How To Clean A Motorcycle Chain (The Proper Way)

As a motorcycle owner, it is important to keep your bike in top-notch condition. Regular maintenance of your motorcycle’s chain is one of the essential tasks for proper motorcycle upkeep. Dirt, debris, and dust accumulate on your motorcycle chain over time, causing it to wear out quickly. Proper cleaning and lubrication of your motorcycle chain are essential to prevent its premature wear and increase its life. Here, we will guide you on how to clean a motorcycle chain the proper way.

Key Takeaways

  • Cleaning your motorcycle chain regularly is essential to ensure longevity and efficient working conditions.
  • Using the right chain cleaner and lubricant is crucial for the maintenance of your motorcycle chain.
  • Inspecting the chain for wear and proper adjustment after cleaning is also crucial for maintaining your motorcycle chain.

Understanding Motorcycle Chains and Chain Maintenance

The motorcycle chain is an essential part of your bike’s drivetrain, connecting the engine to the rear wheel. It’s crucial to keep it clean and lubricated to ensure proper function and prevent premature wear and tear. The most common types of motorcycle chains are standard and sealed chains, which require different cleaning and maintenance techniques.

Standard Chains

Standard chains are the most common type, and their maintenance involves cleaning and lubrication. They consist of individual links that are connected by pins and rollers, which allow them to move smoothly over the sprockets. Standard chains require frequent cleaning and lubrication to minimize friction, wear, and rust.

Sealed Chains

Sealed chains, also known as O-ring or X-ring chains, have rubber seals that keep the lubricant inside and the dirt and debris outside. They require less maintenance and are more durable than standard chains but still require periodic cleaning and lubrication. Sealed chains have become increasingly popular and are now found on most bikes.

The rear wheel is an essential part of the motorcycle chain system, as it transfers power from the chain to the road. The rear wheel must be removed to replace or clean the chain properly. Rear stands are commonly used to hold the bike up while the rear wheel is taken off, making it easier to access the chain. Sealed motorcycle chains are based on X-ring or O-ring technology and only require lubrication and cleaning.

Maintaining your motorcycle chain involves more than just cleaning and lubrication. Regular inspections are critical to identify issues such as loose or tight chains, sprocket tooth wear, and excessive chain slack. Proper chain adjustment and inspection are essential parts of proper motorcycle maintenance.

Next, we will review the required tools and materials for cleaning your motorcycle chain to ensure it will operate smoothly for years to come.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before you begin cleaning your motorcycle chain, you need to gather a few tools and materials. The following items will be necessary:

ToolsMaterialsMotorcycle chain brushChain cleanerClean ragChain lube or lubricantOld newspapers or cardboard to cover the garage floor

A motorcycle chain brush is specifically designed to clean all parts of the chain, including the hard-to-reach areas. Make sure you have enough chain cleaner to cover the entire chain. A clean rag and chain lube or lubricant will be required for the final step of cleaning your chain. Lastly, cover the garage floor with old newspapers or cardboard to protect it from any spills or messes.

With these tools and materials, you are now ready to clean your motorcycle chain properly.

Preparing Your Motorcycle for Chain Cleaning

Proper motorcycle maintenance requires more than just cleaning the motorcycle chain. Before you start cleaning, ensure that your motorcycle is in a suitable location. Choose an area with enough space to move around your motorcycle, and protect the garage floor with a plastic cover or an oil-absorbent mat to catch any drips and spills from the chain cleaner and lubricant.

If your motorcycle is equipped with sealed motorcycle chains, you need to take extra precautions while cleaning them. Check your motorcycle manual for the type of the motorcycle chain lubricant that your motorcycle uses, and read the instructions for cleaning a sealed motorcycle chain based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. While some manufacturers may allow the use of motorcycle chain cleaner and lubricant, some may suggest using only mild soap and water. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation may damage the chain and cause failure.

