WD-40 is a staple of almost every garage in the world, but what about using it on a motorcycle chain? Can you really just spray plain old WD-40 on your pride and joy?
Proper chain maintenance is an essential part of keeping your bike running properly and avoiding unnecessary future repairs. So if you want it to stay in tip-top shape, read on and we'll run through the best methods for keeping the chain nice and clean.
Some warning: WD-40 and motorcycles is a slightly controversial topic. Some riders swear by it while some stay away from it entirely. We'll go through the facts below so you can decide for yourself.
YES OR NO: CAN I USE WD-40 ON MY MOTORCYCLE CHAIN?
So, the big question is: can I use WD-40 on my motorcycle chain? Well, it depends. There are two camps: those who swear by it and those who stay away from it.
The WD-40 website itself tells you that it's perfectly fine to use their product for cleaning motorcycle chains. But remember that WD-40 is an all-purpose spray - jack of all trades, master of none.
While it's good for degreasing and cleaning your bike chain, regular WD-40 doesn't have enough lubricant to keep the bike chain running smoothly. They make chain-specific products like this chain lube, but some bikers prefer sticking to something specifically made for motorcycles.
WD-40 AS A MOTORCYCLE CHAIN LUBRICANT AND CLEANER
WD-40 is made to be used as a solvent or to dissolve rust on the chain. So while it's a great tool to clean motorcycle chains, it's not considered a proper chain lube. Proper chain lubrication is important because a dry chain has more friction and wears more quicker, leading to rust and corrosion.
So WD-40 is still great for cleaning the chain, but you should wash away the remnants with soap and water, then follow it up with a good quality motorcycle lubricant.
WD40 MOTORCYCLE CHAIN CLEANING ON DIFFERENT CHAIN TYPES
The type of chain your bike has matters when it comes to cleaning, so if you're not sure then find out. The type of chain will determine how to properly clean it.
CHAINS WITH NO SEALS (STANDARD ROLLER CHAINS)
WD-40 is a pretty safe bet if your bike chain has no seals, otherwise known as a standard roller chain. But if you want to use standard WD-40, it's still a good idea to apply lube afterward for the best possible maintenance.
Chains with Seals (O RING CHAINS)
If your chain has o rings or seals, then using WD-40 becomes a bit riskier. Since WD-40 is a solvent, it has the potential to dry out and damage the o-ring seals, reducing their effectiveness and potentially leading to chain failure.
So if you have an o ring chain, we recommend playing it safe and sticking to a specialised o ring safe chain cleaner.
IS WD-40 SAFE FOR THE O-RING CHAIN?
No, WD-40 is not considered safe for use with an o ring chain. While it won't necessarily damage the chain, it certainly has the potential to. WD-40 is a solvent, so it can dry out and damage o ring seals.
Stay with a cleaner and lubricant that's specially made for o ring chains to avoid these issues. This is definitely a case where it's better to be safe than sorry.
BEST MOTORCYCLE CHAIN CLEANER
The best motorcycle chain cleaner depends on your chain type, riding conditions and of course personal preference. Always do your research and buy the right tool for cleaning your bike. Here are some highly-rated chain cleaners:
Motul C1 Chain Clean
Maxima Chain Wax
Bel-Ray Super Clean Chain Lube & Cleaner
ProGold ProLink Chain Cleaner
DuPont Teflon Multi-Use Lubricant
BEST MOTORCYCLE CHAIN LUBE
As mentioned above, the lube used on your chain depends on factors like the chain type and your riding conditions. Here are some popular chain lubes you might consider using:
Motul C5 Chain Lube
ProGold ProLink Chain Lube
Bel-Ray Super Clean Chain Lube
Maxima Chain Wax
Rock Oil Chain Lube
OIL vs WAX LUBES
Since we're on the topic of chain cleaning and lubrication, another common issue people have is whether to go with an oil or wax lube. These are the two main types of lubrication and both have their own individual benefits.
