drive chain gunk

chatlow
chatlow Posts: 848
edited April 2015 in Workshop
So, I just went to clean the drive chain and for the first time in my life I am unable to!

Turns out that the usual oil and gunk residue has turned super sticky and rubbery. The only way to remove it is by picking at it with my nails. It's all over the chain, cassette and chainrings. They actually run OK (sound wise and no slipping) but I was hoping to clean it and continue using them for a few months before replacing. Now I may have to replace the entire chainset thanks to the previous owner not keeping it clean.

Any suggestions on removing the gunk or just go for new stuff?
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Comments

  • Bobbinogs
    Bobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    Check chain for wear first. My common mistake is to do this after cleaning! If the wear is really bad then you might want to consider binning the chain and cassette anyway. Chain rings should be ok either way though.

    Failing that, remove cassette, chain rings and chain and soak overnight in a bucket with a good degreaser/chain cleaner. Give them all a good scrub with a tough nylon brush. Rinse and wash in a light solution of soapy water (to remove degreaser), dry thoroughly then refit and lube.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    edited April 2015
    thanks - just checked the chain. If I did it correctly (9 links should be 9 inches?) then it's 1mm over. Is that bad? If not, then I will go ahead and clean the hell out of the cassette, chain and chainrings.

    Could you advice of a good product to soak them in? Still can't get over how cakes they are! Frame is mint drive chain looks tired.

    thanks again
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Clean with degreaser and use a different chainlube / apply more sparingly. The lube only needs to go on the inside of the rollers, not smothered over everything - apply to chain and wipe off the excess.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • DKay
    DKay Posts: 1,652
    chatlow wrote:
    thanks - just checked the chain. If I did it correctly (9 links should be 9 inches?) then it's 1mm over. Is that bad?

    Borderline. Get it replaced IMO.
  • Bobbinogs
    Bobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    From Sheldon:

    Measuring Chain Wear
    The standard way to measure chain wear is with a ruler or steel tape measure. This can be done without removing the chain from the bicycle. The normal technique is to measure a one-foot length, placing an inch mark of the ruler at the side of one link pin, then looking at the corresponding link pin 12 complete links away. On a new, unworn chain, this link pin will also line up exactly with an inch mark. With a worn chain, the link pin will be past the inch mark.

    If the link pin is less than 1/16" past the mark, all is well.

    If the link pin is 1/16" past the mark, you should replace the chain, but the sprockets are probably undamaged.

    If the link pin is 1/8" past the mark, you have left it too long, and the sprockets (at least the favorite ones) will be too badly worn. If you replace a chain at the 1/8" point, without replacing the sprockets, it may run OK and not skip, but the worn sprockets will cause the new chain to wear much faster than it should, until it catches up with the wear state of the sprockets.

    If the link pin is past the 1/8" mark, a new chain will almost certainly skip on the worn sprockets, especially the smaller ones.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    So I just rechecked the chain again (but measuring 9 inches, not 12) and it was actually bang on. Will double check again after work and if all is good will just try cleaning everything. Definitely going to need to soak them in something strong as this plastic gunk is not budging unless you scrape it off.

    White spirits recommended? Or something a little less harsh?

    Cheers
  • wongataa
    wongataa Posts: 1,001
    chatlow wrote:
    So I just rechecked the chain again (but measuring 9 inches, not 12) and it was actually bang on. Will double check again after work and if all is good will just try cleaning everything. Definitely going to need to soak them in something strong as this plastic gunk is not budging unless you scrape it off.

    White spirits recommended? Or something a little less harsh?

    Cheers
    Buy some degreaser. You don't need expensive bicycle stuff. Just get a tin of generic engine degreaser from Halfords or similar.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    So the method of soaking it in white spirit over night with occasional scrubbing followed by soaking in engine oil for 2 hours, then wiping the sides is no good?

    If not then I will go get some degreaser. Just worried it won't attack this solid gunk.
  • In my experience, white spirit works much better for cleaning the transmission than degreaser does. To get the chain really clean, I follow this with 'clean spirit' and a rinse with water. 'clean spirit' is a water-based brush cleaner you can get in B&Q - useless for cleaning brushes but great for cleaning bikes - it is basically a powerful detergent in water with some magic chemicals to help it work better. You get the chain so clean with this method that you get a thin film of flash rust as it dries.

    There is no point in soaking the whole chain in oil - this is a recipe for filth. Apply oil to the rollers on a clean and dry chain as you back pedal. Wipe off any surplus. That is it.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    so you soak it in white spirit first then use clean spirit on it afterwards? i will try and get to b and q after work but if not I may just have to try white spirit alone and see how that goes. This layer on gunk is solid and sticky enough that I am not sure spirits will remove it tbh!
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Engine oil isn't a good chain lube :roll:
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • I usually clean my chain on the bike with a Park Tools chain cleaner filled with white spirit. When I have cleaned a chain off the bike, I shake it in a jar with white spirit. Yes, the clean spirit is used after the white spirit - it is like a mild degreaser so you can wash off any remaining oil and white spirit with water.

