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  1. #1
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    Steel Frames and Rust

    Oh yes. I've never really thought about this problem before until I propped my bike up and watched some dirty water puddle onto the ground.

    I just bought this bike less than a month ago - a Schwinn Madison - but have been riding it extensively ever since. I commute between college and work every day, so it's definitely getting regular use. The crappy weather just kicked in (Bend, OR) recently: the first snow fell yesterday and it's been raining quite a bit as of late. Anyway, on to the technicals.

    After a little inspection I noticed some vent holes in the rear of the chainstays. I didn't look too much further, as that's where the water was coming out of, but I assume that that's where the water was entering. I assume that the rain could easily slope down either the chain or seatstays and leak into those holes, but there could obviously be some other entry point.

    I'm wondering how big of a deal this is. I did some reading online and came across two different viewpoints. 1: steel frames rust internally and must be protected somehow (e.g. coat the inner frame / plug the vent holes). 2: rusting isn't as common as they say. They just want you to buy their crap.

    What do you guys think? Do you have any experience with steel frames rusting?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Deanster04's Avatar
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    I have been riding steel frames for years. There is a product called Weigle's Framesaver. I use it on all my frames and it is a great rust inhibitor and coats the inside of the frame tubes. It truly works.
    1) Disassemble your bike down to the frame.
    2) Allow the frame to dry completely in a warm space.
    3) Warm up the frame and spray the Weigles' into the tubes (oh I almost forgot put plenty of newspapers on the floor of the basement or garage.
    4) Spray the Framesaver into the little holes on the stays and forks.
    5) Rotate the frame and fork aroung to ensure complete coverage.
    6) Wipe up the excess from the frame with the blue shop paper towels. You can spray a little WD-40 on the outside of the frame and this will help clean the Framesaver from the paint.
    7) Allow the Weigles' to dry.
    8) Wipe the threads with a rag wet with WD-40.
    9) Reassemble the bike.
    10) Go Riding in the Rain.
    If you are planning on riding in the rain a lot then take the frame to a machinist and have a hole drilled in the bottom bracket to allow the water that will get in the frame to leak out. If you don't you will have water sitting in the BB and allow rust to form.

  3. #3
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deanster04 View Post
    I have been riding steel frames for years. There is a product called Weigle's Framesaver. I use it on all my frames and it is a great rust inhibitor and coats the inside of the frame tubes. It truly works.
    1) Disassemble your bike down to the frame.
    2) Allow the frame to dry completely in a warm space.
    3) Warm up the frame and spray the Weigles' into the tubes (oh I almost forgot put plenty of newspapers on the floor of the basement or garage.
    4) Spray the Framesaver into the little holes on the stays and forks.
    5) Rotate the frame and fork aroung to ensure complete coverage.
    6) Wipe up the excess from the frame with the blue shop paper towels. You can spray a little WD-40 on the outside of the frame and this will help clean the Framesaver from the paint.
    7) Allow the Weigles' to dry.
    8) Wipe the threads with a rag wet with WD-40.
    9) Reassemble the bike.
    10) Go Riding in the Rain.
    If you are planning on riding in the rain a lot then take the frame to a machinist and have a hole drilled in the bottom bracket to allow the water that will get in the frame to leak out. If you don't you will have water sitting in the BB and allow rust to form.
    +1. I rode steel in BC for years. Follow this advice.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deanster04 View Post
    I have been riding steel frames for years. There is a product called Weigle's Framesaver. I use it on all my frames and it is a great rust inhibitor and coats the inside of the frame tubes. It truly works.
    1) Disassemble your bike down to the frame.
    2) Allow the frame to dry completely in a warm space.
    3) Warm up the frame and spray the Weigles' into the tubes (oh I almost forgot put plenty of newspapers on the floor of the basement or garage.
    4) Spray the Framesaver into the little holes on the stays and forks.
    5) Rotate the frame and fork aroung to ensure complete coverage.
    6) Wipe up the excess from the frame with the blue shop paper towels. You can spray a little WD-40 on the outside of the frame and this will help clean the Framesaver from the paint.
    7) Allow the Weigles' to dry.
    8) Wipe the threads with a rag wet with WD-40.
    9) Reassemble the bike.
    10) Go Riding in the Rain.
    If you are planning on riding in the rain a lot then take the frame to a machinist and have a hole drilled in the bottom bracket to allow the water that will get in the frame to leak out. If you don't you will have water sitting in the BB and allow rust to form.
    +2. This is an excellent summary of the technique. I have an '83 vintage Trek steel frame I use strictly as a rain/beater bike and treated it with HDMP (see below) several years ago. So far, after routine exposure to rain, salt and snow, the frame internals are still rust free and sound.

