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Has anyone tried 0W-20 engine oil for the pawls when servicing a Shimano freewheel? Would it gum up the mechanism? Also interested in how long lasting it would be as I don’t plan to service this freewheel much.

Grease is too viscous and 3-in-1 is too thin. This is the only other lubricant I have available.

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  • If your grease is of the variety that isn’t synthetic-based, you can mix the engine oil into it to thin it out. Synthetic based grease might not actually mix in.
    – MaplePanda
    Nov 15 '21 at 23:55
  • I have used "Lucas Oil Stabiliser" engine oil additive to lubricate pawls before and it was very effective for my specific use and very quiet.
    – JoeK
    Nov 16 '21 at 14:12
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Engine oils are generally a bad idea on a bike. They tend to be quite liquid and will dribble out over time. Engine oils are also known to grab and hold dirt, because that's one of their purposes in a motor where there is an active filter.

Your best lubricant for pawls is a lithium based grease, sometimes called white lithium. Avoid using too much. If you don't want to buy that, then grease is your second best option. Again, use just-enough but not too much which will gum up the works over time.


In a pinch you might mix some grease with a few drops of 3-in-1 to thin it down, however generally mixing lubes like this doesn't work well. Grease and some Oil mixed should make for a thinner grease (not a thicker oil).

Consider how hard it is to service inside a freehub/freewheel and whether you want to go through that effort any more often than necessary.


Any lubricant is better than none, so engine oil would rank above zero, and above water but below lithium or grease.

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    I've done grease+engine oil before when I wanted it just about runny (not for my bike bike, but the spare wheel winch mechanism on my van). For the freehub, just get some lithium grease (you can get small tubes only for very little money). If you're stripping down to that level you'll use it eventually on hub bearings etc. I'll use engine oil on the chain of my next beater bike though as I've got some much it's basically free.
    – Chris H
    Nov 16 '21 at 12:49
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    As a corroboration to the statement about engine oils being bad for lubricating bearings, consider that for super-important races, some people pros will have their mechanics oil their hub and other bearings - knowing that they need to accept a much more frequent service interval. Because the oil, being oil, is going to exit the bearing.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Nov 16 '21 at 19:39
  • White lithium grease it is. Thanks!
    – Listerone
    Nov 16 '21 at 23:14

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