3 in 1 Oil vs WD40 – Differences + Pros and Cons


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When it comes to adding lubricant or oil to your bicycle, then you tend to have two names that stand out from the crowd. Those names are 3 in 1 Oil and also WD40. 

But what’s the difference between the two?

3 in 1 oil is useful as a way of oiling a bike chain and keeping the moving parts lubricated and working well. WD40 is more of a solvent that aims to loosen up blockages, and also protect against corrosion.

In this article, I’ll take a look at the full differences between the two products, when you should use either, and also the respective pros and cons of using them in different situations.

3 in 1 oil versus wd-40

What Exactly are 3 in 1 Oil and WD40?

3 in 1 oil and WD40 can both play a key role in keeping your bicycle operational. But what exactly are they?

Let’s start with 3 in 1 oil.

This lubricating oil was actually created way back in 1894 for use on bicycles, but it’s more of a general lubricating oil that can be used around the household. (Source)

This is viewed by many as being a lightweight oil.

On a side issue, it is actually now owned by the company that owns WD-40. So even though we are talking about two different products, the same company makes money no matter which one you buy.

WD40 is slightly different.

The WD part is a bit of a giveaway as it actually means Water Displacement, and that helps you to work out what this spray is then used for. It’s for displacing water!

So, you have two different products, but how does this relate to the way in which they are used on a bicycle?

The Main Differences Between the Two Products

To get a better understanding, we really need to focus more on the differences between the two products. As we just said, one is actually an oil while the other is more to do with displacing water. 

Now, if that doesn’t sound as if WD-40 is capable of achieving too much, then time to think again.

When it comes to WD-40, it is primarily a solvent-based product with just the smallest amount of oil in it. The chemicals contained within the product are designed to repel water and to protect different parts from corrosion as a result of the elements. (Source)

However, the small amount of oil in WD-40 will offer a small amount of protection to working parts, but it’s important to point out that it is really not the same as using actual oil.

That is where 3 in 1 Oil is different. Let’s face it, the clue is also in the name as it clearly states that this is an oil. Nowhere does WD-40 claim to be an oil, so that alone shows you the difference that exists between the two.

3 in 1 oil is not intended to act as a heavy oil or lubricant. It’s not designed to clog things up but more to add a lubricating coating that allows different parts to function better. 

Oh, and 3 in 1 oil will provide a certain amount of protection from corrosion, but certainly not to the same level as WD-40 will do.

So, basically, the two products and their differences can be summed up as follows.

  • 3 in 1 oil is….an oil
  • WD-40 is not an oil..instead it displaces water
  • The oil is just oil
  • WD-40 contains different chemicals to make it a solvent

Now that may not sound like much when you look at the differences between the two products, but it does change how they are used when it comes to your bicycle.

So, let’s take a look at that…

WD-40 is a good degreaser
WD-40 is a fantastic degreaser and de-clogger

How They are Both Used

How Is WD40 Used On A Bike?

This product is fantastic at getting things moving once again that used to be stuck. It has this ability to get into metal components that had become jammed and get them functioning once again.

Also, it has protective properties that can stop this from happening in the first place.

In the case of WD-40, then it is often used as a degreaser on both the chain and the derailleur. Also, it’s so easy to use.

If you plan on using WD-40 on your chain, then spray it all over the components and then wipe it off with a cloth. The chemicals in the solvent will break down the build-up of grease and grime.

On most occasions, it will simply wipe off with little in the way of force having to be applied.

But that’s not all.

Say you want to change something on your bicycle and you cannot remove a nut, then WD-40 could prove to be the breakthrough. In that situation, you merely spray some of it all over the stuck components and let it do its magic.

Now, it’s sometimes best to use the straw that comes with the can. It means you can really spray the solvent very accurately, and it has a much better chance of working. After that, leave it for a couple of minutes and see the difference it makes.

Also, people do use WD-40 to protect other bicycle components such as joins on the bike, due to it repelling water, and also brake caples and suspension forks. Once again, the key here is to look at parts of your bicycle that could corrode and use WD-40 to give you some sense of protection.

