Replacing a Motorcycle Chain

Motorcycle Owner DIY Tip: Replacing a worn out drive chain on a motorcycle.

Replacing The Drive Chain on a Motorcycle

Chains on Motorcycles Wear and Need Replacing

Replacing the drive chain on a motorcycle involves several steps. Following, is a general guide on how to do it.

Gather the necessary tools and equipment: 

  • New drive chain
  • Chain tool or rivet tool
  • Socket wrench 
  • Torque wrench 
  • Set of Allen keys 
  • A stand to lift the bike

Follow these steps to remove and replace the chain:

  1. Remove the old chain: Use a socket wrench to loosen the rear wheel axle nut. Lift the rear wheel off the ground using a stand, and then remove the chain from the sprockets. Depending on the motorcycle, you may need to remove the front sprocket cover to access the chain.
  2. Clean the primary chain drive: With the chain off, this is a great time to clean the wheel sprocket and primary case of grease and dirt.  Pre-lubrication may also be applied. 
  3. Check the new chain’s length: Compare the length of the new chain to the old one to ensure that it is the correct length. Most motorcycle chains come with extra links that can be removed to adjust the length if necessary.
  4. Rivet the new chain: If the new chain needs to be shortened, use a chain tool or rivet tool to remove the extra link(s). Once the new chain is the correct length, use the chain tool or rivet tool to close the open chain links ends, creating a master link.  Master links that use a clip versus a rivet are not usually safe for long term use, but can be used temporarily until a new master link is obtained. 
  5. Install the new chain: Place the new chain onto the sprockets, starting with the rear sprocket. Make sure the chain is properly aligned with the sprockets and that the master link is facing the right way. Tighten the rear wheel axle nut to hold the wheel in place.
  6. Adjust the chain tension: Use the torque wrench to tighten the chain adjuster bolts on both sides of the swingarm to adjust the chain tension. You can check the correct tension by measuring the amount of slack in the chain. A general rule of thumb is to have around 20-30mm of slack in the chain at its midpoint.  It is important to keep the axle square and adjust the axle on both sides the same amount. 
  7. Tighten everything: Use the torque wrench to tighten the rear wheel axle nut and chain adjuster bolts to the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings.
  8. Lubricate the chain: Check chain manufacturer specifications for lubrication type and method.  Most chains have lube sprayed at mileage intervals. 
  9. Test ride: Take the bike for a test ride to make sure that the new chain is properly installed and functioning correctly. If you notice any issues, such as the chain being too loose or too tight, adjust it accordingly.  A loose chain will be loud because it will slap against the chain guard, tire or fender.  This can damage paint or any other finish. Follow the manufacturer specifications for chain deflection as recommended in Step 6.

NOTE: It’s important to regularly maintain your motorcycle chain, which includes lubricating it every 500 miles or so and checking it’s tension regularly. By doing so, you can help ensure that your motorcycle chain lasts longer and stays safe for use.

A fine-tuned motorcycle is a happy motorcycle that will put on many more miles. Follow Boundless Rider for more DIY tech tips, and ride safely. 

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