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Summary
  • Car hinges and door locks need lubrication to function without getting damaged.
  • There are multiple types of lubricant: penetrating oil, silicone lubricant, white lithium grease, and graphite lubricant.
  • If you’re keen on learning which lubricant works best for you, read on!

You put plenty of thought into picking the optimal engine oil, transmission fluid, or brake fluid for your vehicle. But have you ever given more than a passing thought for what lubricant to apply on your car’s hinges and door locks?

The various hinges and locks in your car include many moving components. They rely on grease to reduce friction, minimize wear and tear, and dampen noise. These parts will need different types of lubricant that fit their needs. Find out what’s the best lubricant for locks and hinges by reading on.

Types of Lubricants

You have several lubricant types to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages that may or may not make them suitable for a particular hinge, latch, or lock. Let’s look at each one:

spraying a lubricant to a door latch
Your vehicle’s door latches, hinges, and locks rely on grease to reduce friction, minimize wear and tear, and dampen noise.

Penetrating Oil (WD-40)

When someone brings up lubricating oil as a topic, you likely think of WD-40. Short for Water Displacement, 40th Formula, it is a penetrating oil with thousands of possible uses. What started out as a rust-prevention solvent and degreaser for military rockets became a household name, with its distinct blue-and-yellow branding recognized worldwide.

One of the most common uses for penetrating oil like WD-40 is lubricating light-duty parts, such as the hinges and locks on car doors. These parts do not encounter harsh operating conditions like the engine or transmission. They don’t need heavy-duty fluids that can withstand high temperatures and other factors.

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As a penetrating oil, WD-40 can free jammed parts. It can penetrate things like dirt, rust, and tightly pressed components. Once the oil loosens the stuck parts, the latter can move again.

Furthermore, WD-40 is a rust preventive. When applied on a surface, it forms a light coat that protects against corrosion and rust. Penetrating oil can also remove light rust that has already appeared on a part.

To top it off, WD-40 acts as a moisture displacer. It dries wet parts and helps keep protected surfaces moisture-free.

The greatest strength of WD-40 is its versatility. Specialized products will outperform it in specific jobs like cleaning or degreasing, but WD-40 can handle far more jobs.

Penetrating oil isn’t perfect. It leaves residue on the surface that requires cleaning. The lubricating oil also absorbs dirt and dust. Avoid these problems by applying a degreaser to eliminate any remaining oil.

Silicone Lubricant

Are you looking for a lubricant that does not damage or stain nearby car parts like carpeting and upholstery made of non-metal material? Silicone lubricant is the solution you need.

As its name indicates, silicone lubricant combines a silicone-based oil and a thickener. It is a dry lubricant, meaning it uses solid materials. Alternative terms include silicone grease and dielectric grease.

Unlike conventional oils like the standard WD-40 multi-use oil, silicone lubricant is thinner. The silicone-based lubricating substance must be mixed with a thickener to hold it in place while also releasing small amounts during use. Most products use a silica-based thickener that gives the grease its gray-white color.

Silicone lubricants rely on naturally slippery particles to decrease friction between components, enabling them to move more freely. Mixing the lubricating substance with solvent will cause the grease to evaporate, reducing the chance of leaving stains on the surface.

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When faced with a job that needs light lubrication, use silicone lubricant. It is safe to use on non-metal parts. You can spray silicone grease on porous materials like nylon, plastic, and rubber, which would otherwise not fare well with harsher lubricants.

White Lithium Grease

Some lubricating jobs involve plenty of metal-on-metal contact. White lithium grease fits the bill for these heavy-duty jobs.

White lithium is a thickener derived from petroleum. Thicker than silicone lubricant, white lithium grease firmly adheres to metal surfaces. It keeps the parts moisture-free and acts as rustproofing. Furthermore, white lithium grease can withstand harsh conditions like bad weather, making it suitable for application on exposed parts.

There are several drawbacks to using white lithium grease. Since white lithium is a petroleum-based substance, the lubricant will degrade any rubber and plastic with which it comes into contact.

White lithium grease also collects dirt and dust, which can damage and jam the moving parts. Before you can reapply the lubricant, you must remove the built-up dirt.

Graphite Lubricant

Last but not least is graphite lubricant. It is a dry lubricant made from the same crystalline carbon in lead pencils. Some products disperse the graphite in oil for additional benefits.

Pure graphite lubricant can withstand considerable heat, pressure, and wear. Its high resistance ensures its performance lasts a long time.

Like other dry lubricants, graphite lubricant leaves no residue that can attract dirt. It dispenses with the need for a degreaser to clean up after application.

You must take care when applying graphite lubricant. If you use excessive amounts, the graphite will clog the part and combine with any contaminants. Fortunately, you can prevent this by mixing the dry lubricant with a solvent.

door hinge
Use either silicone lubricant or a penetrating oil formula like WD-40 on your door and hood latches.

The Right Lubricant For Door Hinges

Now that we’ve familiarize ourselves with the different types of lubricants, it’s time to identify the suitable ones for various door hinges:

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Front and Rear Door Hinges

Penetrating oil is the car door hinge grease of choice. It’s advisable to use WD-40 as the car door hinge lubricant to avoid damaging any components and nearby parts made from plastic and other non-metal materials.

Glove Box and Gas Tank Cover

Apply penetrating oil on the latches and hinges of the glove box and gas tank cover. Again, take care to avoid getting lubricant on any non-metal part.

Door and Hood Latches

Latches often include components made from nylon or plastic. Never use petroleum-based lubricants like white lithium grease on them.

Instead, use either silicone lubricant or a penetrating oil formula like WD-40 that won’t damage plastic parts. Wipe the hood latch to remove any contaminants before applying lubricant on the latch.

Hood and Trunk Hinges

Use white lithium grease on the hood and trunk hinges. As mentioned earlier, the lubricant works best with metal parts.

Wipe the hinges with a soft, clean cloth before spraying white lithium grease to them. Coat both sides of the hinges and then move them to let the lubricant seep into them. Use another cleaning fabric to wipe away excess lubrication.

What Is the Best Lubricant For Door Locks?

Door locks and trunk locks need a lubricant that won’t attract dirt and dust, which can damage their internal mechanisms. Furthermore, the grease must last a long time.

Use graphite lubricant in door lock lubrication. Spray a small amount into the keyhole.

Dirt and dust are some of the worst enemies of locking mechanisms. Using a graphite-based dry lubricant prevents these contaminants from entering the lock.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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Joe Tairei

I just sprayed the rear windshield wiper’s joint with WD40. It had lost its springiness and I was thinking I needed to replace the entire assembly. But after working it in, it looks like it’s springing into place again. Solved! At least for a week or two.

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