It’s Okay to Use WD-40 on Your Bike Chain… Seriously!

wd-40 can be used as a bicycle chain lube, just be careful where you point it

“The Evil WD-40 wants to kill your drive train.” Really?

How dare I!  There is no way that I am going to get away with this, but I’m going to do it anyways.  I am going to tell everyone I can that there is nothing wrong with using WD-40 on their bicycle chains.

Blasphemy, you say?

Well, hear me out first.

I am not a quack, or snake oil salesman.  I happen to be an experienced bike tech, with 6 years of full-time shop employment, and many more years before that I was a home mechanic in my garage.   And although I am still young, I have seen a lot of worn out drive-trains.  I been with many of them from their installation, through their subsequent maintenance, as well as their eventual replacement.  From birth to death, if you will.  I know the character of the owners, I know how much they ride, and I know what they ride through.  I also know what they lube their chains with, as they buy it at our shop.  Most of the time, their chains are well cared for with regular applications of expensive, bicycle specific chain lubes.

Now, I have no evidence to back up the claims that I am about to make.  Nor do I know anything about the chemistry or physics behind the use of lubrication and moving parts.  I can only offer you anecdotal evidence of some things that I have observed.

WD-40 will NOT hurt your drive train, and it IS a lubricant. And a fairly good one at that!

I have been mountain biking for 17 years, and I have done a lot of hard riding, in many different conditions, and I have a confession to make.  I lube my chain with WD-40.  You will not hear to many of your local bike shop employees share this with you.  I’m sure that you have been told at some time that putting WD-40 doesn’t do anything for your bike chain, or that WD-40 isn’t a lubricant, or worse yet, that putting WD-40 on your chain will actually make it worse!  I am writing this to tell you that all three of these  statements are untrue.  I hope you will believe me when I tell you that my drive trains last as long as, if not longer than, most people’s, despite the fact that WD-40 is just about the only thing that ever touches my chain.

 

If only you could see through all the diry, you would see that this chain has been well oiledIn fact, if you buy the chain oil sold at your local bike shop, than there is one thing I can say for sure:  My bike’s chain is cleaner than yours is right now!  A clean chain and cassette runs much smoother, and lasts much longer, than a dirty one.  Give me a spotlessly clean chain, no matter how dry it is, over that oily black dirty thing on your bike any day.  Not that my chain is running dry.  WD-40 provides enough lubrication to last longer than my average ride.  By my estimations, in dry conditions, it will keep my chain running quiet and smooth for about 8 – 12 hours of riding.  For me that means I need to re-apply it about once every three or four rides.  There is no mistaking the sound of a dry chain, and at that time I simply give it a spray, wipe it off really good with a rag, and Presto!  Ready to go for a few more days!

Still don’t believe me?  Check out the ingredients in the can.  The stuff is mostly oil.  If you don’t believe that WD-40 can be used as a lubricant, spray some on your fingers and rub them together.  Slippery, eh!?

 

tri-flow, pedro's and finishline cost about 10 times as much as a can of wd40

Ounce for ounce, these products cost about 10 times as much as WD-40. Do they make your drive train last 10 times longer?The only way to undo the years of brainwashing by the anti WD-40 brigade is to try it out for yourself.  Next time you replace your drive-train, give America’s most trusted blue, yellow and red can a shot.  You really have nothing to loose.  The money you save on Tri-Flow and Pedro’s will be almost enough to buy you another chain and cassette if everything goes horribly wrong (which it won’t, of course.)

Just some things to remember if you are planning to take part in WD-40′s magic:

1) DO NOT ever point that thing any where near your brake caliper, rotor, rim or hub bearings, it will wreck them all!  You don’t have to hit your bike with the sprayer at full blast.  Keep it easy on the trigger finger and just let a little trickle out onto the chain. (It does require a soft touch!)

2) It is okay to use it on your derailleurs to keep the bushings clean and moving freely, but don’t put it in your rear derailleur pulleys if they contain sealed bearings (a la SRAM X0/X9)

3) And finally, if you are going out for a ride in the rain and muck, than bring a small bottle of synthetic chain oil (Tri-Flow is my personal fave) just incase.  The one downside of WD-40 is that it does tend to wash off quickly in really, really, wet situations.  But doesn’t anything?  (Please don’t say Phils Oil!  That stuff is way too clingy!)

Let me hear what you think about  WD-40 in the comments, I’m really curious.

21 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Use WD-40 on Your Bike Chain… Seriously!

  1. I’ve tried a few lubes over the years, mostly used white lightning… still do, but In these nasty winter months it sure is nice to just hose the chain down with WD (it has excellent cleaning properties,) run it through a rag for a while and go again.

    Time is money, and if you don’t have a kings ransom tied up in your chain, rings, and cassette it’s much more economical to save time and just replace the parts once in a while.

    • True That! If I was running XTR stuff, I might think a little more before rocking the WD-40, but for my current needs, the stuff works more than good enough!
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Marvel’s mystery air tool oil is the best lube I ever experienced.
    Light enough to penetrate all parts of a bike chain.
    Keeps your chain clean after 100+ miles.
    Makes your chain silent.
    Makes shifting a dream.
    $15 for a life time supply

  3. I have used WD40 as a chain lubricant for 15 years. I find it lasts longer on the chain than most products. I usually apply one drop per roller and my chains last an average of 8,000 miles on a 9 cassette and 6,000 miles on a 10 cassette.

