I have several bikes and use them more and more in bad weather. I have no problem with rust on the chain, but I am seeing little bits of rust in the various hex bolt heads on the bike. What can I use to remove this rust and how can I prevent it from happening again. Note I ride things like Ragbrai, so keeping out of the rain, or drying the bike right away is not an option.

  • I have a 20 year old bike that has lived outside most of it's life. There is superficial rust on the bolts (and frame and handlebars). The easiest thing is to live with it. As long as it's superficial surface rust it won't hurt.
    – mattnz
    Jan 7, 2013 at 2:25

6 Answers 6


Where possible, replace with stainless fasteners. Things like water bottle bracket bolts are readily available in stainless at a good hardware store.

But most fasteners on a good quality bike are stainless to begin with, so it may be that you're not seeing "rust" per se but rather a sort of corrosion that can form on stainless.

  • 1
    There are also titanium bolts, I don't think they rust, but they have other problems, first of all the prohibitive cost, compared to stainless.
    – arne
    Mar 19, 2014 at 6:34
  • Stainless steel bolts are a very poor choice. They are much less strong than steel bolts and they also have a tendency to gall and sieze. For corrosion resistance the first step is coated steel bolts with various levels of corrosion resistant coating, followed by stainless steel only in severe (i.e. salt spray) environments, where the disadvantages of stainless steel bolts finally become less bad than the rust of even coated steel. No "good quality" bike would ever come with stainless steel bolts. Mar 28, 2021 at 3:32
  • An example non-stainless-steel bolt which passes ASTM 1000 hours salt spray test. $5/100. mcmaster.com/91274A126 Mar 28, 2021 at 3:39
  • @BetterSense It's a bike, we are not torquing bolts to 90% of their tensile strength or whatever. Coated steel is only good because it's cheap. Proper stainless (like 304) is far more...well...stainless. Zinc corrosion looks equally bad. Galling/seizing can be mitigated with grease or antiseize compound. You're right, a "good quality" bike would have full titanium bolts instead.
    – MaplePanda
    Mar 28, 2021 at 4:42

After cleaning I give the bolts a small squirt of WD40 followed by a good rub down.

This leaves a very fine film of oil that won't hold dirt but is just enough to stave off the rust if done regularly.

The spray also displaces (WD, water displacement, geddit?) any water left from cleaning in any little gaps.


Little bits of rust shouldn't hurt anything, but if you're getting lots of rust or it just drives you crazy you might consider spraying them down with a wax based lubricant or dry lube. Finish Line's Teflon dry lube might be a good option because it has a tendency to build up on chains, which means it goes on thick and may act as a barrier to oxidation. Boeshield's T9 may be another option though it goes on thinner than Finish Line's product. Of course these products aren't truly "dry" and you're going to be trading rust for dirt. If you wanted to get really crazy you could pack the heads with paraffin wax, but that seems over the top to me which brings me back to my first point that you probably shouldn't worry about it.


I like using marine grease in the hex "slot" itself. Just get a mini grease gun and some tubes of marine grease (both available from automotive shops), and then you can quickly apply little blobs of grease in each bolt head.

You'll end up with some grease on the ends of your hex wrenches whenever you make adjustments, but this way you know that your bolt heads won't clog with dirt or ice (or rust, which as others have noted usually does not meet destructive levels).

A mini grease gun is also what you use for maintaining Speedplay pedals.

  • I think this could use one correction, replace grease with anti-seize compound, with marine grade being the best. It is formulated to cover and prevent metals (especially dissimilar contact points) from corroding and adheres better in rain, whereas grease just covers. Although for some bolts marine silicone adhesive (like what credit cards are glued to when they come in the mail) is a good option for when you don't want the greasy look or to get your wrenches dirty. Mar 28, 2021 at 1:07

You may have to do some searching to find the right sizes but you could go with stainless steel hardware. Buying them in small quantities can be expensive. I have had issues with some hardware that is countersunk. Conventional allenheads won't fit in the hole. Maybe that is why they call the brand "Specialized".

  • 2
    Stainless can still rust, but generally only superficially. I get stainless parts from a local boating supply shop. Jan 6, 2013 at 7:11

They sell galvanized bolts in almost every shape and size. or find some cosmoline and thin it with mineral oil. Give them a bath after you wire brush them. They will last for years.

  • 2
    I'm guessing that the "think" in there is an autocorrect, but I can't figure out what it was correcting from.
    – jimchristie
    Mar 18, 2014 at 19:10

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