Even the best bike locks on the market require some basic maintenance from time to time.
When locks are left exposed to the elements, they’ll slowly begin to degrade, so you’ll have to stay on top of maintaining your bike lock to keep it from rusting.
A rusty bike lock provides less security for your bike and may even stop working if left without maintenance.
So, how can you stop your bike lock from rusting?
Read the steps below, and we’ll teach you the bike lock maintenance essentials to ensure your lock works for as long as possible and provides your bike with the protection it deserves.
Benefits of Maintaining Your Bike Lock
Because bike locks are typically used outside, they’re frequently exposed to rain, humidity, dust and dirt.
Over time, these contaminants can build up, producing a sticky mess and a lock that won’t work as it should.
When foreign particles build up on or in your bike lock, they cause unnecessary wear on moving parts, increasing the chance of corrosion (rust) forming.
By following the Bike Lock Maintenance steps below, you’ll:
- Increase the lifespan of your bike lock
- Improve your lock’s overall performance
- Reduce the chance of rust forming
- Prevent the lock’s internals from jamming
Bike Lock Maintenance Video
Alongside writing this article, we’ve also produced a short video showing you the quickest and best ways to clean and lubricate a bike lock.
Feel free to watch this instead or carry on reading, and we’ll achieve the same results just as quickly.
Bike Lock Maintenance Basics
So now that you understand a little more about why bike lock maintenance is so important, it’s time we get to work and get your lock cleaned and protected.
Before we begin, make sure that your bike lock can be unlocked, if not, you’ll want to read our article covering how to unjam a bike lock first.
What You'll Need:
Once your lock is open, you’ll need to get the following items for proper bike lock maintenance.
Using a lock-specific lubricant is key, but dry lubricants with graphite powders or PTFE are also great.
- Clean cloth or rag
- Lock-specific lubricant (we use and recommend ABUS PS88)
- Bike lock & key
- Newspaper (for surface protection)
Bike Lock Maintenance Steps
To ensure proper protection against rust and corrosion, we need to ensure that all moving parts of your lock or parts which come into contact with others are lubricated.
To simplify these maintenance steps, we’ve broken them down into lock-specific categories.
Select your lock type from the list below to skip to the maintenance steps relevant to your lock.
U-locks (otherwise known as D-locks) have three main areas that require regular cleaning and lubrication:
- The locking ends of the shackle (either end of the U-shaped piece)
- The locking bolts (area in which the shackle enters)
- The locking cylinder (inside the keyhole)
But before we begin lubrication, it’s important to ensure the three areas above are clean from dirt and grime.
- Take your cloth and wipe away any visible dirt on your U-lock. Once satisfied that the common areas are clean, we need to prep the areas mentioned in the list above by cleaning them. (Image 1)
- Remove the shackle from your lock and wipe down both ends that insert into the locking mechanism. (Image 2)
- Once clean, take the locking crossbar of your U-lock, and with the locking holes facing the ground, spray a few blasts of your lubricant inside either hole.
This will help to flush out any foreign particles and help to dislodge any gunk and grime. (Image 3)
- Wipe away any lubricant and insert the shackle into the lock to further aid dirt removal.
Then remove and wipe down the shackle as you just did. Now spray either end of the shackle with your lock-specific lubricant and place it to one side. (Image 4)
- Next, give another squirt of lube to either side of the locking mechanism (on the locking crossbar) and wipe away any excess. (Image 5)
- Finally, we want to lubricate the locking cylinder. These steps are the same for all bike locks, so follow the steps shown here to finish your bike lock maintenance.
There are two different types of bike chain locks:
- Integrated chain locks – chains with locks directly attached to the chain.
- Chain & padlocks – a loose chain with a padlock for securing either end.
The maintenance steps for these chain types are slightly different, so read the steps which apply to your chain lock below.
Chain & Padlock (or similar lock)
- Remove your padlock from your chain and place it to one side. (Image 1)
- If your chain has a protective covering, use your cloth to remove any visible dirt or debris. (Image 2)
- If your chain doesn’t have a cover or if its cover can be removed, spray your cloth with your lubricant and wipe down each of the chain links.
This will remove excess grime while forming a protective coating on the outside of the chain links, protecting them from corrosion. (Image 3)
- Unlock your padlock or similar locking device, and if the shackle can be removed, remove it and wipe down either end. (Image 4)
- If your padlock’s shackle doesn’t detach from the padlock, wipe away any dirt from the locking side of the shackle.
- Next, spray some lock lubricant onto your cloth and lightly lubricate the locking ends of the shackle.
- With the shackle clean, we now want to clean the locking mechanism and cylinder.
