Words by: Liam Woods
Did you open up your new DT Swiss hubs and realize that you now need a tool to service, swap, or upgrade your ratchet kit? Well it was news to me at first, so I am going to show you exactly how to upgrade your DT Swiss EXP hubs to the 54t ratchet kit and what you need to do it.
DT Swiss hubs are known to be one of the most bullet proof and reliable hubs you can get for your road or mountain bike, and the star ratchet system is one of the biggest reasons they're so impressive and easy to service. Well, after two decades of use, DT Swiss decided to change it up a little bit. The basics are still very much the same and the reliability we all love has only improved. The new DT Swiss EXP ratchet system involves fewer parts and a wider bearing stance on the axle, improving both durability and reliability. If you want to know more about the DT Swiss EXP hubs, check out our blog where we also built up a crazy cool Unno Dash with limited DT Swiss 240 EXP Oil Slick hubs.
There are two 54t ratchet upgrade kits to choose from. There is one that comes with just the ratchets, spring retainer ring and a lifetime supply of special grease (HU0461). Then there is another kit that comes with all that, plus two bearings (HU0472) (we'll get into why they include bearings below). So you choose one of those two kits, and then you will also need some tools. At a minimum, you need the DT Swiss Ratchet EXP Ring Drive Tool (TL1919) to remove the ratchet ring from the hub. You can also get the DT Swiss Ratchet EXP Bearing Tool (TL1918) to help the removal and installation of the bearing into the ratchet ring, or you can get the full DT Swiss EXP Tool Kit (TL0614) that includes all the tools needed. Now I know some of these are expensive so it may not be in the cards, but at minimum, if you are mechanically inclined, you can get by with just the Ratchet EXP Ring Tool. We think these tools are a great investment considering how long DT Swiss hubs last.
Time to talk shop. You want to know how to swap out your EXP ratchet kit, so below is a step by step instruction guide on how to get this done.
Get out your ratchet kit and see which one you got. Does it have bearings included? The process isn't much different, but if you do have bearings, you can skip a few steps further down (step 7 & 8). Otherwise just roll through the rest of the steps below.
As mentioned above, you will need a few specialty tools. If you are mechanically inclined and by chance have other bearing tools, you can get by with just the EXP Ratchet Ring Tool, but I think the EXP Bearing Tool is very helpful. I also choose to use a 10mm socket to get the bearings out of the ratchet ring. As you can see in the picture below, from left to right I have a 10mm socket, the EXP Bearing Tool, then EXP Ratchet Ring Tool and last is a DT Swiss drift tool that I like to use when possible to evenly apply pressure to a bearing when pressing it in. You will also need a hammer, and maybe some light grease, like Slick Honey, SRAM Butter, or any thin grease.
This next step is pretty easy. You should be able to pull off the end cap just by holding on to the freehub body by hand. If for some reason it's very tight you can get a pair of chain link pliers and a rag and use those to help you get it off. I like the chain link pliers as the rounded tip ends do not leave any tool marks.
Carefully slide off the freehub body. When doing so, take note of what is coming off with the freehub body. Most likely the spring retainer ring will be inside the freehub, so you will see an exposed spring and your ratchet ring. Remove the freehub body, the red spring retainer ring, the spring and the loose ratchet ring.
Once you have removed the parts above, pull off the red axle spacer from the axle, it might be a little slippery and hard to get off, so try to use a rag or towel to get some grip.
This is where you will need the EXT Ratchet Tool. You can either use the tool with a wrench and hold the wheel yourself, or put it on the ground, which is what I choose to do. You can even put the tool in a vise and then put the wheel onto the tool and spin the wheel to loosen the ratchet ring. Either way, carefully unthread the ratchet ring out of the hub.
*** This Is Where Things Might Be Different Depending On Which 54t Ratchet Kit You Have ***
Ratchet Kit (HU0472) or HWYXXX00N2543S includes two bearings, but you will only need one in order to do this swap. Ratchet kit (HU0461) or HWYXXX00N9376S do not include bearings, so you will need to re-use the current bearing that came out on your threaded ratchet ring.
