I've noticed my freehub has gotten quite a bit louder over the last few months. Several people have recommended that I lubricate the freewheel by tipping the bike on its side and dripping lubricant into the freewheel. However, I've gotten differing opinions on what to use for a lubricant.

Is it safe to use a chain lube on the freehub or is there a better lubricant for this purpose?

Edit: In response to one of the answers, I have a freehub (2011 bicycle). Question edited appropriately.

  • 1
    ...is it making any noises, e.g. 'clunks', as part of that extra noise? Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 12:45
  • 1
    Louder when coasting, or louder (or any noise at all) when under power? Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 15:20
  • Louder when coasting. Normal "clicking" noise, but just louder than it was when new. Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 4:13
  • if you start to turn the crancks backwards very slowly, does it push the chain forward or does it freewheel perfectly? if it pushes the chain, you may need grease in the bearings, or a weekly oiling of the freewheel
    – gcb
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 20:00
  • It freewheels perfectly. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 0:17

5 Answers 5


I use chain oil (Chain-L Number 5) and it sucks. have to relube every 4 weeks or so.

to really solve your problem:

option 1. open it and use a proper grease. shimano duraace grease, or, as recomended here (i haven't tried yet but will) slick honey grease.

option 2. buy a new one. if your model is common, buy a replacement for $15. cheaper then a pack of grease! i like my 5sp 13-30 too much to replace it.

option 3. the stubborn (my current option)

  1. remove wheel.
  2. lay it on it's side, gears up
  3. roll some rag behind the biggest cog (oil will come out from there).
  4. OPTIONAL. if you have a spanner tool, loose the top cover. 2 turns should be fine.
  5. warm your bottle of chain oil in the sink under hot water (as hot as you can hold your hand in... if you have a thermometer, should be around 130F, or 55C)
  6. drop the warm oil on the top of the freewheel cover
  7. wait for oil to go in. if you feel like repeat from step 5.
  8. if you loosened your cover, tighten it back.
  9. put back the wheel.
  • just a note, i'm still to try to slick honey grease. never found it selling for less than it's weight in gold so far. until then i will keep with the other name brands.
    – gcb
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 18:27

Freewheel (old technology) or freehub (current technology)? People tend to use the terms interchangeably, but they are quite different. A freewheel can be pretty effectively lubed with any medium-viscosity oil. There's not much in there; a couple of ratcheting "pawls" and their pivots.

You don't want anything that will gum up and cause the pawls to stick.

On a freehub, the mechanism is pretty well-sealed and greased from the factory. However, they are pretty easy to disassemble in most cases. They do make a clever tool called the "Freehub Buddy" which lets you inject grease into the thing without disassembly.

However, at 40 bucks it's a bit steep for home use where you would only use it every couple of years or so.

  • Freehub buddy itself is $25, 40 for the kit.
    – Moab
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 17:39
  • A thread-on freewheel wouldn't be lubed because you toss it out once a year or couple thousand kilometers. With the replacement freewheel, you get a new gear cluster and a new ratchet mechanism. And anyway, that mechanism is only in use when you're not pedaling; it doesn't take any load. The thing you might lube in a freewheel system is the hub inside the wheel. Something like, loosen the cones, get the balls out, clean out, re-pack with axle grease, put balls back in, reassemble.
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 0:28

since you commented that it freewheels perfectly, all you need is some chain oil in there as mscantland said.

any oil really (just not wd40!). general purpose oil will work, like 3-1. whatever you have around.

to apply follow my "option 3" from the other answer. it will help with the noise. which is totally 'cosmetic' if it freewheels nicely.


For a real freewheel see (@M. Werner), you want the lightest oil you can find. Never use WD40. Synthetics can work too. Anything heavier, and (especially in cold), the pawl springs can't snap back fast enough to create an ratchet.

As a bike wrench in the time when freewheels and freehubs both existed, I saw too much oil/grease more often than not enough.

If it is loud, just add a bit of light oil and move on.

  • wd40 is not a lubricant! it will eventually makes things worse.
    – gcb
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 20:01
  • 1
    @gcb It's not true that WD-40 is not a lubricant. It's a water displacement spray mixed with a penetrating oil. This is why it is commonly used to lubricate household items like hinges. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WD-40
    – jimchristie
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 14:17
  • 1
    @jimirings i consider a lubricant something that lubricates and /stays/ lubricating. if you want technicalities, water is also a lubricant. But you are welcome to do testing following the scientific method, since we can't use existing bibliography on the subject because wd-40 does not publish the ingredients on their product. my bet is that you will find that wd-40 is a lubricant that is thinned way more than the rest. that is fine if you want the 'penetrating' properties, but not so nice if you want it to remain /in/ a spinning freewheel. you will just be splashing your lubricant around.
    – gcb
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 18:25
  • It's approximately 25% petroleum based oil. wd40company.com/files/pdf/msds-wd494716385.pdf
    – jimchristie
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 19:50
  • 1
    @jimirings: Again, WD-40 is designed as a penetrant. it is not designed for durable lubrication. They do also have suitable, bicycle designed products, but WD-40 is not suitable for bicycle lubrication.
    – zenbike
    Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 9:24

I have had great results using ordinary engine oil.

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