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  1. #1
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    Homemade Chain Lube

    Just wondering if anyone knows how to make some Chain Lube? I am currently in India and I have asked around a few places and no one has chain lube, but there must be 500 million bicycles in India, so they have to use something. Just wondering if anyone has some tips of what to do.

    I have heard a 3:1 ratio of mineral spirits to motor oil will work. I can just imagine myself now asking for mineral spirits here and getting a head wobble (those who have been here will know what that is like). Can I use paint thinner? Should I use another de-greaser? What kind of oil (is 10-30 fine, or is there something better)?

    If someone knows of one that works well in dry weather (it shouldn't rain for at least another 2 months) that would be great. There is a lot of dust here and having a lube that picks up everything isn't the greatest (however I am close to being desperate and will take any lube soon).

    Any help would be appreciated, and I thank you in advance.

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    This may be dumb, but can you get Dupont Teflon MultiUse spray there?
    I use it on almost everything, and it's great stuff.

    http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?actio...9963-D00110101
    Old Man Maine

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Motor oil by itself isn't all that bad.

    Paraffin wax works OK in dry climates. It requires removing the chain and putting it in a can or pot of melted wax. Fish the chain out with a wire and hang it so the excess drips off before it cools. Way back in the day I used to do all my chains this way. Needs very frequent treatment in wet weather though.

    I would use "real" chain lube if you can get it, but 40 years ago either of the two things I mentioned were pretty commonly used.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    Just wondering if anyone knows how to make some Chain Lube? I am currently in India and I have asked around a few places and no one has chain lube, but there must be 500 million bicycles in India, so they have to use something. Just wondering if anyone has some tips of what to do.

    I have heard a 3:1 ratio of mineral spirits to motor oil will work. I can just imagine myself now asking for mineral spirits here and getting a head wobble (those who have been here will know what that is like). Can I use paint thinner? Should I use another de-greaser? What kind of oil (is 10-30 fine, or is there something better)?

    If someone knows of one that works well in dry weather (it shouldn't rain for at least another 2 months) that would be great. There is a lot of dust here and having a lube that picks up everything isn't the greatest (however I am close to being desperate and will take any lube soon).

    Any help would be appreciated, and I thank you in advance.
    I've used DIY lube for years, after trying all the expensive mainstream lubes.

    I mix 1 part motor (automobile) oil to 5-10 parts paint thinner aka mineral spirits. I use an old White-Lightning lube bottle to drip-dispense, carefully control volume. No point in making a mess or wasting material.

    This lube mix is heavy on solvent for a reason: I carefully drip lube onto the top of lower chain run, with rag/paper towel below to catch run off. Do one little section at a time until full chain length cleaned and lubed. This CLEANS the chain, which is at least as important as preventing rust and reducing friction on the resulting clean chain. This works so well (clean / lube in one step) that I never have to actually clean the chain as a separate maintenance operation.

    Since this mixture is mostly solvent, it evaporates, leaving a thin film of oil. If you lube 2-3 days before riding the chain is drier and noisier than if you ride the morning after lubing. So, this is a relatively short-lived lube. To me this is a non-issue since I lube/pump/inspect before each ride.

    The solvent by itself imparts some friction-reduction, but it works better with oil added. The oil will coat better, evaporate much slower and greatly ****** (how funny r e t a r d is prohibited) corrosion rate of the chain surfaces.

    Breathing paint thinner is a bad idea. You must store bike outdoors (not in room where you sleep) if you use this lube regularly. Otherwise lube just before riding - by days end it's pretty much dry again.

    It's flammable too. No smoking.

    Heavy rain will wash the lube out of the chain faster, just like all other commercial bike lubes.

    Increasing oil in the mix naturally puts more oil onto chain - this may last longer, and it may attract more dust since oil usually seems to capture dirt better than solvent (which evaporates much faster).

    I've tried a few different motor oils, and it didn't seem to affect performance one way or another. I've even tried used motor oil. The amount of oil and solvent used in a month is very small; this will make it difficult for you to buy and store. A pint of paint thinner should last for months. You could use virtually any motor oil from 5W to 30W viscosity. Maybe you could use the excess paint thinner for cooking fuel - or sell/barter to someone for food.
    Last edited by seeker333; 01-16-09 at 01:32 PM.

