I need lube for my new Schwinn Meridian Adult Tricycle that I received as a belated Christmas present. The chain/axle mechanism is making a noise. It may not have ever been lubed! Can I substitute olive oil, castor oil, or peach kernel oil until I can order Phil Wood lubricant or some other appropriate lube?

The listed oils are what I have on hand. I live in a small town where these kinds of things are often not available locally.

  • If you're talking about oiling the chain, I see nothing wrong with using plain motor oil (or, better, 3-in-1 oil or some such) for the short term. Just be sure to clean the mechanism well when you get the "right" stuff in, as the motor oil will have more of a tendency to collect dirt. Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 2:45
  • Use whichever is the least drippy, and clean it out again when you get the right stuff.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 3:59
  • Yeah, I'd just go for the 3-in-1. Every hardware store has it, even in the middle of nowhere.
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 18:07
  • 1
    Edited to add tags, since that seems to be my job these days. :-)
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 19:26
  • Since you mention it, I would point out that caster oil was used to lubricate aircraft engines. The name Castrol is a contraction of caster oil.
    – andy256
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 20:21

2 Answers 2


Vegetable oils such as "olive oil, castor oil, or peach kernel oil" are entirely inappropriate for lubricating anything except your salad and steak (or in the case of castor oil, your digestive system).

The problem is that vegetable oils quickly oxidize and get gummy. Think about the residue that accumulates on the bottom and around the cap of a salad oil dispenser. That gummy stuff accumulates dirt and grime and accelerates wear.

The best thing to do is to go to your local auto parts store or hardware store and ask for a good teflon based dry (chain) lube (for the chain), motor oil, or regular auto grease (for the axle). Some people also swear by chainsaw bar oil for bike chains (I find it's kinda sticky and prefer dry lubes, but you might be a rainy area). Here are some lubes that a regular auto/hardware store would have that would suffice:

DryLubePTFE grease

p.s. There's nothing super special about Phil's -- it's just a good general purpose oil. I actually don't like it, as it is a grit magnet but it has its followers.

FINALLY: Note that your trike is pretty much (sad to say) a Walmart BSO. In many cases, these are very poorly constructed and assembled - so your axle/chain noise may also come from it being poorly constructed and assembled rather than a simple lack of lubrication. If lubing it doesn't work, you may want to try to take it in to a real bike shop for an overhaul -- and because of its construction, it may in fact (even with professional assistance) be impossible to tune to the point where it operates without noise/friction.

  • I don't think I'd want castor oil on my salad, thanks. ;-) Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 1:25
  • Different strokes for different folks. :-) I bet the combination with the salad roughage would jump start any constipated system. ;-P There are recipes apparently for castor oil cookies: cooks.com/recipe/1s7ex51y/castor-oil-cookies.html
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 1:48
  • Aren't product recommendations considered off topic or something? Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:38

Insofar as this is a question about what makes a good substitute for Phil Wood Tenacious Oil when you want such an oil (thick, gooey, extremely high viscosity, very high washout resistance, good in many kinds of freehubs/freewheels, prone to being a total mess on chains if not applied very judiciously) but don't have Phil on hand, there are a couple options I know of.

-Finish Line Wet (formerly Cross Country) is just about the only similar product within the bike industry. It's the same approximate genre but not quite as stringy-gooey.

-Chainsaw bar oil is a similar oil that can be found many places. Phil Wood claims their oil has a lot of additives that distinguish it from generic bar oil, and this is a topic of perennial internet debate.

  • 2
    We've had the discussion about chainbar lube here bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/37399/19705 and the consensus was its better than nothing for your bike chain, but on a saw its there to lubricate the bar. not the chain. Chainsaw chain is not roller chain, so it doesn't have the same cavities.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 5:14
  • This question is about substitutes for Phil, the main defining characteristic of which is its very high viscosity. How appropriate Phil is for chains is also frequently debated, but it's not really what this question is about. Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 7:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.