It’s easy to clean your motorcycle chain at home with our detailed video guide.
It’s really easy to clean your motorcycle chain at home, all you need are a few tools. Kerosene, a chain lubricant like DuPont chain saver and some rags. You don’t even need a motorcycle stand making it easy to do at home. Check out our video tutorial and clean your chain today.
One of the more sensitive components on your motorcycle for maintenance is your final drive chain. If you neglect it, your chain and sprockets could wear out and become unserviceable in as little as 3,000 miles.
But with proper care and maintenance, you can see as much as 30,000 miles out of a quality set of steel sprockets, and a high-quality chain. The key to getting the most out of your chain and sprockets is to clean and lubricate it regularly.
Prefer to watch our video? Click here to watch
How often should I clean my motorcycle chain?
Table of Contents
The schedule that we’ve adopted is we like to clean our chain every time we wash the motorcycle or at the very least every time we change the oil. You should be lubing your chain every three to five hundred miles, or every other tank of gas depending on your riding conditions.
If you ride in dusty or wet conditions, you’ll need to increase the frequency of your maintenance accordingly. Water actually strips chain lube away from the chain, so you should be lubing your chain after every time you get caught out in the rain.
What’s more, a properly lubed chain will not only be quieter, but it will slightly increase your fuel mileage as well.
In fact, a properly lubed chain reduces rolling resistance enough that it can actually be seen as a slight increase in horsepower on dyno runs. And now for the safety message.
Do not, please, please, please, do not, under any circumstances, start the engine, put it in first gear and let the motor spin the rear wheel while you perform any kind of maintenance on the chain.
I personally know more than one person who has lost fingers doing this. If you need any further convincing and you have a strong stomach do a few internet searches on the subject.
Too many people have lost fingers and have mangled hands from trying to save a few seconds. It only takes a fraction of an instant for something to get snagged and get drawn in between the chain and the sprockets. So, please keep the engine off and the bike in neutral.
Now with that out of the way, for the sake of clarity, we’re going to start by cleaning the chain first.
Is WD40 OK for motorcycle chains?
Despite all that you’ve heard, WD-40 is actually not a very good product for cleaning or lubing a chain. It can actually displace the grease behind the O-rings, or the X-rings, in an o-ring chain.
But more than that, it’s probably the slowest and most time-consuming method because there are other products available that do a much better job of cleaning the chain.
There are lots of products on the market that are designed just for cleaning a chain, and they are more effective than WD-40.
Now, we’ve tried many of these chain cleaners and they do an okay job. They certainly work better than WD-40, but they still can’t hold a candle to the product that we’ve been using for decades. It happens to be the product that chain manufacturers have been recommending and that’s Kerosene.
Is it OK To Clean The Motorcycle Chain With Kerosene?
For clarity, Kerosene is not the same as camp fuel. Camp fuel is what’s known as white gas and it’s extremely volatile and a pretty harsh solvent. Kerosene is entirely different. Typically, but not always, kerosene will come in a blue can and camp fuel will come in a red can.
Don’t use camp fuel. It’s so volatile that it can be ignited by a hot fart, and as we mentioned it’s so harsh that it can actually do damage to your chain.
Kerosene, on the other hand, is much more gentle, and it’ll actually clean your chain making it look brand new so quickly that you won’t believe your eyes.
Something else to consider; chain cleaners can cost around $10 and will clean about three to four chains. While the kerosene does cost $20 a bottle can last us about three years.
To get the most out of our kerosene we will employ a generic spray bottle, available in most grocery stores, so we can spray the kerosene directly onto the chain. But whatever cleaner you choose to use we encourage you to avoid any kind of degreaser.
We’ve seen people use really harsh stuff like parts cleaner, the aerosol parts cleaner, and carb cleaner and things like that. And yeah, they do a great job of getting the grease off the chain but they’re just far too brutal to the chain.
They damage the o-rings and as soon as those o-rings crack or fail, then any of the lube that’s actually inside the chain from the manufacturer just comes out. Even some of your real gentle degreasers, like simple green and purple power; they’re still just far too harsh for the o-rings.
So we encourage you to just stick with kerosene, and as soon as you use kerosene and see how well it works you’ll be sold.
The final thing we recommend you get hold of before you start as a grunge brush available from Amazon. It’s less than 15 bucks and you should be able to find it at your local motorcycle dealer, and if not it’s readily available online.
Another great little product that will make the job easier is a spiral brush made by Tirox. Available for about the same price.
Do I Need A Bike Stand?
Ideally, to clean your chain you will need to get the rear wheel off the ground so the rear tire spins freely. If that is not possible you can get someone to push the bike forwards and backward to access all of the chain’s links.
We suggest covering the work area with towels and even a catch tray is a good idea. The point is you want to prevent getting chemicals onto your rear tire. A little bit of cardboard can go a long way.
Use your chain cleaner of choice, and liberally spray down the chain, being careful not to spray this stuff onto the tire. Let it soak for a moment before taking your grunge brush and scrubbing down the chain.
To check your progress take a rag and wipe the chain down removing all the black gunk the chain cleaner has released. Depending on how dirty your chain is you may need to repeat these steps several times before your chain looks sparkly and brand new again.
We also advise that you occasionally remove your front sprocket cover and clean out any build-up that may have collected in there.
You can also take this opportunity to clean any other chain lube buildup on the top of the swingarm, near the rear sprocket or anywhere else chain lube may have been flung.
Depending on how dirty your chain was, and how big of a mess you made you may want to take the bike outside and rinse it off with a low-pressure garden hose. Again, no high pressure, because high-pressure water can also do damage to the o-rings.
Now the chain is clean and dry we can move on to lubing the chain. We strongly encourage you to opt for motorcycle-specific chain lube. Right now we’re a big fan of Dupont chain saver chain lube.
What Is The Best Chain Lube For Motorcycles?
For lubing the chain, we found this amazing product that needs to be in every motorcyclist garage, we cannot speak highly enough of the DuPont chain saver available from Amazon.
The DuPont chain saver does a fantastic job of placing lube directly over the pins and rollers of the chain without wasting any lube and preventing overspray.
Plus, we can attest that our chains have lasted longer and held up better since we started using the DuPont chain saver and it is a wax-based chain lube with Teflon.
I have a video on how to use the Dupont chain saver to stop your motorcycle boots from squeaking so check that out at the end.
You want to lube the chain on the inside of the chain so when the wheels are spinning the lube gets drawn towards the outside. It draws the lube in between the plates and the rollers.
If we were to Lube the chain on the outside, as soon as we started riding, the lube would just fling off the chain and go everywhere making a mess.
The ideal time to lube your chain is after a ride when the chain is warm, but in this situation, where we’ve cleaned the chain and there’s no lube on at all, we want to lube it right now.
Slowly rotate the wheel or push the bike backward and forwards, allowing the lube to slide across the top of the chain until you have a nice light coating all around.
Be careful not to over lube the chain. Too much lube will attract dirt and grit and actually cause the chain to wear faster.
When you are finished, you should see two little beads of lube directly over the chain o rings, between each of the plates.
Well, there you have it; a perfectly cleaned and lubricated chain. Thanks so much for reading and we hope you can now clean and lubricate your bike chain like a pro.
Check out our article on how to use that Dupont lubricant to stop your motorcycle boots from squeaking.