Mountain Bike Chain Lube Alternatives — Ultimate List
There’s a reason why a well-oiled mountain bike performs optimally. It’s because the oil lubricates joints and other moving parts so that friction is reduced and the metal components aren’t constantly grinding against each other and wearing down. Of course, there are specific oils that are designed especially for particular parts of the bike, and using the oil the manufacturer recommends is important. But what if you don’t have the exact lubricant that is suggested? Can you use mountain bike chain lube alternatives? Let’s find out.
Mountain bike chain lube alternatives include household grease, cooking or olive oil, bike oil, machine oil, chainsaw oil, Vaseline, and 3-in-1 oil. Bike chain lubes are, however, designed to protect against rust and are easier to apply, which is where many DIY lube alternatives fail.
Using a different type of oil or grease on your bike chain when you don’t have anything else available is fine, but is not a permanent solution. Oils have different viscosities and adherence properties which means some will perform better in one area and badly in another. For example, while one oil may be easier to apply another might be more water-resistant. This article will take an in-depth look at the different types of bike chain lubes and their best uses, as well as the properties of alternative bike chain lubes, and their pros and cons when applied to a bicycle chain.
What Is Bike Chain Lube?
The four most popular bike chain lubricants are wet lube, dry lube, wax lube, and ceramic lube. Wet lube is wet when applied and remains wet and greasy on the chain. Dry lube, on the other hand, is wet when applied to the chain, and later drys to a waxy residue. Dry lube needs more frequent application because it wears off faster than wet lube. Wet lube is best used on bikes that will be ridden in wet conditions with lots of puddles and mud, while dry lube is best used in dry weather conditions.
Bike chain lube is a Teflon-based solution that reduces friction on the chain and ensures smooth cycling and gear shifting. Wet lubes contain a mixture of Teflon and petroleum distillates or synthetic oils and polymers, while dry lubes contain a combination of Teflon and paraffin wax.
Wet lube is usually thicker and tackier than dry lube, which is generally thinner and requires shorter intervals between applications. Chain lube not only improves the durability of your chain but also impacts the longevity of the chainring and the derailleur. Our article about how to fix a chain that keeps breaking takes an in-depth look at the effects of improper lubrication and how this takes its toll on your bike’s performance on the trail. Furthermore, we’ve put together a list of tips to quickly fix a mountain bike chain that is skipping, so be sure to take a look at that one too.
A newer bike chain lubricant that is gaining popularity with mountain bikers in recent years is ceramic micro-particle lube or nano lubricant. As this article from the International Journal of Precision Engineering and Manufacturing-Green Technology explains, nanotechnology overcomes the environmental problems commonly associated with traditional lubricant additives like sulfur, chlorine, and phosphorus. Nano lube like this combines the best features of wet lube and dry lube, allowing the nanoparticles (or ceramic particles) to evenly coat the entire chain while providing longer-lasting adhesion than dry lube.
Similarly, be sure to read our related article explaining how to lube a mountain bike chain for more detailed information. Also, you might find interest in learning the differences between mountain bike wax and chain lubes. So be sure to check out that article too.
Why Use Bike Chain Lube?
Bike chain lube prevents the chain from crunchy and grinding on the chainring and stops premature wearing on the drivetrain. If you notice that pedaling has become more difficult and the chain is making a squeaky or metallic noise, then your chain probably needs lubrication.
Use bike chain lube to make gear-shifting easier and smoother, reduce friction on the drivetrain, and maintain the integrity of the chain so that it lasts longer. Chain lube prevents the chain from screeching and grinding because it greases the chain links and joining pins so that they roll fluidly over the chainring.
Our article about how to fix a noisy grinding bike chain offers helpful troubleshooting tips to diagnose the problem as well as a step-by-step guide to fix it.
Reason 1. Chain Lube Allows Gears to Shift Smoothly
When a rider selects a higher or lower gear according to the speed and type of terrain, the derailleur moves the chain from a smaller ring onto a larger ringer, or vice-versa. This movement up or down the cassette can create friction because both the ring and the chain are made from metal.
A metal object (like a chain) rubbing or pushing against another metal component (like the sprockets) can have a grinding effect unless there is lubrication to make the movement easier. This video from GNC tech explains how gearing on mountain bikes works and will help clarify why lubricant is essential to ensure smooth gear changes.
Reason 2. Chain Lube Reduces Friction Between the Chain and Chainring
The chain is constantly moving around the chainring as the pedals are rotated, which means the chain links are making continuous contact with the chainring sprockets with each rotation. This metal-on-metal rubbing causes friction which can wear down the drivetrain components quicker. Lubricant offers a protective layer to the metal so that the chain moves steadily.
As the chain rolls over the chainring the pins that join each chain link pivot to allow for the circular movement. Lubricant makes the pivot motion smooth and frictionless so that the chain doesn’t seize up and get stuck on the ring.
