How to Properly Clean a Motorcycle Chain – Maintenance Guide

Motorcycle chains become really dirty. They pick up grime and debris whenever you use it on a ride. Wiping your chain with a clean, moistened rag works well in removing superficial dirt before applying lubricant. However, you must also do a regular deep cleaning on your chain to extend your chain and sprockets’ life.

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If you continue to ignore your chains, there’s a high chance that it will wear out three times quicker and affect your bike’s performance. In a worst-case scenario, you might end up with a broken swingarm, gearbox, or seat unit.

Chain care and maintenance must be a routine that you should be doing. Keep on reading to know the best practices.

What Can I Use to Clean a Motorcycle Chain?

There are several options and methods to keep your chain clean as part of motorcycle maintenance. The top choices for riders in cleaning their motorcycle chain are usually kerosene and WD-40. Some even use branded chain cleaners, use grunge brushes, or just merely spraying the chain. For lubrication, you may also opt for dry wax lube, the sticky blue stuff, and gear oil contained in a squirt bottle.

Can I Use WD40 to Clean Motorcycle Chains?

You can definitely use WD40 to clean and lube your motorcycle chain. However, it would help if you considered the following:

WD40 is a water-displacing lubricant and is, therefore, a great way to clean the chain. It is actually better than proper chain lube.

Sticky lubes are not ideal in dirty chain conditions. It may get stuck in the chain rollers where it connects with the sprockets. Make sure to lube the chain before washing the bike.

How Do You Deep Clean a Motorcycle Chain?

There are multiple ways to clean a motorcycle chain properly. You need to make sure that you do it correctly, as it will extend the life of your motorcycle chains and sprockets. Before you start, you need to inspect your drivetrain and put the bike on a stand. Before every ride, you should be checking your chain and sprockets for damage and wear.

Afterward, you may douse it with a chain cleaner. Make sure to brush to scrub the chain and sprocket and wipe down after. Rinse the chain thoroughly, and then finally, apply the lubricant. The chain should always be carefully and meticulously cleaned before each lubrication.

The combination of dirt and grit with chain lube/grease can make a ‘grinding paste,’ severely reducing chain life. Lastly, remember that a motorcycle chain should be lubricated every 300-600 miles to ensure peak performance and long life.

Is It Ok to Clean Motorcycle Chains with Kerosene?

Most riders may consider using chain cleaners to do the job. However, kerosene also works the same as these cleaners in dissolving existing and dried-up lubricant or dirt on the chain. It’s part of chain maintenance to make sure that your chain is always clean. As such, generously soak it with kerosene. Remember: kerosene is cheaper than purchasing new motorcycle chains.

Why Is WD40 Bad for Bike Chains?

You can use WD40 to clean your bike chain with no problems – but you should wash all the product away before applying a regular chain oil. Although WD40 does a great job in cleaning bike chains, it may actually be a worse option to use it than to use no lube at all. WD40 is primarily a solvent, which dissolves any existing lubricant and contaminates. Thus, using WD40 for your bike chains may actually leave it significantly dryer than before application.

How Often Should You Clean Motorcycle Chains?

Generally, you need to clean and lubricate a motorcycle chain at least every 600 miles. Do this by using O-rings. Take note as well that plain chains require more attention, so you have to keep an eye on them and check it every once in a while.

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Is Rust on a Motorcycle Chain Bad?

Rusty motorcycle chains are usually not a safety issue. In some cases, rust covers the chain all the way through, and it may cause your bike to stop running or fall apart. It also reduces the overall appeal and beauty of your bike. On noticing any rust forming on your motorcycle chain, you’ll need to address it promptly. This is before it ends up getting worse and leads to major problems down the road.

Most importantly, you need to know and understand why it’s happening in the first place. Once known, you can alter your maintenance routine to prevent it from happening again.

Can I Use a Degreaser to Clean Motorcycle Chains?

Degreasers have been used by riders to clean their motorcycle chains for several years now. This is definitely safe for all types of chains, standard motorcycle roller, and ring chains. You may try different kinds of degreasers, such as oven cleaners or engine degreasers.

Can I Use Petrol to Clean a Motorcycle Chain?

It might be tempting to use petrol to clean chains instead of a degreaser, but don’t ever use it as it damages the chain. Be careful in your choice of cleaning product to avoid seriously damaging your bike. Various metals and rubber materials on your bike have different sensitivities and cleaning requirements. The same thing happens when Standard WD40 is used as it dries up easily and collects more dirt after.

How Long Does a Motorcycle Chain Last?

Generally, a motorcycle chain can last anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 miles. But it would help if you took note that the lubrication, maintenance, and brand affect the chain’s life expectancy. Staying up-to-date on your motorcycle maintenance will save you time and money. Always clean your motorcycle chain as it ensures your safety and your motorcycle’s lifetime is prolonged.

Can I Use Vaseline on My Bike Chain?

Using Vaseline on your bike chain may not be the best option. It can do its work by making your chain run quietly. However, do remember that a chain requires a liquid lubricant with lots of solvents that allow it to penetrate the fine mechanisms in the linkages. Vaseline is far too viscous to penetrate those linkages by design. It will remain outside the linkages and collect grit and debris, which will increase wear on your drivetrain without providing any useful lubricating benefit.

