"Hot Oil Bath"

By: George Lyle

Here it is! George's Secret Beauty Ritual for Maximum Chain Life!

This may sound odd or even outrageous, but it's the maintenance routine that I've used for years with excellent success.

Gearing up:
What you'll need is an electric deep-fat-fryer wide enough to take the coiled-up chain. Don't use the one from the kitchen, as the proprieter of that room will skin you alive if they find out (and they will!) The best source for this appliance is garage sales, as many folks have decided that deep fried food isn't the best thing for their health. Mine cost $3.00! You will also need a thermometer capable of registering 250F. A candy thermometer will work fine, but, again, don't get it from the kitchen!

You'll be dealing with HOT OIL, so be aware that it can (1) BURN YOU BADLY and (2) EXPLODE INTO FLAME! Place the fryer outside in a place where it will be undisturbed while it heats and cools, refrain from smoking and other open flames, and keep the kids and pets locked up! Keep a lid handy to place on the fryer in case of fire.

The hot oil treatment:
Put the chain in the fryer, add just enough heavy gear lube (140 weight is fine) to cover it, and turn the fryer on. Put the thermometer in and wait until the temperature reaches 220F, which will take some time. This process is fairly smelly, so don't do it upwind of an eco-freak! After the temperature reaches 220F (NO HIGHER!), unplug the fryer and allow it to cool, which will take several hours. After the oil is cool, take the chain out, hang it up, and allow it to drain into the fryer. After a day or so the chain will be drained and ready to reinstall.

Why this works:
The real killer of chains is corrosion caused by moisture that is trapped in the chain. When the chain is heated, the moisture is vaporized and forced out of the chain, even past O-rings. As the chain cools, the moisture is replaced with oil drawn back into the chain. The chain is in the oil long enough that lubricant can even penetrate the O-rings. I usually leave the chain in the oil bath until a couple of days before a ride.

While the chain is cooking, you can maintain the rest of the ATV and check the condition of the sprockets. When reinstalling the chain, don't forget the O-rings around the master link. Most master links are press-fit, requiring a chain breaker to get them apart. To press them back together, I use a cheap "C"-clamp that has a hole in the middle of the swivel foot. the hole fits nicely over the pin. Of course we all know to put the split end of the retaining clip opposite the direction of motion of the chain, don't we?

Using the above technique with an O-ring chain, I seldom have to lube my chain in the course of a weekend outing. If I ride a long distance or go through water I'll oil the chain to prevent external rust. If the master link is still nice and oily when you take it apart, you can be pretty sure that the chain is retaining its lube properly. If it isn't, you need to lube more often.

If you are a daily rider (Lucky!) you would want to do this routine every week or so. For us folks who go on weekend outings, you can do it once per outing.