Common Motorcycle Chain Problems

Believe it or not, a motorcycle chain can be easily damaged by heat. If a motorcycle chain rubs on the chain guide, it can be heated to the point where the metal is crystallized and the temper is destroyed. Some riders install a wider or different chain and then expect it to cut its own grooves in the chain guide. This creates enough heat to wreck a drive chain in one ride. A motorcycle chain that has been heated to the point of damage can be discolored. If your wheel doesn't spin freely after your ride, then check for alignment and clearance issues.

If your rear sprocket is larger than stock, the chain guide might not be capable of accommodating it. The chain can drag on the chain guide, and that can wear through the master link keeper and even the plates. Likewise, chain guides that are housed in aluminum frames can bend and stay bent. That can derail a chain immediately, or simply wear if our in a single ride.
Obviously, a motorcycle chain that is too tight can cause much more damage than a chain that is too loose. The sprocket or the cases can even break. Some motorcycles have to run their chains fairly loose. Each motorcycle is different, so you should use the guidelines in your owner's manual. The time-honored way to check is to compress the rear suspension until the countershaft, the swingarm pivot and the rear axle form a straight line, then check the chain, which should still have minimal play. It might take two or three people.

Alignment is important, but you need to understand what to align. It's critical that the sprocket be aligned with the chain guide. In a perfect world, that will also mean that the two sprockets are aligned. But if you're in your garage you can find that aligning the sprockets, chain guide and rear wheel is not always an easy job, a few millimeters will already shorten the live of your motorcycle chain and sprockets.
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