The Basics Of Changing The Chain On Your Motorcycle.

This article explains the step-by-step procedure for changing a motorcycle chain.

One of the most expensive wear items on a motorcycle is the drive chain. Not only are good, quality chains and sprockets expensive, but shops also routinely charge $65 or more an hour for labor alone. Luckily, changing a chain on a motorcycle is a straightforward procedure most shade-tree mechanics can do on their own - if they know how.

This article will give the reader the step-by-step procedure for changing a motorcycle chain. Although this information will likely apply to most motorcycles, if you own an unusual machine that has a single-sided swing arm or some other rare suspension, you will want to consult your owner's manual.

It is advisable to change your front and rear sprockets when changing your chain. These pieces wear together and you drastically cut down on the life of your parts if you choose not to replace them as a unit. This said, if you still decide to stick with your old sprockets while installing a new chain, please see the last paragraph in this article.

One advantage to changing your sprockets is that you will be able to alter the gear ration of your bike. By raising or lowering the number of teeth on your sprockets you alter when your motorcycle will hit its power band. It's best to discuss these changes with your local dealer when ordering your new sprockets, however, since motorcycles are often geared to appeal to a middle-of-the-road sort of rider and changes can radically affect gas mileage and performance.

Make sure you order your chain to the right length or have your shop cut it down. Consult your owner's manual to determine the correct links or simply mark one link, put your motorcycle in neutral, lift your bike on its center stand, and count the number of links in your original chain. If you need to remove links at home, use a chain breaker tool to push out link pins or grind down one side of a pin and push it through using a punch and hammer.

Before you begin the job be sure you have all the tools you will need. You will be removing the front sprocket panel, chain guard, axel nut, and the front sprocket nut - which can sometimes be quite large. In addition, you will need either a chain breaker or a Dremel type tool to break the old chain and install the new one.



First, remove the front sprocket cover and carefully put it aside with the bolts positioned in the holes they were taken from. Not all bolts will be of the same length. The area behind the sprocket cover is apt to be covered in grease. After you dig out the gunk, examine the front sprocket nut and locking assembly. There is usually a lock washer on the sprocket rod, so begin by bending back the "wings." It's best to break the nut now, while the bike is still weighted and in gear, since these nuts can be difficult to remove.

Use a breaker-bar if necessary and if the bike begins to rock forward have a friend depress the brakes. You want to loosen this nut, but not remove it fully at this point. (It's a good idea to break the bolts holding your rear sprocket on now, while the wheel is locked. Remember, you just want to loosen the bolts so that you won't be struggling with them later, when the wheel is unsecured.)

When the nut is loose, put the motorcycle into neutral and heft it up on its center stand. Now remove the chain guard, carefully putting the bolts aside or screwing them into the center stand to make reassembly easier.

Break the chain with the rear wheel suspended off the ground. Feed the chain out from the axel. Undo the brake stay on the right side of your bike. Now loosen the left side axel nut, partially support the weight of the wheel with your foot, and pull out your axel. Your chain adjusters and wheel spacers will fall to the ground as you remove your axel. Be mindful of spacer location as they vary from bike to bike and will result in an un-centered wheel if put back in the wrong order.

You can now replace the front and rear sprockets. Remember not to upset your bike while it's on the center stand. The machine should always be balanced in such a way that the front end is weighed. Thread your new chain around the front sprocket. Reassemble the rear wheel in the swing arm and make sure the chain adjuster is positioned to give you plenty of slack in your chain.

Use the master link provided with your chain to close the loop. If you have a chain breaker this procedure is fairly straight forward, but if you don't use a pair of vice grips or a C clamp to attach the link. Take your time and be sure the master link is attached correctly. Adjust the chain once the wheel is back on the bike. Torque down the front sprocket nut to the right specifications, install the panel, and reattach the chain guard.

Use a quality chain lube or wax on your new chain, and be sure to check it for wear and adjust your chain when necessary.

If you choose to replace your chain while retaining your old sprockets, simply put your bike in neutral, lift it on its center stand, break the old chain, attach the new chain to the top end of the old chain, and pull it through. Remove the old chain when you get to where the two join and then close the loop on your new chain with the master link and adjust it to fit.

© High Speed Ventures 2011