Reason 3. Chain Lube Maintains Bike Chain Integrity
A lubricated bike chain is a healthy bike chain, which then translates to a well-maintained mountain bike. Because the chain comes into contact with all the components directly related to pedaling and forward propulsion it is essential to make sure it is well lubricated as explained in this video tutorial by Luke Silbernagel.
A dry chain that creaks and grinds against other components will cause wear and tear on the drivetrain—not to mention that a dry chain is more prone to rust and to break suddenly. This article from ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Science, explains why chain lubrication is important for rider safety as well as pedaling efficiency and improved speed.
In order to appreciate this reason, be sure to read our related article explaining how much a mountain bike chain costs with comparison charts for additional information. And if somehow you find yourself with a tangled up chain, be sure to take a look at our article explaining how to untangle a mountain bike chain for some tips and tricks.
What Is the Best Chain Lube For Mountain Bikes — Different Types of Chain Lube?
The accessories and bike care products you use on your mountain bike are largely determined by the type of trail conditions and how frequently you ride. A rider who rides more than three times a week will need to lubricate their chain more often because the friction will rub the lubricant off. While a bike that traverses drier trails will need a less robust lubricant, it will need to be reapplied more often.
A universal chain lube with Teflon is best for everyday mountain bike use because it is easy to apply and lasts long. Use wet chain lube for better chain protection in wet and muddy conditions, dry lube for sand and arid trails, wax lube for dusty trails, and ceramic lube for wet and dry conditions.
In this video from Simple Mountain Biking, Eddies pits various chain lubes against each other to determine their wear protection, sling offcast, sand repellant, and water-resistance capabilities.
His results conclude that Demond Tech Original Lube had the best wear but failed in the sand and water-repellant tests. This Rock ‘n Roll Gold Lube and This Purple Extreme Lube were two of Eddies’ three favorite lubes because they performed well in the wear and water-resistance tests. He determined that This Muc-Off Dry Lube was the best at reducing friction, and performed relatively well in the sling and sand repelling tests.
Now let’s take a closer look at the four types of mountain bike chain lubricants:
Wet lubes perform well in wet and muddy riding conditions because they have specialized solutions that contain synthetic oils and polymers to repel moisture. Wet lube is the preferred lubricant for riders who ride long distances because they last longer and need to be reapplied less frequently.
Because wet lubes stay moist after application they can attract dirt on dry trails which will result in a chain that is laden with sand and debris, making the chain crunch and grin against the chainring. Only use wet lube if you anticipate riding through muddy puddles or in rainy weather.
This article from lube manufacturer, Muc-Off, explains how to properly lubricate your bike chain and also has an embedded video that you can follow along with to apply your lube correctly without hassle or waste.
Dry lubes are wet when applied but later dry to a thin film that isn’t oily. They typically contain Teflon or other fluoropolymers and small amounts of synthetic oils which ensure they are less viscous and more fluid during the application process.
Dry lubes like this are not effective at repelling water and mud because they are not thick and their adhesion time is shorter than wet lubes. But dry lubes do offer superior sand and dust resistance for riders who enjoy riding on dry trails. Dry lube will need to be reapplied more often because it is thinner than other lubes. You may notice that your chain starts to squeak if you applied dry lube and have to ride through several puddles because it wears off quickly.
This bike maintenance guide from the bicycle product manufacturer, Finish Line, explains the various types of lube and when to use them, as well as other bike cleaning solutions and maintenance products.
Wax chain lubes like this are wax-based lubricants that are applied to the chain in a liquid form but then dry to a waxy film that is not oily or sticky. They typically contain boron nitrate and Teflon which ensures better adhesion to metal components and reduces friction. They are considered to be the superior lube solution for both wet and dry riding but take longer to apply.
Wax lube must be applied to a thoroughly cleaned and degreased chain for maximum performance. It must also be worked through all the cogs across the cassette so that the wax can penetrate all components of the drivetrain.
As this article from Oneridecycling.co.uk explains, the wax lube must be warmed up first and then applied to the chain as it moves through the cassette, working from the smallest cog to the largest. This will ensure the wax lubricant seeps into all the chain links and pins, as well as forms a protective layer around each sprocket.
Ceramic lubes like this consist of various compositions, but most contain nano-sized platelets of ceramic boron nitride and micron particles of fluoropolymer. These compounds provide the ultimate friction reduction on metal bike components to improve their wear and longevity.
Ceramic lube also dries to a thin and smooth film, and will not attract dirt and grime that can stick to the chain and weigh it down, because ceramic lube is not wet or sticky. This type of lube is also well-suited to all weather conditions because it is effective at repelling both sand and water. It is also long-wearing and riders can enjoy many riding miles before reapplication is necessary.
