There are many oils and lubricants you can use for various bike parts, but do you know if you can use engine oil for a bike chain?
For people with little to no experience maintaining a bike, it might seem like engine oil makes sense to use on a bike chain. However, what is right for a car engine isn’t necessarily good for a bike chain.
Though engine oil can be used for a bike chain, it is not considered a good lubrication solution. Engine oil probably won’t cause much harm to your bike chain in the beginning, but it can attract excessive debris over time that could increase friction and cause damage.
Oils and lubricants can make a big difference in the performance of your bike. Using the right products can make bike parts more fluid and durable. Using the wrong products can make bike parts worn down and less efficient.
Even if you save time using engine oil for your bike chain, you should understand the long implications for engine oil and try to use an oil developed specifically for bike chains. Bike chain oil may not only be better for your bike chain, it might even be less expensive than engine oil.
What Are The Upsides Of Using Engine Oil For A Bike Chain?
If you don’t have access to anything other than engine oil for your bike chain, it can probably provide enough lubrication to protect chain, chainring, and sprocket parts from rough rubbing and wear.
Since engine oil is rather thick and not meant to be used with bike chains, it could clump together in a way that restricts the movement of your bike chain and related parts.
If you’re in a situation where your bike doesn’t move much and you need some type of oil to get the bike chain to move, then using engine oil might be fine for an urgent situation.
Once you get yourself to a place where a better type of oil is available, you should strongly consider removing the engine oil by rinsing or wiping it off, then applying an oil or lubricant to your bike chain that was formulated for bike chain use.
What Are The Downsides Of Using Engine Oil For A Bike Chain?
Since using engine oil is not recommended for bike chains, the downsides for using a bike chain will generally outweigh any upsides.
Engine oils were formulated for use in a can engine, so though some characteristics of engine oil might go along well with a bike chain, it can often cause harmful effects to the bike chain and parts connected to it.
Engine oil is typically poured into an enclosed space in a car engine, so unless there is a crack or leak of some kind, the oil will remain in the engine until the oil is manually drained.
The engine oil is not exposed to outside elements like rain and dirt, so it generally remains clean while it runs through and lubricates engine parts.
Car engine parts are usually very strong and move at a much higher rate of speed than bike parts, so it makes sense for engine oil to be thick enough to protect these parts over long periods of time.
The engine oil developers don’t need the oil to stick to open-air parts since the engine parts used with engine oil are not open to air.
When used for bike chains, engine oil may stick to bike chains for a short period of time, but much of it may soon drip off or build up into more concentrated areas that can attract debris like dust and dirt.
This debris can get in the way of the bike chain moving properly with the cogs, which can make it harder for the rider to pedal.
Even without debris, the engine oil can increase bike chain friction since it has a thicker consistency than standard bike chain oil.
What Types Of Oil Should I Use For A Bike Chain?
There are lots of effective and affordable oils and lubricants you can use for your bike chain.
Though some of these formulas can be used for various parts of your bike, many are specially made to clean, lubricate, and protect your bike chain and other parts of your bike’s drivetrain like the gear cassettes, chainring, and derailleur.
Some products I like to use for bike chains are the following:
These products are from established brands with years of experience addressing bike lubrication needs.
All of these products are relatively low-cost and can be shipped to your door through online marketplaces like Amazon.
Rather than just focusing on one or two things that can help your bike chain, most of these products address a wide range of bike chain needs involving rust, wear, friction, corrosion, varying weather conditions, substance buildup, and the life span of your bike chain.
Unlike engine oil, products that are made especially for a bike chain can provide lubrication and protection that lasts long.
You won’t have to apply these products to your bike chain as often as non-bike products.
Certain types of bike-related oils and lubricants might require you to apply them more often than you might like though.
Products that are biodegradable will naturally break down easily when exposed to the elements.
Though that can be beneficial for the environment, the lack of preservatives may make it more of a hassle for you to use.
The overall performance of your bike should be much improved with the bike chain oil regardless of the one you use.
Since there is an abundance of documentation on the internet about specific bike models, you might want to look online to see what other users of your bike model are using for their bike chain.
There may be qualities specific to your bike chain that make it work better with certain types of bike chain products.
What Are Other Solutions I Can Use For My Bike Chain?
When you are low on cash or time, you might be tempted to use whatever is near you to clean and lubricate your bike chain.
Some common alternatives to bike chain lubricants include olive oil, coconut oil, and standard WD-40.
You should note that the WD-40 product mentioned in the bullet points above is not the standard WD-40, which is often used for general household degreasing needs.
The standard WD-40 will not stay on objects for a long time as it is intended to degrease items and not act as a lubricant.
Though WD-40 may have a lubricating effect for a little while, it may soon dissipate from fasting moving objects like bike chains.
WD-40 should not be relied upon to properly clean and lubricate a bike chain.
Other common household products like olive oil and coconut oil might also have temporary lubricating effects.
Though these oils may look similar to bike chain lubricants, they probably will not stick to the bike chain or any related parts for a significant period of time.
The ingredients of some oils might even be harmful to bike chains and create unnecessary wear if used as a lubricant for a long time.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson