I saw this answer (and asked another, unrelated meta question about it). Looking at the edit history, the edit substantively changes the meaning of the answer. I.e., the original answer says that WD-40 works ok for the problem in question and the edited answer says to never use it. Whether or not you agree with WD-40's use as a bicycle lubricant, is it ok to edit an answer in away that substantially changes the meaning of the answer?


This is an area where users and moderators should tread lightly, but I do think there are situations where it is ok.

In the example you posted, the entire answer and it's meaning wasn't changed. The original provided 3 possible solutions (Light Oil, WD-40, and Synthetic Lubricants). In this case, an edit was proposed to change "WD40 works OK" to "Never use WD40."

Because the user who suggested the edit did not have sufficient reputation, it was flagged for moderator approval, and was later approved (which is why it's attributed to the "Community"). If the entire answer had essentially been "use WD-40" it's likely the answer would be downvoted to oblivion, or flagged for deletion. As it is, the two appropriate parts of the answer were left. There have been similar cases where erroneous or dangerous advice has been edited out of a question, and removing any reference to WD-40 may have been a better choice.

  • The way I read it is that it only proposes one answer: light oil. WD-40 and synthetic lubricants are, I think, two examples of different types of light oil. – jimchristie Feb 20 '13 at 14:22
  • @jimirings: WD-40 is not a lubricant that should be used on a bicycle. It is a penetrant, and is designed to unstick stuck, frozen, or corroded bolts, and then evaporate. It's use in eliminating hinge squeaks and the like in household maintenance which dates from after the second world war, likely as a result of soldiers taught to use it to clean and protect their arms (a daily task), has led to the general impression that is is a light household oil. But it is not designed for that use, and it's lack of durable lubrication make it unsuitable for mechanical use as a lubricant. – zenbike Feb 22 '13 at 13:02
  • I thonk it is better to comment on the answer in this kind of situation, explaining your disagreement, and give the author the chance to edit, but the long term goal is to have viable, accurate usable answers for posterity. This answer wasn't one, and now it is. QED. – zenbike Feb 22 '13 at 13:04
  • @zenbike With all due respect, it is not true that WD-40 is not a lubricant. The US MSDS lists lubricant as one of its uses and states that it is approximately 25% petroleum based oil. wd40company.com/files/pdf/msds-wd494716385.pdf – jimchristie Feb 22 '13 at 19:42
  • That said, I didn't really want to get into a discussion about whether or not WD-40 is ok to use on a bike. I wanted to address possible problems and benefits from editing an answer which changes the nature of the answer. One concern I had was that any votes cast would be undermined. This answer had been voted down, most likely because of the WD-40 suggestion. With that suggestion taken out, the vote tallies still suggest it as a bad answer despite the fact that it has been changed. – jimchristie Feb 22 '13 at 19:47
  • @jimirings: WD-40 is not a lubricant that should be used on a bicycle. Perhaps you misread my statement. – zenbike Feb 24 '13 at 9:20
  • @zenbike You are correct. I misread. I apologize. I will, however, reiterate that I would prefer to discuss the merits of editing answers to change the meaning informant of the subject matter. The merits of WD-40 use (or lack thereof) have been discussed ad nauseum in multiple places on this site. – jimchristie Feb 24 '13 at 18:54

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