How Often To Clean Motorcycle Chain – Along with changing the motorcycle oil, one of the first attempts at proper motorcycle maintenance for many new riders is learning how to clean and lubricate the motorcycle chain. All in all, it’s a fairly simple process that should only take about 15 minutes, but will go a long way toward extending the life and performance of both your motorcycle’s chain and sprocket.
This article provides a quick step-by-step guide on the best way to clean and lubricate your motorcycle chain. If you’re looking for more details, be sure to check out our video on how to clean and lubricate a motorcycle chain. where Lemmy goes a little deeper into some of the nuances of motorcycle chain maintenance.
How Often To Clean Motorcycle Chain
First, let’s start with how to clean a motorcycle chain. If you’re just looking for how to lube your motorcycle chain, you can skip to step eight.
Motorcycle Wax Vs Lube
The type of motorcycle chain you use will affect how you remove dirt.
You can tell the difference between a regular and sealed motorcycle chain by the space (or lack thereof) between the metal links. Photo.
A normal motorcycle chain consists of metal-to-metal links with no seals between them. As such, smooth chains can be cleaned more aggressively than sealed motorcycle chains. Sealed motorcycle chains (aka chains with O-rings, X-rings, or Z-rings) use a rubber seal between the inner link and the outer links to keep the lubricant inside the pin and housing cavity (and to keep road dirt out). This design helps extend the life of the chain and also requires a gentler approach to cleaning.
Regular motorcycle chains are made up of metal-to-metal links, while sealed motorcycle chains use rubber seals that better keep grease inside and dirt out of the road. Photo.
Moto Grime Guard
Cleaning and lubricating a motorcycle chain is a fairly simple process. It’s much easier if your bike has a center stand or if you have a paddock stand. Both options allow the rear wheel (and your motorcycle’s chain) to spin freely, allowing for more efficient application of chain cleaner and chain lubrication.
If you don’t have any of the above stands, don’t worry. Could use your support and some maneuvering around the driveway. Clear the section and then move the motorcycle to access the next section. Another option is to remove the chain entirely and work with it that way.
Getting up close and personal with the chain while cleaning it provides a great opportunity to check the current state of its overall well-being.
A sprocket in good condition will have a flat top and wear evenly on the leading and trailing edges of each tooth. Photo.
Motorcycle Chain Cleaning
While you’re down there, check the chain for wear. How much side-to-side “cradle room” does your chain allow? How much do the links slide back and forth under pressure and tension? A motorcycle chain in good condition should allow for minimal deviation in each.
Then noted are ways to determine if your chain should be replaced. Your trade manual gives you a certain maximum length for a given number of links in your chain. If the number of cells is longer, it is too worn. Here’s another quick way to do an unofficial check. Pull on one chain link at the back of the sprocket on the rear wheel. If the chain is very worn, it will pull away from the sprocket instead of hugging it as it should.
How much play does your chain have from side to side? How much do the links slide back and forth when pushed/pulled? Photo.
Check the main link. The main link of the motorcycle chain is the link that was used to connect the two ends together and will look slightly different from the surrounding links. Whether the main link is attached with a clip or rivets that have been blasted, this is a great opportunity to check that the main link is secure.
How To Check And Lubricate Your Motorcycle Chain
Held together by a clip or blasted rivets, the Master Link is the link that connects the two ends of the motorcycle chain. Photo.
You should also check your gears. Based on the condition of your chain and your riding style, your sprockets will show wear in several ways. When checking for worn sprockets, watch out for “shark fins” and sharp teeth. “Shark fins” occur when the leading edge of the sprocket tooth wears more than the trailing edge. This happens on bikes that tend to accelerate hard and brake more slowly (or bikes with very old chains).
“Shark fins” occur when the leading edge of the sprocket wears faster than the trailing edge. Photo.
Generally speaking, the tips of your bike’s teeth should be flat. When they do get sharp, it’s due to both shark fins combined with a lot of hard braking and downshifting that also wears the trailing edge of the sprocket tooth.
Basic Chain Maintenance Tips
Putting a new chain on a worn sprocket won’t help, so generally chains and sprockets should be replaced at the same time.
At this point, it’s time to start shedding dirt. While you can choose something like Maxima Clean Up Chain Cleaner, kerosene will also work just as well to dissolve existing chain lube and dirt particles. Don’t be shy about getting things really wet as you move around the chain. Kerosene is cheap, new motorcycle chains are not. So be liberal in your application.
When you spray chain cleaner, don’t be shy about it. Kerosene is much cheaper than a new chain. Photo.
When the chain is wet, use a motorcycle chain brush to really get at the stuck stuff. Something like The Grunge Brush has been a time-honored favorite for years, and for good reason, as it allows you to clean three of the four sides of your bike’s chain at once. Be careful. It will pay off later. The clean surface ensures better adhesion of the motorcycle chain lubricant.
Motorcycle.com’s Guide To The Best Motorcycle Chain Lubes
After soaking the chain, use a quality cleaner such as The Grunge Brush to remove any remaining dirt. Photo.
To complete the cleaning part of the process, soak the motorcycle chain again with the cleaner of your choice. Make sure the last remnants of chain grime are blasted into oblivion. Gunk kills motorcycle chains. Get rid of it as much as possible.
When the chain is clean, it never hurts to give it a final good spray of chain cleaner. Photo.
In order for motorcycle chain lube to adhere to the chain, it must be applied to a dry surface. Take time to dry the chain completely and remove all chain cleaner before oiling. You can also use this as an opportunity to clean up your workstation, as things are probably getting a little rough at this point.
Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Tips
Wipe off excess chain cleaner with a dry cloth. A dry surface is necessary for the lubricant to do its job. Photo.
When the chain is clean and dry, apply the lubricant evenly on all sides. The preferences for the best type of chain lubrication are vast and include everything from specialty items like Maxima Chain Wax to regular chainsaw oil. The advantage of something like Maxima wax is that it is much less likely to throw off the bike chain and mess up other parts of the bike.
When it comes to the best way to lubricate your motorcycle chain, there are a few differences between regular and sealed chains that you should keep in mind. For smooth chains, apply lubricant and wipe off excess. Keeping a smooth chain coated with clean grease at all times is the best way to ensure it will perform properly for many miles. On the other hand, with sealed chains, the grease inside the O-rings acts as a lubricant, and the chain lube you apply only serves to protect the outside of the chain from corrosion, so you can use it more gently.
So that’s all. As we said, maintenance of motorcycle chains is quite simple. Check your manual for how often you should clean and lubricate the chain on your motorcycle. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to do this more often if you ride in wet or dirty conditions. Some riders take care to clean the chain immediately after riding in the rain to remove the moisture before rust starts to form.
Bicycle Chain Lube Spray
If you have any other questions or are looking for feedback from one of our award-winning Gear Geeks, let us know and we’ll be happy to help you with this or any other motorcycle-related question.
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