The Chainlink

The Importance of Lubing One's Kryptonite Lock in the Winter

Here's a somewhat cautionary tale that some of you might benefit from.   I don't know if my experience is typical..I assume some experts will chime in.

During the cold spell a few weeeks ago my Kryptonite wouldn't unlock. I frequently lock at the Marianos on Lawrence/Ravenswood.  I went inside to their coffee area, got a cup of hot water from the coffee folks, ,problem solved.  When I got home, I read up on the issue and people said to apply WD40 to the lock, which I dutifully did. I assumed all was well.

The next day I locked up at the same location and once again a frozen lock.  I was puzzled as I thought the WD 40 would have provided the necessary lubrication or removed any rust . Got a cup of hot water again, applied it, but no luck. I was starting to think that my key must have bent even though I had easily locked and unlocked the bolt several times during the initial WD40 cleansing.

So I went home via the CTA and read up on frozen Kryptonite locks. I was puzzle as though it was cold out, maybe  5-10 degrees, in three years of Chicago winter biking I've had no trouble unlocking in much colder weather (and after my bike sat outside all day).

Based on my reading on the Interwebs, I returned with more Wd40, bike lube, my plumbers wrench and a hammer for light tapping.  I also brought matches thinking I would heat the area up.

I applied hot water again, warmed the area with flame, more wd40, and no luck.  It seemed that the key couldn't turn all the way but my assumption was (and is) that the bolt was frozen.  

I was sufficiently cold that I took a break inside at the Marianos bar and the bartender, after hearing my story,  told me that drugstores sell these solutions to loosen up frozen locks (particularly car doors). She sent me down to the CVS @ Ravenswood/Lawrence.  They didn't have such a product but sent me to the Walgreens at Lawrence/Western.  They didn't have this mysterious solution.  So now I was really cold, tired, and decided to go home, correctly assuming that nobody could steal my bike with its frozen lock.  

So the next day I went into the wonderfully named Crafty Beaver store @Lawrence/Ashland and bought two different kinds of fluid to open frozen locks.  I sprayed the stuff into the key hole and after ten minutes of twisting the key the lock opened. I was thrilled. At that point I really wanted to go inside and celebrate with a cold one so I poured a ridiculous amount of silicon bike lube and more anti freeze lock solution (two different brands!) into the entire area where the bolt attached and the keyhole area. I wasn't going to deal with a stuck/frozen lock again!  After the beer I unlocked with np.

Next day I bike a few miles and also end up at the same bike rack. When I go to lock the bike, the entire sheath that covers the keyhole comes flying off as well as the metal "covering" where the key goes in. I assumed the lock  no longer worked, and as it was really cold but I wanted to work out at LA Fitness, I positioned the bolt to make it look like the bike was locked. It was about zero degrees and dark outside so I figured no bike thieves would be out.  Biked home after that.

The following day to my surprise it turned out that the lock still worked even with missing a few parts. Though I guess an adept thief could get better access to the keyhole now.   

Here's my takeways  from this episode:

1)  WD40 is good for loosening locks but does not remove rust.  A small amount of rust combined with very cold weather can freeze a Kryptonite.  Alternatively, maybe I cleaned  with water after the first WED 40 treatment and the left over moisture  froze. But that wouldn't explain why the lock froze initially so I'm sticking with the rust/cold weather theory.

2) Especially if you bike through the winter and expose your lock to the elements you should lube your lock periodically.

3) Don't use too much lube.

4) If your lock won't unlock during the winter, get the lock defreezing fluid at a home improvement store. 'These fluids work.

Josh

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I typically carry lock de-icer and a small bottle of graphite in the winter. WD-40 is for emergencies only when nothing else is available. Were you in the habit of covering the keyhole with the barrel protector? My life got a lot easier once I adopted the habit of doing so.


I was not. Stupid as it sounds I was not aware you were supposed to do that. I thought the barrel protector has some kind of anti theft benefit..it is to keep out moisture?

"De-Icer...". That's the word I needed.  
h' 1.0 said:

I typically carry lock de-icer and a small bottle of graphite in the winter. WD-40 is for emergencies only when nothing else is available. Were you in the habit of covering the keyhole with the barrel protector? My life got a lot easier once I adopted the habit of doing so.

I don't think it's ever a really good idea to unthaw a fozen lock with water.  The water can seep in and later freeze in all manner of places inside the lock.  I've had bad luck trying this technique.  A big +1 on using the barrel to cover up the keyhole.  

