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Suggestions for removing dried/sticky oil from drivetrain

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Suggestions for removing dried/sticky oil from drivetrain

Old 03-03-21, 01:08 PM
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Suggestions for removing dried/sticky oil from drivetrain

The entire drivetrain on a recently acquired 1970 Gitane Tour de France, that hasn't been ridden in decades, is covered in what looks and feels like oil that has dried and become sticky. I've tried citrus based cleaners, mineral spirits, and kerosene, but none dissolve it. At best, they soften it. On the freewheel I can scrape it off relatively cleanly with a razor blade - see photos where I scraped it from two smaller sprockets and a section of the back of the largest. The metal underneath is surprisingly clean. Unfortunately the freewheel bearings and pawls seem gummed up with this residue too. It's as if it was poured over the drivetrain as the crank arms and chain rings were coated in it too. Although it appears wet and oily, it is dry and slightly sticky. Any suggestions on what might dissolve this stuff, or, is this just a reality of some long-stored vintage bikes?

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Old 03-03-21, 01:35 PM
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I ran into a similar issue with a 70's Stella I was working on. Had to get some of the heavy duty Pedro's citrus degreaser to do the job. The strong one that's pretty much for metal only.
Steel is real...and comfy.
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Old 03-03-21, 01:49 PM
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With that freewheel on the bike, use a metal rule to shear off the layer of detritus while the freewheel rotates with the cranks,

I always apply maximal mechanical methods of stuff removal before resorting to chemicals.

I also like to start a bike rehab after said bike has been left out overnight in light rain.

For really stubborn deposits of hardened grease, I use Finish Line Professional Formula Citrus Degreaser. It's much more aggressive than their New Micro Emulsion Technology version of the same product in the same orange spray can, so know the difference. The Pro Formula is also very much more aggressive in terms of skin contact, so use gloves!
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Old 03-03-21, 01:51 PM
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I use mineral spirits and a mild wire brush for that sort of thing. You can soak the whole freewheel in the spirits for a while if you also plan to refurbish the freewheel mechanism.
Otherwise, keep it to surface treatment.
Denatured alcohol is a good way to finish after the mineral spirits - it is effective in removing any residue from the spirits.
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Old 03-03-21, 02:45 PM
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Is this a NOS wheel? I could be wrong but that looks like old broken down cosmoline. I would soak it in paint thinner, then rinse it off with some soapy water. Then I would soak the freewheel again in some oil and wipe the excess oil off.
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Old 03-03-21, 04:03 PM
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I had a lot of what looked like the same stuff on my Bob Jackson when I got it in December. I generally have Mineral Spirits and Muc-Off (from my LBS) on my workbench. I'm not sure which one or if it was a combo of the two that took care of it. I just remember it appeared nasty and I was really worried that it was going to be tough to get off. My problem was all over the drive train, hubs, the BB, chain stays, and the rest of the lower end of the frame. So it was prevalent, but whichever of the two took care of it quickly. I think it pretty much dissolved and wiped off for me.
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Old 03-03-21, 04:09 PM
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Old school Carb clean, Berrymans, Gumout, Motorcraft PM-2, the foamy slimey kind, not toothless modern that just evaporates.

Nasty stuff, use outside, gloves eye protection, etc. and keep it off the paint, minimize it getting in the FW.

Brass or SS bristle brushes, elbow grease and Bobs yer uncle.
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Old 03-03-21, 04:22 PM
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Light wire brush will reach all the points of contact. A stiffer longer wire can get in between.

Try some gas and water on a rag and floss the cogs, solvents don't always work with encrusted dirt where the water will. That's an old pressroom solution for cleaning various machine equipment areas where ink and paper can build. The solvent does almost nothing to the paper fibers where water will add to the release.
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Old 03-03-21, 04:33 PM
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soak it in gasoline
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Old 03-03-21, 05:51 PM
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It it were mine, it would enjoy a long soak in some kerosene (several days)! Once out of the bath, some mechanical scraping might be in order BUT I would use something softer than the steel of the cogs (not a metal ruler). Other chemical treatments might be OK may not be as safe. Kerosene has a pretty high flash point (~100 Fahrenheit/38 Celsius) and unlikely to ignite with a spark (unlike gasoline with a flash point in the sub-zero range!) PPE (gloves and eye pro) advised to be sure, with any solvent other than soap and water.
With this freewheel being around 50 years old, I’d plan on a complete disassembly and maybe replacement of the ball bearings. The palls are likely to be gummed up too!
If it has been coated in Cosmoline, soaking it in hot soapy water may be helpful. After a water bath, I’d make sure to completely disassemble it to ensure no water remains internally.
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