Cleaning the Motorcycle Chain

Now that you have gathered the necessary tools and materials and prepared your motorcycle for chain cleaning, it’s time to clean the chain. Start by placing a piece of cardboard or an old towel on the garage floor to catch any dripping chain cleaner or lubricant.

Next, apply chain cleaner to the entire chain, making sure to cover every link. You can use a motorcycle chain cleaner specifically designed for sealed motorcycle chains or a general-purpose chain cleaner. A stiff motorcycle chain cleaning brush can also help remove any stubborn grime or dirt.

StepDescription1Spray the chain cleaner onto the chain, making sure to cover every link.2Use a stiff motorcycle chain brush to scrub the chain, focusing on any areas with built-up grime or dirt.3Let the chain cleaner sit for a few minutes to allow it to penetrate and dissolve any remaining dirt or grime.4Rinse the chain thoroughly with water to remove any remaining cleaner.5Dry the chain with a clean cloth or allow it to air dry.

It’s important to note that if you’re working with a sealed motorcycle chain, avoid getting any chain cleaner or lubricant on the rubber seal. This can cause the seal to deteriorate and lead to premature wear or damage to the chain.

Once the chain is dry, you’re ready to lubricate it.

Lubricating the Motorcycle Chain

After cleaning your motorcycle chain, it’s important to lube it properly. Using the correct motorcycle chain lube, can extend the life of your chain and sprockets.

First, make sure your chain is clean and dry. Apply the chain lube to the inside of the chain, holding the can about 6 inches away. Be careful not to apply too much lube, as excess lubricant can attract dirt and other debris, ultimately shortening the chain life.

Avoid spraying the chain lube directly onto the rear tire or garage floor.

If you have a sealed motorcycle chain, be sure to apply the lubricant to the rubber seal at the point where the chain meets the sprocket. This will help keep the seal soft and supple, preventing cracking and wear.

Remember to wipe off any excess lubricant with a clean rag once you’re done to prevent it from flinging off as you ride. A well-lubricated chain can make a big difference in how smoothly your motorcycle runs, so it’s worth taking the time to do it right.

Proper Chain Adjustment and Inspection

After cleaning your motorcycle chain, it’s important to inspect it for any signs of wear and make any necessary adjustments. Here’s how:

Step 1: Get your motorcycle on a rear stand

A rear stand will keep your motorcycle upright and stable while you work on the chain. Make sure the rear wheel is off the ground before you begin.

Step 2: Spray chain lubricant on the chain

Before inspecting the chain, spray it with chain lubricant to make it easier to move the metal on metal links. This will also help protect it while you work on it.

Step 3: Check the sprocket teeth for wear

Look closely at the rear sprocket , teeth, checking for signs of wear and tear. If the teeth are worn down to the base, you’ll need to replace the sprocket.

Step 4: Inspect the chain for any damaged links

Check each link in the chain for any signs of damage, such as kinks or cracks. If you find any damaged links, replace the chain immediately.

Step 5: Ensure the chain tension is correct

Check the chain tension by pushing on it midway between the sprockets. It should have no more than 1 inch of slack. Adjust the tension as necessary.

Step 6: Clean the chain again

Once you’ve made any necessary adjustments, clean the chain again using the same process outlined earlier in this article. This will remove any excess lubricant and debris.

Keeping your motorcycle chain clean and properly maintained can extend its life and ensure your safety while riding. With these tips, you’ll be able to keep your chain in tip-top shape for years to come.

Are Motorcycle Tire Changing and Cleaning the Chain Connected Processes?

Changing a motorcycle tire in 13 steps requires careful attention to detail. This task, however, is not directly connected to cleaning the chain. While both processes are crucial for maintaining a motorcycle, they are separate procedures. Tire changing focuses on replacing worn-out or damaged tires, whereas chain cleaning involves removing dirt and lubricating the chain to ensure smooth performance. Remember to prioritize safety and follow appropriate instructions for each task.