    BTW, there is a product available in auto parts and marine supply stores, Amsoil HDMP, that is exactly the same as Weigel's Framesaver. I assume Frame Saver is just repackaged HDMP. You get twice as much for less money and it may be easier to find.

  5. #5
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    I use Framesaver on my steel frames as well. I didn't on my first and the Toronto salt ate it alive after a year. One thing I wish I knew before using Framesaver was that it can stain your paint job if you are not careful. It faded a blue powdercoat on one frame when it dripped out during rotating. That coat of WD-40 near openings is a great idea. Good luck!

  6. #6
    affix pistol bayonets! mediccody's Avatar
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    Keeping the seat post, headset, and stem heavily greased is an additional piece of preventative maintenance if you want your steel frame to last forever.
    im in ur librariez.. holden ur caulfieldz!!1

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    now I read that Jobst Brandt suggested that this kind of rust-proofing was unnecessary...

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    As someone whose frame rusted from the inside out, I don't know if that's good advice. Maybe keeping water out with proper seals and grease is key, but once it gets in there, you better have something protecting your tubing.

  9. #9
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    well personally I file this in the "can't hurt" category. but sometimes the inside of the frame tubing is exceedingly difficult to get to. maybe next major service I might squirt something in the vent holes in my 925 and fill the holes with silicone.

  10. #10
    that bike nut BikingGrad80's Avatar
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    I just ride aluminum in the rain

  11. #11
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krash View Post
    well personally I file this in the "can't hurt" category. but sometimes the inside of the frame tubing is exceedingly difficult to get to. maybe next major service I might squirt something in the vent holes in my 925 and fill the holes with silicone.
    Don't plug the vent holes in your frame. This is a BAAAAD idea.

    The water doesn't come from an outside source, it is condensation from the air inside your frame. If you plug the vent holes, it will have no way to get out.

    I would also do as a previous poster suggested and get some holes drilled in the bottom of the BB shell to allow any moisture to run out.

    This will not only protect your frame but your BB as well.

  12. #12
    Klaatu..Verata..Necktie? genejockey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Dopolina View Post
    I would also do as a previous poster suggested and get some holes drilled in the bottom of the BB shell to allow any moisture to run out.

    This will not only protect your frame but your BB as well.
    Just make sure you remove the BB BEFORE you drill holes in the shell.....
    "Donít take life so seriousóit ainít nohow permanent."

  13. #13
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
    Just make sure you remove the BB BEFORE you drill holes in the shell.....
    good point.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for all of the advice, guys. I was at the LBS today and they did have some of that Frame Saver stuff. I think I might just go get some next time I'm in there. The only problem: it's already wet and I probably won't have the time to let my bike sit in a warm place... how effective do you think the stuff would be if I just sprayed it in there now? We're going to have at least a week of warmish weather, after which I could use it. This might be good enough to hold it off until spring, when I could do a better job.

    I've been told not to drill additional holes in the frame, though. Supposedly this only makes the problems worse and could void a warranty.

  15. #15
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splic View Post
    Thanks for all of the advice, guys. I was at the LBS today and they did have some of that Frame Saver stuff. I think I might just go get some next time I'm in there. The only problem: it's already wet and I probably won't have the time to let my bike sit in a warm place... how effective do you think the stuff would be if I just sprayed it in there now? We're going to have at least a week of warmish weather, after which I could use it. This might be good enough to hold it off until spring, when I could do a better job.

    I've been told not to drill additional holes in the frame, though. Supposedly this only makes the problems worse and could void a warranty.
    Disagree about making the problem worse, but warranty is certainly an issue.