  4. ah uze WD and it iz grate!
    Bought a dry lube recently… does nuffin’ no dirt or sand comes off the chain…
    Anyway’ would you in bike land fix an old mtb because it needs cranks,chain,cogs to value around $150 (it’s a great GIANT no rust etc) OR would you just spend an extra amount for a new gen mtb?
    Hey friend, I’ll work for ya!
    @$23.00 an hour (an I’ll be your best friend!)

  5. I owned a shop for ten years and have ridden for 40. Customers always got the recommended lubes, or what they asked for…me Wd40 all the time. Drive train, pivot points, and some on a rag for a general wipedown. Never on brakes or bearing area. All the mechanics used it…just never mentioned it to the elitists who would scoff at putting common wd on their Italian ride. Good post!

  6. Yep, it’s what I use nearly all the time. As you say, it’s a good cleaner, too. I used a heavier duty lubricant last time I knew the roads were wet and the result was a drive chain choked with gunk.
    Still, it came off easily with WD40.

  7. WD 40 has been around a long time. It has only minor lube qualities. Yeah, I used it in the sixties. It has tremendous coating qualities. Those expensive chain lubes that cling are not good because they cling the grains of stones also. WD cleans these things out. Do I use WD 40 on my chains? No! I have some GO 90 left over from a repair on my truck rear. Does not smell elite, but has good lube qualities. Does not last for hours but as a CX rider it serves my purpose. Use it on my roadies too.

  8. Hi, a friend of mine who used to be a helicopter mechanic in the Singapore Armed Forces told me that they use WD40 for everything from rusty bolts and nuts to rotorblades. So, I went to spray it on every moving joint including the bearings!

    What should I do now?

    Appreciate your advice.

    • The danger of WD-40 being sprayed on your bearings is that if it gets past the seals, it will start to dissolve the grease they are packed with. There’s not much you can do now but give the bike a good wash and be careful not to spray them anymore. It’s not likely to do anything noticeable in the suspension pivots, but might shorten their life a little. If you sprayed the hubs and they have serviceable bearings(eg. Shimano) than it might be wise to have them cleaned and re-packed with grease. If you got it on disc brake pads, they will need to be replaced. I haven’t damaged things like shifters or derailleurs with WD40 myself, but some rear derailleurs now come with sealed bearings in the pulleys which won’t like being hit with the stuff.

  9. If you look at Wikipedia for WD-40, it tells much of the history and helps to explain what it does. The “WD” designation is for “Water dispersant’ – getting rid of water. The “40″ merely means it’s the 40th attempt at finding a solution that worked. WD-40 is mostly fish oil. I don’t think they divulge which type of fish. Maybe it’s a combination of several types. That it has oil, agreeably a light oil, and it’s made to get water out of small places is all we need to know. It works well and needs frequent re-application. I’m fine with it for short rides when I can re-apply. On a long tour, I have to have something that stays on better.
    Thanks for a good write up and a nice conversation about such an important topic.

  10. Years ago I accidentally found one big shortcoming to WD-40, after using it to penetrate and loosen the headset races pressed into a steel frame. As a penetrating oil, it worked only too well, and crept quite a ways under the adjoining paint; the paint never softened but instead flaked away, over several months, farther and farther from the point where the oil had been applied.
    No one here seems to have any solid background in either chemistry or particularly lubrication technology. Waxes work a bit like graphite which is just like Moly disulphide, by creating a platelike film that slips across other layers. There are many oils that bond to metals, and many superior anti-corrosion additives which might be added to a base of paraffin for far better all-around performance than PTFE/Slick 50, et al which have been essentially de-bunked for years, because teflon simply slides off the surface you’re trying to protect, and is inert in any carrier/wax/oil/solvent! Last, since paraffin is soluble in cheap naptha (otc in most hardware stores=Coleman stove fuel) one should be able to either bypass entirely the melting step by mixing whatever combo and letting the naptha evaporate overnight. One pitfall, though, is that as with motor oil additives, sometimes they break down or compromise the molecular properties of the others, which is why straight brand-name oils last and work better than many with otc additives tossed in randomly.

  11. Pingback: Rand Momentum Nano Cleaner and Lube | BikeFAT

  12. I see that most of the bike shops now handle WD-40 Bike. Is this just the same old WD-40 packaged differently and with a new name and a higher price to compete with the other lubricants in the shop or is it really that much better than the WD-40 you can already pick-up almost everywhere for lubricating your chain?

  13. It’s good to see someone else advocate for something I have known for many years. Yes, there is a huge stigma against WD-40 and I’ve seen many riders turn up their noses. Perhaps for no reason other than the fact that it doesn’t cost a fortune.

    I’ve used everything on the market for chain lube. Fact is, WD-40 does an excellent job of removing grit and grime, displacing water, and applying a light coat of oil with just the right viscosity. If you wipe the chain with a rag after applying a bead of WD-40, it will shine and perform like new.

    While it does act as a solvent when first applied, those volatile compounds evaporate quickly leaving just a light oil coating behind.

    Thanks for the post!

  14. I didn’t realize wd40 was a lubricant – thought it was just a solvent. The guy at the shop told me to flip the bike, spray it continuously on the chain and let the gunk dribble off, spray the gears using a brush, and voila. Lately, I’ve been using it to fill the basin on a chain cleaner. After, I use a bike lube. Unnecessary, huh?

    • There is a light lubricant left behind after it dries. Just use your fingers and feel it for yourself! It’ll keep your chain quiet for a few hours of riding at least, depending on conditions of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>