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How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms

Motorcycle chains are a critical component of a bike’s drivetrain, and they need to be replaced periodically to ensure optimal performance. A worn-out chain can cause a host of problems, from poor fuel efficiency to reduced power transmission, and even a complete breakdown of the chain. Therefore, it’s crucial to know when your motorcycle chain is worn out and needs to be replaced.

There are several signs that indicate a worn-out motorcycle chain. One of the most common signs is a slack chain that doesn’t maintain proper tension. A worn-out chain can also produce a lot of noise, which is usually caused by the chain rubbing against the sprockets. Additionally, a chain that’s rusted or has kinks and binding links can cause tight spots and reduce the overall performance of the bike.

How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms

Visual Inspection

The easiest way to determine if a motorcycle chain is worn out is to perform a visual inspection. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Check for Chain Stretch

The first thing to do is to check for chain stretch. A chain that has stretched beyond its limits will no longer be able to maintain proper tension, which can lead to accelerated wear and tear on the sprockets. To check for chain stretch, measure the distance between two pins on the chain using a ruler or caliper. If the measurement is longer than the manufacturer’s specifications, then the chain is stretched and needs to be replaced.

Another easy way that I like to use to check the chain stretch is when the chain is off the bike. Put the chain on a bench or on any table and try to stretch it or compress it lengthwise. If the chain expand or compress a lot, you need to replace your chain. Next time you buy a new chain check the stretch right away on your workbench, note the way there is almost no slack when expanding and contracting.

I also like to check that it’s not bending a lot wile at it. To check if your chain is binding a lot, take the cain on your workbench and grab the chain by the two ends. Try to bend the chain from side to side. If your chain can bend a lot, it means that your chain need to be replace.

Step 2: Examine Chain Links

Next, examine the chain links for any signs of damage or wear. Look for kinks, binding, or tight spots that can cause the chain to jump or skip. Also, check for rust or corrosion, which can weaken the chain and cause it to break. If any of these issues are present, the chain needs to be replaced.

Trying every roller is a time consuming job, but it need to be done. Make sure that the chain can roll easily. Most of the time, the chain will seize on some roller if it’s too rusted, and those seized rollers will stay seize even if you soak them in WD-40. If some of the roller are seized, it’s pretty important to replace your chain ASAP.

You can also hear strange noises from your chain as describe in my other blog post: Why Is My Motorcycle Chain Making Noise? Common Causes and Solutions

Step 3: Look for Chain Wear Patterns

Finally, look for wear patterns on the chain and sprockets. A worn-out chain will have visible wear patterns on the links, while a worn-out sprocket will have hooked, pointed, or chipped teeth. If the chain and sprockets show signs of excessive wear, they should be replaced as a set to ensure proper fit and function.

By following these steps, a rider can quickly determine if their motorcycle chain is worn out and needs to be replaced. It is important to perform regular inspections and maintenance to ensure the longevity and safety of the motorcycle.

Measuring Chain Wear

When it comes to maintaining a motorcycle, one of the most crucial components to keep an eye on is the chain. A worn-out chain can lead to poor performance, decreased fuel efficiency, and even safety hazards. In this section, we will discuss how to measure chain wear to determine if it’s time to replace your motorcycle chain.

Step 1: Measure Chain Length

Before measuring chain wear, it is important to measure the chain’s length. To do this, measure the distance between the centers of the pins on any 20 links of the chain. Use a ruler or a measuring tape to get an accurate measurement. Record the measurement for later reference.

Step 2: Determine Chain Wear

To determine chain wear, use a chain wear gauge tool. This tool measures the distance between the pins on the chain. If the measurement is greater than the manufacturer’s recommended limit, then the chain is worn out and needs to be replaced. If the measurement is within the limit, then the chain is still in good condition.

Alternatively, you can also check for signs of wear on the chain and sprockets. Look for hooked, pointed, or chipped teeth on the sprockets. If the teeth are worn down, then the chain is likely worn out as well.

Step 3: Compare to Manufacturer’s Specs

It is important to compare the measurement to the manufacturer’s recommended limit. This information can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. If the measurement is beyond the limit, then it is time to replace the chain.

