The chain on a motorcycle is one of the most important components of any bike. Without a properly functioning chain, your engine will not be able to efficiently transfer power to the wheels of the motorcycle. This guide will help you determine when you should replace your motorcycle chain.
You should replace your motorcycle chain at least every 25,000 miles or at least once a year. There are several other factors that could influence how often you need to change your motorcycle’s chain. These include the type of chain, riding behavior, and maintenance routine.
The rest of this guide will focus on the factors that influence your motorcycle chain replacement frequency as well as cost estimates. You can use this guide to better determine when you should plan on replacing your motorcycle chain and estimate the total cost of your replacement at a mechanic.
Factors That Influence Motorcycle Chain Replacement
The most significant factors that affect when you should change your motorcycle chain are chain type, riding behavior, and maintenance routine. These factors will be discussed in detail in the list below.
If you have an older model chain that is missing the standard O-ring or X-seals, you can expect your motorcycle chain to need replacing sooner than if you had a more modern bike chain. These older model chains are harder to clean and keep lubricated. This can lead to early-onset damage that could lead you to need to replace the chain sooner than normal.
The table below details the average lifespan of the two different types of chains commonly found on motorcycles. Keep in mind that other factors could affect the estimate.
|Chain Type||Miles Till Replacement||Months Till Replacement|
|Missing O-Ring or X-Seal Chain||14,000||7|
|O-Ring or X-Seal Chain||25,000||12|
The type of riding you do and the conditions you do it in will both play significant roles in determining when your motorcycle chain needs to be replaced. If you frequently put a strain on your motorcycle chain by racing or track riding, you could wind up needing to replace your chain sooner than is standard.
You will also find that you need to replace your motorcycle chain more frequently if you ride off-road or on rough terrain. These types of riding conditions will put additional strain on your motorcycle chain that can cause it to be replaced sooner than standard.
The table below details how often you can expect to replace your motorcycle chain based on the different riding conditions that you frequent.
|Riding Style||Miles Till Replacement||Months Till Replacement|
Proper routine maintenance is vital to the longevity of your motorcycle chain. If you have properly maintained your motorcycle chain, then you can expect to receive 25,000 miles or more out of your chain before it needs to be replaced.
On the other hand, if you have not kept up with the proper maintenance, you could expect to have to replace your motorcycle chain as soon as 15,000 miles or less. It is important that you get into a maintenance routine and stick to it.
When To Replace Motorcycle Chain In Miles
You should replace your motorcycle chain every 25,000 miles. This is the standard estimate of a motorcycle chain’s functional lifespan. It can cause unsafe driving conditions to operate your motorcycle with a chain that has exceeded this mileage.
Depending on the type of riding behaviors you exhibit, the miles you get out of your motorcycle chain could be significantly more or less. The table below has more detailed information regarding these riding behaviors and the mileage before your chain needs to be replaced.
|Riding Style||Miles Till Replacement|
When To Replace Motorcycle Chain In Years
You should replace your motorcycle chain once a year. This is the standard amount of time before you can expect to experience problems with your motorcycle chain due to wear and tear.
The factors mentioned above can further influence how often you need to replace your motorcycle chain. It is not advised to operate a motorcycle with a chain that has exceeded the one-year mark. Doing so could cause unsafe driving conditions.
The table below listed more detailed timeframes for chain replacement, depending on the types of tiding behaviors your exhibit.
|Riding Style||Months Till Replacement|
When To Replace Motorcycle Chain By Manufacturer
The manufacturer of your motorcycle can also influence how often you need to replace your bike chain. Some brands put more emphasis on the motorcycle chain than others, leading to longer lifespans and time between replacements.
The table below contains many of the most popular motorcycle manufacturers and their average motorcycle chain replacement timeframes.
|Manufacturer||Miles Till Replacement||Months Till Replacement|
How Much Does It Cost To Replace Motorcycle Chain?
You can expect to pay at least $350 for a motorcycle chain replacement at a mechanic. This includes the chain component as well as the sprockets that will need to be replaced. The chain itself can be purchased for an average price of $38, while the sprockets can be found for around $55.
The labor costs involved with getting your motorcycle chain replaced by a mechanic can add up to an average of $250. You can likely save money on your motorcycle chain replacement by purchasing the parts yourself and bringing them to the mechanic to install.
