Old chain rehab

Aug 17, 2019
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I was reading on a buildoff thread the other day where I think someone was fixing up old chains by using a short vinegar bath followed by a soak in automatic transmission fluid?

I can’t find it now.

Anyone got some good tricks on reviving an old chain?
 

nosferatu1381

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I'ts not really worth it unless it is skiptooth chain. I have used wood bleach and then soaked them in chain lube. i still wind up with two pairs of pliers on some of the links breaking the rust. Any organic acid is going to dissolve rust at 160 degrees and two ph. I actually wrote a thread in here about it. I technically hd two profiles because the tapatalk and the browser forums were i couldn't figure them out at one point.
 
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nosferatu1381

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plus I am a little dyslexic. still haven't figured out how I manage to type words backwards but whatever. some of the phosphoric acid rust removers leave a "shell" behind and then you are still left with what could be a stretched chain.
 
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Jul 25, 2016
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Sounds like my chain rehab method. I soak them in gasoline then wrap in a rag and blow out with compressed air, may take a few times. This gets all the old crud out of them. If theyre rusty, and you want to derust, they need to be clean. Scrub brush and dish soap, dunk in vinegar or I prefer oxalic acid to derust. Then dunk them in oil to get all the water etc out, wrap in a rag and blow excess oil out or let them drip dry.

Sounds like a lot, it really is a few steps while you're doing other stuff. I dunk the chains in my used motor oil or used trans fluid for final lube. Lay them on the drain pan and they drain out. Rarely do any acid derusting, if they're rusty just replace it unless its a rare old chain.

I was reading on a buildoff thread the other day where I think someone was fixing up old chains by using a short vinegar bath followed by a soak in automatic transmission fluid?

I can’t find it now.

Anyone got some good tricks on reviving an old chain?
 
Jun 20, 2020
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I'm in the process of derusting, cleaning, etc. Taking the opportunity to document my progress as part of the discussion.
791D9765-B0A2-4BA3-A8D3-3ACD4DCA6D78.jpeg

I had an empty vinegar jug, so i put the chain in and poured in vinegar and a few squirts of dish soap. Closed the lid and swished it around for several minutes. Carefully drained the liquid and replaced fresh vinegar (without dishsoap). Swish drain repeat 3 or more times. I never got a clear rinse from this so i removed the chain from the jug smeared on dish soap and scrubbed with a cleaning brush. Photo above was taken shortly after rinsing witha hose.
As you can see, a mix of shiny metal and rusty pieces.

383DBD4F-66DE-4D62-8133-1A6FEA82988B.jpeg

After drying.
 
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I have had success with zip locking them in a bag with penetrant for a few days. dried, then ran them across a wire wheel. they ran quiet and looked ok.

like someone else said, I would only do this for a skip tooth chain. 1 inch chain is too inexpensive and used ones regularly available on discarded bikes to bother.
 
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If you use any kind of acid soak on a skip tooth chain or a lucky seven seat post then you will find a deeply pitted seat post or a pile of pitted chain side plates pins and rollers, all loose in the bottom of your acid soak. It’s completely ruined. This has happened to others on this forum, not just me. This metal is soft and parts of the steel grain are extremely susceptible to acid erosion. It doesn’t take long. Degrease the chain with solvent and spend all your winter evenings brass brushing with gun oil, picking and hand de rusting. They can look and work like shiny new if you spend the time. Other bike nuts have asked me where I got the new skip tooth roller or block chain. They are surprised when I tell them they are restored.
 
Jun 20, 2020
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Thank you both for the info. I hope I didn't do to much damage. I ran my thumbnail accross a couple of those rough spots you see in the photo, caked on debris flaked off. The first round of scrubbing only did so much.
I nearly bought some penetrant when I was picking up the ATF.
Path moving forward:
- No more acid washes. Stick to solvents.
- Oil-based products!
- Meticulous hand-scrubbing.
Brass brush, gun oil.
- Patience and time. As I scrubbed, I was able to work the stiffness out of each link. More of this type of attention.

I aim to keep posting progress here.
 
May 18, 2020
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I have an ultrasonic cleaner. Using it gets the inside of the pins and rollers clean too, as in real clean. I mix hot water with a citrus cleaner and run the tank until no visible clouding is seen coming off the part being cleaned. Afterwards I warm the chain up until almost too hot to touch and wick an industrial PTFE lube into the pins & rollers. Highly recommended if you work on lots of old stuff.
 

nosferatu1381

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I have an ultrasonic cleaner. Using it gets the inside of the pins and rollers clean too, as in real clean. I mix hot water with a citrus cleaner and run the tank until no visible clouding is seen coming off the part being cleaned. Afterwards I warm the chain up until almost too hot to touch and wick an industrial PTFE lube into the pins & rollers. Highly recommended if you work on lots of old stuff.
I never though of that. There is one of those at the golf course. I have one in the bird cage I could try it on
 
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I have an ultrasonic cleaner. Using it gets the inside of the pins and rollers clean too, as in real clean. I mix hot water with a citrus cleaner and run the tank until no visible clouding is seen coming off the part being cleaned. Afterwards I warm the chain up until almost too hot to touch and wick an industrial PTFE lube into the pins & rollers. Highly recommended if you work on lots of old stuff.
Good idea. I use ultrasonic to loosen vintage road bike bbs, with excellent, success or sometimes no success at al.
 
Jun 20, 2020
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Couchtater,
Seems to be a range of prices on these units as well as solutions. How much should one expect to pay going in?
 
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I should add... the evening following the vinegar rinse, water rinse, and drying in the sun, I placed the chain in a freezer bag and sprayed in some "chain and cable lube- anti-sling penetrant". Have not touch it since.
 
May 5, 2016
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As a rule I try to use my best chains for my bikes, BUT
I keep all/most of the (crusty) chains i remove in two medium sized plastic bags, speedy and the kind i usually use, the bags live in a plastic tub. decent and better chains have their own home(s in individual plastic bags with penetrant or lubricant) Then all the bags live in the tub

i squirt penetrating schpritz in the bag(s), wd-40 pb blaster, 3 in one, NBD, every time i disassemble a bike. And every time i put more chains in there - more schpritz, then back on the shelf, i have no idea how many or how long some have been in there

Usually i can find an ok chain in there, sometime i spray again and hit the chain with a plastic scrub brush i keep in one of the bags. But seriously, I try to use the best chains i have available

I always lube the chain(s) at installation because the penetrant usually evaporates quickly, I find they work great as penetrant and crud looseners, but less good as lubricants long term

I have been using silicone as a lubricant , it seems to collect less dirt in my opinion
 
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