Many people will tell you that WD-40 is a magic solution that can be used for anything, however, this is not the case. As a long-time bike enthusiast, I thought it was finally time that someone clarified exactly when and where you can use WD-40 on your bike.
The main use for WD-40 on a bike is as a chain degreaser. WD-40 does not work as a bike chain lubricant, suspension lubricant, or pedal lubricant and should never be used on bike brakes. WD-40 has some bike-specific products that may be used in more situations but this is not the case for general WD-40.
So, we’ve established that there are some situations where WD-40 should and shouldn’t be used, but why is this the case? I take a look into this, as well as some of the other situations where you can use WD-40 in the rest of this article.
|Use||Can you use WD-40?|
|Bike chain lubricant||No, you need to use a bike chain-specific lubricant|
|Bike chain cleaner||Yes, but ensure you lubricate your chain afterward|
|Bike suspension lubricant||No, you need to use a bike suspension-specific lubricant|
|Bike pedal lubricant||No, but it can be used to remove a stuck pedal|
|Bike brakes||No, don’t ever pout WD-40 on your bike brakes|
What is WD-40?
WD-40 is an American-made spray that stands for “Water Displacement 40”. Its main component is chemical called Naptha (also called Kerosene or Petroleum).
As the name suggests WD-40 works very well to displace moisture, this makes it very effective at dissolving adhesives or removing grease.
However, WD-40 has gained a reputation as an all-purpose spray that works as both a lubricant as well as a degreaser. This is not the case!
Can you use WD-40 on a bike chain?
The most common place that people suggest you use WD-40 is your bike chain, both as a cleaning solution and as a chain lubricant.
Can I use WD-40 as a chain lubricant?
WD-40 has a reputation around the house as a great all-purpose spray for any creaking door or hinge. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many people will presume that WD-40 acts as a lubricant. This is however not the case.
WD-40 only helps squeaky hinges as it removes grease and dirt from the hinge, its lubricant properties are minimal and they last a very short time. This means that you cannot use WD-40 as a chain lubricant because it evaporates too fast and does not lubricate the chain well enough. Using WD-40 in place of a chain lubricant is the same as using any chain lubricant at all.
The WD-40 company has actually released some bike chain-specific products in recent years, these are designed to act as chain lubricants. But do not be confused, traditional WD-40 should not be used for this purpose.
Can I use WD-40 to clean my chain?
So, we’ve established that WD-40 does not work as a chain lubricant, but can it work as a bike chain cleaner?
WD-40 makes a great choice for cleaning a bike chain. Working as a degreaser and water displacer, it works very well to help remove grime and dirt from your chain.
To use your WD-40 to clean your bike chain, spray the WD-40 over your chain and cassette, making sure to turn the pedals as you do this. Then leave it to sit for a few minutes.
Using a rag, wipe away the WD-40 from the chain, removing the dirt and grease at the same time. After this, you can use hot soapy water on the bike and chain to remove any excess WD-40.
While WD-40 works well to remove dirt, it also will remove any lubricant you had on your bike chain. This means that after washing your bike chain with WD-40 you need to apply lubricant back onto the chain to ensure it works properly.
You can see how to use WD-40 on your bike chain in the video below by GCN.
Does WD-40 damage bike chains?
WD-40 works well as a degreaser and as such, some people worry that it will break down the chain over time, damaging it and requiring you to replace it more often.
This video shows WD-40 being tested on a motorcycle chain, however, the principle still stands.
In reality, your bike chain is one of the places on a bike where WD-40 will not cause any damage. As you can see from the video below, parts of a bike chain were submerged in WD-40 for 3 months and showed no considerable breakdown of the chain compared to a chain kept in normal conditions.
Can you use WD-40 on bike suspension?
WD-40 should not be used on bike suspension. In fact, WD-40 can actually damage your bike suspension more.
This is because WD-40 can wear down the grease around the seals of your suspension. This can damage them and allow more dirt and grime to get into the suspension in the long run.
If you want to clean your bike suspension then it is best to use hot soapy water. If you need to add more lubricant for your bike suspension you need to look at getting a suspension-specific lubricant such as this one on Amazon.
In reality, the majority of your bike suspension is held inside the suspension itself, this means that you will most likely need to get your suspension fully serviced. Here they can take your suspension apart and add more fork oil directly into the suspension itself.
Can you use WD-40 on bike pedals?
WD-40 should not be used in the place of grease on your bike pedals. This is for the same reason that you cannot use WD-40 on your bike suspension.
Any WD-40 you use on your pedals will break down and remove the grease in the pedal itself. This can result in the pedal becoming much stiffer (the bearings won’t be as well-lubricated) and the pedal will only get dirtier over time.
Poorly lubricated bearings in your pedal are more prone to becoming damaged and so you will need to replace these more often.
The only use for WD-40 on your bike pedals is in the very specific situation where your bike pedal is stuck onto the bike. If you are unable to remove the pedal then you can try using WD-40 to help remove any grease or grime that is sticking the pedal in place. However, make sure you don’t hit any other areas such as your bottom bracket or brakes when you apply the WD-40.
Can you use WD-40 on bike brakes?
This one’s an easy one. WD-40 should never be used on bike brakes. WD-40 will reduce how well your brakes work, increasing your stopping distance and making your bike unsafe.
This is because WD-40, while not a lubricant, is still a semi-greasy solution and will reduce the friction that the brakes can apply to the wheels. Not only this but by putting WD-40 on the brakes they are likely to get more contaminated over time.
In reality, if you have put WD-40 on either rim or disk brakes you may well need to replace your brake pads completely as it can be very hard to remove the WD-40 once it has been applied.
As you can see, WD-40 has many uses in the bike maintenance world, however, it cannot be used in all cases. In fact, WD-40 can actually be dangerous to use in some situations such as on your bike brakes.
If you are interested in bike maintenance while out on a cycle, take a look at my article on how to clean your bike while bike touring.