Proper lubrication will ensure your chain moves smoothly around the chainring and through the cassette and will reduce chain breaks. Our quick and proper chain maintenance guide offers helpful tips to protect your chain and reduce damage to other bike parts.
Popular Chain Lubes Summary
Household grease comes in two main types; food-grade and non-food-grade. Food-grade means it is safe if accidentally ingested, while non-food-grade is unsafe for consumption, and medical attention should be immediately sought if ingested. This also means that if these non-food-grade substances accidentally get into your nose or eyes, you should contact poison control immediately to ask for assistance and next step actions.
Non-food-grade household grease like this SIL-Glyde can be used on a bike chain in a pinch. It has a viscous gel-like consistency that can be easily applied to the chain with minimal dripping and spills and will reduce friction. It is intended for use in automotive and mechanical shops, so it will provide good protection to a bike chain, but it may become gummy and encrusted with sand if used on a dry track.
Food-grade grease like this Super Lube won’t drip or evaporate easily so it can be used on a bike chain. It is meant for use on squeaky door hinges, stuck locks, or as an anti-seize on nuts and bolts. Though it says food-grade this doesn’t mean it is meant for eating, only that it is safe if accidentally ingested. It doesn’t have adequate rust protection for bike chains, and its water resistance is limited, but it can be a temporary solution to grease a bike chain.
Olive Oil or Cooking Oil
Mountain bikers who are out riding might not have chain lubricant in their backpacks, but they will almost certainly pass a food truck or restaurant on the way. As this thread on Quora illustrates, many cyclists have used olive oil or cooking oil as an emergency lube without incurring any damage to their drivetrains. As they say, “any oil is better than no oil.” But be warned, using cooking oil on your chain will mean that you have to stop more often to reapply it.
Bike oils like this often come in degreaser and lubricant combinations, so you get a 2-in1 cleaner and lube. These will work fine if you ride easier trails with less debris and mud because they are less resistant than specially designed dry and wet chain lubes. Using a 2-in-1 lube and cleaner will cut down on the time it takes to clean and lubricate your bike. The problem with using a 2-in-1 bike oil is that they offer a superficial clean and lubrication but won’t provide the full lube adhesion benefits that you’ll get with wax or ceramic lubricant.
Chainsaw oil like this has rust protection so it can be applied to a bike chain. The problem is that it is very fluid and will be difficult to apply without spilling and dripping. Because chainsaw oil is thinner than bike chain lube it won’t last long on the trail and will need to be reapplied frequently. It won’t have much chain sling and is somewhat water repellent, but it really can’t compare to a good-quality wet chain lube like this Muc-Off Wet.
Machine oils like these ones that are used for sewing machines and treadmills are a good substitute for bike chain lubes because they thoroughly coat moving parts, are rust-resistant, and don’t leave a gummy residue. Their downfall, when compared to bike chain lube, is their inability to repel water. They do reduce friction and prevent corrosion caused by grinding metal, but because they are meant for use inside machines that will never come into contact with water, they don’t have the nanoparticles that chain lubes do.
Multi-purpose oils or 3-in-1 oils like this are suitable alternatives to bike chain lube because they offer rust protection, but they don’t adhere to the chain as well as bike chain lubes do. 3-In-1 Oils are runnier than bike chain lube, so they are messy to apply and will have a lot of chain sling when riding.
This not only means you will need to apply oil more often but that you could find yourself getting sprayed with loose oil particles as you cycle. Mudguards can help reduce the amount of oil that reaches the rider, and our article about whether you need mountain bike mudguards or not will explain their benefits in more detail.
Imagine you’re out riding, far from any urban areas and your chain starts to grind. There is no lube in your saddle toolkit. But you do have a lip balm in your A Vaseline product like lip balm will work in an emergency, but it will need to be cleaned off with a deep-cleaning degreaser when you get home.
This vaseline is a petroleum-based jelly that is meant for use on human skin, which this article from The International Journal of Cosmetic Science explains, so it doesn’t have the rust protection and lubrication properties necessary for a bike chain. Vaseline will also attract a lot of dirt which will stick to the chain, and may make it harder to pedal. This is why it is at the bottom of the list of chain lube alternatives.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Mountain Bike Chain Lube Alternatives
Bike chain alternatives are a quick solution when you urgently need to lubricate the chain and don’t have chain lube available. They aren’t intended for long-term use because often they don’t have the special combination of rust protection, muck repellant, and lubricating properties that chain lubes have, but they will suffice in a pinch. The trick to lubricating your bike chain with an alternative is knowing how long they will stay on the chain before you need to reapply them.
The pros of using mountain bike chain lube alternatives are their availability and affordability. The cons of using lube alternatives are they are not intended for long-term use because they lack the proper adhesion properties, lubrication, water resistance, and rust protection that bicycle chain lubes offer.
