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3 in 1 oil bad?

Old 04-25-22, 01:27 AM
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gululok
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3 in 1 oil bad?

I just read on sheldonbrown.com that 3 in 1 oil is acidic and gums up. Is there a better, cheap alternative from home depot/canadian tire? Or are the special bike shop lubes better value? I've been using 3 in 1 on my chain and cable. White lithium grease on everything else.
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Old 04-25-22, 02:03 AM
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When using oil on chains Iíve found Triflow, or any other bike chain lubricant to be close enough and readily available online and at sporting goods stores.
Personally I usually use a wax based lube like White Lightning.
For the absolute cheapest available at a non sporting goods store item, a box of ball/canning wax, a metal coat hangar, and the cheapest metal pan you can find. The block will last a lifetime, but is a tad more work and you need to be respectful of hot wax near a stove.

Edit, I should follow that with my standard oil/lubricant rule: the right oil is much better than the wrong oil, but the wrong oil is much better than no oil.
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Old 04-25-22, 07:18 AM
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3-in-One makes 14 kinds of lubricants. You're probably speaking of 3-in-One Multipurpose oil.

3-in-One Multipurpose debuted in 1894 as a bicycle chain lube, promising to 'clean, lubricate and rustproof' (3 benefits in one product ). As the first great bicycle craze died down, the original 3-in-One reinvented itself as a multipurpose household lubricant. It remains one of the oldest bicycle products still available.




3-in-One has been included in some recent chain lube tests. In 2022 you can do better with more modern products, but amazingly, you can do worse, too.

There will be 2,067 posters chime in here shortly with what you should use instead.

Note: DON'T use 3-in-One Multipurpose to lubricate the internal mechanism of a gear hub - but 3-in-One Motor Oil is a good choice for that. These are two different products.

Last edited by tcs; 04-25-22 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 04-25-22, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by gululok View Post
I just read on sheldonbrown.com that 3 in 1 oil is acidic and gums up. Is there a better, cheap alternative from home depot/canadian tire? Or are the special bike shop lubes better value? I've been using 3 in 1 on my chain and cable. White lithium grease on everything else.
For bicycle use, acidity wouldn’t matter. If the bike is used fairly regularly, the oil really isn’t going to be on the chain for long enough to start to polymerize. If you put the oil on and let the bike sit unused for years, it will probably gum up but so would any other oil. In regular use…and regular refreshment…the oil doesn’t have long enough to oxidize.

As to the “acidity”, there really isn’t anything in the SDS that suggests acid is added. The oil itself is the same oil used in TriFlow (same CAS number) which is used in several other lubricants as well. The oil used isn’t acidic and is just a hydrotreated petroleum fraction. The hydrotreating is meant to remove reactivity by chemically any reactive groups that might cause it to oxidize and polymerize.

Bottom line: 3-in-One Mulitpurpose oil would be just as good as TriFlow. That’s not meant to be high praise from me as I don’t like any oil based lubricant. They are too messy. I use solvent wax lubricants which provide the same duty life of the chain as oil lubricants but without the mess.
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Old 04-25-22, 09:48 AM
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I use 3 in 1 a fair amount on both my road bikes. It tends to get a little nasty after a few rides but cleans off really easy. I found my Finish Line chain wax and will use that after I clean my chain/ bikes up tomorrow.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:00 AM
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Never tried 3 in 1 but years ago tried sewing machine oil which was real thin and then ProLInk for the last several years although I just got some chain oil from Silca which I'll try soon - with the ProLink I apply it quickly over the entire chain length and then wipe off the excess - been happy with ProLink .
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Old 04-25-22, 10:07 AM
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I used to buy fancy chain oils and stuff with wax and all the other snake oil (ba dum) you will be suggested. I find that pretty much any type of oil works just fine. To quote the above poster, anything is better than nothing.

As of late I have gotten to utilizing WD-40 and a rag. I spray the rag until good and wet in a spot and then run the chain around on the freehub while holding the rag tightly around the chain. This both removes previous gunk as well as lubricates the chain. This generally works well for a couple of rides according to the level of grit/sand/dust and rain/puddles. Chain is still silver like I bought it, the cassette is in good condition and well over 2K miles. Heck of a lot less messy and bad on the hands as that citrus chain clean tool and solution as well.

