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ATF as chain lube

Old 06-17-17, 05:17 AM
  #1  
Bryan88
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ATF as chain lube

Hi all. I know chain lube is a touchy subject, so just want to know if anybody is using automatic transmission fluid as chain lube, and if you are happy with the results? Thanks.
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Old 06-17-17, 05:26 AM
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jimc101
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Why? bike chain lube isn't expensive for the amount you use
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Old 06-17-17, 06:49 AM
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It might be better than motor oil, which many use, due to additive package. Motor oils have many additives to deal with combustion byproducts that possibly aren't beneficial for a chain lube. ATFs are more of a pure lubricant since they don't deal with combustion by products.

Except for possibly being more viscous than needed, chain saw bar lube seems suited for bicycle chains. I used to use it. Winter formula might be lower viscosity and better suited for bike chains. I'm basing my opinion of proper viscosity on the observation of bicycle specific chain lubes I've used.

I suspect you would get good chain life using ATF. It could be as good as some bike specific chain lubes.
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Old 06-17-17, 07:06 AM
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Probably want to thin it down some if you do. I'm one of the chain bar oil people and I thin it 50/50 with mineral spirits. Works fine for me and I have a lifetime supply for $10 or so. Even if it sucks does it really matter? Chains are cheap consumable items. 10k miles, or 20k, 30k miles whoopty do. Of coarse you can say the same thing about chain lube. Sure $10 for a tiny bottle of lube is ridiculous but eh it last a year so who cares. I only did the bar chain oil thing because I was curious and now I have a huge jug of it so I might as well use it.
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Old 06-17-17, 07:09 AM
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Better than nothing, and free if you save the last drops from an oil change..

wipe off the excess, oiling inside the chain is what matters. it does come in a big bottle..

so does chainsaw bar oil..


but to the 'anybody else choosing it over actual chain lube sold as such ,


make up your own mind ....don't be insecure.





....

Last edited by fietsbob; 06-17-17 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 06-17-17, 08:59 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
Probably want to thin it down some if you do. I'm one of the chain bar oil people and I thin it 50/50 with mineral spirits. Works fine for me and I have a lifetime supply for $10 or so. Even if it sucks does it really matter? Chains are cheap consumable items. 10k miles, or 20k, 30k miles whoopty do. Of coarse you can say the same thing about chain lube. Sure $10 for a tiny bottle of lube is ridiculous but eh it last a year so who cares. I only did the bar chain oil thing because I was curious and now I have a huge jug of it so I might as well use it.
After one ride on a hot day, the min spirits have evaporated. But this does get the bar oil into the crevices and inner recesses of the chain.

Most lubricating fluids are designed and optimized for a specific use. My question is why would you take something like ATF (which is optimized for a closed system that is fairly clean) and use it in an application open to air, dirt, water, and mud? Motor oil? Same thing: it has detergents in it so that dirt particles that stick will become part of lube. Either way, you've chosen an approach that creates a very good lapping compound: dirt and oil. Yes, better than a dry chain, but why not just get a bottle of bike chain lube?

Sure, you can replace chains but why use stuff that's designed for a completely different application? It costs so little to use something designed for bike chains.
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Old 06-17-17, 09:21 AM
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1 part ATF, 4 or so parts mineral spirits make a great chain lube. Lube the chain, spin the crank backwards to work it in, and lightly wipe the outside with a paper towel. Mineral spirits will evaporate leaving the ATF inside the chain. Takes me less than a minute, and I do it every couple weeks.
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Old 06-17-17, 09:44 AM
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My Sturmey Archer hubs always drooled a bit of oil down the cog, so my chains are inadvertently oiled with whatever I put in the hub, mostly ATF these days. Never had problems.
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Old 06-17-17, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Bryan88 View Post
Hi all. I know chain lube is a touchy subject...
...why would anyone say this ?
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Old 06-17-17, 10:23 AM
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ATF too would be an excellent chain lube. It has extreme pressure properties, so it should work well. After all a chain is a steel machine.
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Old 06-17-17, 10:49 AM
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I've used ATF for my chains for a few years. No problems so far, but I'm a little skeptic about big differences between oils for bike chain use.
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Old 06-17-17, 11:13 AM
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Thick oil.
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Old 06-17-17, 11:23 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Bryan88 View Post
Hi all. I know chain lube is a touchy subject, so just want to know if anybody is using automatic transmission fluid as chain lube, and if you are happy with the results? Thanks.
Wrote in detail here:

