How to Clean Regular and O-ring Drive Chains

How to clean regular and o-ring drive chains

o-ring chain

Make sure the drive chain is lubricated before each ride. Doing so will avoid unnesessary costs and guarantee longer lifespan of both chain and sprokets.
Don't just grease it in. Always clean it before you grease it in.

In case the drive chain is worn out, chances are the front and rear sprockets are as well. If that is the case, replace not only the chain but the sprockets as well. If you do not replace the old sprockets, they will just wear out the new drive chain to the condition the old drive chain was in, in a small amount of time..

There are 2 types of drive chains; regular drive chains and o-ring drive chains. Most ATVs have o-ring drive chains. If you are not sure wether you carry a regular or o-ring type of drive chain, scroll down to o-ring drive chain.

Regular drive chain

Cleaning a regular drive chain

Always clean the drive chain before lubricating it. By cleaning the drive chain you will avoid wearing out the chain rapidly. You can use gasoline, petrol or filter oil together with a regular brush. A steel-brush is also ok to use onto regular chains. This doesn not apply for o-ring drive chains! Rub off the dirt and worn out grease and wipe it dry with a cloth. You can also use an airgun to blow the drive chain dry.

Lubricateing a regular drive chain

Grease in the sides of the drive chain that comes in contact with the sprockets.

Here are two methods to grease in drive chain:

  1. Unpractical way: Push ATV ahead whilest greasing in the drive chain.
  2. Practical way: Lift the rear wheels in air and grease in the drive chain, while manually turning the rear wheels. You can either use a lift or have the swingarm rest onto a box or anything robust that can carry the weight.

O-ring drive chain

o-ring drive chain

What's an o-ring drive chain?

An o-ring drive chain is more durable drive chain and is therefor a bit more expensive. Most ATV come with an o-ring drive chain. Look for the o-rings on your ATV's drive chain. (see fig.) Inside an o-ring drive chain there are small rubber o-rings filled with grease. The grease inside the o-rings prevent dust and water from entering. This is what sets the chain apart from a regular chain and is why this chain needs another method of cleaning as well as another type of grease.

(fig. top view of o-ring drive chain)

Cleaning an o-ring drive chain:

Before greasing it in, clean it with a regular brush.

  • Wipe the drive chain with a cloth.
  • Put the drive chain in kerosene and remove any remaining dirt with a none-coarse brush. (see fig.)
  • Remove the drive chain from the kerosene and let it dry completely.
clean drive chain with none coarse brush

(fig. remove dirt with none-coarse brush and kerosine solution)

Never use high-pressure water, high-pressure air, steam, gasoline and solvents like benzine to clean the drive chain. High-pressure methods could force dirt or water into the drive chain’s internal parts and solvents will deteriorate the o-rings. A coarse brush, like a steel-brush, can also damage the o-rings. Thus only use kerosene to clean the drive chain. Also, do not soak the drive chain in kerosene longer than 10 minutes to prevent damaging the o-rings.

After this cleaning process, spray on some WD40 to protect the chain from rust.

Lubricating an o-ring drive chain

The most important components that need lubrication are the o-rings themselves; more important than the joints.

WARNING: Do not use regular drive chain grease. If you do, it will wear out the o-ring drive chain and cause it to break. To avoid damage you need to get a lubricate that is specialy made for o-ring drive chains.

Here are two methods to grease in chain:

  1. Unpractical way: Push ATV ahead whilest greasing in the drive chain.
  2. Practical way: Lift the rear wheels in air and grease in the drive chain, while manually turning the rear wheels. You can either use a lift or have the swingarm rest onto a box or anything robust that can carry the weight.

Important remarks

drive chain retaining clip direction

Drive chains with retaining clip

If you have a drive chain with a retaining clip, make sure the front (round) end of the clip is pointing in the direction the chain travels in. The back (open) end of the clip should be pointing opposite the chain travel direction. This way you are preventing the clip to come off while riding. Also, if you unlock the drive chain for maintenance reuse the retaining clip only one more time, before putting on a new clip.

Drive chain maintenance recap

  • Before each ride, check, clean and lubricate the chain if required.
  • Do not grease in, before properly cleaning.
  • Don not use coarse brushes on o-ring chains.
  • No need to over-lubricate.
  • Use a special lubricant for o-ring drive chain.
  • If your chain is worn out, replace all components (front-sprocket, rear-sprocket and drive chain) together, not just the chain.
drive chain tention

Drive chain tention

When tightening the chain, make sure you allow to to have a slack of 25 to 35 mm. (see a on fig.) Check the drive chain slack at the position shown in the illustration. To check the drive chain slack, all tires must be touching the ground and there should be no weight on the seat.

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