Share your Homebrew Chain Lube recipe
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  1. #1
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    Share your Homebrew Chain Lube recipe

    For those that concoct their own chain lube cocktail, please share your successful recipe.

    I know most use motor oil + OMS. Some mentioned gear oil and ATF too. What ratio do you guys end up using?
    Do you mix for high viscosity or go for light oil?

    I'll start:

    200ml 75w90 semi-syntheic gear oil + 100ml 5w20 motor oil + 700ml OMS in a 1l bottle.

    Squirted some on the wheel axle of my children stroller. No more squeek! Will try on bike chain this weekend.

  2. #2
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    still experimenting...

    I've used homebrew for about 10 years. One of the problems is mineral spirits evaporates very slowly. Naptha ( Coleman camp stove fuel) evaporates faster, but still not very fast, once mixed with oil. A chain will be a lot drier if it sits for a week rather than a day.

    I'm tyring two new products for a fast evaporating solvent. One is brake cleaner, the other is CRC brand silicone lube. I don't care about the silicone, but the solvent sure evaporates quickly. Both only come in aerosals, but some ProLink users who only put one drop on each roller claim that 4 ounces lasts them a year, so you can get a lot of solvent from one aerosal can. I use a lot more than that, but my homebrew would still be a fraction of the price of ProLink or any of several other similar products.

  3. #3
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    basic formula

    I am of the school of thought that differences in the type of oil does not make a noticeable difference. I do think that cleaning and applying more often reduce chain wear but that is due the grit not the oil type. I use 3 parts OMS, 1 part motor oil (I don't sweat the viscosity). I mix it by eye. I did try an experiment testing synthetic oils versus regular but could not discern any difference. I would love to see a scientific study of friction with different type of oils but I suspect you would need a very sensitive measurement system and other variables would introduce too much error

  4. #4
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    C-40, I notice the OMS that I spilled on my garage floor were all gone this morning. That was less than 12hrs since the spill. But I guess if it was mixed with oil, it may evap slower? However I wouldn't know if the leftover would be the oil or OMS.

    DaveG, i think synthetic motor oil is more resilient to thermal breakdown vs. dino oil. Hence cars that use synthetics have longer change intervals than dino oil. Since chains on bikes will not see the same temperature as that of a combustion engine, it is safe to say dino motor oil is more than adequate for lubrication.

  5. #5
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    more...

    Yes, mineral spirits dries fairly fast if not mixed with oil, but still very slow compared to other paint thinners like lacquer thinner or acetone than can evaporate in minutes. Once mixed with oil, the evaporation rate slows drastically. A chain will still have a lot of solvent in the lube, even after 24 hours.

  6. #6
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    What is OMS?

  7. #7
    The Bike Genie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raven1911
    What is OMS?
    It's odorless mineral spirits...

  8. #8
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    Thanks Dan. Is mineral spirits interchangeable with paint thinner? I assume they are different, hence the different names but chemically does it make that much difference in the recipe?

  9. #9
    The Bike Genie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raven1911
    Thanks Dan. Is mineral spirits interchangeable with paint thinner? I assume they are different, hence the different names but chemically does it make that much difference in the recipe?
    They are basically the same. There is a difference, but for this purpose it would be of no concern; however, OMS is further refined to take many of the harmful components out of regular MS, making it the unanimous choice for most home-brewers.

    A good explaination:

    "Paint thinner (from the hardware store) can be made with different solvents for different purposes - Acetone, Butane, Tolulene for enamels, and White Mineral Spirits, Varsol, Turpentine etc. for oil/alkyd paints. Hardware store thinners are not highly refined - they are fine for cleaning up but not for mixing with paint because of impurities that can discolour the paint.

    Turpentine is a highly aromatic solvent made from coniferous trees (pine etc). Some people are sensitive to the smell. White Mineral Spirits is a petroleum-based solvent with little odour, often called "Odorless Thinner". Both are equally volatile and toxic. Both have equal paint dissolving properties."