With the padlock’s locking holes facing the ground, give the locking holes a few blasts of lubricant, which will help to remove any stubborn dirt and grime. (Image 5)
- Wipe away any excess lubricant and lock and unlock the padlock a few times to encourage the lube into the locking mechanism. (Image 6)
- To finish up, we need to lubricate your lock’s cylinder (keyhole mechanism). As this process is essentially the same for every bike lock, you can just read these steps to finish your lock maintenance.
Integrated Chain Lock
Integrated chains are often slightly more difficult to lubricate and come in many designs.
In some cases where your chain differs from that shown below, you’ll need to look at your lock and adapt the steps below slightly to ensure your chain is cleaned and protected from corrosion.
- Unlock your chain and wipe down the outer protective cover to remove loose dirt. (Image 1)
- If possible, remove the cover from your chain to expose the chain links below. Otherwise, go to step 4.
- With the protective cover removed, spray your clean cloth with your lock-specific lubricant and wipe each chain link down.
This will establish a protective layer on the links, helping to prevent corrosion. (Image 2)
- Apply lock-specific lubricant to your cloth and wipe down the locking link (the link that inserts into the locking mechanism), ensuring all areas are properly cleaned. (Image 3)
- Next, with your lock in the unlocked position, keeping the opening facing the ground, gently clean the inside of the lock’s opening with your cloth, encouraging dirt from inside to flush out. (Images 4 & 5)
- Once satisfied that the lock opening is clean, apply one more small burst of lubricant into the mechanism opening.
- Next, you’ll want to find an entrance to the internal locking mechanism. This is usually found near the locking bar/bolt.
Once located, spray a good amount of lubricant into this area, and follow this up with a few twists of your key to help distribute the lubricant inside. (Image 6)
- The final step is to lubricate your lock’s cylinder (keyhole mechanism). As this step is the same for all bike locks, you’ll want to read this section to complete your bike lock maintenance.
Folding locks have the most moving parts of any bike lock, so they require slightly more effort to maintain.
The areas of a folding lock we need to clean and lubricate are:
- Rivets – the joint connecting each plate and allowing the lock to fold and flex.
- Locking plate – the plate part that inserts into the locking mechanism.
- Locking mechanism – the locking bolt or mechanism that secures the locking plate in place.
- Locking cylinder – the mechanism inside the keyhole.
Before lubrication, you should ensure that each section of the lock is clean, so we’ll start by cleaning each part and then lubricating for corrosion protection.
- Using your clean cloth, wipe down the outside of your folding lock to remove any dirt. (Image 1)
- Next, take your lock-specific lubricant and, working one at a time, give the first rivet a good blast of lubricant to remove any grime from inside, then wipe down any excess lubricant and repeat for each rivet until they’re all cleaned and lubricated. (Image 2)
- Now, unlock your folding lock and wipe down the locking plate using a clean section of your cloth to remove foreign particles.
Finish this by spraying a small amount of lubricant onto the locking section of the plate and wiping away any excess lube. (Image 3)
- Then, using the application straw of your lubricant, spray a blast into the locking mechanism (the area where the plate inserts). Allow any excess lube to leave the lock, as it will help to flush out dirt from the inside. (Image 4)
- Wipe away any excess lube and spray one final squirt into the locking mechanism, inserting and twisting your key several times to encourage penetration of moving parts. (Image 5)
- With the rest of your folding lock now clean, we’ll finish cleaning the keyhole. As this step is similar for all lock types, you should follow these final steps to complete your maintenance process.
Cable locks are the cheapest bike lock type by far, meaning they typically use low-quality materials, leaving them vulnerable to rust if left dirty and without lubrication.
Thankfully, though, performing maintenance on a cable lock is quick and easy.
On a cable lock, we need to clean and lubricate:
- The cable’s locking end – the part that inserts into the locking mechanism.
- The locking mechanism – the part that secures the locking end in place.
- The locking cylinder – the mechanism that sits behind the keyhole.
- Start by giving your cable lock a good wipe down with your cloth, removing any dirt. (Image 1)
- Next, unlock the cable and wipe any dirt off the locking end of the cable before giving it a light squirt of lock-specific lubricant and wiping away any excess. (Image 2)
- Now, take your lubricant and with the mechanism facing the ground, give it several sharp bursts so that gravity helps to remove any foreign particles from inside. (Image 3)
- If using a key-operated cable lock, insert your key into the keyhole and rotate it several times to encourage the lubricant to enter and coat the locking mechanism.
- If using a combination-operated cable lock, rotate the dials to encourage lubrication of the combination mechanism. (Image 4)
- Finish by following these steps, which show you how to clean and lubricate the locking cylinder (keyhole mechanism).
Locking Cylinder (Keyhole Mechanism) Lubrication
Cleaning and lubricating the locking cylinder of your bike lock is the most important maintenance step.
