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I'm Getting Sick of Hearing about WD40 as a Chain Lube

Discussion in 'Technical and Troubleshooting Torque' started by Tribos, Nov 22, 2008.

  1. Ok, So this WD-40 thing (1, 2, 3 (see OP 19), 4, 5 & 6) has been bugging me. Here are my 2 cents worth... my background is in Tribology - hence the name - I making a few educated guesses in the following, none of this is a recommendation. I could be off the mark, Tribology is a notoriously tricky subject; so moving on…

    BTW rings = o-ring/x-ring (me being lazy).

    On account of not being able to view the letter on the Yamaha forum I decided to get my own letter from WD-40, to do that I wrote the following:
    The reply was as follows [EDIT 24/11/08: YFZ forum is back up, turns out this is the exact same letter that was posted there!]:
    I don't know how this compares to the letter posted on the Yamaha Forum, butso far nothing to suggest that we are being hoaxed by those marketing gurus flogging us that expensive sticky/waxy stuff we spray all over our chains. Nothing to suggest that we should be using WD-40 as anything other than a potential chain cleaner either... but nice to ‘know’ it is safe with the rings. [Edit: please note the sarcasm used here: 'know' (thanks)]

    I retract my previous post and concede that using WD-40 as a cleaning agent is probably no different to using kero, or most of the chain cleaners out there. However, I would not use WD-40 if I thought the rings were worn, hopefully the reason becomes apparent, rather I would clean the chain more thoroughly with kero.

    In terms of a lubricant... I would suggest that anyone who thinks they are actually using WD-40 as a lubricant is probably kidding themselves. The primary lubricant is the grease packed behind ya rings.

    If the grease behind the rings gets contaminated then your chain will be in serious trouble unless (of course) the grease is replaced (or has a supply of) something that can handle the tribological (friction, wear, lubrication) conditions & requirements imposed on the chain. I doubt WD-40 will suffice.

    Reason ? Lubricants do more than we generally realise. They distribute load, remove heat, and importantly separate surfaces (even under concentrated, peak loads). This is how friction and wear are reduced. I expect that specially formulated chain lubes contain EP (extreme pressure) additives developed for intense loading. I imagine that these types of lubricants would also be useful for the teeth on your sprockets and the out-side surface of your chain rollers. Same applies with gear oil metered to the chain (e.g. using a ScottOiler).

    At best, applying WD-40 to a chain probably helps remove any 3rd body debris from between the plates which, I imaging, would help the rings. Important to realise that WD-40 is not 'protecting' the rings per-se, but removing things that could damage the rings. WD-40 probably provides some degree of protection to the rubbing of inner and outer chain links (i.e. the plates) as it forms a thin surface barrier on the metal; but I would not be very confident of WD-40's ability to protect the interface between the chain link (i.e. the plate) and the pin from wear. It is my understanding that lengthening of a chain is caused by wear at these interfaces (and is commonly, although erroneously referred to as 'stretching'). To protect these surfaces you'll need a proper lubricant.

    I'd love to do a full blown study on this (but that ain't gonna happen anytime soon), if I were to bet on the outcome I reckon:

    1. keeping your chain clean and oiled with WD-40 might prolong the life of your rings by removing abrasive particles that might otherwise wear out the rings. Thus you keep the chain in reasonable condition - not sure how the sprocket might wear. But as soon as your rings get damaged you'd be in trouble. Would be interesting to see how long the chain lasts (but not on my bike). It is the grease behind the rings keeping the chain live - not sure about sprocket wear…

    2. keeping your chain clean (with WD-40 or other) and lubricated with a specially formulated lubricant would give you long life (by removing grit, abrasives) and the lube would kick in when the rings eventually die (i.e. by working its way into the rollers). Let the cleaning agent dry prior to applying your lube of choice.

    3. putting heaps of chain lube could (depending on your riding, frequency of cleaning etc.) trap grit, dirt etc. which might prematurely wear out all parts of the chain... but keep it running for a fairly long time

    4. the more I think about it the more I like the idea of a metered lubricant to the chain. A light oil with the appropriate EP additives cleans and lubricates on the go (yep the nasty abrasives are flushed out as you ride, nothing tacky to hold them there). When the rings eventually die the oil replaces the grease and the chain keeps running. Keep an eye on ya delivery nozzle though!

