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What is the Best Way to Check How Tight a Motorcycle Chain is?

What is the Best Way to Check How Tight a Motorcycle Chain is?

Every once in a while, your motorcycle may suffer mechanical issues that can happen without warning. One common issue that can occur is the motorcycle chain coming loose.

Fixing a motorcycle chain requires expertise and an understanding of how to tighten a motorcycle chain. This guide will tell you everything you need to know when checking and fixing the motorcycle chain.

1. What is the Purpose of a Motorcycle Chain?

A motorcycle chain transfers power from the engine to the rear wheel, ensuring that the rear wheel turns at the appropriate speed depending on the engine’s horsepower and torque. Without a properly functioning chain, a motorcycle cannot operate.

There are two main motorcycle chains: the drive chain and the timing chain. The drive chain transfers power from the engine to the rear wheel. The timing chain keeps all the engine parts synchronised and drives the camshaft, which is why it is also known as the cam chain.

Taking proper care of the motorcycle chain will ensure it is in good working condition and well-maintained. Inspecting and cleaning the chain regularly also help extend its lifespan. Replacing a worn or damaged chain is vital if you wish your motorcycle to have optimal performance and level of safety while riding.

2. Why is an Adequaltely Tight Motorcycle Chain Important?

One crucial element of maintaining a motorcycle is making sure the chain is always adequately tight. A loose chain can cause irregular power delivery by the engine, causing jerky wheels movement and chain teeth skipping over the sprockets.

If the chain is not tightly looped around the sprockets, it can cause extra wear and tear, resulting in severe damage that could end in costly repairs down the line. A loose chain can break any time or come off during the ride, causing the motorbike to stop, which can cause accidents abruptly.

3. What Can Happen If A Chain is Too Loose or Too Tight?

If a chain is too loose, it can come off the sprocket, causing the rider to lose control. On the other hand, if a chain is too tight, it can break and cause the rider to be hurled forward. Either way, it's necessary to keep an eye on your chain's tension and provide adjustments.

4. Tools Needed to Check the Chain Slack

As a rule of thumb, is it recommended to check the tightness of your motorcycle chain every 500 miles.

4.1 Ruler or Measuring Tape

Ruler or Measuring Tape
Photo Credit: @Motorcyclist Magazine

First, you will need a ruler or measuring tape. Either can be used to measure the distance between the chain’s link pins. The ideal distance between two consecutive chain link pins should be 25-30 mm.

4.2 Socket Wrench

You can also use a socket wrench to loosen or tighten the axle nuts. A bolt in most motorcycles is located beside the chain that can be tuned to adjust the chain slack. While adjusting, make sure to adjust the bolt slowly. Two to three turns of a socket wrench are enough to tighten a motorcycle chain.

4.3 Chain Slack Adjuster Tool

The chain adjuster tool is also handy and easy-to-use equipment to tighten your motorcycle chain. There are different types of chain adjuster tools available in the market. First, it is calibrated as per the motorcycle owner’s manual and then the motorcycle chain is adjusted. The advantage of using a chain slack adjuster tool is that it provides precision and the chain is adjusted within a few seconds.

4.4 How a Chain Slack Adjuster Tool Works (Video Link):

Video Credit: @ZonaEnduro

5. The Process for Checking the Tightness of a Motorcycle Chain

You must check the tension in the chain since a chain that is too loose will whip around, which could potentially damage the swing arm or get caught on something. Too tight, and the chain will bind, possibly breaking a link. The ideal chain tension is when you can barely fit a credit card between the bottom run of the chain and the bottom of the swingarm. You can adjust the motorcycle chain with the following procedure:

  • To check motorcycle chain tension, prop the bike on its stand so the rear wheel is off the ground.
  • Use a ruler or tape measure to check the distance between the chain and the underside of the swingarm by placing it in the midway of the sprockets. First, you need to pull the chain down and find out the distance between the underside of the swingarm and the link pin. After, you need to pull the chain up and find the distance between the underside of the swingarm and the link pin to know how much is the chain slack or how lose your motorcycle chian is. The distance should be no more than half an inch. If it is, the chain is too loose and needs to be adjusted.
  • Next, use a socket wrench to loosen the axle nut so that you can rotate the adjustment screws.
  • Find the screw that controls the tension on the left side of the bike and turn it clockwise until there is no longer any slack in the chain. Then, find the screw on the right side of the bike and repeat.
  • Finally, retighten both axle nuts and go for a test ride. If everything feels good, then you're done!

