View Full Version : O-Ring Chain lubing question

07-14-2005, 07:30 AM
Hey all,

I'm definitely a newbie to motorcycles, as just bought my '96 Katana 600 about 2 weeks ago.

When I bought the bike, the seller stated that he had just replaced the chain and sprocket, and he had used an O-ring chain. He said that I shouldn't use regular lube on it, and when I asked other people, they said I should use "chain wax".

My questions are:
1) In the past two weeks, the bike has been ridden in a heavy storm. Do I need to reapply the lube?
2) What is the proper type of lube? Do I have to use chain wax?
3) I've heard that O-ring chains take about half as long as regular chains to lube. Why is this?

Thanks alot in advance!
- Mike

07-15-2005, 05:17 PM
Answer to question one.. prolly not
Answer to question two.. personal preference, I always used a chain lube on mine and never had any problems. I think the main reasons a chain wax was recomended to you is some lubes actually have a solvent in them and it was thought that the solvents would cause the O-rings to break down. Also the wax is thought to be less messy and is said to attract less dirt.
Here's an experiment that was performed, you can make the call.

Copy and paste
Subject: Myths: Solvents & O-ring Chains ...
RK and the other o-ring chain manufacturers CLAIM that cleaning your o-ring chain with solvents or using a spray chain lube (which has a solvent in it) will damage the o-rings and shorten the life of the chain. My friend, Earl Minkler (Valley Machine, Livermore, Ca.), and I decided to do a little testing. We took some excess RK530SO chain links apart and removed the o-rings. Each o-ring was placed in a separate small bottle. We then added to each bottle one of the following "solvents";

1. MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone) a nasty solvent in the same family as acetone, but much stronger.

2. Chevron Thinner # 325 - a petroleum naphtha-base solvent

3. Freon - the solvent in most "contact cleaners"

4. unleaded gasoline

5. WD40

The bottles were then capped to prevent evaporation for a week.

We didn't test kerosene as it is the ONLY solvent each chain manufacturer actually recommends for cleaning.

After 24 hours, the only noticeable change was in the MEK; that o-ring had swelled slightly.

After 1 week ... The o-ring in the MEK was twice as large in every direction, the o-ring in the gasoline has swelled slightly, and the others had not changed.

We removed all of the o-rings and let them sit for 24 hours. The MEK and gasoline o-rings had returned to normal size. We checked the surface of the o-rings vs. an o-ring that did not see any solvent and there was no apparent change in the surface of any of them with 10x

We then stretched each o-ring over a 1/4" bolt to check their elasticity; again no difference in any of the test o-rings from the untreated o-ring.


1. Any of the solvents that we tested would be safe for cleaning an o-ring chain; if the cleaning time is normal, < 1 hour, and dried afterwards.

2. Solvents in a spray chain lube will evaporate long before it can effect the o-rings. Something else in the chain lube might damage the o-rings, but most solvents won't.

Additional Thoughts ...

If the o-rings were to swell as we noticed in the MEK then it is possible for the o-rings to wear more quickly against the chain's side plates.

I believe that the major failure modes of the o-rings are; (1) lack of lubrication for the o-rings, and (2) dirty o-rings grinding against the side plates.

There has also been some concern about a solvent getting past the o-ring & diluting the internal lube. This shouldn't happen, unless the o-rings are already damaged; in which case, you will be losing the internal lube at an accelerated rate & shortening the chain life anyway.

Here some chain facts for you to check out...

07-17-2005, 11:53 AM
Thanks for the info. That clears things up! :)

CosSun Hammer
07-17-2005, 07:18 PM
They need lube in one way or another. I like the spray on chain lube.

I never liked the wax as it doesn't penetrate anywhere and has been proven to be less effective.