The chain on your motorcycle is one of its most important components. If your motorcycle begins to exhibit signs of rust, you will need to address this issue as soon as possible. Many riders wonder what exactly causes a rusty motorcycle chain.
A rusty motorcycle chain is caused by exposure to moisture and the elements. A rusty motorcycle chain is an indicator of a lack of scheduled maintenance, including cleaning, lubricating, and chain inspection. Frequently riding in rough, wet conditions can also cause a motorcycle to rust significantly.
These common causes of a rusty motorcycle chain will be covered in detail later in this guide, as well as many other common concerns and questions people have regarding rusty chains. You can use this guide to help you accurately identify and address your rusty motorcycle chain issues.
Why Does A Motorcycle Chain Become Rusty?
The main causes of a rusty motorcycle chain are oxidation, lack of maintenance, and rough riding behaviors. All three of these causes will be discussed in detail in the list below. You should use this list to identify the cause of your issue so you can try to avoid it in the future.
When your motorcycle chain is frequently exposed to the elements, particularly moisture, the oxidation process will begin. This process is dependent on moisture and is more prevalent in areas where the humidity is high. Riders in areas with high humidity are at a high risk of encountering chain rust.
Once the process has begun, it can be easily taken care of if you address it in time. Once the rust has really set into your chain, it will be much more difficult to remove and could result in you having to replace your whole chain.
Oxidation is a natural process that all iron or steel motorcycle chains are susceptible to. This can be frustrating but proper maintenance can help lower your chances of encountering chain rust issues.
Lack Of Maintenance
Lack of routine maintenance is another key factor that can influence your likelihood of experiencing chain rust issues. It is important that all motorcycle owners get set into a scheduled maintenance routine that includes lubrication of the chain, chain inspection, and clearing the chain of any debris.
If you have not been keeping up with your routine maintenance, then your bike will be especially susceptible to chain rust due to the natural oxidation process. A rusty chain is one of the biggest indications that you have not been properly maintaining your bike’s chain.
Rough Riding Conditions
If you frequently ride your motorcycle on wet roads or salted roads, you are much more likely to experience chain rust issues. Salt and moisture are both key contributors to the rusting process. Even if you are staying up with your chain maintenance, rough riding conditions can cause your bike’s chain to rust much faster than it would if you rode under normal conditions.
Can Rust Be Cleaned/Removed?
If you have caught your motorcycle chain during the beginning of the rusting process, you can likely remove it with no issue. This can save you from having to replace the whole bike chain but depends on a few factors to be viable.
The first thing that you must determine is whether or not the rust has started eating into the metal of your chain. If your rust is only surface level, you will be able to wipe it away easily with your finger or wet cloth.
If it comes off easily using these methods and shows no visible wear underneath, then you can safely assume that your chain can be salvaged by a quick cleaning. You will need to purchase some rust cleaner that is specially formulated for motorcycle chains.
Once you have purchased your motorcycle chain rust remover, you will need to remove your bike’s chain and soak it in the rust remover for the time outlined on your bottle. This will often be for a few hours. Once you have done this, your surface-level rust will have been removed.
You can find motorcycle chain rust remover for around $12 online and in stores. Some of the most popular online dealers and their motorcycle chain rust remover prices can be found in the table below.
|Vendor||Avg. Motorcycle Chain Rust Remover Price|
Rusty Motorcycle Chain Repair Cost
If the rust has penetrated deeply into the metal of your motorcycle chain, you will need to replace it before you are able to safely ride your motorcycle. You can expect to pay an average of $325 for a motorcycle chain replacement at a mechanic. The chain itself can be found for around $35, and the sprockets needed for a proper replacement for around $50.
You can also expect to pay an average cost of $215 in labor costs associated with your rusty motorcycle chain replacement. You can generally save money by purchasing the chain online and bringing it to the mechanic to install.
The table below contains some of the most popular vendors of motorcycle chains and their prices. All prices have been rounded up to the nearest dollar.
|Vendor||Avg. Motorcycle Chain Cost|
Should You Replace A Rusty Motorcycle Chain Yourself?
You can and should replace a rusty motorcycle yourself if you have the skillset and knowledge to do so. This can save you a fair amount of money on labor costs associated with rusty motorcycle chain replacement.
You will need some prior knowledge of your bike before you will be able to properly replace your chain. Motorcycle chain replacement is one of the easiest repairs to do at home, so you should have no issue if you have some prior mechanical experience.
You should consult the motorcycle chain cost table listed above to help you find the best deal on your replacement chain.
Is A Rusty Motorcycle Chain Bad?
A rusty motorcycle chain is a serious issue. If your motorcycle chain has rusted to a certain point, it could render your motorcycle completely inoperable, as it will not be able to properly transfer power to your engine.
Even worse, rust could cause your chain to break while you are riding, potentially causing a major accident. It is unsafe for you and other people on the road to ride with a significantly rusted motorcycle chain.
You should address serious rust issues as soon as possible and refrain from riding on a motorcycle that has a chain that is exhibiting serious signs of rust. For chains that are only experiencing surface-level rust, you can consider cleaning the rust off and starting a maintenance schedule to help fight the oxidation process.
How To Prevent Rusty Motorcycle Chain Issues
You can prevent a rusty motorcycle chain by properly lubricating your chain, avoiding rough conditions, and keeping up with routine maintenance and proper storage of your bike. All three of these preventative measures can help you lower the likelihood of your motorcycle chain rusting. These measures are discussed in more detail in the list below.
Properly Lubricate Your Chain
Your bike’s chain depends on proper lubrication to function correctly. If you keep your bike chain properly lubricated, this will make it less prone to rust and wear. You should apply lubricant to your motorcycle chain at least every 4500 miles or every six months.
You can purchase motorcycle chain lubricant for an average price of $15. It can generally be found cheaper online than in-store. The table below contains some of the most popular auto parts vendors and their prices of chain lubricants.
|Vendor||Avg. Motorcycle Lubricant Cost|
Avoid Rough Conditions
You should avoid riding too frequently in the rain or on salted roads. Moisture and salt are two common causes of premature rust in motorcycle chains. The less that you expose your bike’s chain to these types of conditions, the less likely you are to experience chain rust issues.
Properly Store And Maintain Your Bike Chain
One of the most important preventative measures that you can take to avoid chain rust is to properly store your bike in a garage. This can help keep it safe from the elements and any additional moisture in the air.
You should also get into a routine maintenance schedule where you regularly inspect and address any issues that you find with your motorcycle chain. This can help you catch these types of issues early before they get so bad that you need to replace your chain.
This guide has provided you with all of the information you need to identify and address your rusty motorcycle chain issues. Using the information provided for you here, you can always ensure that your motorcycle chain is functioning properly. It can be hazardous to ride with a rusty motorcycle chain so it is important to address these issues as soon as possible.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.