How is 3 in 1 Oil Used On A Bike?

The main use of 3 in 1 oil is on your bike chain, and tests have shown it is a superior product compared to most others out there on the market.

3 in 1 has the ability to make your chain run more smoothly. It also has the ability to last a considerable length of time without degrading. This applies even when temperatures fluctuate, or the conditions get bad.

But that’s about it.

Keep in mind that bicycles have changed a considerable amount since the oil was first created well over 100 years ago. That does mean the number of areas where such a simple product can be used has dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.

The Pros and Cons

So how about the pros and cons for each product?

3 in 1 oil can lead to a clogged chain
Overuse of 3 in 1 oil can lead to a clogged chain

Pros and Cons of WD-40

So with WD-40, it comes with an impressive list of both pros and cons for you to check out. 

Pros Of WD-40

Sorting Jams

First, if you have some nut or mechanical component on your bicycle that is stuck and jammed, then WD-40 is the product you need to call on. Just spray some of the solvent in the area, and you will be surprised at how many times it manages to loosen everything.

Protection From Corrosion

Also, there’s the protection from corrosion to also think about. This is clearly another positive due to the conditions you will often ride in that could cause a lot of trouble for your bicycle.

But there are some cons.

Cons Of WD-40

Not A Full Lubricant

Keep in mind that WD-40 is not a full-on lubricant. That does mean it’s not going to be as effective as it perhaps could have been on things such as your bike chain

It’s A Degreaser

Also, it is a degreaser. There’s every chance it will strip away some of the lube and grease on your chain leaving the drivetrain quite dry.

If your drivetrain is dry, then it increases the chances of something going wrong.

That is why a number of bicycle mechanics would never put WD-40 on a chain. It may provide some short-term gain, but it increases the odds of doing some long-term damage.

Pros and Cons of 3 in 1 Oil

Pros Of 3 in 1 Oil

It’s A Light Oil

3 in 1 Oil is, as we said earlier, purely an oil-based product. While it is lighter than some oils on the market, it is still quite heavy. 

One Of The Best Lubricants

But when it comes to lubricating your chain, then this product still remains one of the best out there on the market even after a century. It will make the drivetrain run far more smoothly than you can imagine, and it will even make everything sound so quiet.

Add in the simple fact that caring for your chain in this way, and using this oil, will also increase the life expectancy of it, and you have some very convincing reasons as to why you would use this product.

However, it’s not all good news.

Cons Of 3 in 1 Oil

Chain Clogging

When it comes to the cons, then one problem is adding in too much. If you add too much of this oil to your chain, then it makes it far more likely you will clog up your chain.

You have to be quite sparing when using it as that is when it works best.

Minimal Action Against Corrosion

Also, the product is aimed more at simply getting your chain running smoothly. It has little in the way of protection against corrosion, although it does have some.

So, if you thought it would help in that area, then you are wrong.

So this oil does have some very obvious benefits, but it does have its limitations.

Table Of How To Use Them

Here is a simple table that shows the issues that are best dealt with using either product:

IssueMost Suitable Product
Fight against corrosionWD-40
Chain cloggingWD-40
Chain lubrication3 in 1 oil
DegreasingWD-40
Sorting jamsWD-40

So, Which One is Best For YOU?

What I would recommend is to have both products at your disposal. Make sure you differentiate the jobs for each product, and incorporate both of them into your general care.

Use the oil to look after your chain and keep it lubricated. Use the WD-40 to make sure all of those mechanical components are receiving some protection from the elements and reducing the possibility of corrosion.

By using both in the way they are intended to be used, it does mean you increase the chances of prolonging the lifespan of your bicycle. 

Overall Conclusion

Both Wd-40 and 3 in 1 Oil have their own roles to play, so it’s best to have both by your side when doing maintenance on your bike.

After all, you should be doing everything you possibly can to keep your bicycle in perfect condition, and both of these products will make this a whole lot easier.

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

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