A neglected drive chain won’t last long and will quickly damage the sprockets. Routine chain adjustment and lubrication isn’t difficult and will ensure maximum chain and sprocket life. We break it down for you in this blog the correct way to check, adjust, clean and lube your chain.
Checking your chain
- To check the chain, place the bike on its side stand and make sure the transmission is in neutral.
- Push up on the bottom run of the chain midway between the two sprockets and measure the amount of slack, then compare your measurement to that listed in your owner’s manual.
- As the chain stretches with wear, an adjustment will be necessary. Since the chain will rarely wear evenly, move the bike so that another section of the chain can be checked; do this several times to check the entire length of the chain, and mark the tightest spot.
- In some cases where lubrication has been neglected, corrosion and galling may cause the links to bind and kink, which effectively shortens the chain’s length and makes it tight.
- Thoroughly clean and work free any such links, then highlight them with a marker pen or paint. After the bike has been ridden repeat the measurement for slack in the highlighted area.
- If the chain has kinked again and is still tight, replace it with a new one. A rusty, kinked or worn chain will damage the sprockets and can damage transmission bearings. If in any doubt as to the condition of a chain, it is far better to install a new one than risk damage to other components and possibly yourself
- Check the entire length of the chain for damaged rollers, loose links and pins, and missing O-rings, and replace it with a new one if necessary.
- Never install a new chain on old sprockets, and never use the old chain if you install new sprockets – replace the chain and sprockets as a set.
Time to adjust the chain slack
- Move the bike so that the chain is positioned with the tightest point at the centre of its bottom run, then place it on its side stand.
- Slacken the rear axle nut
- Turn the adjuster bolt on each side evenly until the amount of free play specified in your owner’s manual is obtained at the centre of the bottom run of the chain
- Tighten the axle nut, preferably to the torque setting specified
- Recheck the adjustment, then check that the wheel runs freely.
The right way to clean and lube your chain
Clean the chain using a dedicated aerosol chain cleaner, or wash it in paraffin or a suitable non-flammable or high flash-point solvent that will not damage the sealing O-rings or X-rings, using a soft brush to work any dirt out if necessary. Wipe the cleaner off the chain and allow it to dry, using compressed air if available. If the chain is excessively dirty remove it and soak it for a while in the paraffin or solvent before cleaning it as described.
Don’t use petrol (gasoline), an unsuitable solvent or other cleaning fluids which might damage the internal sealing properties of the chain. Don’t use high-pressure water to clean the chain. The entire process shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes, otherwise the sealing rings could be damaged.
The best time to lubricate the chain is after the motorcycle has been ridden. When the chain is warm, the lubricant will penetrate the joints between the sideplates better than when cold.
Apply the lubricant to the top of the lower chain run, so centrifugal force will work the oil into the chain when the bike is moving. After applying the lubricant, let it soak in a few minutes before wiping off any excess.
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