Whether you parked your Steed for the Winter, or Rode throughout, this is the time to clean it up, and address any Service Issues. Doing this Service yourself can save a great deal of Money (better spent on Fuel!), in addition to becoming familiar with your Machine. Understanding how your Bike works, and what you need to do to repair it is vital in forseeing issues as they begin to appear, prior to them leaving you stranded on the road!
One of the most overlooked items is the Drive Chain, and although it is a bit of a chore, it is a very important item to address. Cleaning your Drive Chain is not very difficult to do, although it does require you to remove it from the Bike, which, if you include remounting it, is really the bulk of the work! A regularly cleaned Drive Chain will last longer, and it should be done at least once a year, to clean off excess Chain Oil Build Up, Flush Grit from the Rollers, and fully Renew the Chain Oil.
This a layout of how to get it done:
Step 1: Remove the Drive Chain. Depending on the Bike, and the Type of Chain, it may involve some serious dismantling if there is no Master Link. Consult a Workshop Manual for your Machine if you are not familiar with the procedure.
Step 2: Lay the Drive Chain in a suitable Pan. A Cookie Sheet is used in the Pictures Below. Never soak the Drive Chain in any type of Solution! The majority of Modern Drive Chains are O-ring Chains, and cleaning them in harsh Solvents will damage the Rubber O-rings that are pinched between the Links, which serve to keep Oil in, and Water/Grit out, extending the Life of the Chain. Non O-ring Chains look more like a Bicycle Chain, and you can identify if your Chain is an O-ring by looking between the Outside/Inside Links where you will find the small Rubber O-rings. O-ring Drive Chains should always be washed in either Diesel, or Kerosene, as these do not cause any damage to the Rubber, and effectively remove old Oils. I prefer Diesel, as it smells better than Kerosene!
Pour a small amount over the Drive Chain, and allow it to set for a moment, before scrubbing it with a Stiff Bristle Brush. Pictured are Nylon Bristles, which are strong enough to remove grime, but do not damage the O-rings. Never use a Wire Brush to clean an O-ring Drive Chain! To minimumize waste, wash both sides of the Chain with the same Solution, by dabbing the Brush into the material still in the Pan. By keeping it coiled, it can be easily flipped over for the other side. Make sure to work between the Links.
Step 3: Using Compressed Air, and a Nail with which to hang the Drive Chain from (in a place that won't mater if it gets grimy), blast the Drive Chain free of the Solution, and any remaining grime that is loose on it. Work from top to bottom down each side, stopping with a rag to wipe it down a few times. This Step may take several passes before the Drive Chain is clean, and free of Solution. Take some time during this Step to inspect each of the Rollers, to make certain that they spin freely. If you find a Roller(s) that does not, return to the Pan, and work it gently with a pair of Needle Nose Plyers, and a liberal amount of Solution untill it breaks free. A stuck Roller will cause a Drive Chain to bind at that Link, which will fail if neglected, resulting in a pile of Chain wadded up in the Sprocket Box, likely destroying the Countershaft Sprocket!
Step 4: The Countershaft Sprocket Box (or Front Sprocket) should also be cleaned in conjunction with the Drive Chain. You may have already pulled off the Cover to Remove the Chain. Oil, and Grit will also build up heavily in this area, and if neglected will accumulute to the point of recontaminating the Drive Chain if not removed! In addition, take this time to Inspect the Countershaft Sprocket. Cleaning the Box will be made much easier if the Sprocket is removed, as will Gear Inspection. In the example below, the Sprocket proved to be too far run out, and needed to be replaced. Since you have the Sprocket off, take a look at the Countershaft Oil Seal as well, to make certain that it is not leaking.
For cleaning this area, I like to use a Small Bristle Brush, and a Can of Spray Carb Cleaner, as it evaporates quickly, and does a bang up job of tearing through the grime! Don't forget to wash out the Sprocket Box Cover!
Step 5: Before remounting the Drive Chain, take this time to Inspect the Rear Sprocket for excessive wear, and don't overlook cleaning out the Inside of the Chain Gaurd as well! I use the Carb Cleaner for the Chain Gaurd, spraying it a few times to loosen up the grime, and then wiping it clean with a rag.
Wetting the same rag with a heavy shot of Carb Cleaner, gently wash the Rear Sprocket still in place on the Wheel. It should not take too much effort to clean, unless it is coated with a substantial layer of grime, in which case it should be removed from the wheel to be properly cleaned (but that is another story, as you will have to remove the Rear Wheel to get at it!).
Step 6: Reinstall the Drive Chain, and Countershaft Sprocket, as per Workshop Manual Instructions for your Bike. If you are fortunuate enough to have a Master Link Chain, you only needed to loosen the Rear Wheel a bit to get enough slack to pull the Chain free. Make certain that the Retainer Clip for the Master Link is installed correctly, with the Closed End facing the direction of Drive Chain Travel. If the Countershaft Sprocket was removed for this process, be certain to Torque it to Specifications. Lastly, adjust Drive Chain Freeplay as per Workshop Manual Specifications, and reinstall the Countershaft Sprocket Cover. As a Final Step, apply a healthy dose of Fresh Chain Oil to the edges of each Roller, and Link, before remounting the Chain Gaurd.
Maintain your Drive Chain during Summer Rideouts by applying Fresh Chain Oil every 300 Miles!
Bravo! Your Done, and you saved a pile of money on having someone else do it for you, or the purchase of a New Chain! This may seem a daunting task, however, if you can pull this off, you will find that the Mysteries of Motorcycle Mechanics are not beyond your reach, and you will be adjusting your own Valves in no time!!
Best of Luck! And feel free to ask any questions!
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