Does Degreaser Destroy Bikes And Their Bearings?

Does Degreaser Destroy Bikes And Their Bearings?


– Will degreaser damage
the bearings in your bike? It’s a question a lot of cyclists ask. So we’ve decided to do an experiment. Well, we’re gonna do two experiments. But before we crack on, make
sure you click Subscribe if you haven’t already, and
also click the little bell icon as this will give you a notification every time we upload a new video. When cleaning bikes we
often spray degreaser around all over the place
like it’s deodorant. But does liberal application
of these solvents risk damaging your bearings? Let’s first explain what degreaser does. It’s a cleaning fluid
designed to strip grease, oil, and dirt from your bike. Now greasy oil typically
isn’t very soluble in water, i.e., it doesn’t readily dissolve. However it is far more soluble,
dissolves much more readily, in organic solvents such
as petrol and alcohol, which are common components of degreasers. So degreasers are highly effective at removing oil and dirt from your bike. So what’s the problem? Bearings contain ball bearings,
which are then surrounded by thick grease to help lubricate
them and prevent damage. They’re also protected by seals. Not the aquatic mammal,
but little nylon covers that are designed to make them watertight. The thinking is that the
solvents in degreasers can penetrate the bearing seals and then strip out the grease inside, and the result would be a bearing that performs like a mini
washing machine full of cutlery. We want to see if this actually happens, so to do this we’ve
devised some experiments. But not just any experiments,
this time we have got some incredibly sophisticated experiments, I just can’t wait to
show you. (phone ringing) Oh, sorry, hang on. Hang on one minute. Yeah, hello? (mumbles) Wait, what do you mean
that the super high-tech mega massive bearing test
facility’s been double-booked? (sighs) All right, bye. (exhales loudly) Looks like
we’re gonna have to improvise. In light of the super
mega high-tech massive bearing test lab being double-booked, we’ve managed to get the next best thing. (snaps) Yeah, that is a bottom bracket on a stick. But it’s the same one that Si used in his excellent video,
Should You Jet Wash Your Bike? – We’re really getting in there now. Come on! – I’m gonna spray loads
of degreaser all over the bottom bracket on a stick
and then I’m gonna wash it with water because this would
replicate the cleaning process when you clean your bike. Now I should also point
out that the bearings have been completely
packed full of fresh grease and sealed up, so afterwards
I’m gonna remove the seals and see if any of the
degreaser has been washed out or if there’s been any
penetration of the bearings. You should also remember it’s important to wear protection, kids. Safety first. (snaps) (dramatic music) Amazingly used an entire can
of degreaser on this chainset, so let’s wash it off now
and see what happens. This is my Charlie’s Angels pose. I’m gonna take the bottom
bracket on a stick apart now and see if there’s been any penetration. Of the bearings. (seductive music) I’ve taken the seal off, and
I’m quite surprised by this, but it doesn’t appear that
there’s been any ingress of water or degreaser within the bearing itself. There is some water on
the outside of the bearing and also on the inside
as well, within the axle, but that’s to be expected
because this particular chainset does have a hollow axle, but
within the actual bearing itself where the grease
is there’s no evidence of any water or moisture
having got in there. So I guess this suggests that
you can spray degreaser on, well, in particular, the bottom
bracket area of your bike and rinse it off with water
without too much worry that it’s gonna damage the bearings. So I guess this means we need
to do another experiment. In this next experiment we want to look at how resilient the seals on bearings are. So to do this I’ve got four
brand-new cartridge bearings and I’m gonna create four
pools of extreme bearing death. (dramatic music) Pool number one is degreaser, to simulate if you rode your bike
into a vat of degreaser. Pool number two is salt water, to simulate if you rode your bike under the sea. Pool number three is
Coca-Cola, to simulate if you rode your bike and crashed it into a Coca-Cola tanker. And pool number four is
water, to simulate… Water. All four are highly likely scenarios. (chuckles) I’m sure you’ll agree. So in go the bearings. (plink) (plink) (plink) (fizz) (plink) All right. I’m gonna let those babies
brew for a little while, and then I’m gonna come back
and see if there’s any damage. (clock ticking) (alarm rings) Oof. Right. I’ve been leaving the bearings
in their solutions of death for four hours, festering away, so now it’s time to get them
out, prise open the seals, and see if there’s been
any ingress in any way. So, safety first. Let’s begin with the degreaser. (laughs) I can’t see what I’m doing. Okay, get rid of those. So I’ve taken the seal
off and all the grease appears to still be completely
