Dummy’s Guide: Motorcycle Chain Maintenance

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Mr. Chase Manhattan

Motorcycles are a great way to get out and explore the open road. However, to ensure that your bike is running at its best, you need to take care of it. One of the most important aspects of motorcycle maintenance is keeping the chain in good condition. This fool proof motorcycle chain maintenance guide will help you make sure your bike is always running smoothly and safely. It covers everything from chain lubrication and cleaning to chain adjustment and replacement, so you can be sure your motorcycle chain will be up to the challenge of whatever road you take it on.

How To Clean Motorcycle Chain

How To Clean Motorcycle Chain – In Depth Guide

Maintaining your motorcycle chain is an important part of keeping your bike in top shape and ensuring safe riding. Cleaning your motorcycle chain regularly is essential to preserve the life of the chain and keep it functioning properly. To learn how to clean a motorcycle chain, follow the steps below.

Standard Chain Cleaning

This is the chain cleaning process that most people follow. To clean motorcycle chains:

  • Make sure your motorcycle’s rear wheel is off the ground. If you have a motorcycle equipped with a center stand, this will work; otherwise, use a motorcycle jack like a rear wheel stand.
  • Spin your motorcycle’s rear wheel to examine the chain for kinks or tight spots, make sure it will spin freely
  • Evenly apply your chain clean while spinning the rear wheel for an even distribution
  • Let the chain clean sit for up to 5 minutes.
  • Rinse, or wipe off, your chain clean

The trick here is to make sure that you don’t ride around with a dirty chain. When you maintain a chain correctly, you’re extending the chain life by significantly reducing the wear that it is exposed to. I like to take the time to pay extra attention to both the chain and sprockets, the master link, and surrounding links, while i’m down there. This is to check for any abnormal wear patterns.

Be careful if you choose to spin the wheel while cleaning the chain with a rag, you run the risk of getting your finger trapped in the chain and sprockets.

Deep Chain Cleaning

First, you’ll need to remove the chain from the bike. This can be done by loosening the rear wheel nut and then removing the rear wheel axle. When the axle is removed, carefully slide the chain off the sprocket. Once the entire chain is off the bike, place it in a large container.

Next, you’ll need to prepare the chain-cleaning solution. Mix a degreaser with water, using a ratio of 1 part degreaser to 10 parts water. Make sure the container is large enough to submerge the chain in the cleaning solution.

When the cleaning solution is ready, gently lower the chain into the container and let it soak for about 10 minutes. This will help dissolve the dirt and grime that has built up on the chain. After the chain has soaked, use a soft brush to scrub away any remaining debris.

Finally, rinse the chain off with clean water and dry it off completely. This will help prevent any rust or corrosion from forming on the chain. Once the chain is dry, you can reattach it to the bike and you’re ready to go.

Cleaning your motorcycle chain is a simple process that will help keep your bike running smoothly and safely. Make sure to clean your chain regularly and follow these steps on how to clean a motorcycle chain to ensure that your chain is always in top condition.

Whats the Best Cleaner For Motorcycle Chain?

We prefer to use Motul’s Motorcycle Chain Cleaner. It can be purchased in individual cans, as a pair, or in Motul’s Motorcycle Chain Cleaning Kit. The cleaning kit comes with motorcycle chain cleaner, lubricant, a chain brush, grunge brush, and a pair of nylon gloves.

Can I use WD-40 to clean my motorcycle chain?

WD-40 Specialist Bike Chain Lube

Yes WD40 is the perfect alternative to a normal motorcycle chain cleaner. WD40 is not only a lubricant, but it is also a solvent. This means that the solvent properties of the WD40 will loosen the grime on your chain, allowing you to scrub it away, just as a specified chain cleaner would. It will not damage your bike or your chain seals. WD-40 or some WD40 alternatives

Cleaning Motorcycle Chain with Kerosene

You can clean a motorcycle chain with kerosene, many veteran riders prefer this method. When using kerosene, there is less clean up and residue. The dirt and grime on your chain will essentially be dissolved by the kerosene for an easy wipe away. Follow the same cleaning procedure as if you were using a specific motorcycle chain cleaner.

How To Lube Motorcycle Chain

A little effort and dedication can go a long way in keeping your bike in tip-top shape. Here is a quick guide on how to lubricate your motorcycle chain, so that you can keep your ride in perfect condition.

Firstly, you need to ensure that the chain is clean before you begin. To do this, use a degreaser or a solvent accompanied by a chain cleaning brush, to gently remove any dirt or grime from the chain. Be sure to remove any excess oil and grease from the chain, as this can cause it to wear down faster. Once the chain is clean, you can start lubricating it.

The best way to lube motorcycle chain is by using a motorcycle specific chain lubricant. This type of lubricant is specifically designed for motorcycle chains, and it can help reduce wear and tear on the chain. When applying lubricant to a motorcycle chain, be sure to use a thin coat, and make sure to get into all the crevices of the chain. Allow the lubricant to soak in for a few minutes before wiping off any excess with a cloth.

