How To Clean a Motorcycle Chain

How To Clean Motorcycle Chain

As a bike owner, learning how to clean a motorcycle chain and how to change the oil are two of the first maintenance tasks a lot of new riders learn about. Being able to tackle some of the upkeep yourself is a great way to save time and money by avoiding taking your bike into the shop for minor things you can handle on your own.

Cleaning and lubing your chain is a simple task you should be able to accomplish in less than half an hour. You’ll figure out what style chain you have, check for damage, apply cleaning spray, and give the chain a good scrub. Once it’s clean, you just lubricate the chain and you’re good to go.

Chain Maintenance

The chain and sprockets are two of the most crucial elements to your drivetrain, so it’s very important to keep them in proper working order. Keeping an eye out for damage, cleaning them regularly, and changing them due to wear and tear or damage will everything working for years to come.

Types of Chains

Your motorcycle has one of two types of chain – either an O-ring chain or a non-sealed chain. If you have an older bike, you more than likely have a non-sealed chain.

Non-Sealed Chains

This is the basic, most simple chain that is out there. A non-sealed chain is metal on metal and requires more maintenance than an O-ring chain. You’ll need to pay more attention to a non-sealed chain and watch out for corrosion and wear since it doesn’t have any protection from the elements. As long as you keep this style of chain lubricated, it should last a long time.

non-sealed chains are more common amongst racers and older bikes. They have less friction and let the rider move more quickly than an O-ring chain will allow.

O-Ring Chains

If you have a newer bike, you more than likely have an O-ring chain. These are great for several reasons, one of the main ones being that they need much less maintenance than the non-sealed chains. The O-rings keep the grease in and dirt out, so they need to replaced far less frequently. There is less work as far as cleaning but you should regularly lubricate your O-ring chain with lubricant that is safe to use with O-rings. The rings can dry out and crack over time so regular lubrication can prolong the life of the chain.

Cleaning and Lubricating

Dirt and debris can lead to added wear and tear on the chain. In order to keep your machine running smoothly, you should keep an eye on the chain and sprockets. Regardless of what type of chain is on your motorcycle, to keep your drivetrain running smoothly, you should keep the chain clean. Always start with your motorcycle up on a stand with the rear wheel elevated.


Before you start scrubbing your chain, take a few minutes to get up close and personal with your chain and the sprockets. Look for damage and just general breaking down from use. This can include bending and wear on the sprocket teeth or the tension of the chain is off. If the chain is too tight or too loose or you see damage to the sprocket, it may be time to replace both parts.


It’s time to get the chain nice and clean. Since you have established what type of chain you have, you can choose your cleaning method accordingly. If you have an O-ring chain, it’s important that you look for O-ring friendly cleaner. You don’t have to use a canned cleaning spray if you prefer an option with fewer chemicals. An alternative would be hot water with dish soap in it. The soap will help break down oil, grease, and grime as well as remove the dirt.

Use a scrub brush and give the chain a scrub. If you have decided to use a spray, give the entire chain a good soaking with the cleaner, making sure to get it everywhere. If you chose to use soap and water, dip your brush in the soapy water and start scrubbing. If you have an O-ring chain, use a softer brush so you don’t damage the rings. A toothbrush works well for this step. The better you scrub, the better the lubricant will work.

Give the chain a rinse with the soapy water or give it another good dousing with the cleaning spray to get rid of any remaining dirt. Next, use a shop towel or absorbent microfiber rag to dry the chain very well.

Lubricating Your Chain

Once your chain is clean and dry, it’s important to replace the grease that was removed. A well-lubricated chain moves better with less friction, allowing the bike to move more efficiently.

  1. Make sure your chain is rinsed well and dry so the lube will stay well.
  2. Take the bike for a quick ride around the block. This will warm up the chain and sprockets, getting it ready for the lube.
  3. Put the bike back on the stand, rear-wheel elevated.
  4. Using a microfiber cloth, apply your preferred chain lubricant. You’ll apply it to the overlapping links that are on the bottom.
  5. Turn the tire and keep applying the lube, evenly to all sides.
  6. Wipe away any excess lubricant and take your bike for a ride.


When it comes to motorcycle maintenance, one of the things you can do to keep your bike rolling properly is to keep the chain clean and lubricated. If you’re new to motorcycle care, learning how to clean your motorcycle chain and change it out if damaged or worn out are both great skills to learn. It’ll safe you time and money by allowing you to take care of chain related issues at home rather than needing to go to a shop. Whether you have a motorcycle with a non-sealed chain or an O-ring chain, keeping them clean and maintained is a piece of cake.