How Often Should I Lubricate My Bike Chain?

There are a few factors to consider to know the frequency of lubricating your bike chain. We all know that a dried-out chain is bad but, too much lube will also form a gunked-up drivetrain and cause bad shifting and grit sticking.

If you use your bike several times a week, it’s best to clean and lubricate the drive chain regularly. Ideally, you need to do this at least once every month to maintain the performance of your bike.

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Should I Oil My Bike Chain?

Yes, you need to apply lubricant to prevent mechanical resistance and developing rust. On a regular basis, perform a visual inspection of the entire chain.
Inspect individual chain links for dirt buildup, rust, and tight links.

Check for adequate lubrication by listening for squeaks while riding. If you find any unwanted condition, your chain needs at least a spot cleaning.

Performing regular cleaning will help you maintain the best condition of your bike. When lubricating your bike chain, make sure to do it properly because it may also affect the performance of the chain if not done right.

What Happens If You Don’t Lube Your Motorcycle Chain?

Not lubricating your chain will cause a shortening of the life span of your motorcycle chain. Lubing and cleaning the chain basically helps preserve the life of the links and helps the chain move a little more smoothly over the sprockets. If the chain is not lubed properly, it may grow in length while the barrels and pins wear. This will change the distance between the rollers.

How Do I Keep My Motorcycle Chain from Rusting?

Lubricant acts as a moisture barrier between the bike’s chain and the exterior elements. Applying a high-grade lubricant to your chain regularly is essential and long-term cost-effective.
As long as there’s a layer of lubricant over the chain, it shouldn’t rust.

Regular chain maintenance should always be a part of your weekly or monthly motorcycle maintenance routine. A motorcycle chain should be lubricated, and its tension checked every 4,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. Personally, I would not wait that long, and I prefer monthly checks regardless of distance traveled.

You should still keep an eye on the chain in between maintaining it. If you plan on riding during the winter, where the roads are often salted, or you live in a humid area, you’ll need to maintain your motorcycle chain more frequently than that.

Can I Use White Spirit to Clean a Motorbike Chain?

Using white spirit to clean your motorbike chain is definitely an option alongside petrol or paraffin. However, they may cause serious damage to your skin with prolonged contact, and they are difficult to dispose of safely. To avoid any form of skin damage, you may need to use a pair of latex gloves while cleaning your bike.

How Do I Know If My Motorcycle Chain Is Worn Out?

The quickest way to check the status of your drive chain is to visually inspect it. The sprocket’s teeth should not be arched on one side. Now, if the sprocket needs to be replaced, then the chain is probably affected too. At the back end on the rear sprocket, pull the chain away from the teeth parallel to the ground because a newly correctly fitted chain will barely move. Any movement that is wrong will need to be corrected.

If you can expose half a tooth or more, you need to replace the chain and not just carry out an adjustment. Other signs of a worn-out chain are worn spots inside the plates. This usually means that the chain is out of alignment. Look for matching worn spots on the sides of the sprockets’ teeth.

What Happens If the Motorcycle Chain Breaks?

There are three possible scenarios when the motorcycle chain breaks:

The chain will wrap around the front sprocket. The engine will then stop abruptly, and the bike will stop running. A moderate to heavy damage to the sprocket housing and surrounding area may occur. If there is no cover on the sprocket, you may get your leg injured.

The chain will wrap around the rear sprocket. The engine revs to the stratosphere, and the rear wheel stops abruptly. This usually means a crash, especially if leaned in a corner.

The chain will fly off. The engine revs to the stratosphere, and the bike coasts to a stop. In most cases, the chain flies off the rear sprocket straight up in the air, hitting hard whatever was in its trajectory (chain guard, seat, cowling, etc.).

Chains often break because they were over-tensioned, either during installation or adjustment. Poor installation of the connecting link can be a culprit, especially if it’s a clip link.

Is Silicone Spray Good for Bike Chains?

Using silicone spray as a lube can also be an option for your bike chains, only if you do not ride frequently. Silicone lubes do not usually last long compared to oil lubes because it is prone to get washed out. It will be a better choice to use special bike chain lubes instead. This will save you effort and energy in re-lubricating your chain.

Can I Use Olive Oil to Lube My Bike Chain?

Yes, you can but only in an emergency for a short trip to a garage or back home. It is not for long-term use.
Extra virgin olive oil is better than no oil at all, but it isn’t as effective as it should be. You need a dedicated motorcycle chain lube, and therefore it can’t really be used as a substitute. You may use olive oil on a bike chain because it has some effects in keeping the rust away. It may also remove some dirt from the chain. However, it should only be an emergency solution because the impact doesn’t last.

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Motorcycle Chain Cleaning Article Conclusion:

Many thanks for reading my article on cleaning and maintaining your motorcycle chain. As can be seen, a regular maintenance regime can make a big difference to the condition of the chain as well as the anticipated life of the chain.

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