  10. #10
    eRacer
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    I use CHAIN-L Lube now, but my HomeBrew that worked great was 3:1 OMS and Pennzoil Synthetic Motor Oil. Apply to Rollers only and let penetrate and wipe clean. Works great, but thin, so have to constantly re-apply and wipe.
    John Lapoint / San Diego
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  11. #11
    eRacer
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    Smile Chain-l

    If you are looking for the best lube on the planet that is quiet, clean and economical you should give CHAIN-L a try. I apply 100 drops to my chain rollers and wipe. Lasts for a month. At 1200 drops a year a $12 4oz bottle will last forever. I'm not good at math, but after a year, my 4oz bottle is still half full. Thats less then $1 a month for a smooth, quiet, clean chain.

    John
    John Lapoint / San Diego
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  12. #12
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    Anyone used art painting brush to apply lube? I know this is getting a bit 'out there'. But I'm a tinkerer....

  13. #13
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    I use home brew mixed 3 parts oms to one part oil. I use whatever oil I have lying around, usually whatever my car takes.

    I used a brush to apply the home brew to the chain but I thought it was too messy. I'm using a catsup squeeze bottle with a long nozzle lid, like the kind you find in diners.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  14. #14
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    I just made a batch. Followed Mr. Versatiles recipe from older posts. I used 3 parts light oder mineral spirits (store didn't have odorless), 1 part Valvoline synthetic oil. My buddy thought it was something of high costs. Ha! If he only knew.......

  15. #15
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    Not wishing to throw a spanner in the works, I would just like to ponder on the idea of mixing solvent with oil.

    I have often heard about the phenomenon called 'oil dilution' in engine crankcases, when gasoline gets in there and dilutes the oil. Apparently, even hot running the engine does not get rid of the gasoline very quickly, thus the oil is 'permantly' thinned in use.

    This makes me wonder whether a homebrew ever reverts to its 'proper' viscosity after application.

    OK, a car engine is probably sensitive to levels of dilution which would be irrelevant to a chain. Still, maybe an experiment is in order. Pour some oil in a test tube, then add your solvent, leave it and see whether the oil level reverts to that of the oil alone. Or pour it into a pan and back again, and compare. Chances are your solvent does not mix so tenaciously as gasoline, but then again it might still not evaporate from the oil at all readily.

    Is a solvent really necessary in a homebrew? Consider a high viscosity lube like Chain-L or Finish Line (green). It penetrates all right, and some heat can always be applied to help (if the chain is off the bike anyway for cleaning, especially). I am sure normal automotive oil will penetrate readily enough without a solvent. The first few revolutions of the drivetrain will spread the oil anyway.
    Last edited by Pieter; 01-21-2010 at 12:02 AM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter
    Not wishing to throw a spanner in the works, I would just like to ponder on the idea of mixing solvent with oil.

    I have often heard about the phenomenon called 'oil dilution' in engine crankcases, when gasoline gets in there and dilutes the oil. Apparently, even hot running the engine does not get rid of the gasoline very quickly, thus the oil is 'permantly' thinned in use.

    This makes me wonder whether a homebrew ever reverts to its 'proper' viscosity after application.

    OK, a car engine is probably sensitive to levels of dilution which would be irrelevant to a chain. Still, maybe an experiment is in order. Pour some oil in a test tube, then add your solvent, leave it and see whether the oil level reverts to that of the oil alone. Or pour it into a pan and back again, and compare. Chances are your solvent does not mix so tenaciously as gasoline, but then again it might still not evaporate from the oil at all readily.