Pro 1. Accessibility
Bike chain lube alternatives like household grease, chainsaw oil, machine oil, multi-purpose oi, and bike oil are readily available in local hardware and DIY stores, as well as online. They are used for many tasks other than lubricating chains, so they are more likely to be found in most people’s garages.
Bike chain lube alternatives like olive oil and cooking oil are sold in every grocery store and desperate riders can even ask cooks in food trucks to give them a small squirt of oil for their bike chains if necessary. Vaseline or lip balm is also one of those everyday items that most people carry in their s, though this lube alternative should only be used in a true emergency.
Pro 2. Price
Other than olive oil, most other bike chain lube alternatives are inexpensive. And because they have other uses besides chain lubrication, people generally feel they are making their money stretch by buying one multi-use product.
Con 1. Incompatibility With Mechanical Bike Parts
Typical household lubricants don’t have the rust protection and water-repellant properties that traditional bike chain lube has. The nanoparticles in bike chain lubes effectively coat each moving component to prevent friction and reduce wear. Chain lube’s viscosity allows it to flow into each crevice without drippage or waste.
Con 2. Inefficiency
Bike chain lube alternatives don’t thoroughly coat the chain because they are either too liquidy or too tacky. Lube alternatives like cooking oil, machine oil, chainsaw oil, and 3-1 oil can’t stick to the chain long enough to remain in place during a long riding session and will need frequent reapplication. Conversely, lube alternatives like Vaseline and household grease are too sticky and will leave a gloopy residue on the drivetrain that will attract debris and cause excessive stress on the chain.
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How to Choose a Chainsaw Oil Substitute: Expert Advice
If you have a question about how to choose a chainsaw oil substitute then you should read the following article. If you need a chainsaw oil substitute, you should consider a few factors. First, you need to make sure that the oil is compatible with your chainsaw. Second, you need to make sure that the oil is the right weight and viscosity for your chainsaw. Finally, you need to make sure that the oil will not damage your chainsaw.
- 1 How to Choose a Chainsaw Oil Substitute?
- 2 Precautions Before Using Oil
- 3 Reasons For Using A Bar Oil Substitute
- 4 What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
- 5 How often should you add oil to the chainsaw?
- 6 What Oil Can Be Used for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
- 6.1 Can I Use 10w30 for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
- 6.2 Can I Use 5w30 for a Chainsaw Bar?
- 6.3 Can I Use Gear Oil As Bar Oil?
- 6.4 Can You Use 2-Cycle Oil As Bar Oil?
- 6.5 Can I Use Vegetable Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
- 6.6 Can I Use Canola Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
- 6.7 Can I Use Hydraulic Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
- 8.1 Is there a substitute for bar and chain oil?
- 8.2 Is chainsaw bar oil the same as motor oil?
- 8.3 What is a good substitute for chainsaw bar oil?
How to Choose a Chainsaw Oil Substitute?
You’ll want to consider what kind of environment you’ll be using the chainsaw in. If you’re using it in a cold climate, you’ll want to choose an oil that won’t freeze. If you’re using it in a hot climate, you’ll want an oil that won’t break down in the heat. You’ll also want to consider how often you’ll be using the chainsaw.
There are a variety of oils that can be used as substitutes for chainsaw oil. However, the most common substitutes are motor oil, bar, and chain oil. The type of oil you use will depend on the type of chainsaw you have and the type of oil that the manufacturer recommends.
Precautions Before Using Oil
Before using any oil as a substitute for chainsaw oil, it is important to take some basic precautions. Firstly, always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to make sure that the oil you are using is suitable for your chainsaw. Secondly, make sure that you are using the correct oil viscosity for your chainsaw. And finally, always mix the oil with fuel in the correct ratio as specified by the manufacturer.
Reasons For Using A Bar Oil Substitute
There are two main reasons for using a chainsaw bar chain oil substitute: to save money or to avoid toxic chemicals.
If you’re looking to save money, a bar oil substitute can save you up to 25% on the cost of your bar oil. This can add up to quite a bit of money over the course of a year.
Toxic chemicals are another reason to use a chainsaw-cutting oil substitute. Some of the chemicals in bar oil can be harmful to your health. Bar oil substitutes are made with natural ingredients that are safe for you and the environment.
What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
Chainsaw bar oil is a special type of oil that is designed to keep your chainsaw running smoothly. It is important to use a good substitute for chainsaw oil because it will help to prolong the life of your chainsaw and keep it running at its best.
There are a few different types of chainsaw bar oil that you can buy, but the most common type is synthetic. This type of oil is made from a synthetic base and is designed to provide the best possible lubrication for your chainsaw.
Another type of chainsaw bar oil is semi-synthetic. This type of oil is made from a blend of synthetic and natural oils. It is designed to provide the best possible lubrication for your chainsaw while still being affordable.
