Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub problems

I previously wrote about the problems with my Shimano 3-speed hub here and here. I recently had the shifter mechanism replaced for my Nexus 3-speed and still I cannot get first gear.

There have been some improvements however as a result of this change. The gear changes are more consistent and there is not longer any “play” in the mechanism when I have selected fist gear. Previously, I would get third gear in either second or third gear position and that is no longer the case. I now get second gear in first and second gear position and third in third gear position. Also, the gears would sometimes spontaneously change and that no longer happens.

The adjustment is perfect, and I have tried different positions of the indicator in the adjustment window to see if it made any difference but it does not.At the suggestion of some readers on here I had considered getting an old vintage thumb shifter and adapting it but discarded that idea as it seemed there was no knowing whether they would be compatible.

The only thing I can think is that there is a problem with the hub itself since the shifter works and so does the cable and the indicator in the window. I see the bike shop about this again next week.

This entry was posted in Shimano Nexus 3-Speed, Speedwell, Vintage 1950s Speedwell, Vintage bikes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub problems

  1. Wayne Martin says:

    If you are doing this work yourself, be careful as sometimes you can make things worse and create new problems, you can also damage your warranty if you have any. Where I worked, we used to say to each other, ” fools rush in where wise men fear to tread “, meaning that we should read up and check on the workings of the object before we try to fix it. It would be interesting to see how the gears operate and change inside the hub.

    • Vicki says:

      The only work I am doing is adjusting the mechanism they refer to as the “bell crank”, Wayne, and I did not do that until a few weeks ago. The bike shop installed the new shifter and I have since adjusted the bell crank again but I don’t think that would void any warranty as it is a very simple adjustment. I paid for the replacement of the shifter too, parts and labour, so none of it was apparently under warranty, I am not sure of he warranty terms of the whole thing …

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    I don’t mean to upset you with my comments, I only meant it is best to check things out first. I just had a look on google and there are many trouble shooting and workshop manuals that can be looked at and show the internal workings of the hub gears, they are thorough and make interesting reading and maybe help? Best wishes.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Wayne, I will have a look but I am not very mechanical and can only do very basic things mechanically. I will see what the bike shop has to say this week.

  3. Pingback: Shimano Nexus 3-speed problems solved! | Bicycles in Newcastle

  4. eliotk says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I noticed this post from a Shimano 3-speed hub owner who is having trouble with shifting the hub into 1st gear. She replaced the shifter and has tried different adjustments but is still having trouble with it. If the cable is moving to the correct position, perhaps there is a problem in the hub? Maybe needs a cleaning and regreasing?

  5. badmother says:

    you are of course aware of the Yahoo group for IGH`s?

  6. I work at a shop that services a lot of IGH’s and this is actually a common problem. There are two lengths of Nexus 3 pushrods (that go into the hub) available. The shorter one, which is for 168mm length axles, and FW/roller brake hubs (175mm axles) is very difficult to find through distributors. The difference is less than 10mm, but it’s enough that the hub won’t function correctly. Chances are wherever you bought parts for it assumed that there is only one size, but their parts catalog usually just says “Nexus 3 pushrod”, and doesn’t indicate the length.

    The shorter one is 81.85mm long (Shimano part #Y 33R 98080) and the longer is 86.85mm long (Shimano part #Y 33S 98180). You can also do what I do whenever I can’t find the correct shorter length in a catalog:

    Get and older, solid (no spring) Nexus pushrod (don’t know the part number), and cut it down to the correct size. This makes ZERO difference in hub operation, is cheaper than the “correct” one, and doesn’t take two weeks to show up from wherever you ordered it from.

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you for this information Jonathan, this could have been the problem with the original hub which has now been replaced by the bike shop which installed it originally. I hope the new one functions better (so far it is working perfectly) but if there are any further problems with it, I can tell them about this information.

    • Ralph says:

      What an absolute gem piece of info!!
      My fault was first and third gear – no second. The hub came new with the wrong sized pushrod.
      See this chart

      Click to access 03%29%203%20speed%20push%20rod%20chart.pdf

      What is the difference between the spring type and solid type pushrod? Is the spring type to hold oil to stop it seizing in the axle? I’m going to try and cut 5mm off the end of my spring pushrod and see what happens.

  7. negril says:

    I recently purchased two used cruisers with nexus 3i hubs(from husband and wife). They both have shifting problems and more or less have to be held in the proper gear with the shifter. I tried adjusting both to no avail. I switched the complete shifter/cable mechanisms between the bikes because one looked like it had been previously replace, to no avail. Does this sound like an internal problem? Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Vicki says:

      I am not sure what the problem could be, maybe the shifter is broken, they only cost $20 to buy. My problem was resolved by the hub being replaced, but it had a different problem from yours.

  8. jeff says:

    if they have to be held in gear with the shifter, then the shifter isn’t working. there is no indexing mechanism inside the hub, only in the shifter.