    My process is:

    Chain on big ring, small sprocket.

    1. Fit chain cleaner, add white spirit, 30 backwards pedal revolutions.
    Remove chain cleaner, pour some of the used white spirit onto an old paint brush and use to clean rear sprockets and front rings.

    2. Dip another old brush into clean spirit and go over sprockets, chain, derailleurs and chainset.

    3. Rinse off with water.

    4. Dry chain.

    5. Apply lubricant to chain rollers.

    With practice, you can do this in a few minutes.

    Regarding lubricant: I have tried lots of different lubricants over the years. They all seem to be repackaged industrial lubricants sold at a massive mark-up. Doesn't seem to be much difference apart from the dry lubricants being crap. Most important thing is keeping transmission clean and relubing regularly. On a long wet ride, you need a thicker lube that won't get washed off quickly. I use to use Morgan Blue chain oil but now use Mobil 1 0W-20 fully synthetic motor oil. It is a low viscosity oil and quickly wicks into the rollers by capillary action. I fill up an old Morgan Blue bottle to apply the oil as it has a long thin nozzle. I had no measurable wear on a shimano 5701 chain after 2000 miles through the worst winter months using this method. My pal, who uses some kind of rust slurry to lubricate his chain got 0.5" lengthening over 12 link pairs under the same conditions and wrecked his sprockets and rings.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    Monty Dog wrote:
    Engine oil isn't a good chain lube :roll:

    Yeah appreciate that - I was planning on lubing it properly when fitted back on the bike but heard that engine oil might be good to help having soaked the hell out of the chain with white spirits for a night.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    @mage Benan: thanks. I have actually taken the chain of the bike as it will definitely need to soak in spirits for a bit before anything else. This gunk will not budge and I needed to buy powerlink removal pliers in order to get it off the bike (gunk crap had stuck it together - usually I am easily able to just remove using my fingers).

    Will let the chain, cassette and chainrings soak with occasional brushing/scrubbing and lots of swearing for the night then, assuming it has worked, put it back on the bike and use the park tool cleaner to keep cleaning.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    So a little update - I got impatient and started scrubbing the chain and cassette. It's only been soaking in white spirits for an hour but to my surprise the gunk started coming off slowly :D

    Having no luck getting the gunk off in-between links yet as hard to reach, same goes in-between cogs on the cassette, so going to keep it soaked for a few hours more then try again.

    Would you definitely recommend buying some of this clean spirit stuff to use or will hot soapy water be ok to use once I am done with the white spirit? As for the engine oil, I am in two minds about using it. I am worried that the white spirits will have completely removed all grease, oil in the chain so it will obviously need lubing but maybe engine oil will give it a good pre-lube first...
  • jgsi
    jgsi Posts: 5,062
    Re chain wear.. best addition of late to my tool collection has been the Park Tool CC-2.
    It takes away the uhmmin and aarin of yes.no..yes
  • keezx
    keezx Posts: 1,322
    Never scrub or brush on chains as it does nothing on the interesting parts, the inside.
    Since a couple of months I perform the following regime:
    Take the chain off the bike (missing link) and boil in soapy water in old cooking pan.
    Rince chain in hot water to clean soap and dirt out.
    Dry 5 min. (fast because it's hot)
    Put chain in vegetable can au bain Marie and add Paraffin wax so it will be submerged after melting.
    As soon as chain is complete submerged. leave 2 min in wax.
    Fish chain out and after 10 min it is ready to put on the bike again.
    This system is good for 3-400 km without any added lubing, chain picks up almost nothing.
    Chainrings and cassette pick up almost nothing.
    As soon as the noise level raises, repeat.
    WAx cost a fiver/kg , in 5 months I used half of it on 2 bikes, so f*cking cheap too.

    PS, motor oil is a superior lube, but only when the chain runs in an oil bath, otherwise it's rubbish.
  • Chatlow, soapy water will be fine. If you use washing up liquid, rinse with water after as it has salt in it. You definitely will need to lubricate the chain after doing this. From my experience, motor oil is fine - certainly as good as all the other boutique bike oils you can buy for £10 for a tiny bottle. In the end it depends on your approach to chain maintenance: if you just ride your bike until it stops working, you probably need a heavy oil that will work for hundreds of miles. If you want to keep the transmission clean and long lasting, you will clean the chain regularly and a lighter oil (such as mobil 1) is better.

    I have never tried the wax method that Keezx describes. Not sure how it would cope with UK weather. I tried Squirt wax lubricant that dries to leaves a wax coating on the chain but this became emulsified in the wet and washed off.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    cool. I read the above comments after rinsing the chain with soapy water last night, so I have rinsed again with just water and dried it. Looks a lot better now, so after work I will either chuck it in mobil 1 oil for a couple mins, wipe off excess and refit it or lube it. Or both perhaps.