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    If you really have no way of applying framesaver, you can achieve reasonable results with WD40. Drain out all the water you can and squirt into every vent and hole. WD40 does wash off when exposed to rain but inside the tube it leaves a rust-protective coating. My old steelie is shiney and rust free after many years of all-weather use. I have a small drain hole under the BB and the BB shell is an old fashioned lugged style, open to all the other tubes.
    Are welded BB shells drilled out or closed to the seat-tube and down-tube?

  17. #17
    Utility Cyclist Ian Freeman's Avatar
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    Has anyone here had an experience where they abused a steel bike with weather and had nothing go wrong? Say a frame that had no WD-40, framesaver, drain holes or anything and it's still riding fine after years of use?

    I just purchased a steel bike, but I'm reluctant to break it down just to spray the inside of the tubes with a coating because of all I've heard that rust isn't the problem people make it out to be.
    "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R. Tolkein

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Freeman View Post
    Has anyone here had an experience where they abused a steel bike with weather and had nothing go wrong? Say a frame that had no WD-40, framesaver, drain holes or anything and it's still riding fine after years of use?

    I just purchased a steel bike, but I'm reluctant to break it down just to spray the inside of the tubes with a coating because of all I've heard that rust isn't the problem people make it out to be.
    Lots of frames survive rust and abuse fairly well, particularly cheap frames with heavy, i.e. thick wall, tubing. However, internal protection is cheap, easy to apply and well worth the peace of mind it will give you years from now.

  19. #19
    Utility Cyclist Ian Freeman's Avatar
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    Hmm... I have thin-wall tubing. Peace of mind is something I'm a big fan of, I guess I should probably coat the tubes. Where did I leave my tools...
    "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R. Tolkein

  20. #20
    Senior Member Deanster04's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krash View Post
    now I read that Jobst Brandt suggested that this kind of rust-proofing was unnecessary...
    Mr. Brandt lives in Northern California and it is dry, warm, and they don't salt the roads...Not bad advice if you live there.

    Fine a hair dryer or heater and carefully dry the bike out before you apply the FS.
    Also, you can tape up the holes in the tubes and plug the big holes with paper before you rotate the frame to minimize the framesaver getting on the paint. Use WD-40 as a solvent and spray on a rag and wipe the exterior of the frame to prevent any damage to the paint.
    I have 2 thin walled bikes (Columbus Thermachrom and Neuron) as well as older SLX that I apply the FS to.
    Last edited by Deanster04; 10-23-07 at 09:06 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Nessism's Avatar
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    Water collecting in the frame is a VERY common problem if there is not a drain hole in the bottom bracket shell. Water usually gets in at the junction between the seat post and the frame.

    I strongly recommend drilling a hole in the bottom bracket shell as a way to let the water out. Many better frames come with holes from new (frankly, I don't understand why ALL frames don't have these holes).

    Use WD-40 in the frame if you don't want to go through the trouble of properly drying the frame and applying framesaver. Tape over the vent holes is fine as long as you have the hole in the BB to allow condensation to get out.
    Becareful buying/selling bike parts on-line. I learned the hard way. :(

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  22. #22
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    just one thing to add to the framesaver instructions (which you should get with your can anyways):

    don't forget to plug the tube ends in your frame with rags, paper towels, or newspaper before spraying. It'll get messy otherwise, and it'll keep the excess framesaver in there so you can slosh it around and coat the insides well.

    Also good to do in a well-ventilated area. aliphatic hydrocarbons.

  23. #23
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    At my LBS, there is a debate about using Framesaver or Boeshield T-9. They say something in Framesaver is enviro unfriendly and that Boeshield T-9 does the same thing and safer. (I bought Framesaver somewhere else)

    Have you heard of such a thing?

    knotty

  24. #24
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    no, but the framebuilder who used to work in my shop didn't like the T-9 so well as opposed to Framesaver/HDMP.

  25. #25
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I just bought a can of Framesaver, and as I recall the sheet that comes with it claims that their propellant is ozone friendly, at least from my fast read last night...

    Of course, I am not much of an alarmist when it comes to a one time treatment to a bike to make it last and keep it out of the land fill. I would be more concerned about the environmental impact of periodic maintenance items.

    Some people may assume that everything in an spray can is ecologically bad... and in some way, smaller containers always are slightly worse for the landfill...
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