Bicycle chain lubricants - explained - Cycle Gremlin

ATF is not the best choice IMO, but it will work.
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Old 06-17-17, 05:14 PM
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i use gear oil, stinky but has good EP additives
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Old 06-17-17, 05:46 PM
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Anyone looking to this thread for advice on "hacking" good chain lubes read this post:

ATF fluids make horrible lubricants, simply because as an oil based lubricant it attracts dirt, grime etc. which will prematurely wear your chainwheels and freewheel/cassette cogs. In lubricating the chain the last thing you actually care about is actually the chain. New chainrings and new cogs with a new chain and you're talking real money. However, that's not even the reason to not use ATF as a lube. There are good applications for using an oil based chain lube, essentially any wet or rainy environment that isn't dirty or gritty. Just not ATF! Why? Simply because people who use ATF are completely ignorant of what ATF actually is. ATF has friction additives necessary for modern automatic transmissions to function. Think about it as being analogous to taking a real chain lube and throwing a handful of dirt and grime into the fluid. ATF would never be seriously considered as a chain lube by anyone who knows anything.
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Old 06-17-17, 10:54 PM
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You sure seem to know a lot
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Old 06-18-17, 02:57 AM
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Havnt read all the comments, but imo most oils are not thick enough and does not lubricate well. That goes for normal gear oil, motor oil and Im sure ATF as well. From my experience, even if I reapplied oil often and wiped with a cloth, oil lubricated chains always feels gritty, even if they look clean(ish) and well maintained. I have had better luck with spray grease that has a solvent carrier that eventually evaporates and a micro fiber cloth to wipe off excess lubricant and old dirt. There are thick oils like finish line green and rohloff if you prefer oil in a non pressurised bottle.

Last edited by Racing Dan; 06-18-17 at 03:15 AM.
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Old 06-18-17, 03:04 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Lakerat View Post
It might be better than motor oil, which many use, due to additive package. Motor oils have many additives to deal with combustion byproducts that possibly aren't beneficial for a chain lube. ATFs are more of a pure lubricant since they don't deal with combustion by products.

Except for possibly being more viscous than needed, chain saw bar lube seems suited for bicycle chains. I used to use it. Winter formula might be lower viscosity and better suited for bike chains. I'm basing my opinion of proper viscosity on the observation of bicycle specific chain lubes I've used.

I suspect you would get good chain life using ATF. It could be as good as some bike specific chain lubes.
"bicycle specific" chain oils come in any viscosity you can think of. From water like lite oils to the thickest, stringiest oils imaginable Even spray grease and wax, like MC chain lubricants. It marketing more than engineering. Many chains comes impregnated with grease from the factory, ready to use.
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Old 06-18-17, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by velocentrik View Post
Anyone looking to this thread for advice on "hacking" good chain lubes read this post:

