How To Lube A Motorcycle Chain? [A Detailed Guide]


How To Lube A Motorcycle Chain [A Detailed Guide]

Looking for a complete guide on how to lube a motorcycle chain? Then look no further. This relatively easy job can get unnecessarily harder if there is a lack of proper guidance. Many rookie riders damage their cherished ride unknowingly because of running their bike chain dry.

There are some easy steps by following which you can lube a motorcycle chain within just 15-20 minutes. As a motorcycle mechanic, I can show you the 7 steps for lubing a motorcycle chain.  

In this article, I will provide a detailed guide on how to lube a motorcycle chain. I will also share some very important information and frequently asked questions related to lubing motorcycle chain. So I request you to please read to the end.

7 Steps To Follow For Lubing A Motorcycle Chain:

Lubing a motorcycle chain is a fairly simple task for individuals who have decent technical skills.

You will need the following items for a smoothing lubing process.

  1. Thick Rag
  2. Kerosene
  3. Chain Lubricant
  4. Grunge Brush
  5. Hand Gloves


Now that we have everything we need, let’s get back into lubing the bike. Follow the steps below for properly lubing your motorbike chain.

Step 1: Identify The Chain Type:

Before you get into lubing the chains, you must know what type of chain you are dealing with. Proper knowledge about the type of chain will help you get through the lubing process more efficiently. 

There are mainly two types of bike chains in the market. These are: 

  • Plain chains, 
  • And sealed chains.

Plain chains are found on relatively older motorcycles. As the name suggests, plain chains are made out of an inner and an outer link joined by a middle shaft. These chains are prone to attracting dirt and gunk.

On the other hand, most modern bikes come with sealed chains. In sealed chains, O-rings are placed in between the inner and outer links in order to keep moisture, dirt, and gunk away from the chain cavity. The O-rings also keep the factory-applied grease inside the chain cavity.

The lubing process for both plain chain and sealed chain is almost the same. You just have to be extra cautious about the O-rings while lubing the sealed chains.

Step 2: Get The Bike In Position:

Positioning the bike properly is a must if you want to get the job done quickly. The lubing process will get a lot easier if you let the rear wheel spin freely. You will get more space and get clear access to the chain. Use the central stand of your bike to lift the rear wheel. If your bike does not have a central stand, you can use paddock stands.

If you don’t have either of the above stands, use your side stand to lift the rear wheel. Or alternatively, you can remove the chain from the motorbike and proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Spray Chain With Chain Cleaner:

You may find cleaning the chain before lubricating a bit unnecessary. But In reality, it is not unnecessary at all. Chain lubricant will adhere better on a clean chain but it won’t on an unclean, greasy chain.

Spraying the chain with chain cleaner will knock off any kind of grime and dirt buildup around the chain links. Moreover, it will also help get rid of the previous lubricant layer off the chain.

Kerosene works great as a chain cleaner. It can get into the chain links and flush out the oil and grease. Put on your gloves, take a spray bottle and fill it up with pure undiluted kerosene. Then, rotate the bike wheel in order to get the chain moving. Spray kerosene on the chain as the chain moves. Don’t be stingy, use as much kerosene as you need.

You will notice grease and oil dripping off the chain and falling on the ground.  This is a great sign. It indicates that your chain has been properly cleaned and is ready for the next step.

Step 4: Thoroughly Brush The Chain:

Spraying kerosene on the chain will help you get rid of loose grease. But in order to get rid of hard stuck grease, you have to apply force and scrub the chain off.

Grunge brush works the best for thoroughly cleaning and scrubbing the bike chain. Unlike a regular brush, grunge brush actually has three brush faces. Because of that, it can effortlessly clean the chain within a very short time. You can find grunge brushes at your local hardware store.

Before scrubbing with a grunge brush, it is a great idea to wipe the chain off with a heavy-duty rug. The rug will help clean the chain surface. Also, don’t forget to scrub the chain sprocket too.

Place your bike chain in between the three faces of the grunge brush. Make sure all three faces of the brush are rubbing against the chain surface. Then, rotate the rear wheel. As the chain is moving through the brush, use forward and backward motion to scrub off any grime. Continue this process until you get a decently clean chain.

You can scrub the chain using a normal brush if you wish to. Make sure not to use a hard brass brush to scrub the chain. Especially, if your bike uses a sealed chain system. The hard surface of a brass brush can wear off the O-ring and potentially shorten the lifespan of the chain.

Step 5: Re-spray The Chain Again With Spray Cleaner:

The reason why you need to repeat the same step again is to ensure that the chain is free from any kind of grease, grime, or dirt. Scrubbing the chain must have loosened up the grease that was trapped in between the chain links. The loose grease can contaminate chain lubricant, causing it to have no lubing effect at all.

