Chain Maintenance and Lube; Advice Needed

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by nnamssorxela, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. nnamssorxela

    nnamssorxela ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    I'm looking to learn a little more about chain maintenance. Recently I've noticed that my chain has some tight spots in it, and it's getting a little noisy. It's also filthy and impossible to keep clean. The bike is relatively new to me (purchased late November) and I've lubed the chain a couple of times since then, but I have no idea what the previous owner did.

    When I lube it, I use PJ1 Black Label chain lube as directed (applied to a warm and clean chain, wipe off excess etc.) and with in a day or so, the chain is noisy and filthy again. I've been thinking about it and I've started to come up with countless questions I was hoping you guys could help me answer.

    First: Is it dangerous to ride on a chain that has tight spots in it? From what I've read, that is a big no-no and once the chain becomes tight anywhere, it is trashed and in need of immediate replacement.

    Second: Is it my chain lube? The PJ1 is super sticky and messy. Is it just immediately collecting dirt and sand and turning into a grinding paste? Should I be using wax? Motor oil? Transmission fluid?

    Third: Assuming I need to replace my chain (and therefore also my sprockets) and change the way I lube it, will an automatic oiler work for me? I was looking at the scottsoiler which is vacuum powered so I can just initially set the flow and ride. The constant oil flow will supposedly keep the chain lubed and clean, as well as greatly extend the life of my chain and sprockets, and the only thing I have to do is top it up with oil of some sort like ATF. Some say however, that an auto luber is pointless as a road going bike needs an o-ring chain and the o-rings have oil already inside of them and prevent any outside oil from entering. If this is the case, should I look into purchasing a non-o-ring chain? (If this were the case though, that logic means an o-ring chain never needs to be lubed?)

    Fourth: Any particular chains and sprockets you are fond of? Things are a little wild with "z" rings and all sorts of other gimmicks.

    My bike is a daily driver as well as a weekend toy, so it sees constant use. I rarely go "off road" and when I do, it's normally just a dirt or gravel road, grass, or clay. I'm looking for an easy way to keep my chain and sprockets in good condition that requires minimal work on my part :D

    Thanks for looking and I'm open to any and all suggestions.

    -Alex
    #1
  2. CycleDoc59

    CycleDoc59 Wrench Rider

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    Google "motorcycle chain maintenance" and you can read for hours. Here's one that's pretty good:
    http://motorcycles.about.com/od/motorcyclemaintenanc1/ss/Chain_Maint_2.htm
    #2
  3. mrchristian

    mrchristian Been here awhile

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    Clean with Kerosene and a stiff plastic brush, apply lube of your choosing, wipe off excess, repeat.
    #3
  4. Claytonroy

    Claytonroy Been here awhile

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    I had the same experience with PJ-1. It was super messy and didn't seem to be a very effective chain lubricant.

    I like the Dumonde Tech lube...great stuff!

    As far as cleaning goes, buy yourself a couple of dedicated chain /cog cleaning brushes. And I hope your bike has a centerstand!

    It sounds like you ride a ton....you're probably a good candidate for the auto-oiler like the Scott's. I'm not sure why, but they seem to be most popular among rain riders and the UK crowd.

    And BTW, you can relieve tight chain links with a quality chain tool and the right skills...the tool acts as both a press and a spreader.. Practice on used chain or extra links you have lying around.
    #4
  5. nnamssorxela

    nnamssorxela ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    Thanks guys. I understand the basic principals of chain cleaning and maintenance, I was just wondering if there was something else I needed to be doing. I guess I was most curious about if tight links in a chain meant that it was toast, and if the auto oilers were all they claim they are.

    It looks like I need to be cleaning and lubing my chain a LOT more than I am, especially if I'm riding in the rain at all. Unfortunately I don't have any sort of stand, so cleaning means I scrub the exposed portion of the chain, then pull the bike up onto the side stand and front wheel, then spin the rear wheel with my foot to expose a new section of chain then set it back down to scrub. This is a time consuming process, and the PJ1 is hard to get off, so I'm more likely to "just do it another day" when I think about cleaning it.