    Cassette and chain looking so much much better now. I didn't remove the chainrings, just picked off some of the hard grime instead. Tempted to try cleaning it with spirits but worried it may remove some of the paint as well..
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Why dunk the chain in engine oil? It will simply get manky (again) and collect dirt. Clean the chain properly and use chain lube.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    Monty Dog wrote:
    Engine oil isn't a good chain lube :roll:

    Sorry. Got to disagree. It will work fine "as a lube". How could it not? Auto engines require much better lubes that a bike chain ever would need. You seem to want to elevate chains into the realm of extreme hi-tech. They are not. They are simply chains, nothing more. :roll:
  • keezx
    keezx Posts: 1,322
    As said, engine oil is a very good lube, but only in a bath or under pressure in a closed system.
    Oil in an open chain is pressed out and collects dirt very soon after the start.
    The demands on a lube for an open chain are completely different from demands on engine oil.
    It does'nt have to be wax, thick grease could do the job too but I have not found a method to get it inside the chain without solvents.
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    Keezx wrote:
    The demands on a lube for an open chain are completely different from demands on engine oil.

    No again. Lube is meant to stop wear between moving parts. Whether it's a piston moving against a cylinder wall or a chain roller moving against a cog or chain ring. Same thing. They both need lube AND motor oil is lube.
    Show me why all this lube that is manufactured, put in small bottles, and sold at high prices is more effective at reducing friction between parts than motor oil. Add to this, the demands on your chain are minuscule when compared to most other uses for lube. It's just a chain.
  • I think dennisn is correct - when it comes to oil lubricants, motor oil is just as good as expensive 'bicycle specific' chain lubricants. In fact, they are likely the same thing repacked. What matters is keeping the chain lubricated and clean. Do not over-lubricate the chain as it will just attract dirt - you don't need to coat the side plates and sprockets in oil. The main wear occurs inside the rollers, and this is where the oil needs to be. Easiest way is to apply oil to the rollers on the bottom section of chain as you slowly back pedal. You will see the oil wick into the gaps at the side of the rollers as you do this. Don't apply any more oil than this and wipe off any excess.
  • chatlow
    chatlow Posts: 848
    Monty Dog wrote:
    Why dunk the chain in engine oil? It will simply get manky (again) and collect dirt. Clean the chain properly and use chain lube.

    I decided against this on the basis that it will attract a lot of dust and dirt very quickly, so I have re-fitted the chain and used dry lube on it... albeit a little too much in order to make sure the rollers are covered having attacked them with white spirit, but I have since wiped the excess and all seems very smooth again :-)

    Thanks to everyone for the advice
  • keezx
    keezx Posts: 1,322
    dennisn wrote:
    [CUT
    Add to this, the demands on your chain are minuscule when compared to most other uses for lube. It's just a chain.

    You could not be more wrong.
    The pressure in the hinge points is huge and the stuff needs to stay there or permanently refreshed.,neither of which oil doesn't. You do not seem to know what you're talking about...

    I never use nor have used overpriced stuff in a fancy little bottle....when , in the old days, I used oil, it was engine oil, but I was never happy with it.

    Of coarse you can run a chain with whatever you want and it won't fall apart within 500 miles, but that's not the discussion here.
    BTW, by far the biggest mechanical resistance of bikes is the chain.
  • Would be interesting to find out what the well funded teams like Sky use for their chain lubrication. I know the Friction Facts guy markets a paraffin wax / ptfe powder / MbS2 mix that he rates as having the lowest friction. However, his results have been criticised as not applying under real world conditions with an oblique chain as this quickly ejects wax out of the side of the rollers.

    I read somewhere that an industrial chain operating under similar load and speed conditions to a bicycle gets the equivalent of 100 000 miles of use. This is because they are operating in clean oil baths - it is the abrasive road grit contaminating the chain that shortens the life on a bike. The more you clean it, the longer it lasts. I do mine every 100 miles or so with a Park Tools chain cleaner. Only takes me a couple of minutes. Compared with waxing, the overall time is probably the same. The problem for me with waxing is I am on Campag 11 speed and you can't practically keep taking the chain off the bike due to its design.
  • DKay
    DKay Posts: 1,652
    dennisn wrote:
    Keezx wrote:
    The demands on a lube for an open chain are completely different from demands on engine oil.

    No again. Lube is meant to stop wear between moving parts. Whether it's a piston moving against a cylinder wall or a chain roller moving against a cog or chain ring. Same thing. They both need lube AND motor oil is lube.

    The functions of motor engine oil include a lot more than just lubrication. It cools the engine, it carries away contaminants which are then filtered out, engine parts are protected against corrosion and it also helps with piston ring sealing.

    The demands of a bike chain lube are quite different from those of engine oil.