Re-spraying the chain with a chain cleaner will help you get rid of all those greasy grimes and prepare the chain to absorb the lubricant. So, start spraying kerosene all over the chain as well as the chain sprocket.

Step 6: Dry-up The Chain:

Your bike chain must be fairly wet at this point. Remember, chain lubricant will not adhere to the chain if it is not dry.

Wait for about 10-15 minutes for the chain to dry up. You can use a fresh rag for speeding up the drying process. Rotate the rear wheels, get the chain moving and use the fresh clean rag to thoroughly wipe down the excess cleaner. Be very careful not to run your fingers into the chain sprocket.

Step 7: Apply Chain Lubricant:

With the chain free from residual grime, grease and properly dried up, apply the chain lubricant thoroughly on all sides. It is better to choose an aerosol-style chain lubricant. Doing so will make the lubing job much easier.

At this point, the lubing technique will differ depending upon the type of chain your bike has. For instance, the lubrication method for a plain chain will be a little bit different than the lubrication method for a sealed chain.


Now, if you want to lube a plain chain, slather the chain surface with a good quality lubricant. Make sure to keep coating the chain with as much lubricant as you can. Don’t forget to keep the chain moving as you are applying lubricant. Wipe off the excess with a clean rag.

Remember, a plain chain will only function properly if you keep continually coating it with clean lubricant.

Lubing a sealed chain is a bit different. Unlike plain chains, sealed chains do not need a constant stream of lubricant to function properly. You only need to lubricate the O-ring and the outside of the chain once in a while for preventing rust formation.

Take your can of aerosol lubricant, direct the straw inside of the chain and into the chain sprocket. Rotate the rear wheel and keep spraying lubricant into the chain sprocket. This step should lube to the top portion of the chain.

Next up, spray the outside surface of the chain with the lubricant. Just like before, keep spinning the back wheel while spraying. You must ensure that all four sides of the chain are properly lubed. Rinse off the excess lubricant with a clean towel.

And just like that, you now have a clean, lubed bike chain that is ready for action!

What To Not To Do While Lubing The Chain?

Lubing the chain is a very straightforward and easy job yet many people end up getting injured while doing this. They not only get physically hurt but also damage their motorbike. Avoid the things mentioned below for a smooth and safe lubing operation.

  1. Do Not Keep The Engine On:

    Do not ever keep the engine on when you are lubing the chain. Keeping the engine running while lubing can lead to some very nasty accidents. Many boneheads have lost a part if not their entire finger by accidentally running their hand into the chain sprocket.

    In an attempt to save a few minutes you may end up regretting the decision of keeping the engine on for the rest of your life.
  2. Do Not Let Lubricant Drip Into Brakes:

    Chain lubricants can sometimes find their way directly into the brakes and render them completely useless. Bikes with rear drum brakes are normally more prone to this problem. Be extra cautious while lubing the chain. If possible, cover up the rear brake disk or brake drum with a towel.
  3. Do Not Leave Excess Lubricant On The Chain:

    You may have to use a lot of lubricant for lubing a plain chain as well as a sealed chain. Always remember to wipe down the excess lubing. If you do not wipe the excess lubricant down, it will attract all dirt and dust from the road and harm your chain.

    Moreover, excess lubricant will also damage the bike undercarriage and wheel rims.

How Often Should You Lube Your Bike Chain?

The frequency of lubing the bike chain really depends on many factors like where you live, how often you ride, what type of bike you use, etc. Bike experts recommend lubing your chain usually after every 300 to 600 miles.

But if you ride your bike frequently in a dusty environment, you may need to lube the chain even more frequently in order to ensure its longevity. Furthermore, if you are into off-roading, then it’s absolutely necessary to lube the bike chain after every offload session.

Can You Use Engine Oil As Chain Lube?

You may get tempted to cheap out and use leftover engine oil as a chain lubricant. It is definitely not recommended to do so.

Chain lubricants are engineered in such a way that they penetrate the O-ring and adhere to the chain surface. Surely, engine oil will not work that way because they are not engineered to do so. Therefore, do not use engine oil as chain lube.

Conclusion

Many motorcyclists overlook the usefulness of lubing their chains. They do not realize that lubing the chain at a regular interval will benefit their bike in the long run.

Try to lube your chain frequently if you wish to get the peak performance out of your motorbike. Hopefully, this article helped you in properly lubing your bike chain and also answered a few related questions.

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Ahsan Ullah

Hi guys, This is Ahsan Ullah. I have been riding motorcycle for more than 15 years. In this long period, I have experienced a lot of things about bike riding. Now I am trying to share my experience with you on this website.

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