Drive chains used on ATVs and motorcycles are usually the dirtiest components on those machines due to their frequent exposure to a wide variety of harsh elements. Inspecting and cleaning your chain and sprockets routinely can guarantee your chain its longest life and best performance. Here are seven tips to simplify the process.
Always refer to your owner’s manual for specified maintenance intervals to help prevent your chain from prematurely wearing out, especially when riding in dusty or wet conditions. As a rule, you should clean and lubricate your chain after every washing or riding in rain or muddy terrain.
To prevent damaging the O-rings in your chain’s links, do not clean with steam cleaners, high-pressure washers or harmful solvents.
1. Use a stand or lift – To spin your wheels properly through the process, first elevate the rear tire(s) of your motorcycle, dirtbike or ATV in a secured fashion. This can often be accomplished via your motorcycle’s center stand or a portable lift/stand. Always make sure your motorcycle or ATV is secured from tipping over when using a jack or lift.
2. Lay down cardboard – A workable size of cardboard placed underneath your motorcycle or ATV does a great job protecting your garage floor and can also be used as a shield to protect any overspray from reaching rims, tires and other sensitive areas.
3. Wear latex gloves – Wearing these are up to you, but disposable latex gloves can save you some time after the chain cleaning process by keeping your hands clean. Most industrial versions of these gloves provide great gripping power in wet or dry working conditions.
4. Use chain cleaner – Quicksilver® All-Purpose Spray Cleaner is formulated for powersports to help remove caked on build-up, break down dirt and dissolve grease and other contaminants without damaging your chain’s O-rings. Read usage directions before applying. Scrub chain with a cleaning brush and wipe off contaminants with clean rags.
5. Buy a cleaning brush – A variety of “grunge brushes” exist to help clean all four sides of your chain thoroughly. Some of the best have a three-sided bristle block design that is adjustable to accommodate all sizes of chain.
6. Use rags – Your local building center is a great source for 100% cotton shop towels. These are typically sold in a bundle, are reasonably priced, an industrial utility grade and easily cleaned or recycled. Use one rag to wipe all the grime off your chain after applying cleaner and using the grime brush. Then use another clean rag to make sure your chain is dry.
7. Apply chain lubricant – You’re now ready for the final step. Apply a chain lubricant like one of the three formulated by Quicksilver for Off-Road, On-Road or Racing applications. These provide excellent sealing capabilities to protect O-rings and resist dirt and water contamination. The PFTE formula offers maximum friction reduction so it won’t sling off.
Warning: Never start the machine and use the throttle to spin the wheels. This increases the risk of getting your hands caught in the spokes, or sprockets, and also produces chain bounce making it difficult to apply lubricant.
To apply lubricant, spin your rear wheel(s) with your hand in the opposite direction of forward rotation (clockwise with your right hand if the chain is on the left side of the machine; counter-clockwise if on the right side). While the wheel is rotating, apply the spray at the lower run of the chain (chain section closest to floor). Remember you only need to spray the O-rings of the chain, and there are two sides. First, spray the inside of the chain’s O-rings for one full chain revolution, then spray the outside portion for another revolution.
Once the lubricant has set-up for a few minutes, gently wipe the excess off the chain with one of your rags while rotating the wheels.
This simple process will increase the life expectancy of your drive chain, decrease accelerated wear on your sprockets and provide peace of mind knowing your motorcycle, dirtbike or ATV is in prime riding condition. There’s nothing left to do now but get outdoors for some throttle therapy.