When to Replace a Motorcycle Chain

When to Replace a Motorcycle Chain

In the motorcycling world, chain final drives lead the way in popularity.  They deliver excellent power and are easy to maintain.  But they do require maintenance more frequently than shaft or belt drives.  They need to be cleaned and lubed periodically and, eventually, they need to be replaced.  So how do you know when your chain has had enough?  If you follow the easy steps below, you will be able to determine when it’s time to replace your motorcycle chain.

With use, drive chains will actually “stretch” out.  The materials and components don’t actually stretch, though.  The elongation of the chain is caused by the wear and tear that is done on the pins and bushings.  The wear and tear is caused by the links entering and exiting the sprockets.  Debris and lack of lubrication accelerate the deterioration.  Slack in the links is created as the material is worn away from the pins and bushings.  That slack translates into the stretch of the chain.

Why is a “Stretched” Chain Bad?

Because the elongation of a chain is caused by the wear and tear of components, its strength becomes compromised.  A possible danger is that you are more likely to snap a worn-out chain.  And as you can imagine, that can be very dangerous for you and your machine. Performance is also hindered with an elongated chain.  The elongated links don’t get the same bite on the sprocket with the added free play.  This will result in a loss of power transfer.  It may or may not be noticeable to you, depending on how in tune you are with your bike.

How to Check for a Worn Chain

There are a few different ways to check for chain wear.  The owner’s manual for your motorcycle is likely to list a specific process.  Following that process is the safest bet to get desired results. But if you don’t have a manual, there are generic ways of checking chain wear.

Here is the easiest way:  Go to the rear sprocket and grab the chain at the point of the furthest sprocket tooth.  Pull straight back on the chain.  If, when you pull, half or more of the sprocket tooth is revealed, it is time for a new chain.

A chain with life left in it should fit snug and cannot be pulled away from the sprocket.  Be sure to also check your chain over for kinked links and rusty spots.  When on a stand, the rear wheel should spin by hand without any hiccups in the rotation.

If it’s time to change your drive chain, it’s also likely a good time to change the sprockets. Running a new chain on worn sprockets can accelerate the wear and tear.

Clean and lube your chain often and you can lengthen its lifespan. It’s an easy and cheap maintenance process that anyone can do at home and will keep you off the side of the road with a snapped chain.


1 comment

Being an old dirt ridder ,we would boil our chain in soap and water than soak it in oil in a pan on a low heat on the stove . Then hold the chain on it’s side and see how much it would sag . When it would sag over 3 inches we would replace it . Never had one break .

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