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.
A well-maintained, waxed chain can last up to 20,000km, 3 to 5 times more than a regular lubed chain.
So you’re ready to jump onto the waxing bandwagon. 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, step by step. It’ll become easier and faster as you familiarize yourself with the process over time.
- 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 Crock-Pot.
- Chain link pliers to remove and install the quick links such as Park Tool.
- Swisher tool to hold the chain in the slow cooker. Alternatively, an open-ended steel hanger or cable ties will suffice.
- 1 hour
1. Remove the chain from the bike
Carefully remove the chain from your bike using the master link pliers. Make sure you don’t lose the quick links, as you’ll need them later.
2. Prepare the chain
Before waxing, you’ll need to ensure the chain is free from any 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 pot. 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.
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 use an old metal hanger and bend it to a similar shape. Or you can also use the trusted cable ties.
4. Heat up the slow cooker
Heat up the slow cooker and let the wax melt. It will generally take between 2 to 3 hours for the wax to fully melt into liquid form.
If you’re running short on time, you can place the chain into the pot and leave it there. Once the wax melts, the chain will fully submerge into the pot.
5. Leave the chain submerged for at least 30 minutes
Once fully submerged, leave the chain in the slow cooker for at least 30 minutes as the wax particles make their way into the chainlinks.
It’s also okay to leave it overnight, but just remember to come back the next day.
6. Remove the chain from the slow cooker
As you remove the chain, you’ll see wax droplets moving towards 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.
7. Let the chain cool down
Hang the chain and let it cool down. It can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature.
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.
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 really hurt the fingers).
For me, I prefer to run it up and down several times through a PVC pipe as it’s a faster and more effective way. Eventually, the chain will soften once the wax bonds break. It may still feel stiff, but not rock hard as before.
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.
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.