Whether you’re a serious biker or just a casual rider, you have to deal with the issue of rust. The bike chain, in particular, is prone to rusting.
Exposure to moisture, air, and debris hasten the rusting process. A rust problem needs mitigation as soon as possible because the longer rust remains on the bike chain, the harder it is to remove.
But rust doesn’t have to be problematic. This article discusses how to remove rust from a bike chain using either a commercial degreaser or everyday products you probably have at home.
Should I Clean My Rusty Bike Chain or Replace It?
The first thing you should do is evaluate the condition of the bike chain. If the chain is in poor condition, you might need a new one.
Turn the bicycle upside down to get a good view of the bike chain. To prevent scratches on the bike, lay an old blanket or towel down, then flip the bike on its seat and handlebars. Next visible inspect the chain. If there is any warping, imperfections, or deterioration, replace the chain.
The pins and seals are critical parts of the chain. If the pins and seals are rusty, you should replace the bike chain because it’s no longer reinforced.
Next, check the chain length. As the chain on the bike wears out, it gets longer. This is known as chain stretch and indicates that the chain should be replaced. To check this, you need either a chain checking tool or ruler.
The device you need is called a chain checker gauge or a go/no-go chain gauge. The go/no-go gauge is known for its relative ease of use when checking the chain.
These products can be found on Amazon or at bike stories. The cost is relatively low; you can purchase one for less than $10.
If you prefer to use a ruler, line the ruler up to the chain at the center of the pin and measure. Measure the chain at the 12-inch point.
Bicycle chains are always half an inch, pin to pin. At the 12-inch marking point, it should not be any more than a half-inch off. If it is more than that, it is time to invest in a new bike chain.
If the chain is still good but has some rust, there are a few easy steps to remove that pesky buildup.
How to Remove Rust from a Bike Chain
To remove rust from a bike chain you will need a degreaser. You can use a commercial or homemade degreaser. Vinegar or soda pop are popular degreaser materials among DIY’ers.
Using a Degreaser
If you are using a commercial degreaser, follow the directions on the label. If using a homemade degreaser, put the solution in an empty spray bottle.
With one hand rotating the bike’s pedals, spray the degreaser onto the bike chain with the other. Make sure you go through at least two complete rotations of the bike pedal to ensure it is saturated with the degreaser.
Allow the degreaser to sit for 10 minutes on the chain. Check to see how easily the rust is removed. If needed, let it soak for another 10 minutes.
Scrub the Chain
Take a piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half, with the shiny part on the outside. Then, simply dip the foil into the soda pop or vinegar solution and rub the aluminum foil onto the bike chain.
This process might take a bit more elbow grease and work to remove the rust than using a commercial degreaser, depending on the amount of rust on the bike chain.
Rinse and Dry Your Chain
After removing the rust, rinse the bike chain with warm, soapy water. This will get any remaining residue off the chain.
Rinse again with clear water, making sure to get all the soap and excess degreaser off the bike chain. Then, thoroughly dry the chain to prevent rust from forming again.
Once you clean and dry the chain, apply chain lubrication following the directions on the packaging. This will not only lubricate the chain but also prevents rust from forming.
There are many brands of lubrication on the market. Whatever brand you choose, make sure you take a dry, clean towel and wipe off any excess lubrication that remains on the chain. Any excess oil will pick up dirt and make it prone to rust.
A commercial degreaser or a homemade version with vinegar or a soda pop are the best ways to get rust off your bike chain. Both techniques are effective; however, the do-it-yourself process will require a little more time and effort on your part, depending on how much rust is on the bike chain.
If your bike chain is too rusty, it might be time to replace it.