You probably heard about all the benefits of waxing your bike chains, such as having a clean, shiny, and smooth drivetrain and not forgetting the prolonged durability of the chain and cassette.
So you’re ready to wax your bike chain. But there are some things you’re still unsure of, such as what tools you need or would the waxing process be complicated and tedious.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the entire chain waxing process. It’ll become easier and faster as you familiarize yourself with the process.
Materials and tools required
- Crock pot (slow cooker) to melt the wax. You’ll need a slow cooker (not a rice cooker) specifically for this as the wax will remain in the pot after that. Nothing fancy, but just a small one will do, such as this crockpot.
- Chain link pliers to remove and install quick links such as Park Tool Master Link Pliers MLP-1.2.
- Swisher tool to hold the chain in the slow cooker, such as this from Molten Speed Wax. Alternatively, an open-ended steel hanger or cable ties will suffice.
Estimated time : 1 hour
Step 1. Remove the chain
Carefully remove the chain from your bike using the master link pliers. Don’t lose the quick links, as you’ll need them later.
Step 2. Prepare the chain for waxing
Before waxing, ensure the chain is free from external lubricants, grease, or dirt. If you’re re-waxing the chain after a dry ride, skip this step and go to Step 3.
- Chain after a wet ride. If your waxed chain has just completed a wet and/or dirty ride, you need to run it through boiling water to remove the dirty wax first to avoid it from contaminating the clean wax in the crockpot. Dry the chain completely by blowing off the water.
- New chain. New chains always come with factory grease. You’ll need to remove this grease first.
Step 3. Thread the chain into the Swisher tool
The Swisher tool will make life easier for you when submerging the chain into the slow cooker. It costs around $10 to $15 for a simple piece of metal wire, which in my opinion, is nice to have.
Alternatively, you can bend an old metal hanger to a similar shape. Or you can also use cable ties.
Step 4. Heat the crockpot
Heat the crockpot (slow cooker) and let the wax melt. It will generally take 2 to 3 hours for the wax to melt fully into liquid form.
If running short on time, you can place the chain into the crockpot and leave it there. Once the wax melts, the chain will fully submerge into the crockpot.
Step 5. Leave the chain submerged for at least 30 minutes
Once fully submerged, leave the chain in the crockpot for at least 30 minutes as the wax particles enter the chain links.
It’s also okay to leave it overnight, but remember to return the next day.
Step 6. Remove the chain from the crockpot
As you remove the chain, you’ll see wax droplets moving toward the bottom.
Make sure to shake it off gently. You don’t want hot wax droplets to land on your hands, nor the chain rollers coming off.
Step 7. Let the chain cool down
Hang the chain and let it cool down. Depending on the ambient temperature, it can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
Step 8. Remove the chain from the swisher tool
Once cooled down and dried, the chain will feel hardened. That is normal due to the wax bond.
Remove the chain from the swisher tool and straighten the chain as much as possible. You can now cut it off if you’re using a cable tie.
Step 9. Break the wax bond
There are several ways to do this. You can do it by hand (wear a thick glove as it could hurt the fingers).
I prefer to run it up and down several times through a PVC pipe as it’s faster and more effective. Eventually, the chain will soften once the wax bonds break. It may still feel stiff, but not rock hard as before.
Step 10. Install the chain
Make sure you install the chain in the right direction. For example, Shimano chains are directional; the wording on the chainplate should be facing you.
Make sure to install the quick links correctly using the master link pliers.
Step 11. Run the chain through the gears
It’s normal to see the wax flakes on the derailleurs, chainstay, and crankarms. As you run the chain through all the gears, the wax bond will continue to break. You can use a soft detailing brush to clean it off.
The chain will sound noisier during the first 10 to 15 minutes of the ride as the wax bond continues to break. After that, it will be quiet and smooth.
Chain waxing FAQ
What type of wax should I use for my bike chain?
Look for high-quality bike chain-specific wax or paraffin wax products designed to provide optimal lubrication and protection for bicycle chains.
For example, Silca Hot Melt Wax.
How long does a waxed chain last?
A well-maintained, waxed chain can last up to 10,000 miles (16,000km), 3 to 5 times more than a regular lubed chain.
Why should I wax my bike chain instead of using traditional lubricants?
Waxing a bike chain can provide longer-lasting lubrication, reduce dirt and debris buildup, and minimize chain wear, leading to a cleaner and more efficient drivetrain.
How often should I wax my bike chain?
The frequency of waxing depends on the riding conditions and chain cleanliness. Generally, it is recommended to wax your chain every 200 to 400 miles or when the chain starts showing signs of poor lubrication or excessive dirt.
Can I wax a brand-new bike chain?
Yes, waxing a new chain is highly recommended, as it helps remove the factory grease and ensures optimal lubrication from the start.
How long should I heat the wax before immersing my bike chain?
Heat the wax until it is fully melted and reaches a temperature of around 200°F (93°C). This temperature ensures proper penetration of the wax into the chain links.
Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.