MYSTERY BAR OIL HACK. 80% CHEAPER THAN STIHL CHAINSAW BAR OIL
The last type of chainsaw bar oil is mineral oil. Mineral oil is a natural oil that is extracted from the ground. It is not as effective at lubricating your chainsaw as synthetic or semi-synthetic oils, but it is still a good choice for people who do not want to spend a lot of money on their chainsaw.
How often should you add oil to the chainsaw?
It is important to add oil to your chainsaw on a regular basis in order to keep it running smoothly. The frequency with which you need to add substitutes for chainsaw chain oil will vary depending on the type of saw that you have and how often you use it. The best way to determine how often you need to add oil to your chainsaw is to consult the owner’s manual. It is also a good idea to check the level of oil in the chainsaw before each use.
What Oil Can Be Used for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
There is no one right answer to the question, “What can you substitute for chainsaw bar oil?”. Some people may recommend using motor oil or gear oil for chainsaw bar oil, but these are not ideal. Motor oil is too thin and will not provide enough lubrication, while gear oil is too thick and will cause the chain to bind. The best type of oil to use is a chainsaw bar oil specifically designed for this purpose.
Can I Use 10w30 for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
While 10w30 motor oil may work as a temporary fix, it is not ideal for long-term use. This type of oil is too thin and will not provide enough lubrication for the chain.
Can I Use 5w30 for a Chainsaw Bar?
While 5w30 motor oil may work as a chainsaw bar oil, it is not very good. This type of oil is too thin and will not provide enough lubrication. It can also cause the chain to bind.
Can I Use Gear Oil As Bar Oil?
No, you should not use gear oil as bar oil for your chainsaw. Gear oil is too thick and will cause the chain to bind. It is also difficult to clean off the chain and bar, which can lead to corrosion.
Can You Use 2-Cycle Oil As Bar Oil?
No, you should not use 2-cycle oil as bar oil for your chainsaw. 2-cycle oil is designed for use in engines, not chainsaws. It can damage your chainsaw and cause it to malfunction.
Can I Use Vegetable Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
Yes, you may use vegetable oil as a chainsaw motor oil substitute. But you should remember that vegetable oil is too thin and may not provide enough lubrication. It can also cause the chain to bind.
Can I Use Canola Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
Canola oil can be used as a chainsaw bar oil, but it is not the best option. Canola oil can cause the chain to bind and is not as effective at lubricating the bar as a dedicated chainsaw bar oil. It is not as durable as other oils and will break down quickly. It is also more likely to attract dirt and debris, which can clog the chain and cause it to break.
Can I Use Hydraulic Oil for a Chainsaw Bar?
Hydraulic oil can be used for a chainsaw bar, but it is not ideal. Hydraulic oil is too thin and will not provide enough lubrication, while gear oil is too thick and will cause the chain to bind. The best type of oil to use is a chainsaw bar oil specifically designed for this purpose. Hydraulic oil can result in poorer performance and may cause damage to the chainsaw.
What is the Best Chainsaw Bar Oil?
So, now it’s time to answer the question: what is the best chainsaw bar oil? There are a few factors to consider when choosing the best oil for your chainsaw. The first is the type of oil.
There are two main types of oil: synthetic and mineral. Synthetic oil is made from man-made materials, while mineral oil is made from crude oil. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Synthetic oil is more expensive than mineral oil, but it lasts longer and provides better protection for your chainsaw. It is also easier to find in stores. Mineral oil is less expensive and is easier to find, but it does not last as long and does not provide as much protection. It is also more likely to cause problems if it gets too hot.
The second factor to consider is the viscosity of the oil. Viscosity is a measure of how thick the oil is. The thicker the oil, the better it will protect your chainsaw. However, thicker oil is also more likely to cause problems if it gets too hot.
The third factor to consider is the temperature at which the oil will be used. Chainsaws are designed to operate at specific temperatures. If the oil is too thick or too thin, it can cause problems.
Finally, you should also consider the type of chainsaw you have. Some chainsaws require different types of oil than others.
So, what is the best chainsaw bar oil? The answer depends on your individual needs. If you need a long-lasting, high-quality oil, synthetic oil is the best choice. If you need an oil that is less expensive and easier to find, mineral oil is the best choice.
Is there a substitute for bar and chain oil?
Yes, there are a number of substitutes for bar and chain oil, including motor oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, and even WD-40. However, it is important to note that not all of these substitutes are created equal, and some may actually damage your chainsaw. As such, it is important to do your research before using any of these substitutes.
Is chainsaw bar oil the same as motor oil?
No, chainsaw bar oil is a specially formulated oil that is designed to lubricate the chain and bar of your chainsaw. Motor oil is not suitable for use in a chainsaw.
What is a good substitute for chainsaw bar oil?
There are a few different oils that can be used as a substitute for chainsaw bar oil. These include vegetable oil, motor oil, and even WD-40. It is important to note that each of these oils has different properties, so it is important to choose the one that will work best for your particular chainsaw.
