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Dirt Bike Chain Maintenance Guide


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Your dirt bike’s drive chain is what connects the final drive of the engine to the rear wheel. Without it, you aren’t going anywhere! 

It’s also important to inspect and clean your chain regularly to ensure it is in safe operating condition. 

A broken chain can do some serious damage to both your body and your bike. 

This page will go over some techniques for cleaning your chain, replacing an old one, and keeping it tight. 

Cleaning the chain is part of your broader cleaning routine. You can learn more about that here: How to Clean a Dirt Bike

How to Clean a Dirt Bike Chain

Keeping your dirt bike chain cleaned and lubed will help both it and your sprockets last much longer. 

A properly cleaned and oiled chain will also reduce the risk of it breaking while you ride. 

The steps for cleaning the chain are simple. First, you’ll need:

  • Gloves and eye protection.
  • A high powered hose nozzle or pressure washer. 
  • Chain cleaner (be sure the cleaner is compatible with the type of chain you have).
  • A brush.
  • Chain lube.

To clean your chain, begin by using a hose, pressure washer and stiff brush to remove all the dirt, grime, and debris.

Once the big stuff is off, use the chain degreaser to give it a final scrub. 

Hose off and wipe down the degreaser. 

Once the chain is dry, begin applying your chain oil to the inside and outside of the chain around its full length. 

For O-ring chains, take care not to scrub and damage the o-rings or spray too much water pressure on them – as this can damage their seal. 

How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Chain?

Ideally, you should clean off your chain after every ride. 

This is especially important if you’ve been riding through water, mud, or other grime that has accumulated on the chain.

Replacing the Chain

You’ll need to replace your chain if it is too stretched out or worn down

When replacing the chain, you will also need to replace both the front and rear sprockets. 

Be sure to confirm that you are replacing the chain and sprockets with the same number of teeth and chain length/pitch. To find this out, you can refer to your dirt bike’s service manual or simply count (or read the marking) the old ones. 

First, locate the master link and remove the locking clip with a pair of pliers. With the clip removed you’ll be able to slide out the master link and take off the chain. 

Install the new one in the reverse order after replacing the sprockets.

How to Tighten a Dirt Bike Chain

To adjust the slack of your dirt bike chain, you’ll need to:

  • Loosen the rear axle nut. 
  • Loosen the chain adjuster lock nut on either side of the swing arm. 
  • Tighten or loosen the chain adjuster bolts on each side until the proper chain slack is achieved. 
  • Use the marks on the swingarm to ensure that each side of the rear axle is at the same alignment point on either side of the swingarm. 
  • Tighten the chain adjuster lock nuts. 
  • Tighten the rear axle nut. 

How Tight Should Your Dirt Bike Chain Be?

Making sure your chain has the proper amount of slack will ensure maximum performance and minimize potential chain hazards. 

A chain that’s too tight is prone to breaking and putting stress on your bike, while a chain that’s too loose may jump a gear tooth and cause damage as well. 

Be sure to double check the proper amount of chain slack in your dirt bike’s service manual. 

The chain’s slack should be set when the chain is at its tightest point based on the position of the rear suspension. You can either ask someone to sit on the bike or weigh it down with your body until it reaches the tightest point.

Most dirt bikes call for a sack of 1.4 to 2.” Again confirm in your service manual. 

You can do an on the fly check by stacking three fingers and placing them near the chain slider on the top of the swingarm and resting the chain on top of them. The chain should be drawn tight against your fingers in this position

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