    I’m guessing that at some point the rings will wear out on any chain. When that happens cleaning the chain risks dissolving/diluting the lubricant behind the rings (where it is needed most). Before your rings wear out a frequent light clean of the chain would be beneficial. I’d say there’s a catch though… it might be hard to tell when your rings are starting to wear and the act of a light clean potentially doing more harm than good. Reconsider ‘4’ above. If cleaning with worn rings I reckon I would :

    clean thoroughly (completely flush with kero to get all the grease out) whenever required, allow to dry (and I mean dry), lube and re-lube when chain is warm

    Cheers, Steve

    Oh, and remember the wetter it gets, the more lube ya need :LOL:

    PS Hope the links help:
    http://www.renold.com.au/renausnz/w...ChainSprockets/TransmissionChainIndexPage.asp (see Installation & maintenance pdf)
  2. Interesting post Steve !
    I replaced my chain & sprockets about 12 months ago.
    I religiously clean/lube my chain fortnightly ( prob not often enough)
    14,000k later I find the chain is almost due for replacement. :shock:
    ( thought it'd last longer )
    Starting to think that all that daily commuting ( more so in the wet ), has contributed to it wearing by not having a waterdisplacing agent on the o-rings and perhaps collecting tiny debris on a sticky chain. :?
    Interested in other's thoughts ...
  3. Easy solution VCM, don't clean your chain. Seriously. The only time I have ever cleaned a chain is when my bike had to pass quarantine inspection when I shipped it to NZ and back. Other than that I NEVER clean them, and on my mothers dying oath, I swear I get a minimum of 30,000kms out of them. And I re use the rear sprocket as well. The front sprocket gets changed with the chain but thats it. I only ever use O ring chain, DID mainly, bought on special for round $100 and whatever chain lube is cheap. The thinner and less sticky the better. Lube after every couple of tanks and Bobs your mothers brother. Works for me :grin:
  4. VCM, what constitutes a clean???

    I'm still on an OEM chain, 46000km... this chain had 16000km of use before me and is a little sloppier than the chain on my other bike, same kilometres, which I had from new... and that bike had track day (ab)use too.

    Chain maintenance is just one of the factors. How the power gets into the chain is another aspect. On/off throttle use will kill a chain faster than gradual roll ons.

    Anyway, if you're handy with the tools like Roarin and Loz, and want to avoid getting down on your knees with a tooth brush, kero and rag (or the Motul chain cleaner) from time to time, regular replacement is the way to go.

    Tribos, I'm of the opinion that WD40 is not a good lubricant for chains, because it is too thin. If it's used after and during a ride it might be Ok, but if there's any chance it can penetrate behind the O ring and wash out/degrade the good lube with thin crap that readily weathers off with heat... then that would be the start of the end for the chain.
  5. +1 to that

    yep one chain and sprocket set per year for me too, average about 40k a year, and i ride down a dirt road everyday :shock: lubing before big rides or every couple of weeks/when i remember, normally by the time i replace the chain it's shagged but meh....
  6. I'm no scientist but I've seen what WD40 does to rubber and won't recommend it to go anywhere near any rubber on the bike.

    For years I've given a little squirt into the handlebar switch gear and any key-holes/locks before washing, never had an issue with those items, with the chain I only ever lubed it with recommended chain lubes and never cleaned them/washed them, can't remember any issues.

    Once upon a time I worked in a 4x4 shop and tested all sorts of lubricants on the rubber suspension components .. the only one that made (real)rubber seize up quicker than any other was WD40 it does something to it and breaks it down as if it rots/melts especially when friction/heat is applied.. it was worse on synthetic bushes....

    thats my experience and 2c worth... :grin:
  7. :shock:
    I know it may work for you, but I'd find it hard not to
    ...that's just me I guess.
    :LOL: @ "Bobs your mothers brother"

    I usually spray it with degreaser, hose it off & air blow it before applying chain wax at least one a month. Every other fortnight it get chain wax.
    I have noticed a 'rusty' coloured reside on the chain & sprockets lately .. be fcuked if I know what that is. :?

    I gotta be doing something wrong :cry:
    Damn you guys are getting good mileage from your chains!

    You reminded me of the time I was an apprentice. One of the mechanics topped up the brake Master Cyl in a clients car with 'CRC' - similar to WD40 , He used the wrong drum by mistake to fill the brake fluid bottle :p
    Needless to say, the client returned the next 2 days with ZERO brakes. It destroyed all the rubber Cups & Seals.
  8. Get a chainsaw ( no wood cutting required )empty the chain oil res (wash it out with petrol )and fill it with WD40 run it and see how fast your chain nips up against the Bar and stuffs it ,WB40 wont handle the friction heat and flings off so fast it doesnt even make it one rotation...Then soak the chain in a good chain lube and do it again if you dont cut with it it will last longer than the fuel ....I know I had to much time on my hands in a quiet country Bike / mower shop, drought in full swing, no grass ,no mowers, no bikes, farmers broke and I Had to do something to pass the time.. :roll:

    And that rusty color is rust dont use degreaser and water and blowing it off only blows it into the rollers ...Claen with a chain cleaner or kero or even light oil ..Degreaser is acidic or caustic it will pit the metal then add water and presto rust ,chain wear and all the new lube is doing is holding the water and rust in ...All degreaser is good for is filling a spot on a auto shops shelves..They dont put degreaser in a kero bath for a reason ..
  9. WD-40 was made popular in the 60s by the Leyland Mini and its family of cars, which featured a side-mounted radiator, and a distributor (Lucas, of course) mounted right at the right place in front of the motor to cop any spalshes of water from the road, or passing cars. Every Mini/1100 owner carried a can with him/her, and was used to the ritual of spraying the dizzy and plug leads and praying that the car would start again.