Chainsaw oil is a specific oil designed to protect the saw chain, guide bar, and sprocket from wear. It also keeps the saw running smoothly and reduces vibration. While you can use other types of oil in an emergency, it’s not really advisable to do this in the long term. It’s best just to get some chainsaw oil and have it on hand in case you run out. Also, if you have any questions or would like to share your own experience, please leave a comment below.
Bike Chain Lubricant Alternatives
Also, keep in mind that most lubricants are designed to be used in a closed system, not for use in a bicycle drivetrain that’s exposed to all the environmental elements and dirt debris.
This article analyzes many common lubes you have in your home and lets you know if they are suitable for application on your bike chain. First, we start with what makes an ideal bike-specific lubricant.
What is an ideal bicycle lubricant?
A bicycle lube provides a lubricant film that separates metal-to-metal contact between the cogs and the chain. The main method for reducing drivetrain friction is by creating a single layer of lubricant molecules which impedes the direct contact of surfaces.
An ideal bicycle lubricant will be thick enough to prevent any metal-to-metal contact but still thin enough to penetrate the inner components of the chain. If the chain lube is too thick (high viscosity), the performance decreases as the drag force is increased, which not only makes you slower but also increases the rate that your chain will stretch or wear.
Ingredients in a bike-specific chain lubricant:
All lubricants are composed of two components:
- A base oil (mineral, synthetic, or biological)
- Plus additives
Lubes are 80-98% base oil and 2-20% additives
Ideal additives for bicycle chains:
- Anti-wear. These additives, such as Lubrizol LZ4370LG, significantly reduces wear in your drivetrain system. These function by creating a protective layer that reduces the amount of contact and thus reduces wear.
- Friction Modifiers. These are additives that modify how the frictional behavior of the system works by forming a chemical layer on the top layer that has a very low shear strength. Molybdenum dialkyldithiocarbamate is a very common example used for bicycle-specific chain lubes.
- Oxidation Stability (anti-oxidants). Oxidation is increased from exposure to water and heat. These are especially important for biological or eco-friendly lubricants (veggie oil base lube).
Grease is the same as lube except that grease has thickeners added to it, which is why it’s described as “a sponge that holds the lubricant.”
Chain lube alternatives
- Vegetable oils, such as canola, sesame seed, corn, peanut, cottonseed, linseed, rapeseed, and olive oil, all reduce the amount of friction to very similar levels to those of bike-specific lubricants.
- Castor oil is a very poor performance bike-lubricant because it is so thick, it’s not able to penetrate the rollers.
While most vegetable oils will reduce the amount of force needed to pedal a bicycle to similar levels of those of bike specific lubricants (in laboratory settings), the main reason you wouldn’t want to use them is because they will pick up LOTS of DIRT and GRIME.
Also, keep in mind that veggie oils have low oxidative stability compared to synthetic or petroleum-based oils, which means the oils will degrade and lose their lubricating and protection properties fairly quickly.
- Exposure to water makes veggie oils oxidize or breakdown even faster and turn into a sludge (not good for base oils in wet bike-lubes).
- Vegetable oils offer poor protection against corrosion
Can I use veggie oils as a chain lube?
No. These oils will attract dirt and the oil itself will degrade and oxidize quickly. These types of oils should be avoided unless used in an emergency.
Chainsaw (bar) Oil
Chainsaw oil is designed to be sticky. This oil needs to stick to a chain that is spinning at between 10,000 to 14,000 RPM. Compare this to a bicycle chain that is spinning at 60. 100 RPM. You can see quite easily how much stickier chainsaw oil needs to be than what is optimal for your bike chain.
Main functions of chainsaw (bar) oil:
- Stick to the blade
- Reduce operating temperatures as the blades get very hot
- Protect against rust
99% of chainsaw oil is either absorbed into the sawdust, sticks to the logs, gets trapped in the loggers’ clothes, or ends up on the ground.
Bar (chainsaw) oil is designed to be super sticky since nearly all of it flings off the blade. This super sticky component means it won’t come off your bike chain but means that any dirt or debris will instantly stick to it too.
Can I use chainsaw oil on my bike chain?
Yes. You can use chainsaw (bar) oil as a wet bike chain lube and would be best used for riding in inclement weather where you need a sticky oil that will not get washed off from rain or wet conditions. Unless you’re consistently riding in rainy weather, this lube is too sticky for most riding conditions.
Motor oils have a much greater percentage of additives compared to bike-specific lubes. Also, the additives of motor oil are much different than those for chain oils, as motor oil has extreme pressure (EP) additives, deactivators, and tackiness agents, none of which make your bicycle chain perform any better.
- Engine oils are more susceptible to oxidation than any other lubricant (keep in mind these oils are designed for a closed system)
Can I use motor oil as a chain lube?