6. When to Check the Tightness of a Motorcycle Chain

A motorcycle chain should be checked before and after riding, as well as after making adjustments. This will ensure that the chain has proper tension, is well lubricated, and is not causing damage.

6.1 Before Riding

Before riding, check the amount of tension in the motorcycle chain. If the chain is too tight, it can damage the sprockets or cause the engine to overheat. The chain should have some slack but should also be tight enough.

6.2 After Riding

After riding, inspect the motorcycle chain for any damage. Look for cracks, breaks, or wear and tear. Also, check the sprockets for any damage. If there is any damage, replace the necessary parts as soon as possible.

6.3 After Making Adjustments

After making adjustments to the motorcycle chain, such as adjusting the tension or lubricating it, recheck it before riding.

7. Tips for Checking & Adjusting the Motorcycle Chain

Most motorcycle chains need to be checked for tightness and adjusted about once a month. Here are a few tips on when to check and adjust the chain.

  • Generally, you should check the chain tension when your bike's temperature is normal or cold, like early in the morning.
  • Check the tightness of the chain regularly. A loose chain can cause the bike to slip or fall, leading to premature wear and tear.
  • Adjust the chain according to the manufacturer's specifications. This will ensure that it is tight enough to avoid slipping off but not so tight that it exerts too much pressure on the sprockets or other components.
  • Lubricate the chain regularly to prevent corrosion and increase its lifespan. Use a good quality lubricant specifically designed for chains, and apply it according to the instructions.

8. Pros and Cons of Using a Toque Wrench for Adjusting Motorcycle Chain Slack

If you have a motorcycle, you know that one of the most critical maintenance tasks is adjusting the chain. But what's the best way to do it? Should you use a torque wrench, or can you get by without one?

Here's a look at the pros and cons of using a torque wrench for adjusting the motorcycle chain:

8.1 Pros:

A torque wrench can help you apply the exact amount of tension to the chain. This will help prevent damage to your motorcycle's engine and drivetrain.

Photo Credit: @tru-tension

8.2 Cons:

Using a torque wrench can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you are not used to working with them.

8.3 Verdict

So, what's the verdict? If you're experienced with motorcycles and feel confident adjusting the chain without a torque wrench, go for it. However, if you're unsure or don't have much experience, be cautious and use a torque wrench.

9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

9.1 How to Adjust A Motorcycle Chain Without A Stand?

Adjusting the motorcycle chain without the use of the center stand is preferred because in this case, the rear wheel will be touching the ground and the suspension will be compressed. To have the appropriate chain slack or tension, the motorbike should be in the resting position with its wheels touching the ground.

Here are the steps for how to adjust your motorcycle chain without the motorcycle’s center stand:

  • You can ask a friend to sit on the motorbike to keep it balanced and then adjust the motorcycle chain.
  • You can park your motorcycle on a level surface and put the kickstand down. Using the kickstand is fine because both the wheels will still be touching the ground.
  • Place a block of wood or another object under the rear tire to keep it from rolling while you work.
  • Depending on your model, loosen the axle nuts with a wrench or socket.
  • Use an adjustable wrench to loosen the locknut on the adjuster bolt at the bottom of the shock absorber assembly.

9.2 Do Bike Chains Wear Out?

Keeping your motorbike in good working order is crucial if you wish to improve safety and better enjoy riding. But one part of the bike that is often overlooked is the chain. Motorcycle chains wear out over time like any other mechanical component and must be replaced.

So how often should you replace your bike chain? Several factors determine this: how often you ride, the type of chain, and the road conditions you often travel. A rule of thumb is to inspect your chain every 500 miles and replace it when it shows signs of wear and tear.

If you're unsure whether your chain needs to be replaced, take it to a qualified mechanic for an inspection.

10. Takeaway

Using a ruler or measuring tape is the best way to check how tight a motorcycle chain is. If the chain is too loose, it can come off the sprocket and cause damage. If the chain is too tight, it may cause the sprocket to wear out prematurely. So, be careful and keep the chain tight by using the tips and tools covered in this article.

Keeping the motorcycle maintained and in a good shape is important. Also, a well-maintained and an aesthetically appealing motorbike has a good resale value. You can also improve the motorcycle's appearance by installing useful aftermarket parts available at Viking Bags, including saddlebags, fairings, crash bars, and handlebars.

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