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When to replace the chain?

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Servicing' started by Widget, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. Hi guys,

    I have a 2008 GS500 that I bought 2nd hand back in 2013. Since then I've probably ridden about 8000km(ish).. always serviced, but never the chain. I did however, adjust the tension of the chain by sliding the rear tyre back until the slack was within recommended spec.

    Wondering however, how can I tell if I need to replace the chain/sprocket ? Is there a general way of testing to give me an idea?

    What's the average cost of chain + front/rear sprockets and where do you guys buy them from ? Any recommendations ?

    Thanks in advance :)
  2. Your owners manual should show how to check, often it's by pulling the chain away from the back of the rear sprocket, if it comes clear by X measurement, it (and probably the sprockets) are too worn. Sometimes it might be by measuring the length of 10 links or similar and if the length exceeds X than it is too worn.
    Visual inspection of the rear sprocket is a good clue too, hook shaped teeth are a good sign that things have worn out.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Old rule of thumb is if you pull the chain off the sprocket where is is furthest back you should not be able to
    get a standard pencil through the gap.
    Having said that I reckon half the height of the sprocket tooth is worn enough.
    • Agree Agree x 3
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Yep, the old pencil-through-the-gap trick.

    The other way to tell is if you run out of adjustment on the swingarm.

    The front sprocket usually wears out 3 x faster than the rear one, as it spins 3 x for every rotation of the rear.

    If you replace the front every 10k, or so, you'll extend the life of the whole assembly.

    I just did mine again at 19k, (first change @ 10k) and it was showing wear again, as expected. It cost me $30.00 from a bike shop + 20mins in my shed (no special tools required) and she's quieter now too, which is a bonus.

    The front wears, which damages the chain, which in turn eats the rear. Classic cause and effect.

    Highly recommend doing this to save yourself some cash. I'm banking on getting around 40-50k from the original chain and rear sprocket.
  5. Thanks guys :), I had a look earlier and couldnt really pull the chain from the rear sprocket. Ill have another attempt just to double check.

    Regarding the swingarm adjustment.. I 'think' it may be at its limit or close to it.

    Was it only 30$ for the front sprocket ? or a pack ?
  6. The pull it off the teeth of the rear sprocket is a good indicator of a worn chain. This slack is caused by wear in the pins and rollers. It's a reliable sign. If you can fit a pencil through that gap, then your chain is WELL overdue for replacement, and it has already wearing your sprockets significantly.

    Many chains wear unevenly, particularly those which are hand lubricated. Early things to look for include noisiness when underway, On a centre stand, rotate the wheel. You may see the the chain tension change significantly as it makes circuits around the sprockets. If it becomes difficult to adjust the chain accurately, adjust - you think its right, you rotate the chain and it goes tight or gets way loose as it is rotated, adjust with the chain at point where the chain is at the tightest and replace VERY SOON

    Another thing, you can see on a chain that is on the way out often, are damaged O-rings and if the shadows are long and you can see your chain in the shadow, you will see it bounce and flap at a steady speed. Chains do this anyway due to slight variations in tension caused by throttle and suspension travel, but if this is real obvious, particularly if the chain is noisy - (badly worn chains have a characteristic hissing sort of sound this is the sound of the rollers slapping the teeth of the chain because they don't quite match), a chain and sprocket set is way overdue.

    I've never run a chain to the limit of adjustment possible. Anybody who considers removing a link to gain some adjustment is a bit of a fool. (either the chain was too long to begin with or they have let it go way too long)

    A well maintained chain driven motorcycle is delight to ride. A new chain and sprocket set on some of the horrors I've seen getting around would improve the smoothness of the ride significantly - like replacing tyres.

    $30 for a front sprocket is in the "ball park" You get what you pay for in chains and sprockets. I bought a cheap rear one once that was not even round enough to use. DID is a good brand (its a big brand and has a range of quality standards) , I've never had a substandard product from Chain Gang either. They are often most economical to get in sets from the same supplier.
  7. I knew my chain was worn out when some if the links got "sticky". They didn't flex and bend evenly. I bought a replacement set, but had a long (1000 km) ride two up before I got he chance to do the replacement. By the end of the ride the chain was audibly "clunking" under heavy acceleration. It was concerning, but we made it home fine.