You can use motor oil. However, it’s not recommended as this oil is too thick and won’t penetrate the inner components.
If you want to make a ‘thin’ version of this it would be better, but motor oil is not an ideal chain lubricant as the additives don’t protect against wear nor does it provide optimal reduction of friction. Also, it oxidizes when applied in open-air applications as it’s designed to be used in a closed system.
Gear oil is a thick lubricant made specifically for transmissions, transfer cases, and automobile differentials. Most gear oils have extreme pressure (EP) additives, which are useless for bicycle lubes, as cyclists rarely even generate 1-horse-power. The high viscosity attracts dirt and debris making this less than an ideal lube.
- High viscosity = very thick. Gear oil is too thick to penetrate the rollers and internal workings of your chain.
- Extreme Pressure (EP) additives are a vital component of gear oil. The additive profile of these gear oils does nothing for cycling.
- Viscosity Improver. These oils are designed to be used in machines that run at high temperatures. As the temperature changes, it alters the viscosity of the lubricant, so additives are important when used in machinery. Also, the lubricant is responsible for removing heat from the system. None of these functions are needed for bicycle lubes and these modify the frictional force and wear properties of lube, neither of which is good for optimal bicycle chain performance.
Can I use gear oil on my bike chain?
Use at your own risk of sub-optimal performance and a very dirty chain as trail and road debris will cling to this sticky oil designed specifically for specialized high-temperature gearboxes.
How I Get Free Bar Oil
Light machine oil, such as sewing machine oil, is nearly 100% pure-base oil or white mineral oil.
Can I use machine oil on my chain?
Since machine oils are nearly 100% white mineral oil, these lack performance, and anti-wear additives. If you don’t care about performance this will work, but I’d reserve this oil for the sewing machine.
WD40 should NOT be used on your chain since WD40 is NOT a lubricant. WD40 is a solvent. This means you can use it to clean your chain, however, after application, you will need to apply an actual lubricant.
READ: I have an entire article about WD-40, you can read if you would like more info.
3-IN-1 Multi-Purpose Oil
3-IN-1 oil uses a naphthenic base oil, which is known for its high freezing point, little oxidation, ideal viscosity for chain use, and great viscosity variation with temperature fluctuations.
- Naphthenic based oils are relatively aggressive for seals, which is why they are not used in closed systems. However, they are great for bicycle chains, which is why several bike-specific lube manufacturers use them as a base oil.
READ: I’ve also written a more in-depth article about 3-IN-ONE Oil for bicycle chains if you would like a more in-depth reading.
Can I use 3-IN-ONE oil on my chain?
Yes. 3-IN-ONE oil was originally designed for bicycle chains and outperforms many bike-specific lubricants available in the market place.
You can use any oils or lubricants that are not very thick and penetrates every link of your chain. However, a superior bike lubricant will provide you with over 30 watts of power compared to many of the lubes mentioned. So how much faster is 30 watts of power….about 1 mph (1.6kph).
All the alternative lubricants mentioned on this list are wet lubes. Depending on the trail or road that your riding, the lubes ability to propel dirt is probably the most important characteristic. Weather permitting, a quality dry lubricant is best for the prevention of grime accumulation.
Jesse is the Director of Pedal Chile and lives in Valdivia, Chile. Jesse has a Master of Science in Health Human Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Hobbies: Mountain biking, bicycle commuting, snowboarding, reading, weight-lifting, taster of craft beers, researching.
What Kind of Oil for Chainsaw in 2023? A Guide
Maintaining and operating a chainsaw is not as handy as it might seem to be. There are many aspects that you must keep checking and they require huge care. Using a quality oil that is most suitable for the chainsaw is yet another task that you should be careful about. For this, you must know what type of oil is most suitable for your chainsaw.
Choosing the right oil for a chainsaw is the same as knowing if your children like to have meat or veggies. And in some cases might be someone is allergic to meat or veggies then of course you should know what should be given to whom. The same goes for your chainsaw, some oils would be really good others can be used in case of emergency and some should never be given to a chainsaw.
Now, the question arises what kind of oil for the chainsaw is required or is most suitable for your chainsaw? To get the answer to this you should read this article till the end. I will tell you everything regarding the kind of oils that can be used for different types of chainsaws.
First, we will discuss that what are the most suitable oils and for which type of chainsaw. Then, in case of unavailability what you may use as an alternative option? And to what extent you can use those alternative options? Because always using alternative ways can damage the engine of your chainsaw.
What Kind of Oil for Chainsaw as a Beginner in 2023?
2 Stroke Oil for Chainsaw:
2 stroke oil is good and can be used for chainsaw oil as a good option. However, not all 2 stroke oils can be used for chainsaws because some of these oils are not suitable for the engine of the chainsaw. Thus, it can damage the engine and you may have to pay large for a small mistake.
