How to Remove Rust from Bike Chain in 5 Steps

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The bike chain is the part of the bicycle that transfers power exerted from the rider onto the wheels. It’s the component necessary to propel the bike ahead.

However, most bicycle owners often complain of their rides feeling progressively more lagged and not as enjoyable as usual. The culprit? Rusting, and the solution is bike owners knowing how to remove rust from bike chain.

There’s only one way to keep the bike chain from ever rusting, and that’s to hang it up in the living room.

Each time you take your bike out; be it an everyday ride, once a week, or once in a while, the various components of it are bound to come into contact with water, soil, mud, and several other elements that participate in a chemical reaction we deem rusting.

How to Get Rust Off a Bike Chain

Having established that bicycle owners will inevitably have to work with a rusted bike chain, the question becomes one of maintenance.

To start, bike owners (whether avid, occasional, or rare riders) need to understand that rusting isn’t linked to the frequency of use or the lack thereof. It’s related to the environment that the chain is subjected to.

For example, if you ride your bike once through once a week, but in that week it rained and the next time you took it out it felt less of a smooth ride. It probably has something to do with the puddles you went through the last time you rode it.

Similarly, bikes kept locked up in damp garages also tend to rust much more quickly. This article will be your complete and easiest guide for knowing how to remove rust from bike chain.

If the bike chain is rusted more than usual, you might feel inclined to replace it. However, that’s probably the last resort.

Here’s how to remove rust from bike chain:

1. Inspect the Chain 

Assess the chain to find out just how much rusty it actually is: does it compromise on functioning, how much of the chain might be rusted, and the extent of the rust. To properly assess the chain, you’ll have to turn it and fix it properly on the bike rack.

Here’s a tip for novices: Detect changes in the chain based on imperfections and compare them with other parts of the chain. Identify surface roughness and build-up that can be easily removed.

The chain might just be in its initial phases of rusting, or it might be further along. In the first instance, you’ll have to get rid of it to wash it thoroughly. In the second case, you’ll need to detach it to reach the rust in smaller crevices.

When should you evaluate and inspect the bike chain? One time a week in case you cycle over 321 km a week. Once a month if you use it rarely.

2. Locate the Master Link 

Modern bicycles come with modern chains that have a master link. The master link is a component that makes the chain easier to remove if and when needed.

If your bike is of the latest model, getting rust off a bike chain is made easier by looking for and removing the master link from its slot.

Since we’re on the topic of master links, even if you don’t have one, it might be wise to have a mechanic add one onto your bicycle for you.

Again, it’s a simple component that makes taking the chain off to tighten it or on how to fix a rusty bike chain easily.

3. Remove the Layer of Grease 

This is an important step towards knowing how to clean a rusty bike chain. Remove the chain (using the master link, if applicable, or remove it by loosening the rear tire). This is how to de-rust a bike chain.

Find a degreaser of your choice or cleaner that will remove the grease that’s built upon the chain (along with debris and dirt).

The uppermost layer of the chain is the ‘gunk’. The actual rust is below this layer. Soak the rag in the degreaser and wipe along the length of the entire chain.

Alternatively, you can soak the chain in degreaser by pouring it into a clear plastic container. A rusted chain should ideally be left to rust for 24 hours.

4. Clear Light Grease with a Steel Wool and Lime Juice 

For this step, you’ll need steel, wet wool, and some lime juice. That’s it. That’s the secret combination to how to get rid of rust on bike chain.

However, the technique can cause blistering on the skin (due to the citric acid in the lime juice) which is why you would need a pair of gloves. Swipe the surface rigorously with the wool and then wipe the surface with the paper towel.

The wool tends to get laden with dust as you clean. Get another one, let it sit in some lime juice. Then keep working on it.

After some time of scrubbing the rusted chain, then wipe it with a rag. How much of the rust is still left on it? Repeat this process again and again until no visible rust is left.

5. Use a WD-40 

Now that you’re done with scrubbing away the layer of grease, the uppermost layer of rust, it’s time to use a WD-40 to break up tough rust.

Spray WD-40 onto the rusted surfaces in increments. Allow it to sit for a minute or two to let it soak in.

Take a brush and scrub away the rust thoroughly. It is important to know that a WD-40 should never be used to lubricate the chain like with a bike chain lube.

Conclusion

A rusted chain isn’t a death sentence for your bicycle, even if many bike owners would think it is.

Learning how to remove rust from a bicycle chain is a simple process, and in fact, a basic one many should know.

All it takes is positioning the bike, assessing the degree of rusting, gathering your tools, and using the right equipment.

Just be careful while using some tools. Understanding how to remove rust from bike chain just got easy!

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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