How to Fix a Rusty Bike Lock

Rusted bike lock? Discover a few methods that you can use to get that bike lock open again. It only takes a few minutes!

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A rusty bike lock can fail you in more than one way.

For example, it can seize up and refuse to unlock when you need your bike the most. In certain situations, a poorly-maintained bike lock is also one that thieves can break more easily.

While the best thing to do to with a rusty bike lock is to replace it, this isn’t always practical—and you may want to repair your lock and extend its life instead. So let’s talk about how to do this.

There are several ways to revive a rusty bike lock. Most of the time, spraying the lock with WD-40 works wonders. If that doesn’t help, silicone lubricant or graphite powder should help free it. If the lock is still jammed, it’s best to cut it, throw it away, and buy a new one.

In this post, we’ll go through not only how to fix a rusted bike lock, but also how to prevent the bike lock from rusting in the first place. By the time you’re done reading, rusted bike locks will be a thing of the past for you.

How to Fix a Rusted Bike Lock

To fix your rusted bike lock, you are going to need to get your hands on the following:

The first product, WD-40, is for displacing water and removing rust. The second and third products, the silicone and graphite lubricants, are for getting the internal mechanism of the lock lubed up and moving freely again.

In a moment, we’ll go through all the steps for fixing your rusted bike lock.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to go through all of these steps. Test your bike lock at each and every step. If it gets unjammed and starts to turn at one of them, you probably don’t need to do the rest.

At this point, I want to point out that it’s ever so important to not force that key in the lock in any way. This will worsen the problem and, at best, leave you with a rusty lock that has a broken key inside. Things are bad enough already!

Step #1: Spray WD-40 Into the Lock

Start with WD-40. The chances are that you already have some WD-40 lying around the house anyway. Almost every bike owner should have a can at hand! (Besides, if you don’t, this is great prompt to get one.)

Give the WD-40 a good spray into the keyhole, then let it sit face-down for 2-3 minutes. If the “insertion” point for the bike lock has rusted, then spray the WD-40 into there as well.

Step #2: Spray Lubricant Into The Lock

The bike lock still isn’t free.

You can repeat the process with a spray lubricant. DuPont’s silicone lubricant with Teflon, one of the most slippery materials on earth, should be good for this. You can buy it at Amazon or pick it up from any decent hardware store.

You do pretty much the same thing as before. This means spraying the lock, turning it face down, and then leaving for a couple of minutes. Remember to put aluminum foil or parchment paper under the lock so that you have less of a mess to clean.

Ideally, you should then be able to free the bike lock.

Step #3: Put In Dry Graphite Powder

The final thing that you can try is a bit of graphite powder.

Locksmiths will often use graphite powder to free rusted locks. So if this doesn’t work, chances are nothing else will.

Spray some dry graphite powder into the rusted part of your bike lock. Give it a good shake. Or, as much as you can, considering your bike lock is rusted shut.

Insert and try to turn the key, several times, slowly and gently. Hopefully, your rusted bike lock will now open without any issues.

Step #4: Wipe Everything Clean 

Assuming everything opened up, the final step is to wipe everything clean. Use a dry cloth for this. You don’t want there to be any more rust.

If nothing works, you have several other options.

How Do You Remove a Rusted Bike Lock You Cannot Fix?

The solution above should work if you have mild rust on your bike.

However, if you have attempted to fix the rusted bike lock too late, there probably won’t be too much that you can do to save it. Instead, you will need to get rid of that bike lock in a different way

Although, this does spell the end for your bike lock.

If you skip ahead to the next section, we will tell you how to prevent bike lock rusting in the future.

The one solution here is to get hold of a quality angle grinder, cordless if possible (it makes it easier to move about). Even the toughest of locks can eventually be broken through with an angle grinder.

If you have a cheaper bike lock (e.g., a basic cable lock), then you may be able to break through it with a pair of bolt cutters. Although, it is going to be quite a challenge. The angle grinder will cut through it like butter.

Only do this if the bike is in your garage or yard. Generally, on your property, where you have the proof of purchase for the bike with you.

If your rusty lock jammed in a public area and you can’t fix it, check out “What to Do When Your Bike Lock Won’t Open.”

How Do You Prevent a Bike Lock From Rusting?

Of course, prevention is always better than the cure.

So, let’s wrap up by giving you a few ideas on how you can prevent the issue from happening in the first place.

Tip #1: Don’t Store Your Bike Outside

Seems obvious, right?

Surprisingly, it isn’t obvious to that many cyclists.

If you store your bike outside, the lock is going to rust. In fact, the bike is going to rust. Avoid it.

If you do have to park your bike outside, look for a bicycle shelter or garage that you can use or pay for to protect your bike—along with its parts and accessories—from exposure to the elements.

Tip #2: Regularly Spray WD-40 and Lubricant Into The Lock

Every month or so, spray some WD-40 and silicone lubricant or graphite powder into the bike lock. This should keep the inner workings of the lock turning smoothly and prevent it from seizing up when you most need it.

Consider doing this every two to three weeks if you live in an area with high humidity, such as near the beach, a lake, or close to a river.

Humidity is the enemy of all metal parts, and bike locks are no exception.

Tip #3: Buy a Decent Bike Lock

Decent bike locks aren’t just about extra security (although that helps), but many have extra features that can prevent rust. This means plastic caps over keyholes, stainless steel, etc.

If you don’t want to replace bike locks forever, then buy a good-quality one.

Tip #4: Position The Keyhole Facing Down 

Finally, point the keyhole down when your bike is outside.

This will prevent rainwater, snow, etc. getting into it. It is simple but, in the grand scheme of things, very effective!

Final Words

If your bike lock has minor rust, then you should be able to tix it yourself.

Some WD-40, silicone lubricant, and/or graphite powder can go a long way. Although, do bear in mind that the lock will eventually need replacing. Corrosion and rust have the tendency of spreading, so it’s likely that this will continue to be a problem for you.

If your bike lock has severe rust, then you may have no choice but to cut it off your bike and replace it. We’ve rounded up the best bike locks to help you out.

At least you know how to maintain your new lock now!

For your convenience: The products featured in this post are WD-40 for rust removal and water displacement, and DuPont Silicone Lubricant or CRC Dry Graphite Powder for lubrication. The latter two can be used interchangeably.

By Dim Nikov

City dweller. Recreational cyclist with a knack for writing. Always trying to find the right balance between life and bike.