Let me tell you what 2 stroke oils can be used in a chainsaw. It actually depends on the type of engine. You have to check first if your chainsaw engine is water-cooled or air-cooled. Since most chainsaw engines are air-cooled thus you can use the 2-stroke oil that is suitable for air-cooled engines.
For this, you should read all the specifications of your chainsaw so that you can decide what best suits your chainsaw. The other thing that you should consider is that a good and high-quality oil is better than a cheap one with low quality. Oil is essential for a chainsaw and it is like food to the chainsaw. So, if it would not of good quality then it will damage your chainsaw and mainly the engine of it.
What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
Like other machines, the best chainsaw bar also needs oil for lubrication purposes. A chainsaw is used for cutting wood mainly and for other cutting purposes as well. In all those processes, the chainsaw has to deal with huge friction.
To minimize friction and save the chainsaw from damage, you should lubricate all the parts of the chainsaw that need to be lubricated. The chainsaw bar and chainsaw chain are the main areas that should be lubricated properly.
Now you will have the question that what oil I can use for the chainsaw bar? So, the best option is vegetable or canola oil for lubrication purposes. Vegetable-based oils are composed of Triglycerides and are therefore more suitable for lubrication purposes than petroleum-based oils. However, never use used oils for lubrication or any purpose, fresh oil is always a good option.
Can I Use Motor Oil for Chainsaw?
Yes, you can use motor oil as a substitute for lubrication purposes but it is not a good option and can only be used as an alternative for short time. However, never use motor oil for chainsaw engines.
For a chainsaw engine, you should always use the oil recommended by the manufacturer. Read your user manual to explore your 16″ chainsaw and its composition. Then, based on the properties of the chainsaw, find the best oil for it.
Want to stay protective while cutting trees? Check Out the Latest Chainsaw Glove Reviews by Richard McMann
Also, never forget to use a perfect composition mixture of oil and gasoline. Knowing the perfect ratio of oil‒gasoline mixture for the engine is equally important as knowing what kind of oil for the chainsaw can be used. Therefore, you should consider both things and make your oil choices accordingly. I would still recommend using only the best bar and chain oil for chainsaws though.
Use of Vegetable Oil
Using vegetable oil for the chainsaw bar is a good option because vegetable oils are thinner and lighter in viscosity. However, for the engine of a chainsaw, you should always use the oil that is recommended by the manufacturer with a perfect mix ratio of oil and gasoline.
Can I Use 10W30 Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
Yes, 10W30 oil can be used for the bar oil but not an ideal option. As a substitution, you may use it. 10W30 oil has multi-weight which makes it good for use in summer as well as in winter.
When 10W30 oil heats up, it becomes thicker and when it is cold it is thinner therefore, it can be used in both seasons. However, you may face some problems as the chainsaw may drop and it might get difficult for you to tackle it.
This disturbance is because the oil is not ideal for the bar so when you are using alternatives then obviously problems are there.
Here’s a basic guide about fuel and oil by Echo USA
Can I Use 10W40 for Chainsaw Bar Oil?
Yes, it can be used but not a good option for bar oil. 10W30 and 10W40 motor oils are almost similar and both can be used as an alternative for chainsaw bar oil. However, it is never an ideal or a good option.
A good option among substitutions is vegetable oil. While the ideal option is the one that is meant for a chainsaw bar. Also, you should never forget that these alternatives are only for the chainsaw bar not for the engine or as a substitution to “Mix oil”.
What Oil for Electric Chainsaw?
As I have told you about the substitutions of oils for the chainsaw. Also, I told you about the good substitution and also which oil can never be used as an alternative. So, for electric chainsaws, there is no substitution.
The electric chainsaw should only be given the type of oil that is recommended by its manufacturer. Even for a Chainsaw bar, there is no better alternative option as the vegetable or motor oils are harmful to an electric chainsaw.
These oils can damage the chainsaw and its engine. So, you should never try looking for alternatives to your electric chainsaw.
The article was about what kind of oil for chainsaws can be used as an ideal. While we have discussed substitutions of oils, let me remind you once again that there is no good substitution for engine oil. 2 stroke oil can be used but it depends upon the type of chainsaw and the type of oil as well.
Though the oil is similar to 2-stroke oil for using it as a substitution, you must check the configurations. After checking the configuration of your chainsaw as well as the oil, if it matches you can use it as an alternative.
The perfect oil for the engine is the one recommended by the manufacturer. However, vegetable oil is a good substitute for bar oil as compared to other available options.
Richard lives out in the wild with his other half, Diana Richard. He tests chainsaws based on his personal experience and loves to share their nitty gritty details with his audience. Although Richard does FOCUS on other home improvement tools, his FOCUS remains on cutting fallen trees or maintaining his backyard via chainsaw tools. He pledges to come up with new knowledge about chainsaws every once in a while.