How to unfreeze a bicycle lock using methanol
In all my years of riding, I'd never actually had my bicycle lock frozen to the extent that I couldn't unlock it. However, after the recent ice storm in Toronto, I couldn't undo either the Kryptonite disc lock or the Abus Futura U lock. What a time to be double locked!
After chipping off the ice covering the key holes, I was able to insert the keys, but neither key turned more than 1/2 way. Knowing that forcing the keys was a bad idea, I wasn't sure what to do short of using a blowtorch!
I was retreating indoors to come up with a plan when it hit me...METHYL HYDRATE!
Methanol (CH3OH) is the simplest of alcohols. It melts at -97.8°C; and boils at 67°C. It is commonly used as a clean burning fuel, antifreeze, and solvent. You can buy it very inexpensively at any hardware store. It is also sold at gas stations as "gas line antifreeze."
Don't drink it though. When ingested, methanol metabolized to formic acid or formate salts which is very toxic to humans. Drinking methanol may cause blindness, coma, and death.
OK, you've been warned. DO NOT DRINK METHANOL! Oh, it is also super flammable, so don't do this around a flame source or while smoking!
Back to our story...
After I chipped the ice off from where the shackle meets the locking mechanism, I poured some methyl hydrate into the key hole and hoped for the best...
I stuck the first key in and BINGO! The lock turned freely and released the shackle on the first try! Same thing with the next lock. Easy peasy.
The whole shabang was brought inside to clean off with a bit more methanol. When dry, the locking mechanisms were re-lubed them with a light oil (FWIW, I used Tri-Flow).
So there you go, science--making your life a little bit better!
P.S. Yes, the bike needed to thaw out too, but that's another story...