As an exemple you can read on the manufacturer DID chains that the overall length stretch for a sealed chain is 1% and 2% for a non sealed chain (Sealed = .75” of 120L chain. Non-Sealed = 1.5” of 120L chain.).

Regularly measuring chain wear and replacing the chain when necessary can help prolong the life of your motorcycle and ensure safe and efficient performance.

Chain Maintenance

Proper chain maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity of a motorcycle chain. Here are three simple steps to help keep the chain in good condition.

Step 1: Keep Chain Clean

Regular cleaning is necessary to prevent dirt and debris from building up on the chain. Dirt can cause the chain to wear out quickly and even damage the sprockets. A dirty chain can also lead to poor performance and reduced fuel efficiency.

If you need more information on chain cleaning you can read: How to Clean Motorcycle Chain: Essential Adventure Tips

To clean the chain, use a chain cleaner and a brush to remove dirt and grime. A toothbrush or a specialized chain cleaning brush can be used to reach tight spots. After cleaning, use a dry cloth to wipe the chain dry.

Here are my favorite kit to help clean my chain and bike (Click on image to see price)

How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms

Step 2: Lubricate Chain Regularly

Lubrication is important to keep the chain running smoothly and prevent rust and wear. Lubrication also helps to reduce friction and noise. It is recommended to lubricate the chain every 300-600 miles, or more often if riding in wet or dusty conditions.

Before lubricating, make sure the chain is clean and dry. Apply the lubricant evenly to the chain, making sure to cover all the links. Excess lubricant should be wiped off with a cloth.

Here are other suggestion on chain product and package.

How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms
How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms
How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms

Step 3: Adjust Chain Tension

Proper chain tension is important for smooth operation and to prevent premature wear. A loose chain can cause the chain to jump off the sprocket, while a tight chain can cause excessive wear and damage to the chain and sprockets.

To check the chain tension, measure the slack in the chain at the tightest point. The slack should be between 20-30mm for most motorcycles. Adjust the chain tension as needed using the adjuster bolts on the swingarm.

By following these simple steps, motorcycle riders can ensure their chain is maintained properly and lasts longer. I you want to make sure to have every tool you need to maintain, install or replace your chain by yourself you can read: Motorcycle Chain Tools: Essential Equipment for Every Rider

Usually I adjust my chain with a simple ruler but I have found this amazing tool for those of you that want your chain to be adjusted to the perfect setting every time.

How to Tell When Your Motorcycle Chain is Worn Out: Signs and Symptoms

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I replace my motorcycle chain?

A motorcycle chain should be replaced when it shows signs of wear or damage. A worn out chain can cause serious problems, such as chain slippage, which can lead to an accident. It is recommended to replace the chain every 15,000 to 20,000 miles.

What are the signs of a worn out motorcycle chain?

The most common signs of a worn out motorcycle chain include a loose chain, a jerky feeling, a clanky noise, and a low hanging chain. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to replace the chain as soon as possible.

How do I check the wear on my motorcycle chain?

To check the wear on your motorcycle chain, you can perform a visual inspection. Look for signs of rust, kinks, or damaged links. You can also check the chain slack by lifting the chain in the center and measuring the distance between the chain and the swingarm. If the chain slack is more than 1.5 inches, the chain needs to be replaced.

What causes motorcycle chain and sprocket damage?

Motorcycle chain and sprocket damage can be caused by a variety of factors, including lack of lubrication, dirt and debris buildup, and excessive wear and tear. It is important to maintain your motorcycle chain and sprockets regularly to prevent damage.

How often should I replace my motorcycle chain?

It is recommended to replace your motorcycle chain every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. However, this can vary depending on the type of riding you do and the conditions you ride in. Regular maintenance and inspections can help you determine when it is time to replace your chain.

How long should a motorcycle chain and sprocket last?

The lifespan of a motorcycle chain and sprocket can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the type of riding you do, the conditions you ride in, and how well you maintain your motorcycle. On average, a well-maintained chain and sprocket can last between 20,000 and 30,000 miles.

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