Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Québec, Québec, Canada
Bikes: Fuji Touring 64cm, Peugeot Canada PB-18 61cm and winter beaters
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Before trying to adjust a derailleur, I always say: clean it up and oil it up. Use a rag and a toothbrush to get it as clean as possible; thread the rag through any openings and use a shoe-shine motion to clean up otherwise inaccessible areas. Once it's clean, oil it up - every moving point - and there are quite a few on a rear derailleur. The 8 pivots of the parallelogram - 4 corners on the front side of the derailleur, 4 corners on the back side. The big spring. The two rotating pivots - cage and frame attachment point. And, don't forget the two jockey wheels, which should be lubricated on both sides.
When in doubt, use more oil.
When you're all done with the oiling, move the derailleur around a bit to get the oil to penetrate where it should, and wipe off the excess oil.
Then you can get on with the adjusting.