This is especially true if you use a cheaper bike lock, as these normally have low-quality locking cylinders, which can corrode quickly if left exposed to the elements.
Follow the steps below to finish your bike lock maintenance:
- First, with the keyhole facing the ground, spray several bursts of your lubricant into the keyhole, allowing gravity to flush out dirt, grime and excess lubricant. (Image 1)
- Keeping the keyhole facing down, insert your key and gently rotate it several times in the locking mechanism. Then, remove the key and wipe it clean. If it wipes dirty, repeat steps 1 & 2 until it’s clean. (Image 2)
- Once clean, turn the keyhole to face away from the ground and spray three quick bursts inside, then insert the key and rotate it back and forth several times, encouraging the lubricant to penetrate all parts of the locking cylinder. (Image 3)
- Finally, wipe away any excess lubricant and leave the lock to dry out for a few minutes. (Image 4)
Bike Lock Maintenance FAQs
By performing bike lock maintenance once a month, you’ll help ensure your bike lock lasts as long as possible.
Additionally, when repeated monthly, bike lock maintenance becomes much quicker as dirt, and grime won’t be able to build up inside the lock.
However, depending on how often you use the lock, you may want to perform maintenance more or less frequently than this.
Maintenance every two months is fine for those who don’t use their lock as much, so long as it’s stored in a clean and dry environment.
If you use your lock daily and leave it exposed to the elements, consider lubricating it every other week.
Lubricating your lock while you clean and lubricate your bike chain is an excellent habit to get into to prevent the deterioration of moving parts.
WD-40 is a lubricant dissolved in a solvent. This means the solvent of WD-40 will break down and remove existing lubrication before drying and leaving its lubricant on top of the mess it’s just created.
This makeshift “lubricant” leaves a sticky mess behind that attracts dirt, dust and debris, doing nothing good for your lock. 
Instead, we suggest you use a lock-specific lubricant like ABUS PS88 or another Teflon, silicone or graphite-based lubricant.
If you haven’t used your bike lock for a while or left it outside exposed to the elements, you may find it jammed shut when you return to it.
This can usually be resolved quickly and without the need for specialist tools.
We’ve compiled a complete guide covering what to do if your bike lock is jammed. Have a read and get that lock fixed.
If your bike lock key doesn’t turn in the locking cylinder, it’ll be due to one of the issues below:
- You may be using the wrong key
- The key you’re using may be damaged
- The locking mechanism may be damaged or corroded
- You may be trying to unlock the wrong bike lock
First, double-check that you’re using the right key and it’s the same brand as the lock you’re trying to unlock.
Next, check the key for damage. This could be bent or broken sections of the blade, or it may simply be dirty.
If it’s dirty, wipe it clean. If it’s broken, try using one of your spare keys if you have any.
If you need to order replacement keys, read our key replacement guide to get spares cut for every major brand.
Finally, the locking mechanism on your bike lock may be jammed shut due to corrosion. If none of the steps above worked, read our guide – How to Fix a Jammed Bike Lock.
Some people say any lubricant is better than none, but if used for a job it’s not designed for, some lubricants can do more harm than good.
For example, if you attempted to use WD-40 on a bike chain, you’d get away with it for the first hour, but after a few rides, the chain would quickly build up a good layer of sticky grime until it didn’t work as it should.
The same applies to your bike lock, it’s an even more complex mechanism than your bike chain, with many internal moving parts, so you must ensure you’re using a lock-friendly lubricant.
If you’ve found spots of rust beginning to form on your bike lock, several steps can be taken to prevent this from spreading.
We’ve put together a guide on rust removal here, although bear in mind if your lock is badly rusted, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to restore it to a usable condition.
7 Tips to Prevent Rusty Bike Locks
- Clean and lubricate your lock once every two months or once a month, depending on how often it’s used
- If your lock gets wet, dry it down with a clean cloth when you get home and re-lubricate if required
- If you’re not going to be using your lock/bike for a long time, make sure you thoroughly lubricate the shackle ends and locking mechanism to stop them from rusting
- When you’re not using your lock, store it in a clean and dry place
- Buy a good quality bike lock to begin with, and it’ll be less susceptible to rust in the long run
- If it has one, use your bike lock’s keyhole cover to prevent moisture and dirt from entering the locking mechanism
- If you spot rust on your bike lock, the faster you address the issue, the better, as you’ll prevent more stubborn rust, which can weaken the metal
If you’ve followed the steps in this guide, you should now have a squeaky clean and well-lubricated bike lock.
Moving forward, ensure you keep your lock lubricated, and, where possible, when locking up your bike, try to keep your lock sheltered from the elements.
If you notice your lock is wet, wipe it down with a clean cloth and make sure you stay on top of your monthly cleaning and lubrication.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and questions below in the comments section, and we’ll get back to you.