    IMO, that's ALL WD-40 should be used for, because that and loosening rusted nuts and bolts is what it was designed for.
  10. I remember the days when alot of Minis had a plastic bag tied around the dizzy. :LOL:
  11. VCM, dump the chain wax. Get a good penetrating chain lube like motul road or something similar. You won't go back to the old stuff. Trust me.
  12. Thx Travis ! makes sense where that rusty residue has come from now.
    It's kero or chain cleaner from now on.
    Rob: I'll go get some Motul Road tommorrow ... I already use Motul Engine oil, why not the good chain lube too :wink:
  13. Won't hurt to pick up some Motul Chain Clean too.
  14. The response from custormer service is all you need to know, end of story, WD40 will not hurt your 'O'ring chain.

    It does a nice job of cleaning it, doesn't hurt the 'O'rings, they are most likely viton anyhow, not rubber that would just be silly wouldn't it.

    WD40 is very good to aid in the fitting of new handlebar grips because, unlike viton, they are affected by solvents, so when you spray it on it helps them slide into place but after a short time it actually glues them to the bars. (learnt this from Mr. Smith of 'two wheels' fame.)
  15. Um - not so sure about that... letter in OP states that rings will not dry-out, there are other ways the rings could be harmed, swelling, soften, degraded. Letter was also careful to distinguish between a light spray and a soaking... I put know like this --> 'know' for a reason...

    Agree that Viton is the probable material - currently trawling through patents to find out. Plan is to do a few simple tests with various ring materials to see if there is any evidence of swelling.

    I don't think for a minute that the good people at WD-40 have put a lot of effort into testing on motorcycle chains, I think they would be scratching their heads at why the question was even asked.
  16. Thanks... So new chain every 14k on a 250? Something wrong there. Can I ask why you need to replace the chain? Has it stiffened up or just worn excessively (as evidenced by becoming longer)?

    I commute daily on the bird, I'm not that easy on the starting and stopping (I probably engine break more than I should) so the chain gets a pretty good workout. I replaced at ~30k due to 1/5th of the links being stiff.
  17. Totally agree and probably remiss of me not to mention that. However the thread purpose is really to help people understand why using WD-40 is not the best idea. With my new chain I took measures to attempt to run it in to promote uniform initial wear... (not for this thread, until it goes off the rails later).

    Rob, I think I can see where you are coming from, but I reckon if you were to use WD-40 before and after a ride you'd be doing the most amount of damage.

    • Consider putting WD-40 on immediately before a ride, the rings get a work-out... will the WD-40 get past them?

      What about the end of the ride, immediately after - the chain is hot... will there be any sucking of WD-40 past the rings on cooling?

    I'm looking for more info - THIS is interesting. [Edit: Some documents of this type are known to contain deliberate inaccuracies, read with caution!]

    I'm not sure what additives are put into the sticky/waxy sprays but I'm quite sure that (rings aside) even a continual feed of WD-40 onto the chain during use will not see it live a long (by your 45k+) time.

    Yeah, but (and I almost can't believe I'm saying this) Viton (which is probably what the rings are made of) is no ordinary rubber...

    OK - I figured out why I said that ^^^^^^^^^ I happen to be a scientist and it is important to report the facts and not jump to conclusions. I don't mind being proven wrong in my assumptions (read guesses above).

    When I saw "Get a chainsaw" I was thinking what the hell!!! - but that's a great analogy. Did you really get that bored!? Still would like to make the point that stresses on a chainsaw chain that is NOT cutting are much lower than a bike on the go. Cheers :)

    +1 No Degreaser, unless.... to be fair is there an unless? Personally I don't see the need for it. Kero works just fine. But what if you don't leave it on too long? Nah fcuk it - forget the degreaser...


  18. I seem to have to adjust the chain alot more frequently the last few months, it's almost at the end of the indicators.
    This is the 'rusty' residue I was talking about:

  19. Hi VCM - that chain looks shocking...

    Note to all - please don't post a million pics of what a good/clean chain should look like.

    Having to adjust frequently may be a sign that the chain is on the way out again. Here is a typical graph representing wear-life.

    It shows initial slope up is running in, then steady state, then rapid wear to failure. I'm guessing that it is more or less (or exactly) applicable to MC chains of all descriptions.


    [Edit - Changed image hosting]
  20. Rust from degrease and water ..And is that a chain link I see ???? I cant beleave it hasnt come adrift and sent you sky wards ..
    Anyone else have an opinion on chain links on road bike ,well any bike ..

    And that degreaser works really well NOT you have enough lube build up you could nearly call it a scot oiler.. :LOL: