.  You must allow time for the hub to fully expand.  If you have an infrared beam thermometer, measure the temperature.  When it is close to the oven's temperature, it is ready.

Have a dead blow hammer handy.

Do not put any RTV, threadlock, or any type of sealant on the propeller shaft or in the bore of the hub.

Remove the hub from the oven and IMMEDIATELY align it with the shaft and let it drop home.  It will make a nice "click".  The shaft end should be no more than a few millimeters below the hub face.  Immediately give the hub a light tap with the dead blow hammer.  This will ensure that the hub is fully home.  If the hub does not drop home with a nice "click", it is either damaged or you did not clean it thoroughly.

If the shaft is flush, above the hub face, or the hub is loose after it cools, it is ruined and must be replaced.  Using washers and spacers WILL NOT FIX a damaged hub.

If you suspect there is a problem, immediately remove the hub and let it cool off.  Examine the shaft and hub again as you may have missed something.  If things are clean, the hub is damaged and must be replaced.

If all looks good, allow the joined hub and shaft to cool.  If you do not get the hub fully seated, it will loosen and the movement of the steel shaft will eventually destroy the hub.

Reinstall the center screw with BLUE threadlock and torque to 9-10 Nm.  DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN THIS SCREW.  The hub is held to the shaft via a tight fit, not as a result of this screw.  The screw mainly prevents the hub from sliding in and out on the shaft if things start to wear badly for some reason.

Optional: Measure the face runout of the hub again to be sure things are properly installed and not damaged.  The FR should be less than 0.001".

5. Redrive installation

Reattach the redrive to the engine according to paragraph [B. 1] given in these directions.  The redrive must be aligned properly to preserve the life of the clutch, to adjust the low speed system properly, and to minimize engine vibration.

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