Every garage, shop, and home needs a quality aerosol lubricant. With that said, which brand do you use? Do you know why? Is it because your dad used that particular one, or was it on sale at the store? Perhaps you have a preconceived notion that one is better than another. To put your mind and wallet at ease, we put five leading lubricants and five leading penetrants through our stringent testing procedures, and were surprised to see the results.
This test proved to be the most difficult to perform because we weren't trying to distort the test results by using a phony Falex test, or "one-armed-bandit" as it's known. Rather than get all scientific, we evaluated these lubricants and penetrants just like you would—by performing real-world tests such as busting rusted nuts and bolts loose, using an eyedropper on a piece of sheetmetal to check spread diameter, torquing stainless steel nuts and bolts and then loosening them with measured torque readings, and the "nail climbing test," which shows how a lubricant can "climb" up metal. Once the testing was complete, we evaluated value, spray mechanism, and odor (because you don't want to get something on you that smells terrible). Once everything in the shop was properly lubed up, we had ourselves two winners. Check out the results to see how your favorite fared.
1. WD-40 with Smart Straw
$6.49 12oz can wd40.com
For 60 years, WD-40 has been used to protect metal, lubricate hinges and moving parts, and helping auto professionals keep cars and trucks squeak-free. During our testing, the WD-40 original shined in two key categories: size of can and the ingenious Smart Straw spray mechanism. WD-40 proved to be a consistent performer, with a relatively low odor, good value, and strong spray pattern. It's a classic, but it's also still a great product.
2. Liquid Wrench Lubricating Oil
$4.59 11oz can liquidwrench.com
The value leader in this comparison, the Liquid Wrench Lubricating Oil had little to no odor, featured a compound that quieted squeaks effectively, but still needed a traditional straw inserted into the nozzle for pinpoint spraying. It handled every task we asked of it.
3. Tri-Flow Industrial Lubricant
$13.40 12oz can triflowlubricants.com
Available at our local hardware store, the Tri-Flow Industrial Lubricant worked extremely well on torqued-down stainless steel bolts. It also featured a sweet smell that had one tester on the verge of tasting it. As the most expensive lubricant tested, the Tri-Flow performed admirably but was outperformed by cheaper competitors.
4. Royal Purple Maxfilm
$7.45 4oz can (from summitracing.com) royalpurpleconsumer.com
We had high hopes for the Royal Purple Maxfilm, and it did excel during the eyedropper test when we examined a single drop's ability to spread out over steel. It also handled the stainless steel nut and bolt test with ease; however, it had a strong odor, was the smallest can tested, and is not readily available at part stores and hardware stores.
5. Super Lube Multipurpose Aerosol
$10.60 11oz can super-lube.com
Anything with super in the title must be good, right? The Super Lube did have one of the best spray triggers, but it lacked a top three finish in the eyedropper test, stainless bolt test, and at $10.60, it was the second-most expensive in the bunch.
1. WD-40 Specialist Rust Release Penetrant Spray with Smart Straw
$6.99 11oz can wd40.com
We certainly didn't plan on having one manufacturer sweep both tests, but once the scores were tallied, WD-40 Specialist also won the penetrant comparison. We liked the low odor, Smart Straw sprayer, and competitive price point.
2. CRC Freeze-Off Super Penetrant
$5.99 11.5oz can crcindustries.com
At first glimpse, we thought the CRC Freeze-Off was a gimmick. Turns out it is actually legit. The Freeze-Off drops the temperature dramatically of whatever it's sprayed on, and with a follow-up whack to shock the rusted nut or bolt, it proved incredibly effective. It also scored high during the eyedropper test and stainless nut and bolt removal test.
3. B'Laster PB Penetrating Catalyst
$5.49 11oz can blastercorp.com
Most shadetree mechanics and pros alike are familiar with B'Laster PB Penetrating Catalyst—the odor alone is unforgettable. During an impromptu Styrofoam cup test, the PB ate through the bottom of the cup in less than five minutes. However, that corrosive makeup didn't translate into outperforming the top two.
4. Liquid Wrench Penetrating Oil
$4.79 11oz can liquidwrench.com
The Liquid Wrench Penetrating Oil didn't shine in any particular area, however, it placed in the middle of the pack in almost every test. With a low price, mild odor, and strong penetrating catalyst, it's a solid choice for those looking to spend less than $5.
5. CRC Industrial Screwloose Super Penetrant
$7.90 11oz can crcindustries.com
We love it when companies can find a sense of humor in their products, and if this test was based on funny names alone, the Screwloose Super Penetrant would have won. As you can see, these tests were based on merit and the Screwloose suffered during the eyedropper, stainless nut and bolt test, and we weren't impressed with the spray mechanism.