Can A Loose Motorcycle Chain Cause Vibration?


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Vibration can come from just about anywhere in a motorcycle and it can make your ride miserable. A vibrating motorcycle  is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also scary and would make any rider uneasy. Many may wonder if a loose motorcycle chain is the culprit to this vibration.

Can a loose motorcycle chain cause vibration? A loose motorcycle chain is a possible cause of vibrations felt throughout a motorcycle. The vibration may be caused by the chain being too loose or too tight, debris build-up in the chain, or the rear drive sprocket may be faulty. It’s also possible that an incorrectly sized chain link has been installed.

The motorcycle chain is an essential component of your motorcycle, transmitting power from the engine to the rear wheel. A loose chain can lead to various problems, including vibration, which can affect the performance of your motorcycle and make it less enjoyable to ride. In this article, we will discuss whether or not a loose motorcycle chain is causing the vibration on your motorcycle and what you can do to fix it.

Why A Loose Motorcycle Chain Can Cause Vibration

Vibration is a common issue that riders face, and it can be caused by a number of factors including a loose chain. A loose chain can cause the rear wheel to move in an uneven manner, which can result in unwanted vibration. The vibration can be felt in the handlebars, seat, and footpegs, making it difficult to control the motorcycle and reducing your riding comfort.

In addition to causing vibration, a loose chain can also increase the wear and tear on the engine and transmission. The extra slack in the chain can put unnecessary  stress on these components, which can lead to damage and reduce the lifespan of your motorcycle.

To prevent a loose chain from causing vibration, it’s important to regularly inspect and adjust the chain’s tension. If the chain is too loose, you will need to tighten it and if it’s too tight, you will need to loosen it, all of which can be done in the comfort of your own garage. You should also check the chain for heavy wear and replace it if it’s damaged. Refer to your owners manual for the exact amount of play required for your specific motorcycle chain.

How To Tell If It’s The Chain Causing Your Motorcycle To Vibrate

One of the first signs of a loose chain causing vibration is a wobbling rear wheel. If you notice that the wheel is moving from side to side as you ride, it’s a clear indication that the chain is too loose. When the chain has too much slack, it allows the wheel to move in an uneven manner, causing the motorcycle to vibrate.

Another way to tell if it’s your chain that’s causing the vibration is to inspect the chain for wear. A worn or damaged chain can cause the motorcycle to vibrate because it allows the wheel to move around in a way that it shouldn’t.  If you notice any damaged links, or if the chain has become stretched, it’s time to replace it.

In addition to inspecting the chain, you should also check the chain tension. The ideal chain tension is typically between 25-35mm of play when pressed at the midpoint of the chain. Adjust the chain if needed.  Again, refer to your owner’s manual to learn the exact amount of tension that is required on your motorcycle.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at the rear sprocket.  The sprocket is what delivers the power to the rear wheel given by the chain, so if this isn’t working right then the chain probably won’t work right either. This can ultimately cause a vibration on your motorcycle.  If you notice the sprocket teeth are looking too sharp or there isn’t a consistency in thickness or spacing, you may have found your culprit.

Assess the last time the chain was replaced altogether. If you recently replaced it and your motorcycle started having vibration issues around the same time, it’s likely your chain causing the issue. It’s a common mistake to install the wrong size of chain specific to your motorcycle. The chain link spacing needs to coincide with the sprocket teeth spacing. This is why it’s important you do your research and purchase the right chain your motorcycle needs.

If you’re still unsure if it’s your chain that’s causing the vibration, it’s best to consult with a professional mechanic. They can inspect the motorcycle and diagnose the source of the problem. They may also be able to recommend other potential sources of vibration, such as worn or damaged tires, worn suspension components, or misaligned wheels. Click here to learn more about other reasons why your motorcycle has vibration issues.

How To Fix A Loose Motorcycle Chain That Causes Vibration

Fortunately, if a loose motorcycle chain is the culprit to the vibration problem on your motorcycle, there are a few steps you can take to fix it.

First and foremost, you’ll need to inspect the chain for wear. A worn or damaged chain can cause the motorcycle to vibrate, and if you notice any damaged links (such as extreme rust, severely scratched, or completely broken), or if the chain has become stretched, it’s time to replace it.  Please note that a broken motorcycle chain isn’t worth trying to salvage so it’s best to just completely replace it.  Parts like this are fairly inexpensive.

Once you’ve confirmed that the chain is in good condition, you’ll need to adjust the chain tension. The ideal chain tension is typically between 25-35mm of play when pressed at the midpoint of the chain.  At this point, you’ll need to either tighten or loosen the chain on your motorcycle.  

To tighten the chain, you’ll need to adjust the rear axle. Locate the axle nut and loosen it using a socket wrench. Then, turn the axle until the chain is at the desired tension. Finally, tighten the axle nut, making sure that it’s tight enough to keep the chain from moving.

If you have found that you need to completely replace your motorcycle chain, you’ll be happy to learn that you may be able to do this yourself.  Motorcycle chains are fairly inexpensive and easy to install. Refer to your owner’s manual for instructions on how to replace the chain specific to your motorcycle, or simply look up a YouTube video that is specific to your bike.

 To learn more about why a motorcycle chain keeps getting loose, see our article “This Is Why A Motorcycle Chain Keeps Getting Loose.”

How To Prevent A Loose Motorcycle Chain

The first step in preventing a loose motorcycle chain is to regularly inspect it. A worn out motorcycle chain may have some severe rust, warps or bends in the links, or have cracks or breaks somewhere within it.  If this is the case, just replace the entire chain instead of trying to fix it.

It’s important to regularly clean your motorcycle chain.  If not done routinely, you risk dirt and debris build-up that could cause rust or ultimately alter the chain permanently.  A good chain cleaning should be done about every 700 miles or so.

To clean a motorcycle chain, put the bike up on the center stand (with the motorcycle off) and freely spin the back wheel.  While the chain rotates, spray a chain cleaner on it and ensure the entire chain has been coated.  Once that has had a few minutes to soak in, use a sponge or a soft bristled brush to wipe off the debris and cleaner.  Avoid using methods like pressure washers as this could potentially harm the o-rings on the chain.

Another way to prevent a loose motorcycle chain is to regularly lubricate it, especially after you’ve cleaned it. A dry chain can cause friction, leading to excessive wear and tear that can ultimately cause it to come loose. Make sure to use a high-quality chain lubricant and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Lastly, make it a habit to inspect the sprockets on your motorcycle a few times a year.  The health of your sprockets directly impacts the health of your motorcycle chain.  Ensure the sprocket teeth are all spaced evenly, that there is a consistent thickness, and that the teeth have somewhat of flat tops.  A worn out sprocket will have sharper teeth and uneven spaces between them.  It’s usually pretty obvious when the sprocket isn’t looking right.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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