When To Replace Motorcycle Chain – Easy Beginner’s Guide

Motorcycle chains aren’t the constant maintenance headache people say they are, modern materials and oring construction mean chains are more durable than ever but the question is when to replace your motorcycle chain?

They’re both reliable and lightweight and they permit you to change gearing inexpensively, try that with a shaft drive.

How Do I Know When To Replace Your Motorcycle Chain?

  • If it’s really noisy. If it is that’s evidence of internal friction it’s time for the chain to go .
  • They’re kinked links. These are links that don’t fall in line with the rest of the chain when it’s at rest
  • If it’s rusty it needs replacing
  • You can use the factory spec for the distance between the pins which is the most accurate way to determine chain stretch, beyond a certain amount of that you definitely want to replace the chain

When do you replace the chain there are a few things to look for when you’re making this decision. There’s also another popular way to that which is to pull the chain from the rear sprocket, supposedly if you can see half a tooth the chain is worn enough to be replaced.

Most of the discussion around chains have to do with maintenance, things like these…

  • How often should I lube the chain?
  • How often should I clean the chain?
  • How often should I have to adjust the chain and
  • How do I know when to replace the chain?

How often should I lube the chain?

Most manufacturers recommend lubricating the chain every six hundred to a thousand miles, but this will be highly variable depending on where you ride and what the typical weather conditions are for you.

The quality of the chain and even some bike variables enter into this so there’s really no one good answer.

The point is if the chain looks dry or rusty you’ve let it go for too long, but if the chain is a oily mess you’re doing it too often or using too much chain lube. The entire point here is to protect the chain from corrosion and to keep the o-rings from drying out.

Here are a few tips from the pros for chain maintenance. Try to lube the chain when it’s dry and clean, obviously, you don’t want to put clean chain lube over dirt. Lube on the chain when it’s warm as the o-rings are more pliable this way and it works better.

Lubricate the inner portion of the chain where the rollers meet the sprockets only, lube will naturally be flung outward so there’s no need to put lube on the outer surfaces, to begin with.

Use only enough chain lube retain wax for a thin continuous layer, too much is definitely not better it just makes a mess and it attracts dirt which means more wear. An auto lube or a Scott oiler can eliminate all of these steps and it’s really a good investment.

How often should I clean the chain?

The most common question has to do with cleaning. Most manufacturers recommend common kerosene applied with a brush. Kerosene is still available at most home improvement centers and it works to break down the chain lube but won’t damage the o-rings.

You can also use WD-40 at a pinch and there are commercial chain cleaners available as well. Whatever you do avoid using any harsh chemicals. When you’re done cleaning be sure to let the chain dry thoroughly before you try replacing the lubricant, overnight in a dry environment is just fine. The point is you want the lube to stay on your newly cleaned chain.

How often should I have to adjust the chain

Depending on your bike your chain may require adjustments frequently or rarely, it really all depends. It’s common to have chains require more and more frequent adjustments as they become worn out, so if your chain has more than 10 or 15,000 miles on it you might want to start watching for signs of stretching.

I’ll always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for chain slack if you have a range to work with and most bikes give you this, stick to the looser end of the range. It’s a little bit easier on the chain and sprocket and the engine.

Those are the basics hit us with other chain-related questions in the comment area below we’ll do our best to answer them in a future video and thanks for watching.


Keith Mallinson has been a motorcycle enthusiast for the past 20 years. He has owned a variety of bikes during this time, ranging from sport bikes to cruisers. Keith has a passion for all things motorcycle related, including riding, maintaining, and customizing his bikes. In addition to his personal experience with motorcycles, Keith has also kept up to date with industry news and trends. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and insights with others through his motorcycle blog. When he's not out on the open road, Keith can be found tinkering in his garage, planning his next road trip, or spending time with his family.