in there, it’s untouched. It’s nice and clear,
and there appears to be no ingress at all and
it’s moving really nicely. There’s just really smooth,
doesn’t appear to be any damage to that at all, quite surprising
really, but pretty cool. So onto the salt water. This one’s pretty interesting, actually, because on taking the seal off it appears that there has been some slight ingress inside the bearing from
the saltwater solution, and the grease is actually
slightly discolored, it’s no longer nice and clear,
it’s put a slight tint to it. And there does appear
to be some small amounts of moisture on the inside, see? Pretty interesting that the concentrated saltwater solution has got inside. On to the Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola one is pretty intriguing. So the oil on the inside,
or the grease on the inside of the bearing, is no longer
the clear color it was when it first came, it’s sort
of turned Coca-Cola brown, suggesting something has got inside, and it does appear that there’s
a small amount of moisture on the inside as well, and
it should also be pointed out that the exterior of the
bearing is slightly browner than the other solutions as well, so Coca-Cola is definitely
doing something to this bearing. Right, on to the water. The interesting thing
on the water solution is that you can see that
there’s a sort of a stain leaching out the side of the bearing. Now you couldn’t see
this on the other ones because they’re colored,
and in the salt one it’s sort of buried in
the salt in the bottom. But it does appear that there’s
been some sort of ingress, or grease leaching out of the
bearing so let’s take a look. Upon taking the seal off it
appears that most of the grease, or nearly all the grease, is
still intact within the bearing which is good, but it does
appear there’s a slight bit of moisture in there,
and the grease in there has been slightly discolored,
it’s got a slight yellowy tint to it now whereas before it was clear. So it does suggest that
some water has got in there and it has had an effect. The results are really interesting, but I guess the big question
is why did we see some ingress with the water solution
but we didn’t see ingress with the degreaser solution? Well, it’s a tough one, but my best guess, if I speculate with my science hat on, is that it could be down
to the specific gravity of these different solutions. So different liquids, different solutions, have different properties,
and one of those is specific gravity. Now, this degreaser has a lower
specific gravity than water. Degreasers often contain
solvents which are less dense than water, hence why
they can sometimes sit on the top of water as a separate layer when you mix the two together. Now, because water has a
higher specific gravity, that means it can be better at penetrating the bearing seals than the degreaser. Now what about Coca-Cola and salt water? Well, both Coca-Cola and salt water have higher specific gravities than water. Only slightly, but higher nonetheless. And salt water, well,
that also contains salt, which can cause further
damage and corrosion once it gets inside your
bearings or other components. As for Coca-Cola, well it
contains a variety of things, but it also contains phosphoric
acid and carbonic acid, which are only weak acids, but over time they can cause corrosion. Although degreaser is less effective at penetrating the
bearing seals than water, it does perhaps suggest that
you shouldn’t be submerging your bearings or bike in any liquid for a prolonged period of time. However, lightly spraying
your sensitive areas of your bike with degreaser
and then rinsing it off with water doesn’t appear to
cause any significant damage at all, and this is
something that’s backed up not only with what pro mechanics
do when they clean bikes, but also Si’s jet wash video
in which he absolutely smashed the bearings with a jet wash
and there was no ingress. So I guess this means that
you shouldn’t be worried about when you clean your
bike, but just be careful with your degreaser and your water and everything should be okay. Now these experiments
aren’t the most conclusive and we’re not professing them to be, but I am really impressed
at the resilience of the bearing seals and also the destructive powers of Coca-Cola. But like any experiment it
has raised further questions, such as, what would be the
effect on other bearings on your bike, such as the
ones in the jockey wheels, or what would happen if
you left the bearings exposed to degreaser for an
even longer period of time? Well, if there’s any videos
you’d like us to make and things you’d like us to test out, then comment with them in
the comments section below and we might make a video in the future. Right, if you’d like to do
any experiments of your own at home, then I highly
suggest you head over to the GCN shop and pick
yourself up a GCN apron to keep things clean and tiny. And what’s more, if
you put it on backwards it doubles as a cape. And if you’d like to watch another video, then why not check out
Si’s excellent video where he jet washes bearings down here.