    Assuming my chain cannot be salvaged, looks like I'll be getting a new one and trying an oiler. If it doesn't appear clean after the first week or so, I suppose I'll pony up for a rear stand, a multi-sided "grunge" style brush, and some different style lube.

    Clayton, is the Dumonde stuff you use the BHP Chain Oil? Looks like they say it penetrates 100% and gets past the o-rings. Seems like some good stuff.

    Thanks again and keep the ideas coming!
    -Alex
    #5
  6. squish

    squish Out of the office.

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    Go to your local big box home center.
    Get wd 40 a stripping brush and a couple of grout brushes.
    I use wd 40 from a gallons jug decanted into a ketchup style squeeze bottle.
    A little on the brush scrub the chain wipe the chain repeat until the chain and sprockets are clean.
    If the bike is really dirty I take off the countershaft sprocket cover and chain guard.
    Once it's clean then I use either the last of my DuPont Teflon or the old red can of Honda chain wax.

    This lasts for about 1000 miles of normal so cal riding. When I hit the chain with more lube.
    I only clean it about twice a year if that.
    I get between 10k and 22k life out of my chains. I replace them all I lean toward steel sprockets. And decent name brand o ring chains.
    #6
  7. Dirty in all

    Dirty in all Adrenaline Junkie

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    Ive used tons of other chain lubes that were always messy and flew off leaving the chain dry to the point where I was lubing it after every ride but honestly I could even do it mid ride. I bought some Bel Ray Super Clean last month because it was a small can I could carry in my pack so I could now do mid ride lubes. Well , now that I use the Bel Ray it doesnt need it nearly as much so its back out of the pack. The stuff is really nice. Goes on thick and is white so you can see what youre working with. Chain has been exactly what it claims... SUPER CLEAN. When the white starts going away its time for more. Nothing seems to stick to it at all and Im not finding any of it anywhere but on my chain. I have another bike and noticed the same thing that the chain was kinked more than few times where the links didnt want to move freely. Was about to order a new one but I dont know if its really nessesary. Its an O-ring chain so I wasnt really thinking I could soak it in a degreaser at all because then how would I get the new lube back in behind the O-rings? Seems like I would just wash it out and wind up with a chain lubed externaly only? Kind of looking for some answers too but try the bel ray.
    #7
  8. oldxr

    oldxr Long timer

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    When I did the whole bike rebuild on my honda xr650r dual sport I installed ironman sprockets and a RK x-ring chain.Since then I have used only dupont teflon dry flim lube or triflon for lube.I have about 5000 miles on the chain/sprockets and the parts look like they are wearing well + the chain is always clean.No more cycle gear chain lube for me.
    #8
  9. pjm204

    pjm204 Long timer

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    #9
  10. rbrsddn

    rbrsddn 3banger

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    I use a Pit Bull rear stand, so the wheel will rotate. I use kerosene and a parts brush/toothbrush to clean the chain. then I'll wash the bike, because kero is everywhere. Dry the chain with a good bath towel, and apply Bel Ray lube. Good to go.
    #10
  11. kubiak

    kubiak Long timer

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    i made a stand to prop my bike off the ground. then i spray my chain with wd40 then use a cloth to wipe it clean. then i use maxima synthetic chain lube. i like the maxima because it seems to keep the chain wet and lubed. the other sprays seem to dry up too fast. the maxima keeps my chain smooth and kink free where the others seem to dry and get tacky and my chain gets noisy and stiff. you do need lube even if you use a oring chain because your sprocket teeth to chain roller contact surface needs lube to keep them from wearing faster.
    #11
  12. adcolor

    adcolor Adventurer

    Joined:
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    My experiences:

    All chains that are other than new have tight spots.
    Chain wax is less likely to soak up dirt.
    Also, good experience with RK [squeeze bottle] chain lube (it comes in a little bottle with a flip top; squeeze it on).

    Wait a few minutes after applying chain lube. Then wipe off anything on the outside. Beats having to clean it off of your backside later (if you can wipe it off, it wasn't inside where it needed to be anyhow).

    Lube the chain at the end of the day. That way the 'aeromatics' air out and dry. Less fling that way.

