The Brain Bucket

Quarantine Series: Basic Motorcycle Maintenance You Can Do At Home

Apr 6, 2020 8:45:00 AM / by Jo Kelley

Quarantining doesn’t have to drive you crazy. Being productive is key. 

This is an interesting time in history. Everyone is on lock-down due to a global virus and we’re either working from home or being forced to stay inside. The cabin fever is real. But, there are things you can do that will keep you from going stir-crazy. 

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Puzzles, card games, drawing -- there are plenty of activities you can do with the family or your significant other. But, if you really want to get down and dirty, your motorcycle could use some TLC. It should come as no surprise that your motorcycle’s chain is important to how well your two-wheeled machine is running. Much like a bicycle, you’re not going anywhere without a well-maintained chain. How does one go about properly cleaning and lubricating the chain? Let’s dive in. 


How can you tell if the motorcycle chain needs work?

This is often the most-asked question when it comes to motorcycle maintenance. The good news is it’s easy to do, the trick is having the time and proper tools to get the job done right the first time. Firs things first, create a comfortable working space with plenty of room and your tools by your side. 

Basic Motorcycle You Can Do During Quarantine | Shutterstock

Photo Source: Shutterstock


Now that you’re properly set up, keep your eyes out for the following:

  • An inordinate amount of side-to-side “wiggle room.”
  • Little sharp teeth that form on the sprocket. Also known as “shark fins”, these form by inconsistencies in acceleration and deceleration and are often found in older bikes.
  • Links that slide back and forth under the compression and tension.

Knowing the chain type of your motorcycle is imperative, and the best way to figure that out is by clicking here. After you have the right chain, the rest of the process is a piece of cake. 


Before you get started, stock up on these required tools:

  • A soft brush
  • Soap (mild soap is preferable)
  • A clean cloth
  • A wire brush
  • WD-40
  • Lubricant


How to clean and lubricate the chain.

Maybe some of you don’t need to follow the step-by-step instructions. If not, carry on. For the rest of you who are new to this, pay attention. 


Step 1: Check to see if the chain is an O-ring or non-sealed. If it’s a non-sealed chain, you’ll need to lubricate and clean it often. An O-ring chain keeps itself cleaned and lubricated for longer. 


Step 2: If you have an O-ring chain, check the O-rings for cracks or dryness. If you notice they’re beginning to weaken, they will need to be replaced. 


Step 3: Take a wire brush and soap to clean dirt and grease off the unsealed chain. Be sure to use a soft-headed brush on the O-ring chain so the O-rings aren’t damaged. 


Step 4: Let the chain dry. WD-40 can help you dry all the hard-to-reach books and crannies. 


Step 5: Apply lubricant to the lower chain. Be sure to spin the rear wheel forward so the chain will climb the sprocket. Make sure the lube gets into the chain’s tight spots by spinning the rear wheel back and forth. 


Step 6: Once the chain is clean and properly lubed, check its slack. An inch to an inch and three-eights slack is preferable but be sure to check your owner’s manual for exact numbers. 


Step 7: Always refer to your owner’s manual for more accurate advice. But, be sure to repeat this process every 300 miles just to be safe. 


Need more helpful basic motorcycle maintenance tips? Stay tuned for another installment in our Quarantine Series. 

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Topics: Articles, Motorcycles, The Brain Bucket

Jo Kelley

Written by Jo Kelley

I cover the history of motorcycles, motorcycle news, and tell the stories of some of the most popular brands.