Why is my Motorcycle Chain Rusting?

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There are many ways that a motorcycle gets power from its engine. The engine can produce power through a chain or belt. Chain-driven motorcycles remain the most commonly found type of drivetrain.

The motorcycle chain is a simple mechanism and requires little maintenance. However, because they are so important to the operation of the bike they need prompt attention if anything unusual happens such as rust.

Why is my motorcycle’s chain rusting so badly? The metal has been exposed for too long to both moisture and oxygen, resulting in rust. This can be caused by poor maintenance, such as not regularly cleaning and lubricating your chain or riding on rough roads like wet, salty roads.

It is important to ensure that your motorcycle is running smoothly. Though it’s a simple mechanism, a chain malfunctioning can cause some catastrophic consequences. Here’s what you need to know about rusty chains, how to prevent it from happening, and what to do when it does happen

The Reasons a Motorcycle Chain Gets Rusty

Motorcycle owners know the dangers of rust. This is especially true if your motorcycle is an older model. There are rarely any major problems with rust, and there may be a few spots. It can be troubling if you discover rust in your bike’s chain.

If you do notice any rust forming on your motorcycle chain, you’ll need to promptly address it before it ends up getting worse and causes you major problems down the road. First, it’s ideal to understand why it’s happening in the first place so you can alter your maintenance routine to prevent it from happening again.

Iron oxide or rust is formed when iron or steal is exposed too much oxygen and moisture. These metals don’t just spontaneously start to rust, moisture has to be added to the picture for it even to begin. The oxidation process can be started by moisture in the air we inhale. If you live near humid areas, your motorcycle chain can rust easily.

The main reason rust begins to start it’s oxidation process is because of lack of maintenance. That’s not to say that because rust forms on your chain you’re bad at maintaining your motorcycle. You should be aware that some environments require more attention to your chain than others.

Chain maintenance involves cleaning and lubricating the chain at least once a year. The lubrication that’s applied to the chain is not soluble with water, so it will repel any possible moisture that could build up on the chain. Regular chain usage can wear out the lubrication so regular maintenance is essential.

Other factors that could accelerate the oxidation process include riding on roads that are wet and have been salty. Salt is an element that can cause rustingEven if your motorcycle chain is maintained regularly, salt can cause rusting. For more information on the effects salt can have on a motorcycle, see my article.

Is it possible to clean/remove the rust?

If you’ve found some rust forming on your motorcycle chain, you may be wondering if it’s possible to remove the rust and still be safe riding your motorcycle on the roads. It all depends on how severe and advanced the rust has reached.

It is possible that you are only seeing surface rust. This type of rust is the very beginning of the metal’s oxidation process and if caught soon enough, it can easily be removed with no harm done to the chain.

It is possible to remove rust from the chain if it has not begun to pit the metal. You can easily determine how far the corrosion has advanced by simply removing the rust with your finger or using a damp rag. If the rust comes off easily, and there are no visible signs of wear underneath it, you can begin cleaning the rest.

You’ll need to get a cleaner specifically for motorcycle chains, a soft bristle brush such as a toothbrush or a nylon brush, a rag, and some chain lubrication. When you clean or lubricate your motorcycle’s chain, make sure it is off. This maintenance should never be done on a motorcycle.

You’ll need to get the motorcycle into a position where you can easily rotate the back of the tire. This means you’ll need to raise the back of the motorcycle with a lift of some sort. Apply a generous amount to the chain, and then rotate the tire backwards. You’ll likely get a nice little puddle underneath the tire, so make sure you work in a place where it’s okay to do that.

Once the chain is soaked in the cleaner, you’ll want to use a soft bristle brush (Not Use a wire brush to clean all sides of your chain. This will ensure you’ve gotten all of that surface rust off. Use the rag to clean the chain. You can inspect the chain for any signs of rust.

Now you can apply the chain grease to the chain after the cleaner has dried. Use a large amount of the lubricant on each side of your chain. Then, lightly wipe off any drips. To ensure that the rust has not returned to the chain, check it again.

If you’ve ensured that all the rust is gone and no damage has been caused by it, you are free to continue using the chain and ride your motorcycle worry-free.

How do I replace the chain?

You will need to replace your motorcycle chain if rust causes too much damage. You will need a replacement if the rusting process has progressed beyond the surface.

It is not necessary to compromise your motorcycle’s drivetrain. Pitting rust and corrosion that happens on a motorcycle chain risks the possibility of the chain breaking while you’re out for a ride. That can be catastrophic and here’s why.

Sometimes, when a chain breaks in a ride it will just slide off and you lose power. That may sound like it’s not so bad until you picture yourself in the middle of the freeway with a sudden loss of power.

There’s also the possibility of the chain getting flung behind you at a high speed and hitting and/or damaging vehicles that are behind or around you. Because a broken chain means a loose and flexible piece of metal, there’s no predicting where it will go which means it could fling up and wack the back of your leg. Motorcyclists can sustain serious leg injuries from chains.

You also have the possibility that the chain could grab the sprocket to jam it. This could result in a brake on your back tire, and can throw you off balance while riding. Click here to read my article about what happens when your motorcycle chain breaks.

You should replace your motorcycle chain immediately if you are unsure of yourself or have any concerns about the damage that rust may cause to it. There’s no reason to risk the possible outcomes when the preventative solution is simple and cheap. If you are able to replace the chain yourself, it will cost between $25 and $50. A shop can replace your chain for $75.

Maintenance To Prevent Rusty Chain

Chain maintenance should be part of your regular motorcycle maintenance. A motorcycle chain should be lubricated and it’s tension checked every 4,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first.

In between servicing your bike, you should also keep an eye on it. If you plan on riding during the winter where the roads are often salted or you live in a humid area, you’ll need to maintain your motorcycle chain more frequently than that. You can read my article to learn more about how often to service your motorcycle.

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