  5. #5
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    Motor car oil, 10W-30 grade works fine. You will likely find oil bottles or cans on the side of the road, or if not, at a petrol/fuel/gas station. Take off the cap, check that the oil remaining in the container is new, pour into the cap, and apply a drop at a time to each roller.

    Otherwise, just buy a small squeeze plastic bottle with a relatively fine nozzle, get some engine oil, fill the bottle and carry it with you. A 100ml bottle should do you for a year or longer.

    I use that grade engine oil on all my bikes and have done for years, including go-fast bikes. I ride bad gravel roads every day on my commuter bike that uses a second-hand 7sp chain and is getting close to having done 6,000km with that same chain, without a clean, and with application of the oil from a eye-drops bottle when the chain gets chattery. (It's an experiment in progress and I'm expecting to get 10,000km from it)

    Doing anything else is a waste of time, energy and money, in my opinion.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Best thing to use *if* they have it in a third world country is Bar and Chain oil. It's made for chain saws. In the US, available in about any hardware store and cheap. After that, just straight weight 30w oil also works well.

    -R

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    Thanks for the reply. It looks engine oil will work in a pinch (just be careful to apply it to every roller), but I am going to try the 1:5-10 ratio of oil to thinner. Thanks a lot.

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    This formula is suppose to be similar to Prolink, which is one of the best chain lubes: 3 parts mineral spirits to 1 part Mobil 15 w 50. Lots cheaper.

  9. #9
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    I've used airtool oil with out any problems. comes in a handy size with a push down spout.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    Thanks for the reply. It looks engine oil will work in a pinch (just be careful to apply it to every roller), but I am going to try the 1:5-10 ratio of oil to thinner. Thanks a lot.
    Yep. Mineral spirits works best but paint thinner is ok. You want to keep that ratio more along the lines of 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 parts oil to mineral spirits.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  11. #11
    Kaffee Nazi danarnold's Avatar
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    From Yahoo:

    "Synthetic motor oil now days is certainly thin enough for chain use. the molecular structure of synthetic oil is fantastic and is great at what it is designed to do - resist high sheer loads in an engine. That is all it is really good for. On a chain you do not have sheer but rotational friction inside the roller at the pin. That is actually the only place that the lubrication is necessary. The very reason why chain lubricants are made to penetrate is the outside needs no lubrication.

    You don't want to use motor oil because it will:
    1. Sling off the chain as it it made to film off of parts and be pumped though a filter and back into engine parts. Engineers worked really hard to make it perfect for that job.
    2. Attract dirt. Another property that those good petroleum engineers did was make a product that carries the contaminants to the filter. Bikes don't of course have that filter so the gritty material will wear your chain and gears.
    3. It is wash out resistant. Good for resisting rain, but it resists mild chain cleaners too. Oh, you can cut it, but usually to remove it all you need a solvent not detergent.

    The types of products you want for a chain:
    1. Wax based "dry" lubricant. This is a modern formulation of a wax made to emulate paraffin that used to be melted onto chains. This new chemical mix is a carrying solvent and wax that penetrates where you need it and the solvent evaporates leaving the wax behind to do the lubrication. Since wax is dry no attraction of dirt. Wax is also very water proof so it's good in the rain. Draw back is that this formula is the hardest to clean off a chain, and your chain had to be thoroughly cleaned of any petroleum before using. It won't stick to the metal of the chain with a petroleum film in the way. Read the label.
    2. Dry Teflon Lube. Very good lubrication as Teflon is the slipperiest substance known. It works with a carrying agent just like the wax. It is a bit wetter as the carrier has a light oil to try to keep the Teflon in place as Teflon itself is transferable. Too slippery to stay on it's own when not baked on like a frying pan. Teflon as a lubricant is like tiny micron sized bearings and they are in the plastic family. They wont break down in water but can be flushed out easily with detergents that break down the carrying oil.
    3. Wet lubes. Think of them as just better oil for the task than motor oil. They still attract dirt and need more cleaning. Water resistant to rain and actually the best choice in the rain, as long as you know you will have a cleaning job when you are done in the rain.
    4. New tech ceramic impregnated lube. This is the new twist on the wax and Teflon. A carrier bring ceramic powder that burnishes onto the metal. It takes a couple applications to get it right with break in riding in between. (read the label) It promises to be the best of all words -- if it works.
    Source(s):
    29 years in the Specialty Maintenance Chemical industry. We make the stuff."
    DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as legal advice, even if it seems silly enough to have been written by a legislator, and especially not if it appears (by remote chance) to display any evidence of erudition.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    Just wondering if anyone knows how to make some Chain Lube? I am currently in India and I have asked around a few places and no one has chain lube, but there must be 500 million bicycles in India, so they have to use something. Just wondering if anyone has some tips of what to do.
    Check with a motorcycle shop, motorcycle chains are essentially just oversized bicycle chains, so the lube for those should work equally well, because they are bigger the lube probably comes in larger containers, but not with a terribly larger price. Gear oil should also work, cut it with mineral spirits to get it thin enough for chain use. Gear oil is used in manual car transmissions, differentials and other final drive components, so it should be common enough in India. I would say get a small oil can or bottle, pour in the gear oil, add the mineral spirits, put the top on and shake. Oil for chainsaw chains should also work fairly well.

