How Often to Clean And Lubricate a Motorcycle Chain (And How to Do It!)


If you ride a motorcycle with a chain (almost any other than BMW and some Harley-Davidson’s), maintaining it will become one of the most common activities. About twice a month, you will need to adjust the chain tension, clean and lubricate it, and if you do more mileage, you will have to do it more often.

Check the chain tension

It may seem like a tedious activity at first glance, checking and adjusting the chain tension is very easy, and here’s how best to do it:
Grab the bottom of the chain (not the top, hidden by the protective part) anywhere in the middle, between the front and rear sprockets, and move the chain up and down.

As chains are not worn evenly, you need to inspect the chain (pushing the motor). If there is an uneven movement of the chain, it is likely that you need to tighten it. For more detailed examination, find the place where the chain is most tightened. If you can move the chain more than 3 cm up and down, chances are you will need a new chain.

To adjust the chain, you need to do the following:

  1. Place the motorcycle on a stand (or side if you do not have a stand) and check the chain tension again. Remember that the motor chain tension on the stand may vary from the previous check, due to a different weight distribution. Keep this in mind, because the “dark” chain that is tightened while the motorcycle is on the stand may be too tight when removed from it.
  2. Loosen the axle screw (or screws, if any). When you do this, most motorcycles need to be removed
  3. When this is done, adjust the chain by adjusting the screws at the ends of the rear fork
  4. When you have tightened the chain to the desired value, retighten the axle screw and insert a new fuse.

The procedure for adjusting the chain varies from chain to chain, but the steps mentioned do not differ too much.

Chain cleaning and lubrication

To get the most out of your chain, you need to keep it clean and lubricated. Most engines now use long-lasting “o-ring” chains (with their own lubricant, held in place by small rubber gaskets), but surface lubrication is still necessary. The problem with o-ring chains is that you need to use special lubricants to lubricate them, otherwise you will experience unintended consequences.

Chain cleaning:

Chain cleaning is a dirty and frustrating job, but it greatly increases the life of the chain, which should be kept in mind given the prices of chains and chains. Cleaning is as follows:

  1. Apply a cleaner to a dry brush and then begin cleaning the dirt from the chain.
  2. After removing all the impurities, clean the chain completely before applying fresh lubricant.

Chain Lubrication:

For best results, spray the lubricant toward the inside of the chain, whilst spinning the wheel further to achieve even application. The whole process will be much easier if you have a stand. As tires and lubricants are not a good combination, it is advisable to protect the rear tire while applying the lubricant!

When to clean and lubricate

You can clean the chain after just a few runs, but you don’t have to. On the other hand, lubrication should be done as often as possible after driving, because then the chain is hot and the lubricant will better penetrate into all parts.

Chains last longer than they used to, but they also cost more. However, with good and proper maintenance, you will save the chain and sprockets and save money.

Still not sure how to do it? Here’s a video tutorial on how to lubricate and clean a motorcycle chain:

Luka Barron

Motorcycle mechanic, writer and Heineken lover. A bit like Hank Moody on a Suzuki.

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