Oil lubes, also known as wet lubes, are best for wet conditions as their name suggests. While they're highly water resistant and prevent rust, oil lubes can attract a lot of dirt and grime. This means the chain will need to be cleaned more frequently.
Wax lubes, also known as dry lubes, don't attract as much dirt which means less cleaning. The trade-off is that they're less water resistant. Some can't take on any water whatsoever, so even driving through a puddle can cause some problems.
So consider your riding style and which lubricant is best suited for it. The choice is yours.
HOW TO LUBRICATE YOUR MOTORCYCLE CHAIN?
When cleaning the chain, refer to the different types of chains mentioned above before choosing a cleaning product.
Clean the chain using a degreaser and a soft brush to remove dirt, grime and old lubricant.
Apply the lubricant while having placed the motorcycle on its center stand or a paddock stand. Spin the rear wheel and apply lubricant to the chain while it is moving.
Stop the wheel and let the lubricant soak in for a few minutes.
Wipe off excess lubricant from the chain and sprockets using a clean cloth or paper towel.
Repeat the whole process a few times a year, or whenever the bike is ridden in wet or dirty conditions.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WD-40 AS A MOTORCYCLE CHAIN CLEANER
Using WD-40 on a motorcycle chain will always be a contentious topic. There are two camps which both make valid points, so hopefully, the information mentioned here has provided some useful guidance.
Just remember that WD-40 is great for cleaning the chain, but pair it with a good lubricant to keep the chain in top shape because WD-40 doesn't lubricate well on its own. The type of chain you have is also important, which is why the research matters.
Keeping your chain in good condition will prevent any headaches on those future motorcycle adventures, so putting in the work means you can forget the stress and enjoy the ride.
Will WD-40 hurt a bike chain?
So can WD-40 actually hurt a bike chain? WD-40 is fine to use on standard chains with no seals, but it has the potential to damage o ring chains over time. It can dry out and damage the o ring seals, reducing their effectiveness over time. So double-check which chain type is on your bike before you think of applying WD-40.
Is WD-40 a good chain cleaner?
WD-40 is a jack of all trades, but is it actually a good chain cleaner? There are two camps; some people use it all the time while others keep their distance.
WD-40 is a solvent-based product that can dissolve grease and grime, but it doesn't provide adequate protection against rust and corrosion over time compared to a dedicated motorcycle cleaning product. So it's absolutely fine to use short-term, but you might want to consider something better for real long-term protection.
What can I use to clean a motorcycle chain?
There are actually several products you can use to clean a motorcycle chain. The first is a dedicated motorcycle chain cleaner spray, or even just WD-40 (but not on o rings!). These are the easiest and most convenient ways to remove grime and old lubricant from a chain.
You can also use a degreaser, such as Simple Green, which can be applied with a brush or cloth to remove stubborn grime and dirt.
There's always the original method - plain old soap and water. A mild soap with warm water can be used to clean a motorcycle chain, but this method probably won't be as effective as a specialised chain cleaner. Still, if there's no chain cleaner handy it's fine as a one-off alternative.
Kerosene or mineral spirits can also be used to clean a motorcycle chain, but they can be messy and may leave a residue that needs to be removed before re-lubricating the chain.
How often should I oil my motorcycle chain?
How often you should oil a motorcycle chain depends on the type of chain, your riding conditions, and your own preferences. Here's a general guideline to give you an idea of how frequently they need to be oiled:
Normal riding conditions: Oil your bike chain every 500 to 1,000 miles or at least once a month.
Wet or dirty riding conditions: Oil the bike chain after every ride or every 200 to 300 miles.
High-performance riding: Oil your motorcycle chain after every ride or every 100 to 200 miles.
Do I need to lubricate my motorcycle chain?
Yes, you definitely need to lubricate your motorcycle chain. Keeping the chain clean not only helps performance and extends its lifespan, but prevents the build-up of grime and rust which can cause chain failure.