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Maintaining the motorcycle drive chain for smooth operation

Maintaining the motorcycle drive chain for smooth operation

Snapshot: Chains are noisy and tend to accumulate dirt over them thereby requiring more maintenance.

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Despite being a very important part of the motorcycle, the drive chain is ignored many a times. It transmits the power from the engine to rear wheel and is very commonly used. There are some motorcycles that use other type of final drive arrangements like belt or shaft drive but chains are the most popular. Belt drive systems use less maintenance as compared to chains but then they aren’t the ideal choice in many cases for couple of other reasons. There are drawbacks associated with chain drive systems as well. Chains are noisy and tend to accumulate dirt over them thereby requiring more maintenance.

People tend to bother about maintenance of chains only when it is very important and they get ignored most of the other times. It is very important to maintain the drive chain properly so that it doesn’t surprise you with issues. Proper cleaning and lubrication of the chain is required to reduce wear of chain and sprockets while reducing the chance of failure of any of these components. Not only that but it also ensures a smooth noise free operation of the final drive. Here is a simple guide on how you should maintain the motorcycle chain properly.

Chain tension

Put the motorcycle on the center stand so that the rear wheel is in air. If your motorcycle hasn’t got a center stand, you can use a rear stand. Check for the tension at a spot between the front and rear sprocket. If the lower run of the chain travels more than an inch, it needs adjustment. While on the center stand, the swing arm will be at its lowest position which might also loosen it up a bit. It will tighten slightly when in normal running condition. Take this difference into account when you check for the slack. Once you have determined that it needs tightening, follow these steps.

·         Axle nut to be loosen (or nuts if that is the case). Don’t remove them completely.

·         Find the adjustment bolts on the end of swing arm. There will be one on each side of the swing arm.

·         There will be two nuts on the bolt. The inner nut will move the axle while the outer one will lock it in position.

·         Use the nuts to move the axle. Make sure you tighten both the nuts equally otherwise the rear wheel will end up at an angle ruining the ridability of the motorcycle.

·         Tighten the outside nuts to hold the inner nuts in position.

·         Axle nut(s) has to be retighten and insert a new security pin.

While this is how it is done on most motorcycles we have in India, it could be different for some motorcycles. There are snail cam adjusters or eccentric cam chain adjusters on some motorcycles. They are usually simpler to operate and it would be advisable to consult the user manual of your motorcycle in this case.

Checking for wear

If you notice that the tension in chain is changing when you rotate the rear wheel, then it is possible that the chain or sprocket isn’t in a healthy state. Observe if individual links are causing trouble and if lubrication will do any good. If not, replacement is the solution. Also check both the front and rear sprockets for wear. Usually the front sprocket is the first one to give up because it runs at higher speed as compared to the rear one. Uneven wear indicates that the chain needs a replacement (along with the sprocket).

Cleaning the chain

If the chain is in a healthy state and would continue to serve your motorcycle, you need to keep it in its best state. A standard roller chain doesn’t require any special attention but you have to be cautious with O ring or X ring chains. This is because the O ring seals on O ring type chains are made of rubber and they are prone to get damaged when they come in contact with organic cleaning agents. This would ruin the chain and cause a failure. Follow these simple steps to clean the chain.

·         Put the bike on center stand or paddock stand.

·         Put the gearbox in neutral.

·         Use a brush with hard bristle to wipe off the filth from the chain. An old hard bristle toothbrush would do the job very well.

·         Apply the chain cleaner on the chain. Make sure it is approved for your chain type. You can also use kerosene as it serves as a good cleaner and is safe for O ring chains as well.

·         Allow the chain to dry for a while.

After you are done cleaning the chain, it is time to lubricate it properly so that it runs smoothly.

Lubricating the chain

It is advisable to use proper lubricating oil for the chain especially if your motorcycle has got O ring chain. If you are unsure about the kind of lubricant to be used, take the safe side and use engine oil or gear oil as a lubricant. To lubricate the chain, follow these steps.

·         Turn the rear wheel slowly by hand.

·         Keep spraying the chain lube on the inside of the chain as it moves.

·         Make sure you don’t put extra lube on the chain.

During the process, make sure you don’t move your hand too close to the sprocket even when you are rotating the wheel by hand. This is because even at that rotation speed, getting a finger or two between the chain and sprocket can cause a lot of damage. Also make sure that you maintain the chain frequently and keep checking it for tension every now and then. If you tend to ride enthusiastically, you might need to set the chain tension more often as compared to other riders. While engine oil and gear oil can be used on the chain, it is still advisable to use specially made chain lubricants. You should never use grease as it tends to attract lot of dirt making things even worse. And when in doubt, don’t forget to consult the user manual.

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