Preventing cracks, rust and treating scratches


Jan 10, 2016
So I've been thinking of using some nail paint to paint over parts of my bike that have scratches on it, (things like the handlebars, frame and pannier rack), it's a steel frame and a giant, in the instruction manual it said that scratches can turn into cracks and spread, and I also live near the sea so i'm concerned about exposed parts rusting, ( there is a small spot on the frame that looks like the surface has already rusted over).

does anybody have any advice with reguards to this, like a better alternative to painting over?


Well-Known Member
Sep 12, 2005
Spray the inside of the frame (and fork if it is steel or aluminum) with Frame Saver:

Alternatively, any aerosol oil spray will work as long as you get it in there and well coated. Living near the sea I would spray the inside twice per year.

For the exterior nail polish or touch up paint is fine, followed by automotive wax. I've known guys to do a touch up and and an annual clear coat job, but that's getting extreme. A light oil film on the alloy components works for me.
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Unless it is steel, you shouldn't have many problems. But I get it. Sea air is rough. Especially on cables.

I like to use colored sharpies from a cosmetic perspective and to keep the bare metal from being exposed. Nail polish like you suggested should do the trick as well.


Well-Known Member
Jul 13, 2004
NE Indiana
Not sure what you read but scratches WILL NOT turn into cracks unless you leave it outside in all sorts of weather and allow it to rust for 20 or 30 years!

I've owned mostly steel bikes for over 40 years and never had a frame crack from a scratch. Even the one bike that I neglected badly, a Schwinn Traveler, that I not only left it parked outside uncovered, but I rode that bike in the wet sands of the Pacific Ocean beaches where the wet sand and spray from the tires kicked up and where the surf would drench me and the bike! And never cracked if from exposed scratches. I rode the bike for about 10 years, it was my commuter/beach bike. Of course after such a ride I would rinse it off with fresh water but that didn't stop the aluminum components from getting corroded, but after I stopped riding it and stored it for 20 years and decide to trash it before I moved, I took the crank and BB of to see how bad it was inside, yes there was rust, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That bike I never touched up the scratches like I did and do with my other steel bikes.

So all a person needs to do to protect a steel bike is to make sure that you touch up scratches as they appear with either Testors paint or nail polish. If you live in a particularly rainy area you could spray the inside of the frame with Frame Saver or just use linseed oil, I never done that except once with a custom built Mercian I once had which Mercian did for free. The other thing I do to all my steel bikes is put a thin film of grease on the seat post and the inside of the seat tube, coat all my screws that go into the frame with it, as well as the stem, this helps keep water out and keeps aluminum from corroding and freezing in place; in addition to that I place a Lizard Skin headset seal over the outside of the headset to keep water from going down that area.

My oldest steel bike was made in 1984 and it has over 150,000 miles on it and no rust anywhere, granted I lived in California for about three quarters of those miles but I rode in rain occasionally, and I rode it a lot in rain in Indiana.

It takes a lot to rust out a bike, I know people here in Indiana who leave their kids cheap steel Walmart bikes outside all year round, through rain, and then covered in snow, and those bikes survive with the kids riding them year after year. If a cheap steel bike can survive that, and if my cheap Schwinn could survive being doused with salt water for miles, I think the average bike that is not subjected to any of that stuff will be just fine...take precautions? of course, but don't get paranoid about it either. Sheldon Brown rode a 1918 Ranger bike to work almost every day when he was alive, it had a patina of rust on it in place of paint, he was never worried about it.

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