ATF fluids make horrible lubricants, simply because as an oil based lubricant it attracts dirt, grime etc. which will prematurely wear your chainwheels and freewheel/cassette cogs. In lubricating the chain the last thing you actually care about is actually the chain. New chainrings and new cogs with a new chain and you're talking real money. However, that's not even the reason to not use ATF as a lube. There are good applications for using an oil based chain lube, essentially any wet or rainy environment that isn't dirty or gritty. Just not ATF! Why? Simply because people who use ATF are completely ignorant of what ATF actually is. ATF has friction additives necessary for modern automatic transmissions to function. Think about it as being analogous to taking a real chain lube and throwing a handful of dirt and grime into the fluid. ATF would never be seriously considered as a chain lube by anyone who knows anything.
My understanding of ATF is that the friction modification component is a very minimal component to the fluid. If the friction modifiers made it a bad lubricant, it wouldn't be used for many applications that don't need that component such as a power steering fluid. Many applications use ATF for power steering fluid. I also think that the anti wear component of AFT which is important for bike chain use, is also not a substantial portion of the fluid. Likely because it works well at low levels added. Bike chain lubes possibly have more of it.
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Old 06-18-17, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
"bicycle specific" chain oils come in any viscosity you can think of. From water like lite oils to the thickest, stringiest oils imaginable Even spray grease and wax, like MC chain lubricants. It marketing more than engineering. Many chains comes impregnated with grease from the factory, ready to use.
Sure many viscosities of chain lubricants are available and work well. Possibly the tackifiers and high viscosity of summer bar lubes add a bit of drag.
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Old 06-18-17, 09:13 AM
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Simple facts

#1: Chains only wear when their parts rub against one another, metal to metal.
#2: If there is something keeping them from rubbing – no wear will occur. None.
#3: Enormous experience strongly indicates that oil is the best ‘separator’.
#4: Then it gets complicated ----- ;o)

Joe
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Old 06-18-17, 10:27 AM
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I've often wondered why motorcycle chain lube is not popular (or even mentioned) for bicycle use. Too thick? Too messy? Surely no worse than many other lubes mentioned here like ATF and chainsaw bar oil.
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Old 06-18-17, 11:59 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Tony_G View Post
I've often wondered why motorcycle chain lube is not popular (or even mentioned) for bicycle use. Too thick? Too messy? Surely no worse than many other lubes mentioned here like ATF and chainsaw bar oil.
Motorcycle spray chain lubes are very thing when applied, then harden, once the carrier evaporates, so they stick when the chain quickly rotates. For bicycle use, the hardened state can cause gunking of RD pulleys and more dirt sticking to the chain. Although I know an experienced roadie who is very happy with Motul chain lube.

Many motorcycle manufacturers' user manuals recommend gear oil (SAE 90 viscosity) or SAE 40 engine oil for lubing chains.

For bicycles, I'm very happy with chain saw bar oil diluted with some diesel - more or less, depending on conditions and temperature.
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Old 06-18-17, 12:05 PM
  #24  
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The main problem with bikes chains is they are not sealed against the intrusion of dirt. It doesn't matter what lube you use, dirt will get in and create wear. My main defense against this is frequent lubing with something cheap and thin, so I can apply it heavily and try to flush out as much dirt as possible. I keep 2-3 chains in a rotation and probably trade one every week, if I'm riding 150-200 miles a week. Rotating chains insures that you will never get chain skip for the life of all the chains in the rotation.

I did a lot of chain wear research, years ago. With my technique, I found that Campy chains would never come close to reaching .5% elongation before the rollers were shot and the side wear excessive. To measure elongation accurately, use a full length gage that measures between the pins and does NOT check against a roller. Roller wear is not elongation and the actual amount of wear is many times what you'll find on the pins and bushings. A new chain might measure .210 between the pins when new. When it increases by .035-.040, the chain is shot, IMO.

I used synthetic gear lube quite a bit, thinned 4/1 with naptha. You can even use this mix, placed in an old water bottle, as a chain cleaner. I use one bottle for the first pass and another for the last pass, so the chain will be as clean as possible. Dirt settles to the bottom of the container, so you can pour the solvent off the top and get rid of most of the dirt.

Last edited by DaveSSS; 06-19-17 at 06:51 AM.
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Old 06-18-17, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by reptilezs View Post
i use gear oil, stinky but has good EP additives
Bicycle chain loads come nowhere near loads that need the EP additives.
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