To do so, it's best to have the DT Swiss bearing base (TL1918) or HXTXXX00N6106S, so you can safely rest the ratchet ring in this base to keep the ratchet safe from any damage. There is also a DT Swiss bearing tool that is made to punch out this bearing, but I don't have it and it's not included in the full DT Swiss EXP Tool Kit (TL0614) or HWTXXX00N2544S. So I like to use a 10mm deep socket. I found that this clears the tool interface on the ratchet ring and makes enough contact with the bearing to safely punch it out without damage. Use a soft face hammer if possible to soften the hits.
Left: DT Swiss 54t Ratchet kit Right: DT Swiss 36t Ratchet Kit
Now to grab your new 54t Ratchet Ring and start to press the bearing into that new threaded ratchet ring. Dt Swiss suggests to put the red side down, or facing outwards once installed, so the red should face the ratchet interface once installed. I also like to use the bearing base to place the ring into that to avoid damage and give you a solid surface to use. If you got the full EXP Kit, there is a short installation tool that is the perfect diameter for the bearing (HXTXXX00N5314S). I use this to hit with the hammer so it puts an even load on the bearing to reduce any damage. If you do not have the full kit or bearing base, place the ratchet ring onto a solid surface but put down a few paper towels, a rubber mat or anything to protect the ratchet interface. Carefully tap in the bearing into the ratchet ring with a soft face hammer, with small light hits going in circles around the edge of the bearing, leave the bearing about 1/3 of the way out of the ratchet ring, by doing this you will be able to press in the perfect distance for your hubs axle when threading in the EXP Ratchet ring.
Once the bearing is fully seated into the ratchet ring, you can thread in the new ratchet ring into the hub body. You can apply a very small amount of thin grease or special grease to the threads if you would like, but DT Swiss doesn’t specifically call out to use any grease on this part. Again, you can choose to thread in this ring with the tool and a wrench or put the tool into the vice. It's completely up to you and your setup or preference. You don't need to make this crazy tight because it will actually tighten up as you ride.
Apply a small amount of special grease to the ratchet interface. The container of special grease that is provided is about a lifetime amount of special grease. Also apply a little bit of thin grease to the axle.
Slide on the red axle spacer to the hub axle, which is pretty simple. You can add a very light amount of thin grease on top of the spacer as well, but isn't totally necessary.
Put the red spring retainer back into the freehub body, with the lip of the ring facing up, or once installed towards the hub.
Carefully put the spring into the freehub body making sure the spring sits on the retainer ring nicely and around the lip on the inside of the spring. Then carefully put the ratchet onto the spring.
Add a small amount of grease to the other ratchet ring and a little on the outside where it will sit into the freehub body.
Carefully take the freehub body that also has the spring retainer ring, the spring, and the other ratchet. When doing this, make sure that the parts stay in the right order and together. As you push the parts together, make sure the two ratchets make contact and that the spring compresses and you have the freehub ratchet sitting into the freehub.
I like to spin the freehub backwards before I put on the end cap to make sure everything feels like it is engaging and there aren’t any issues. You will want to apply some pressure toward the hub body when doing this to make sure the freehub body doesn't back off and things get out of order.
Pretty simple step here. Throw on the end cap, making sure to get it fully seated and that the freehub body gets pressed into place.
Spin the freehub body backwards and then forwards, make sure it engages and spins freely. Since you just removed and installed a bearing, spin the axle to make sure there is no play on the hub and freehub body.
Drink a beer, or participate in whatever relaxing activity you like to partake in. Throw the wheel on and get out and ride!
That wasn't so hard, right? While it is a bit more work than the previous version of the star ratchet kit, the benefit is totally worth it. By going with the 54t ratchet kit, you get a 6.66 degree engagement, which to me is worth it. DT Swiss hubs are solid, bullet proof and will last a long time, so not only did you just upgrade your ratchet kit but you also now know how to service your freehub easily.
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.