    Is a solvent really necessary in a homebrew? Consider a high viscosity lube like Chain-L or Finish Line (green). It penetrates all right, and some heat can always be applied to help (if the chain is off the bike anyway for cleaning, especially). I am sure normal automotive oil will penetrate readily enough without a solvent. The first few revolutions of the drivetrain will spread the oil anyway.
    I'd say that gasoline in the motor oil has no place to evaporate to. It's basically a closed system so what ever amount of gasoline is mixed to the oil in the car engine will stay there for a long time.
    Bicycle chain however is not a closed system and the solvent actually can evaporate. So the conditions are very different and you can't compare them.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonis_t
    I'd say that gasoline in the motor oil has no place to evaporate to. It's basically a closed system so what ever amount of gasoline is mixed to the oil in the car engine will stay there for a long time..
    Cars have crankcase ventilation sytems for the express purpose of eliminating a closed system situation.

  18. #18
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    solvent

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter
    Not wishing to throw a spanner in the works, I would just like to ponder on the idea of mixing solvent with oil.

    I have often heard about the phenomenon called 'oil dilution' in engine crankcases, when gasoline gets in there and dilutes the oil. Apparently, even hot running the engine does not get rid of the gasoline very quickly, thus the oil is 'permantly' thinned in use.

    This makes me wonder whether a homebrew ever reverts to its 'proper' viscosity after application.

    OK, a car engine is probably sensitive to levels of dilution which would be irrelevant to a chain. Still, maybe an experiment is in order. Pour some oil in a test tube, then add your solvent, leave it and see whether the oil level reverts to that of the oil alone. Or pour it into a pan and back again, and compare. Chances are your solvent does not mix so tenaciously as gasoline, but then again it might still not evaporate from the oil at all readily.

    Is a solvent really necessary in a homebrew? Consider a high viscosity lube like Chain-L or Finish Line (green). It penetrates all right, and some heat can always be applied to help (if the chain is off the bike anyway for cleaning, especially). I am sure normal automotive oil will penetrate readily enough without a solvent. The first few revolutions of the drivetrain will spread the oil anyway.
    I am not sure that it matters if the oil reverts to its stated viscosity or not. I will say that the primary reason for the solvent is to clean the gunk from the chain. I feel that grit on your chain is a far bigger problem than lubrication. The other factor is that the solvent allows you to remove the oil from the outside of the chain where it does no good and attracts dirt

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG
    I am not sure that it matters if the oil reverts to its stated viscosity or not. I will say that the primary reason for the solvent is to clean the gunk from the chain. I feel that grit on your chain is a far bigger problem than lubrication. The other factor is that the solvent allows you to remove the oil from the outside of the chain where it does no good and attracts dirt

    OK, I will buy that. Just hoping the solvent does not wash grit further into the chain.

    And I would still feel better when I knew the oil is undiluted, as a chain with its tiny links does subject the oil film to very high pressure (force divided by area) ... My impression of 'chain specific' oils like Finish Line and Chain-L is that they are high viscosity foremost, and for a reason too.

  20. #20
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    info...

    As I noted, the solvent will evaporate given enough time, but that might take a week or more, so most bikes are ridden with a mix of oil and solvent. The idea is for most of the solvent to evaporate leaving a smaller quantity of oil behind, to reduce the mess. I've tried straight oil, including 75/90W gear lube. The problem is all the oil that oozes out of the chain and onto the cogs. Wiping after every ride helps keep the chain clean, but the cogs and chainrings get dirty quickly and need some cleaning and wiping too.

    Even the diluted oil seems to do it's job in preventing elongation. I've used a Campy 10 chain for 6,000 miles and measured about .2% elongation. A Shimano or KMC chain with the same lube and riding conditions would reach .5% after 3500-4000 miles.

    Roller wear is what I found to be the greatest, regardless of the chain brand. It may be 10 times greater than the pin and bushing wear.

    I like the idea of applying plenty of thinned lube frequently with the goal of flushing out dirt. When the lube cost pennies per ounce rather than $2-3, this is practical.