Section 8: Maintaining Your Motorcycle Chain

Proper maintenance of your motorcycle chain is essential to prolong its life and prevent expensive, premature wear. The chain life largely depends on the conditions in which it is used, so it is essential to keep it clean and lubricated regularly. Here are some tips on maintaining your motorcycle chain:

Chain life

The average lifespan of a motorcycle chain is between 20,000 to 30,000 miles, but this can vary based on various factors such as the quality of the chain, your riding style, and the conditions in which the bike chain is used. Inspect your chain regularly for signs of wear and tear, including kinks, rust, or stiff links.

Wet or dirty conditions

If you ride in wet or dirty conditions, your chain requires more frequent cleaning and lubrication. Dirt and grime can accumulate on the chain, increasing friction and causing the chain to wear quickly. Use a chain cleaner and a motorcycle chain brush to remove dirt and grime regularly.

Chain type

Make sure you use the right type of chain for your motorcycle. There are different types of motorcycle chains such as O-ring, X-ring, and sealed chains. Sealed chains require less maintenance and last longer as they are better protected from dirt and grime.

Sprocket tooth wear

The sprocket teeth wear over time, causing the chain to ride higher on the teeth and resulting in poor performance. Inspect your sprockets regularly for signs of wear and replace them if necessary.

Front sprocket cover

A front sprocket cover protects the front sprocket from dirt and debris, extending its lifespan. Make sure the cover is always in place and replace it if it is damaged.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your motorcycle chain remains in top condition, giving you a smooth and safe ride every time.


Taking care of your motorcycle chain is crucial for ensuring smooth and safe rides. By following the proper steps for cleaning and lubricating your motorcycle chain, you can extend its lifespan and avoid potential mechanical problems. Remember to gather all the necessary tools and materials, properly prepare your motorcycle chain maintenance, and inspect your chain regularly for signs of wear and tear. While it may seem like a daunting task, cleaning and maintaining your motorcycle chain can become part of your regular motorcycle maintenance routine. Don’t forget to consider the type of chain you have and the conditions you ride in when selecting achain lubricant. Regularly cleaning and lubricating your chain can help prolong its life and prevent costly repairs down the line. So, the next time you’re in the garage preparing for a ride, remember to give your motorcycle chain a little bit of extra attention. Your bike will thank you for it, and you’ll enjoy a smoother, safer ride.


Q: How often should I clean my motorcycle chain?

A: It is recommended to clean your motorcycle chain every 500-1000 miles or whenever it appears dirty or is making excessive noise.

Q: What should I use to clean my motorcycle chain?

A: You can use a specific chain cleaner or a mild solvent such as kerosene or WD-40. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Q: Do I need to remove the chain from the motorcycle to clean it?

A: In most cases, you do not need to remove the chain from the motorcycle to clean it. However, if you notice any damage or need to perform more thorough maintenance, you may need to remove the chain.

Q: How should I lubricate my motorcycle chain?

A: Apply a high-quality chain lubricant evenly to the entire length of the chain. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and reapplication intervals.

Q: How often should I lubricate my motorcycle chain?

A: It is recommended to lubricate your motorcycle chain every 300-600 miles or whenever it appears dry or is making excessive noise.

Q: Can I use any type of lubricant on my motorcycle chain?

A: No, it is important to use a lubricant specifically designed for motorcycle chains. Using other types of lubricants can damage the chain or attract dirt and debris.

Q: How can I tell if my motorcycle chain needs to be adjusted?

A: You may need to adjust your motorcycle chain if it appears loose or tight, makes excessive noise, or if you notice uneven wear on the sprockets.

Q: How often should I inspect my motorcycle chain?

A: It is recommended to inspect your motorcycle chain every 500 miles or before long rides. Regular inspections can help identify and prevent potential issues.

Q: Can I reuse the excess chain lubricant that drips off after applying?

A: No, it is best to wipe off any excess lubricant that drips off the chain. Reusing the excess lubricant may introduce dirt or debris back onto the chain.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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