Properly adjusted motorcycle chains can make a huge difference in the quality of the driving experience. If the chain is too tight, it will cause quicker wear to the chain and the sprocket, which will ruin the countershaft; however, if the chain is too loose, the driveline will be negatively impacted. The rule of thumb is to have about 1 to 1.5 inches of slack. If you don't know whether or not your motorcycle chains need to be readjusted, look out for these 3 indicators.
Inspect the Condition of the Front and Rear Sprocket Teeth
Take a quick look at the conditions of the front and rear sprocket teeth to determine whether they are meshing well with the chains. In particular, pay close attention to the sides of the teeth. If these areas are worn down, it means that the chains are not seated properly and are wearing down the sprocket teeth. This will eventually impact the driveline and your control over your motorcycle. Depending on how worn the areas are, you may or may not need new sprockets. If there is minimal wear, a simple chain readjustment will generally be sufficient.
You also want to look for wave-shaped teeth. This is another indicator that the chains are not sitting properly. Unfortunately, if wave-shaped teeth are present, simply readjusting the chains will not be sufficient. Your motorcycle needs new sprockets.
Measure the Chain Slack
While you're down there, take a quick look at the condition of the chains as well. In particular, you want to measure the slack and determine whether there are any variances present between the tight spots and the loose spots with a measuring tape. Keep in mind that the variance will increase over time with wear, and this is inevitable. This is caused by grooves being cut into the pins when the motorcycle is being driven. The variance will become greater over time if the chains are not seated properly on the sprockets, which leads to premature wear. By measuring the variance regularly, you can gauge whether the chains need to be readjusted or not.
If the variance is relatively minimal, readjusting the chains may help minimize additional wear and prolong the life of the chains. However, if the variance is huge, the chains will need to be replaced. So far, there isn't a concrete measurement set for when the variance is considered to be too large. You will need to couple the measurements with your driving experience to determine whether a readjustment or a replacement is necessary.
Look for Tight Links or Kinks in the Chains
Another thing you can do when inspecting the chains directly is to look for tight links or kinks. If you notice tight links or kinks in the chains, then there's a good chance that the chains are worn down because they are not lubricated or adjusted properly. To further gauge whether the chains need to be readjusted, pull back on the chains. If they pull away too much from the sprockets, they definitely need to be readjusted.
You can try lubricating the chains after readjusting them to see whether the tight links and kinks disappear with time. However, if you don't see any improvement in the chain condition, you'll likely have to replace the chains entirely.
Gauging when the chains need to be readjusted can be difficult, especially for those who do not have much knowledge in this field. This is why getting your motorcycle inspected regularly by a mechanic like those at Monarch Honda is rather important, as he or she will inspect the chain for you to determine whether any readjustments are necessary.