    Putting one drop of some high-priced lube on each roller will not last for a month if the bike is ridden many miles in that month. I may ride 800-1,000 miles in the peak season and I lube every 100 miles, whether it's needed or not. I'm confident that any lube is quickly contaminated with dirt, since the chain clearances are large and there are no seals so keep out dirt.
    Last edited by C-40; 01-21-2010 at 06:37 AM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by C-40
    I'm tyring two new products for a fast evaporating solvent. One is brake cleaner, the other is CRC brand silicone lube. I don't care about the silicone, but the solvent sure evaporates quickly. Both only come in aerosals, but some ProLink users who only put one drop on each roller claim that 4 ounces lasts them a year, so you can get a lot of solvent from one aerosal can. I use a lot more than that, but my homebrew would still be a fraction of the price of ProLink or any of several other similar products.
    So, how are you using the brake cleaner?
    Looking at some brake cleaner MSDS sheets online, they are mostly Acetone (~75%), Methanol(~15%), MEK/methyl ethyl ketone + a similar amount of toluene (~5%) & CO2 as propellant. All pretty fast to evaporate!
    If you didn't know, all these products must produce a MSDS (material safety data sheet), so you can at least figure out the carrier/solvents they are using by looking at their sheets.

    The silicone spray or something like Boeshield T9 have fast evaporating solvents and dry leaving the lubricant behind. T9 uses mostly OMS as carrier & dries leaving a bit of a waxy coating, similar to white lightning. Not a great wet weather lube, but lasts quite well for dry use. I've found it longer lasting than silicone sprays. I also used T9 to lube cables on my mtn bikes.

    All that said, for chains, I mostly use T9 on the road bikes and homebrew on mtn. Homebrew lasts longer, but attracts more grime.

  22. #22
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    how...

    I made a small batch of lube in an old 2-ounce Pedro's Ice Wax bottle. Sprayed some brake cleaner into the bottle, then mixed in some gear lube. I only made about 1/2 ounce to start with.

    I can read on the label of the aerosal can what's in these products.

    I also mix very small test batches in a small plastic cup. The scoops that come with whey protein powder work great. I mix a fraction of an ounce and let it sit, open to the air to be sure that the solvent evaporates by the next day. It easy to tell if the volume decreases significantly.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by C-40
    I made a small batch of lube in an old 2-ounce Pedro's Ice Wax bottle. Sprayed some brake cleaner into the bottle, then mixed in some gear lube. I only made about 1/2 ounce to start with.

    I can read on the label of the aerosal can what's in these products.

    I also mix very small test batches in a small plastic cup. The scoops that come with whey protein powder work great. I mix a fraction of an ounce and let it sit, open to the air to be sure that the solvent evaporates by the next day. It easy to tell if the volume decreases significantly.
    I was figuring you probably did something like that.
    I only mention the MSDS since sometimes all that information is not on the can. I've never looked at what was in a brake cleaner can, so easiest thing was to check MSDS online
    I like your test methods using those scoops. My wife always tosses 'em when I throw 'em in the kitchen drawer.

  24. #24
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    Evaporation

    Quote Originally Posted by C-40
    I also mix very small test batches in a small plastic cup. The scoops that come with whey protein powder work great. I mix a fraction of an ounce and let it sit, open to the air to be sure that the solvent evaporates by the next day. It easy to tell if the volume decreases significantly.
    There is a pretty big difference in evaporation rates in a "closed cup" device vs. the experience of thinned oil on a chain. When you place your mix in a cup, the vapor space above the oil/solvent surface is saturated with solvent, and so the evaporation rate from the liquid is depressed - it's limited by how fast the solvent leaves the vapor space, which will depend on gas density and ambient air flow. When the oil/solvent mix is applied to the chain, there is a much larger surface area and an open structure allowing the solvent vapor to evaporate much faster. Admittedly, some of the oil is "trapped" between the side plates and in the chain rollers, but it is still a much higher surface/volume ratio than in a cup.

    IME, using OMS as a chain lube solvent means that it is fully evaporated in less than 12 hours, though I will admit I have no hard measurements to prove it.

  25. #25
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    I have good luck with thinned out chainsaw bar oil. It is designed just to lube chains and I buy it by the gallon for my saw. The price is right and the chain is quiet.

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