This reminds me of Groundhog's Day with Bill Murray. Don't use WD40 to lube as it's just a water displacer. I prefer 3 in 1 oil, but I'm sure someone will tell me how bad it is. I had a kryptonite lock freeze up a few years ago, put a ton of oil in it and never had the issue again.

Sounds a little like he had this happen a few times.

Jim Reho said:

I don't think it's ever a really good idea to unthaw a fozen lock with water.  The water can seep in and later freeze in all manner of places inside the lock.

Really this applies to any lock brand and type of lock. 

The lock on my back gate freezes all the time if it is not lubricated to keep water out.

I ignored them for years-- I think I even purposely broke one off because it was a nuisiance. Hate futzing with things.  But once I started using them the benefit was obvious.  They will definitely help keep rain and snow out of the cylinder. There's still a chance humidity can get in and then freeze under the wrong conditions.  The more important point is that you should be using graphite, not WD-40 as your go-to.
 
Josh L. said:


I was not. Stupid as it sounds I was not aware you were supposed to do that. I thought the barrel protector has some kind of anti theft benefit..it is to keep out moisture?

"De-Icer...". That's the word I needed.  
h' 1.0 said:

I typically carry lock de-icer and a small bottle of graphite in the winter. WD-40 is for emergencies only when nothing else is available. Were you in the habit of covering the keyhole with the barrel protector? My life got a lot easier once I adopted the habit of doing so.

Agreed. And I find that using a quality lube is a good preventive measure for either locks or gate latches.

notoriousDUG said:

Really this applies to any lock brand and type of lock. 

The lock on my back gate freezes all the time if it is not lubricated to keep water out.


what is this graphite of which you speak?
h' 1.0 said:

I ignored them for years-- I think I even purposely broke one off because it was a nuisiance. Hate futzing with things.  But once I started using them the benefit was obvious.  They will definitely help keep rain and snow out of the cylinder. There's still a chance humidity can get in and then freeze under the wrong conditions.  The more important point is that you should be using graphite, not WD-40 as your go-to.
 
Josh L. said:


I was not. Stupid as it sounds I was not aware you were supposed to do that. I thought the barrel protector has some kind of anti theft benefit..it is to keep out moisture?

"De-Icer...". That's the word I needed.  
h' 1.0 said:

I typically carry lock de-icer and a small bottle of graphite in the winter. WD-40 is for emergencies only when nothing else is available. Were you in the habit of covering the keyhole with the barrel protector? My life got a lot easier once I adopted the habit of doing so.

http://www.amazon.com/CRC-Graphite-Lube-Aerosol-Black/dp/B007I9XUD0

Remove other oils: Clean-wipe-spray (lightly)

Graphite=dry powdered lubricant-available in most hardware stores.

It was likely water in the mechanism. The first melting with hot water actually added more water and made it worse the next time. WD40 is actually corrosive and is not good for long term lubrication on anything. If one gets a frozen lock they should bring it indoors to let it come to room temperature and then do the water displacement with with a quality product that does that (I would say Tri-Flo or Super Lube). 3in1 might work but may be corrosive (probably not as much so as WD40).

Keep the rain an snow out and keep the lock mechanism well lubricated and you will not need the deicer again (but why not carry it anyway).

Thanks Irvin.  Obviously hot water in hindsight was the wrong "solution" but it was the only way I could figure to thaw the lock.  And good to know that WD-40 is not recommended either. I thought it was designed to clean out rust and provide some lubrication.

Irvin Steinert said:

It was likely water in the mechanism. The first melting with hot water actually added more water and made it worse the next time. WD40 is actually corrosive and is not good for long term lubrication on anything. If one gets a frozen lock they should bring it indoors to let it come to room temperature and then do the water displacement with with a quality product that does that (I would say Tri-Flo or Super Lube). 3in1 might work but may be corrosive (probably not as much so as WD40).

Keep the rain an snow out and keep the lock mechanism well lubricated and you will not need the deicer again (but why not carry it anyway).

I agree, as a lubricant WD40 is sub-standard but I'm not aware of any corrosive effects - do you have anything to support this? Indeed, wasn't the stuff specifically invented to be an anti-corrosive agent as well as water displacing penetrating oil?

From the MSDS:

Product Use: Lubricant, Penetrant, Drives Out Moisture, Removes and Protects Surfaces From Corrosion


Irvin Steinert said:

WD40 is actually corrosive and is not good for long term lubrication on anything.

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