I have used pneumatic oil and motor oil as well, because it was what I had on hand. Worked fine. IMO it's the using the rag along with that helps.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:13 AM
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It wouldn't be my fist choice or my second choice. But if it's all I had nearby when I wanted to oil something, I'd use it. Though it wouldn't be for something I only lube once or twice a lifetime.

For chain though on my road bike, I use to just use motor oil that I used in my vehicles. Then I started using the chain oils made for bicycle chains. And when I finally started using the dry type lubes, I found that my chain and cogs didn't get gunked up as much or leave gunk on my right calf.

The dry lubes do require frequent application though. The petroleum based lubes last much longer, but since they gunk up more, I'm happy with the frequent application of the dry lubes and no gunk on my right calf or socks.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:16 AM
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Years ago I read that 3 in 1 was a vegetable based oil and would "dry out" and form a varnish-like film over time, sort of like Linseed Oil. That wasn't true then and isn't now. It's just a light petroleum oil and will work fine.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Years ago I read that 3 in 1 was a vegetable based oil and would "dry out" and form a varnish-like film over time, sort of like Linseed Oil. That wasn't true then and isn't now. It's just a light petroleum oil and will work fine.
Yea. My can 3-in-One is from the late 80s (I use it for wheel building) and it has never formed any kind of varnish.
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Old 04-25-22, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
3-in-One Multipurpose debuted in 1894 as a bicycle chain lube, promising to 'clean, lubricate and rustproof'. As the first great bicycle craze died down, the original 3-in-One reinvented itself as a multipurpose household lubricant. It remains one of the oldest bicycle products still available.
Great little bit of trivia there!
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Old 04-25-22, 02:02 PM
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I use a chainsaw bar oil unscented mineral spirits mix that holds up well including the wet. I remove the chain and clean it then put it back on and lube the chain. Ride 800 miles and repeat.
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Old 04-25-22, 03:34 PM
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Old 04-25-22, 03:44 PM
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IMHO it is not a great economy to try economize with "cheap alternatives" unless you are doing hundreds of bikes and then you can get good stuff in bulk

buy a tube of phil's grease it will last for years of normal bike use

chain lubes have lots more choices but are still not expensive

3 and 1 oll about 5 bucks

Rock and roll gold 8 or 9 bucks

white lightening 8 bucks

Chain-L 12 buck
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Old 04-25-22, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
3-in-One makes 14 kinds of lubricants. You're probably speaking of 3-in-One Multipurpose oil.


Note: DON'T use 3-in-One Multipurpose to lubricate the internal mechanism of a gear hub - but 3-in-One Motor Oil is a good choice for that. These are two different products.

I was in an Ace Hardware or maybe Home Depot a while back and wasn't looking too closely at the label, and picked up the only bottle with 3-in-1 on the label. Turns out it's 3-in-one "Long Lasting Motor Oil, Engineered or 1/4 HP Motors or larger, SAE 20". I never knew there were different types of 3-in-One until I saw this thread. Maybe they should change the name to "1 of 14" oil? LOL.


Thing is, I've been using 3-in-1 oil [of whatever type, because I didn't know there WAS a difference] on the wife's sewing machine(s) for almost 30 years now, even bringing a couple of hand-me-downs back to life (she's got a thing for the older 'classic' ones with what seems like a cast-iron body and all-metal gears, as opposed to the newer all-plastic ones with plastic gears that you can get for $150 and then throw away when they break). Anyway, most recent project, I was reading through a forum on sewing machine restoration and a similar question was posted there and the response was like "OMG! NEVER use 3-in-1 oil, it'll destroy the machine, cause the planets to go out of alignment, and dash any chances for lasting peace in the middle east".


The kicker: So I drive an hour each way to get some genuine "Singer" "Sewing machine oil". I get home and, golly, it looks, smells, feels between the fingers, and even tastes like 3-in-1 oil. So I look it up and... wait for it..... sewing machine oil is SAE 20 wt, same as my 3-in-1 oil.
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Old 04-25-22, 04:22 PM
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Been using this for years.
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Old 04-25-22, 04:46 PM
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I inherited some old sewing machine oil. it's nice & thin. don't use it on the bike but every now & then I put a drop on something or other. most recently, the metal garden pinwheel


Last edited by rumrunn6; 04-26-22 at 05:27 AM.
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Old 04-25-22, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by FredMau View Post
I was in an Ace Hardware or maybe Home Depot a while back and wasn't looking too closely at the label, and picked up the only bottle with 3-in-1 on the label. Turns out it's 3-in-one "Long Lasting Motor Oil, Engineered or 1/4 HP Motors or larger, SAE 20". I never knew there were different types of 3-in-One until I saw this thread. Maybe they should change the name to "1 of 14" oil? LOL.