The table below lists some popular vendors and their motorcycle chain prices. All prices have been rounded up to the nearest dollar.
|Vendor||Avg. Motorcycle Chain Cost|
Signs Your Motorcycle Chain Needs Replacing
Major signs that your motorcycle chain needs to be replaced are significant rust, kinks, and noisy operation. Rust is one of the main causes of motorcycle chain damage. It is hard to combat as your bike’s chain is constantly exposed to the elements.
If the links have become stuck due to rust or grime, kinks will appear in your chain. This can lead to dangerous driving conditions and is an indicator that it is time to replace your motorcycle chain.
Overstretching is another serious indication that you need to replace your motorcycle chain. Overstretching to an extent is normal over time, but if you begin to notice that you cannot achieve the proper tension from your chain, it could be time for a replacement.
A pulled-out chain
You should start by inspecting the adjusters on the swingarms. Try and pull the chain backwards as far as possible. If you have seen half a tooth, then you should consider replacing the chain.
To check for tight spots, turn the wheel and examine the whole stretch of the chain for tightness. Normally, the tension should be uniform on the whole chain, so if you find any differences in this tightness, you can fix the problem via lubrication or cleaning it.
If you pull the chain and you see a space between the sprocket teeth and the chain links, then you should know that the chain has been overly stretched out.
Ideally, the sprocket teeth should stay on the inside of the chain links. If this condition is violated, you can control the tension by use of a chain monkey or just replace it.
You should check if the teeth are severely worn out and become blunt or even broken. Instantly replace it if these two conditions check out.
If you want sprocket teeth that last longer, you should go for the ones that are made of steel as they are more resistant to wearing out.
Refer to manual
When you buy a motorcycle, they normally come with a manual which guides you as to when you should replace your sprockets and chains.
Of course, this manual cannot always be accurate, since you cannot expect the cycle between a rough terrain rider and a smooth one to be similar.
You can also get expert advice from mechanics and auto-shops on how spaced out your replacement cycle should be.
If the chain produces strange noises when there is motion, then this is an indicator of internal friction. Consider replacing the chain if you experience this.
Some moderate chain noise is normal but if you notice that your motorcycle chain is much louder than normal, this could indicate a serious issue. You should inspect your chain after noticing any loud rattling or grinding as it could indicate a damaged chain that needs to be replaced.
One way of extending the service life of your motorcycle chain is proper maintenance. In fact, it is the only way of prolonging this life.
Maintaining the chain involves cleaning it as well as oiling it. We shall give you a simple guideline on how to go about these two simple maintenance practices.
Should You Replace The Motorcycle Chain Yourself?
You should consider replacing the motorcycle chain yourself if you have to knowledge and skills to do so. Replacing the motorcycle chain yourself will save you money on expensive labor costs.
That being said, some prior knowledge or research will be necessary to properly remove and install a motorcycle chain. Luckily, it is one of the easier repairs, so you should have no trouble studying the correct method and implementing it.
You can consult the vendor price table above to find the cheapest motorcycle chain to install yourself. This is the best way to save money on your motorcycle chain replacement.
Is It Safe To Drive With A Broken Motorcycle Chain?
It is not safe to drive with a broken motorcycle chain. A broken motorcycle chain is a serious issue that could lead to dangerous driving conditions for both you and others on the road. In some instances, riding with a broken chain can lead to a ticket as well.
At the very least, a broken motorcycle chain could potentially leave you stranded, waiting for a tow truck. A broken chain could also cause a crash due to loss of power while riding at high speeds. This could be a potentially fatal accident and should emphasize how vital it is to keep your motorcycle chain functioning properly.
This guide has provided you with all of the information you need to accurately determine when you should replace your motorcycle chain. As previously stated, you should replace your motorcycle chain every 25,000 miles or at least once a year.
Sticking to this replacement schedule can help ensure your safety on the road and also increase the longevity of your motorcycle. Use the information provided for you here to determine when you should replace your motorcycle chain and also estimate the costs of your replacement.
A broken motorcycle chain is a serious issue and can severely affect your motorcycle’s ability to function correctly. Because of this, it is vital that you address any chain issues that you are experiencing before attempting to operate your motorcycle.
I’m Anthony King, a systems integration, automobile technician & automotive expert who earned his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I worked on pioneering technologies from the beginning of his career.