    You can put the front tire against a wall, lean your bike over the side stand and put something under the swing arm or frame/engine to lift the rear wheel off of the ground.

    If your chain looks like it has red rust or red powder on it, start saving your pennies, nickles, & dollars. You will be buying chain & sprockets very soon.
    If the sprocket teeth tips are sharp and pointy, you will be doing the above.

    To adjust your chain properly, find the tightest spot in the chain (rotating the rear wheel to this point). Get a friend of ~= weight to sit on the bike. <<I have found that I can put a ratcheting cargo strap on and tighten it when I am sitting on the bike to hold the swing arm at the proper place>>. Then adjust the rear wheel so the chain slop is ~+- 1/2". Your manual will tell you how the manufacturer wants it done. The result will be close to what I suggested above (do it the manufacturers way, then strap it all down and measure the slop). It is more real world to set it to your weight than it is to some mythical point of averageness. YMMV.
    #12
  13. nnamssorxela

    nnamssorxela ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    <tt>Yesterday I cleaned my chain with kerosene and a toothbrush. Once I went over it a couple times I wiped it off with a rag, and then brushed it with motor oil, again wiping off the excess. I plan on brushing it with oil once a week depending on how wet it appears, or rigging up a manual luber I can use while riding before I drop the big bucks on an auto luber. The problem is that there are still some tight links. will the motor oil eventually loosen these up? Should I be using a different oil?

    Again, thanks for all the input and looking for any further suggestions.

    -Alex
    </tt></pre>
    #13
  14. Motomantra

    Motomantra Registered Lurker

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    It may loosen some, but chances are the damage is done.
    The chain & sprockets wear in as a set. Replacing anything but all three as a set will hasten the wear of all three. Unless it's a dirt bike, I replace all three as a set.
    On road bikes I use O.E. sprockets. They seem to last the longest.
    #14
  15. MacNoob

    MacNoob piney fresh

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    Oh I have to caution you on that. What you want is a little bit of chainslack (your +-1/2") at the *tightest* point on swingarm travel. That's when the two sprockets and the swingarm pivot are all in a straight line. Having someone sit on the bike will not necessarily be the right amount of weight for everything to line up. It's possible that 1/2" slack with someone sitting on the bike will be too tight when going over a bump, causing excessive wear or damage.
    #15
  16. wsmc831

    wsmc831 Been here awhile

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    Standard motor oil won't stick around for long. I guess I'm set in my ways, I clean my chains occasionally, spray on some Maxima chain wax that I've been using since about 94, and forget it. If I'm on a 2-4k mile trip, I'll give it a spray every other day or so, but auto oiler? Messy. When a chain gets tight spots, I replace it. Seems simple enough.
    #16
  17. el queso

    el queso toda su base

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    + 2 or 3 for Bel Ray chain lube. When it dries it leaves a white waxy residue that sand and dirt does not stick to.

    Not sure what kind of bike you ride, but I'm partial to Dirt Tricks Ironman sprockets. The look spindly, but they are strong. Pair them up with a high quality chain (I guess z-ring is the new x-ring) and you're good to go.

    Pete
    #17
  18. nnamssorxela

    nnamssorxela ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    Thanks again guys. My main concern was if the tight links meant time for a new chain as I've heard mixed opinions. The last thing I want is for one of those links to get too brittle and bust.

    I may still toy with an auto oiler. I like fact that it "flushes" any dirt off, but I'll see. For some reason I've never trusted the wax style lubes. Might try some bar and chain oil (chainsaw).
    #18
  19. CycleDoc59

    CycleDoc59 Wrench Rider

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    WSCM831 nails it. Pretty much all you need in one short paragraph.
    #19
  20. bradluke0

    bradluke0 Been here awhile

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    Hi all ! After owning more than 25 bikes since the early 70's and spending a lot of time on chains I have come to 1 conclusion . I don't clean my chains anymore , I use a dry lube . It sprays on wet and completely dries , doesn't collect dirt so there is no grinding paste or black residue on the bike or sprockets . Sounds like this goes against the grain but I have other things to do than mess around cleaning and lubing .
    #20