    Motor oil might work in a pinch, however it's intended for a different purpose, cooling of high heat engine parts, resisting the products of combustion, carrying dirt to the oil filter. As time goes on the engineers make it less and less suitable as a general purpose lubricant.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Mr. Fly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danarnold View Post
    From Yahoo:

    "Synthetic motor oil now days is certainly thin enough for chain use. the molecular structure of synthetic oil is fantastic and is great at what it is designed to do - resist high sheer loads in an engine. That is all it is really good for. On a chain you do not have sheer but rotational friction inside the roller at the pin. That is actually the only place that the lubrication is necessary. The very reason why chain lubricants are made to penetrate is the outside needs no lubrication.
    Actually, if you examine what causes bicycle chain wear, it's the shear friction between the roller and the pin/rivet and the inner plates and pin/rivet. As the chain goes around a sprocket, the rollers remain (more or less) stationary with respect to the sprocket teeth and the outer plates (that are rigidly connected to the pins) rotate about the axis of the roller. In addition, the outer plates move, with respect to the inner plates, about the pin/rivet axis. There is not much ball-bearing effect between the roller and the pin/rivet or between plates, if that's what the Yahoo article is proposing.

    See Sheldon Brown's article on this.


    Quote Originally Posted by danarnold View Post
    You don't want to use motor oil because it will:
    1. Sling off the chain as it it made to film off of parts and be pumped though a filter and back into engine parts. Engineers worked really hard to make it perfect for that job.
    2. Attract dirt. Another property that those good petroleum engineers did was make a product that carries the contaminants to the filter. Bikes don't of course have that filter so the gritty material will wear your chain and gears.
    3. It is wash out resistant. Good for resisting rain, but it resists mild chain cleaners too. Oh, you can cut it, but usually to remove it all you need a solvent not detergent.
    1. How fast do bicycle chains move? Even at 150 rpm crank speed?
    2. A bicycle chain is typically not enclosed in a chain case, at least in the US. It's going to get dirty no matter what lubricant you use.
    3. The $10 1-gal jug of biodegradable citrus degreaser from Home Depot works really well for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by danarnold View Post
    The types of products you want for a chain:
    1. Wax based
    [...]
    Source(s):
    29 years in the Specialty Maintenance Chemical industry. We make the stuff."
    Sounds like an ad for a speciality bicycle chain lubricant manufacturer/marketer.

    Although certainly not optimized, motor oil for lubricating bicycle chains is fine, as orated by the Great Jobst Brandt.

    With regular cleaning/maintenance, my motor oil-lubricated chains have lasted me more than ten thousand miles, each.

  14. #14
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    I'm amazed we've made it through 12 replies and no one has suggested ghee. This I a sign of a serious lack of creativity.

  15. #15
    Senior Member deepakvrao's Avatar
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    Where in India are you?

    I use Singer sewing machine oil. Easily available and works OK. I clean the chain off the bike with diesel, dry and immerse it in a pie dish with oil, but you could use it from a dropper too.

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