    If the shift cable tension is properly adjusted but the hub doesn’t stay in the correct gear, it basically means the hub internals are broken. Shimano only offers a complete internal replacement, so finding the specific cause is merely educational and not really a solution to the problem.

    I have found the problems fall into two categories: (1) the clutch spring become damaged and jams between the axle and clutch which doesn’t allow the clutch to shift into first gear very well. and (2) some part of the internals break off and become lodged into the planetary gear mechanism which doesn’t allow the clutch to fully engage in third gear.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks for this information Jeff. It must have been the hub that was broken as eventually it was replaced for me. But the shifter had problems too and also had to be replaced.

  9. dave says:

    I am looking for a used Shimano nexus 3 gear hub 32 spoke holes

    • Vicki says:

      I do not know where you could get one dave but many people read this thread and one of them may be able to help you. If you are in Newcastle you could try the bike ecology centre, see the link at the right of this page.

  10. Francisco says:

    Hello. I have to fix a Shimano Nexus 3 because it makes awefull noise when braking. Do you have any tip how to do that?, or, why the hub makes that loud noise?.

  11. luiz cochi says:

    hi guays,
    I’m from Porto Velho, Rondonia, Brasil. (google it) And I bought a Nexus to set in a bike for urban use.
    If you guys are having prblems there at the first world, where things should work better, than you can imagine what kind of stuff im been since the bikeshop installed it and THEY DID not get me a propper adjustment. It was hell to make them fix it for me.
    and the shimano service here only acept racing or tracking bikes, instead of they shown the nexus 3,7 certificate at their wall.

    so tired of geting dumb and lost time with bike shop (it took 5 chances to them to make literally nothing), so i tried to adjust it by myself, and i realise it was just a cable tension, a very very dummy issue to setup. I was almost disbelief wih the hub, now im in disbelief with the service and support the bike shops here are dispending on people. And the Hub issue its just one of thousands ive been at bike services here. They almost treat you like shit if you dont have one of those tracking or speed bikes.

    So, for my troobleshoting i made a research of topics and foruns to get aproach to a fix, but they all seems very simple, basically showing how to put the shifter and the rod. I read the manual (they didnt even gave mine when i buy it, and no warranty) on shimano website and look for troublleshooting.

    Then i finally got it done, bymyself, while the guys heres was always saying things like the first coment. (instead of that they are doing shit on my bike).

    good luck for you all,
    *sorry for the bad english, im better in reading than tipping…

  12. luiz cochi says:

    i was having the exactly same trouble as you.

  13. Roemer Timbre says:

    Can I know what is the tension or force in pulling the wire to shift to next gear??

  14. Nana H says:

    A year ago I bought online a new 700c wheel with a Shimano Nexus 3 all spoked up and ready to roll (my first Shimano…have had a few Sturmeys). I recently put it on a 70’s Schwinn Traveler frame….nice fit. I now realize (from the exploded views on line) that the shift rod is missing. Question: is it just a plain steel rod cut square and ‘floating’ in the axle, or are the ends shaped somehow? A 9/64 inch drill bit shank fits well, or a #25 drill bit shank even nicer. I see length indicated in the discussions. Should it be mild steel or something better? Or…would 1/8 inch mild steel welding rod or 1/8 inch brass rod be sufficient?…even though loosy-goosy at that diameter.

    thanks, nana

  15. Scott McLeod says:

    For anyone who still has this issue, I solved it by moving the bellcrank unit out slightly, away from the hub. The bike shop had fitted it all the way in, meaning that the pushrod was pushing past first gear, even at lowest adjustment. Therefore, no amount of adjusting would find first gear.

  16. Dean says:

    The posts on push rod length were invaluable. On my Shimano Nexus 3 speed hub I had no third gear. I suspected a push rod problem but did not realize that there are two push rod lengths until I read Jonathan Mark Raspa’s post on the two different lengths of push rod. My gear hub had the 81.85 mm length rod, I cut a brass wire to length of 86.85 mm length and temporarily inserted it into my hub and reattached the Shimano shifter bell crank cover over hub/axle end. Works perfectly ! I now have all three gears available. I will order the 86.85 mm push rod. Thanks to the previous posts from Jonathan Mark Raspa (2012) and Ralph (2015) for the part numbers for each size. My Nexus hub needed this length rod to push the Nexus clutch over far enough inside the hub to engage the pawls for third gear (actually the ring gear). Another valuable web site for 3 speed hub information is Sheldon Brown’s web site at: A wonderful theory and explanation of how the internal 3 speed hub’s work. Thanks to all for the good posts and information.

  17. Vicki says:

    Just a long term follow up. This unit works perfectly still and I’ve been using it for years now. No problems since the hub was replaced. If I had my time over, though, I wouldn’t have bothered with a three speed hub, as the bike is really only good for riding on flats and slight inclines

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