You should also check the tension of the chain while you are lubing it. To do this, use a ruler to measure the distance between a few links in the chain. It should measure up to 1/2 an inch, and if it is any wider, the manufacturer will suggest tightening the chain. You can do this by loosening the axle nut, and then rotating the wheel until the chain is the correct tension.

Finally, you should inspect the chain for any signs of wear or damage. If there are any signs of wear, you should replace the chain as soon as possible. Additionally, if you notice any rust or corrosion on the chain, you should clean it with a rust remover and then lubricate it.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your motorcycle chain is in good condition. Remember to always use a specialized lubricant, and to check the tension regularly to keep your chain running smoothly. Knowing how to clean and lube your motorcycle chain is an essential part of maintaining your bike, so be sure to keep up with regular maintenance to keep your ride in top condition.

We recommend using Motul’s Chain Lube, this can be bought separately or as a part of their Motorcycle Chain Cleaning Kit. The kit comes with motorcycle chain lubricant, chain cleaner, and a chain cleaning brush with some nylon gloves.

How Often To Lube Motorcycle Chain

Lubing your motorcycle chain is vital for keeping it in good condition. For optimal performance and longevity, you should lube your chain at least once every couple of weeks, or after every 400 to 600 miles (650 to 1000 km) of riding. Always make sure to use the proper high quality lubricants for your chain, and wipe away any excess lube when finished. Doing this will not only help keep your chain from rusting and wearing out, but it will also reduce maintenance costs in the long term.

Along with cleaning and lubing your chain, you will want to make sure that the chain is within the manufacturer’s specifications for chain tension. This means that you will have to routinely adjust your motorcycle chain while cleaning and lubing it.

How To Adjust Motorcycle Chain

Adjusting the tension of your motorcycle chain is a simple and straightforward process. First, you will need to locate the chain adjusters, which are usually found near the rear wheel. You can then use a measuring tool such as a ruler or a chain tensioner to measure how much slack you have in the chain. The correct amount of slack is typically around 20 to 30 mm. Once you have the correct measurement, you can use the adjusters to loosen or tighten the chain to the correct tension. Once the chain is adjusted, it is important to re-check the tension after a few hundred miles and make any necessary adjustments. Be sure to check your service manual as each bike is different.

Even when your motorcycle chain is maintained correctly, there will always be a time to replace it. You can tell when it’s time to replace your chain and sprockets by any tight spots or broken seals, known as o-rings, z rings, or an x ring, that you can see visually. You can see our guide here to learn how to check your chain and sprockets for wear.

How To Clean Motorcycle Chain

How To Replace Motorcycle Chain

Replacing a motorcycle chain is a relatively simple process, but it is important to take your time and do it properly. First, you will need to acquire the correct size and style of chain for your bike. Once you have the new chain, you will need to remove the old one. This involves undoing the retaining clips and loosening the axle nuts. Once the old chain is removed, the new one can be installed. Start by ensuring the ends of the chain line up correctly, then secure the retaining clips, and finally tighten the axle nut. Once the new chain is installed, be sure to check the tension and make any necessary adjustments. There are several different chain types to choose from, just make sure to use one that is compatible with your bike. Ask a professional if you’re unsure.


In conclusion, motorcycle chain maintenance is an important part of ensuring your bike runs smoothly and safely. While the process may seem intimidating at first, it is actually quite straightforward and easy to do. By following the steps outlined in this dummy’s guide, including checking the chain tension regularly and replacing the chain when necessary, you can be sure that your motorcycle is in tip-top condition. Regular chain maintenance will help to extend the life of your motorcycle and ensure you get the best performance.


Are O-ring chains better?

O-ring chains are better than standard chains because they are more resistant to dirt and grime. In addition, O-ring chains do not need to be lubricated as often as standard chains.

How often should I replace my motorcycle chain?

A motorcycle chain should be replaced every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. However, this varies depending on the motorcycle’s chain type and its use.

What is the best way to clean a motorcycle chain?

The best way to clean a motorcycle chain is to remove it from the chain guard and bike and soak it in a degreasing solution. Once the chain has been thoroughly degreased, it should be rinsed with water and dried before lubricating and returned to the bike – if you’re looking to do a deep cleaning.

Otherwise, it is sufficient to place your motorcycle on it’s rear stand and evenly spray your chain cleaner across the entire chain. Follow the chain lube instructions above after this.

What is the O-ring chain type?

The O-ring chain type is more resistant to dirt and grime. In addition, O-ring chains do not need to be lubricated as often as standard chains.

How do I know if my motorcycle chain needs to be replaced?

A few signs indicate a motorcycle chain needs to be replaced, such as excessive noise, stiffness, or looseness. If the chain shows any of these signs, it should be replaced as soon as possible.

Looking for a professional second opinion? Check out The Seasoned Wrench

How To Clean and Lube A Motorcycle Chain Video

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Hey y’all! It’s Chase Manhattan, a life-long gearhead, tinkerer, and adrenaline junky. I like to write about all things technical in the Harley Davidson and motorcycling space.