Thing is, I've been using 3-in-1 oil [of whatever type, because I didn't know there WAS a difference] on the wife's sewing machine(s) for almost 30 years now, even bringing a couple of hand-me-downs back to life (she's got a thing for the older 'classic' ones with what seems like a cast-iron body and all-metal gears, as opposed to the newer all-plastic ones with plastic gears that you can get for $150 and then throw away when they break). Anyway, most recent project, I was reading through a forum on sewing machine restoration and a similar question was posted there and the response was like "OMG! NEVER use 3-in-1 oil, it'll destroy the machine, cause the planets to go out of alignment, and dash any chances for lasting peace in the middle east".


The kicker: So I drive an hour each way to get some genuine "Singer" "Sewing machine oil". I get home and, golly, it looks, smells, feels between the fingers, and even tastes like 3-in-1 oil. So I look it up and... wait for it..... sewing machine oil is SAE 20 wt, same as my 3-in-1 oil.
Saying all oils of a given SAE/ISO/whatever viscosity are the same is a bit like telling the police officer that Pepsi and Sam Adams are both mostly water. Itís close enough to true for those only using small quantities, but itís very different for those who go through it in large ones.
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Old 04-25-22, 05:47 PM
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All this talk of oils and such... I have a South Bend lathe (9"A for those who care) and am constantly applying it's three different lubes. I have three traditional finger pump oil cans with spouts labeled as "spindle", "Gear" and "Way". It takes a few pump strokes to bring the oil up to the spout tip and I prime them over a plastic jar with a slight spritz coming out before I go to the lathe. So this jar is slowly filling with three different viscosities of machine oils, a squirt at a time. At some point I will have a full jar and have to come up with a use for it.

That won't be chains for a long time as I have a good back stock of Chain L. Andy (who doesn't much care which chain lube you use but does care that your chain is clean and lubed)
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Old 04-25-22, 06:47 PM
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ATF in an oil can.
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Old 04-25-22, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
All this talk of oils and such... I have a South Bend lathe (9"A for those who care) and am constantly applying it's three different lubes. I have three traditional finger pump oil cans with spouts labeled as "spindle", "Gear" and "Way". It takes a few pump strokes to bring the oil up to the spout tip and I prime them over a plastic jar with a slight spritz coming out before I go to the lathe. So this jar is slowly filling with three different viscosities of machine oils, a squirt at a time. At some point I will have a full jar and have to come up with a use for it.

That won't be chains for a long time as I have a good back stock of Chain L. Andy (who doesn't much care which chain lube you use but does care that your chain is clean and lubed)
That's the lathe I learned on... with the open flat belts. It was a pleasure to run, so quiet and smooth.
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Old 04-26-22, 11:28 AM
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I've been using Rock and Roll gold and that's worked well for me.
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Old 04-26-22, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
...
Edit, I should follow that with my standard oil/lubricant rule: the right oil is much better than the wrong oil, but the wrong oil is much better than no oil.
I agree with this, except I'd make one little change. I'd change the placement of of the first "much": The right oil is better than the wrong oil, but the wrong oil is much, much better than no oil.

To the OP: To your question of non-bike specific, readily available products, first see my and jccaclimber quotes above. A product that seems to be very commonly successfully used are variations of "homebrew" (search here and the web for that). Some with regular SAE30, some with synthetic oil, some with chainsaw bar oil, some with hypoid gear oil, but all thinned with common mineral spirits about 3:1. It works great, the downside is that you need a little squeeze container (travel section of grocery store) or small oil can (any hardware store) to dispense it. but I like the waxy products nowadays.

Last edited by Camilo; 04-26-22 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 04-27-22, 09:25 PM
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...or a re-purposed printer cartridge refill bottle, the type with the blunt steel needle.
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