Recently I bought some stainless steel gear and brake cables. I have 3 packets of cables from 3 Ebay shops. How do I identify if they are genuine stainless steel cables or if I've been ripped off?

Using a magnet - 2 packets stick to the magnet, galvanised cables also stick to magnet with similar force.

Can I use anything from my kitchen to test the cables. Something like vinegar, lemon juice, cola or even bleach. I could rub them with something abrasive and then leave the cables in salty water for a period of time.

Any ideas?

  • 1
    Stainless steel is not strongly attracted by a magnet. Sep 1, 2015 at 21:21
  • And gal can be scraped off.
    – andy256
    Sep 1, 2015 at 22:38
  • @DanielRHicks There are stainless steels that are magnetic-the 400 series. Sep 2, 2015 at 1:13

3 Answers 3


If you really want to test, you can cut a small piece of cable on each and put them in bleach.

  • Stainless steel would corrode with rust forming evenly.

  • Galvanised steel would mostly corrode on the cross-section of the cable (where the cut is made). The (correctly) galvanised area will likely to be white.

A little note:

  • For your time testing, just buy a better cable from a reliable shop next time
  • The reaction may produce harmful gas, don't put them indoor or unventilated area
  • Why not just test with a magnet? Sep 2, 2015 at 0:40
  • @DanielRHicks because there are magnetic stainless steels. While you shouldn't see them in bicycle components, when you're buying random cheap cables anything is possible.
    – Móż
    Sep 2, 2015 at 4:13
  • It's just as @Mσᶎ has said, two ferromagnetic steel (attracted to magnet) does not guarantee that they are galvanized.
    – Nhân Lê
    Sep 2, 2015 at 13:39

im not sure if the cables might be to thin for you to notice, but the easiest way todifferentiate between stainless steel and galvanized is to look and see what the metal looks like.

  • stainless steel looks particularly shiny, and it also feels really smooth.
  • galvanized steel, (due to the galvanization process), looks kind of scuffed or foggy, and it does not reflect light very well. Galvanized also feels a little bit gritty, as opposed to steel which, again, is smooth.

If you can't tell by eye, try putting some pictures with your question. Good luck!


Some of what you are talking about to test the cables may damage them, or leave them vulnerable to premature wear. My assumption would be that you purchased them from eBay because they were cheap. If that's the case just use them. If they work, they work and you've saved some money. The time and effort you are investing to "test" the cables could probably be saved by just spending a bit extra next time and purchasing from a source you consider reliable.

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