    I would try to bend each of the links, and if any are sticky, replace the set (chain and both sprockets) asap.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. if it looks like this... it's screwed :D
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  9. Why exactly do they begin to look like this?
  10. because the inside of the links has run out of lubrication, the pins are being ground up, the metal dust escapes past the O-rings, and then quickly rusts.. making the red dust of death.

    I found mine doing that, and sure enough, the pins were stuffed
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. Hey guys,

    Thanks for all the feedback :)

    I did a little service on my bike the other day and thought I'd check out the front sprocket to see how it looks... must say though, the area in the engine where the front sprocket it.. wow, much oily dirt :/ .. cleaned it all up, looks good. Took a pic of the front sprocket, are you guys able to tell me how it looks to you? to me, it looks 'ok'.. maybe a little sharkfinning..maybe?



    I've checked online, to get a rough price of what a sprocket/chain kit would cost.. wondering if you guys could recommend a cheap (yet decent) kit / brand? Not after high performance stuff as this is only for commuting / touring?

    Where (in Aus) do you guys find the best prices to be?
  12. Wear and some hooking but it should be fine for a while. Generally though it is best to replace chain and sprockets together.

    RK Chains or DID chains
  13. thanks cj :)

    I decided to jump onto amazon US and see what's available... I managed to cart up these, which allowed shipping to Australia..

    1x JT Sprockets JTF516.16 16T Steel Front Sprocket - $13.79 USD

    1x JT Sprockets JTR823.39 39T Steel Rear Sprocket - $27.40 USD

    1x RK Racing Chain 520-SO-110 110-Links O-Ring Chain with Connecting Link - $$52.82USD

    = $105 AUD .. about $70ish saving compared to Australia [​IMG]

    That being said, these parts are Stock Replacement parts... If I wanted to try a 15t front sprocket instead of the stock 16t .. would i need to..

    1- Replace rear sprocket with 42t (from stock 39t)

    2. Replace chain from stock 110link to higher linkage ?

    Above is also assuming I need to replace.. though I probably should..

    Thanks again [​IMG]
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Water has got past the O-Rings into the space between the pins and bushes, normally occupied by grease. Rust has developed and now the rust is escaping out past the O-Rings. This is why oil is your best chain lubricant (repels water and keeps the O-Rings pliable) and why one should never use a pressure washer to wash chains (forces water and grit past the 0-Rings).

    Here is a link (will be slow to load) which shows the anatomy of a motorcycle roller chain. The yellow area is filled with grease in a new chain. Damage to the sealing rings (X ring or O ring) will let the grease out, allow water and grit in and that spells doom for your chain.

    O Ring and X Ring Chains ¦ Motorcycle Chains ¦ Technical Help ¦ Bike Torque Racing
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  15. Just replace your chain when it snaps and takes out your leg and bunches up at the front destroying your engine cases ;)
    • Funny Funny x 1
  16. I changed my front sprocket to a 17 tooth for touring. It dropped about 400rpm in 6th gear. The reason that after 9,000km I've gone back to a 16 tooth, is that, I found on even slight inclines at 100km/h, it would chug a bit and drop off speed. Particularly with a pillion. This made 5th gear a necessary choice, more often that I liked.

    Now, order has been restored in the world. For me, and my intended usage, seems Mr and Mrs Suzuki got the gearing right after all. It was good to experiment, though.

    So the answer to your question is: You CAN go down a tooth on the front, without touching the back. Keep in mind, every tooth on the front, is worth 3 at the rear. Going up 3 back there will keep your chain adjustment (overall chain length) in a similar position and make the bike a lot more responsive in all gears, at all RPMs.

    Good luck.
    • Agree Agree x 1