How to Clean a Dirt Bike Chain? – 7 Steps to Do

Written by

James Stevens

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Robert A. Verdin

how to clean a dirt bike chain

While you may already be comfortable with your chain cleaning system, knowing how to clean a dirt bike chain properly is beneficial to maximize its life potential and save money.

But since maintaining your final drive parts can be messy and time-consuming, you may follow these basic steps that don’t have to be so untidy.

Either way, nothing is difficult for motorcycle enthusiasts who want their two wheels to work at the right speed and safety.

Step-by-step Guide

Done regularly, you’ll ace these steps sooner than you think, with most of the tools coming from your bike’s cleaning kit.

What to prepare:

  • Rear wheel or Paddock stand
  • Grunge brush or spiral brush
  • Motorcycle Chain Cleaner
  • Motorcycle Chain Lube
  • Cleaning wipes or Microfibre cloths
  • Cardboards
  • Garden Hose (optional)
  • Pliers / Chain removal tool (optional)
  • Small Basin (optional)

Step 1: Turn the Engine Off


A first step and a safety measure, ensure your bike is completely turned off. If you’ve just got off a ride, let the bike cool down after switching it off.

Step 2: Lift the Rear Tire Using a Rear Paddock Stand


Lift the rear tire using a rear paddock stand so you can turn it freely during cleaning.

This step can be difficult without a stand, so, you can either have a DIY stand or lend a helping hand. Your friend can help you lift the rear tire when it’s time to move the wheels.

Once lifted, put a cardboard sheet below and in front of the rear tire. It will protect the floor and the tire from dripping lube and cleaner.

Step 3: Clean up the Bike with Water (optional)


If your bike chain has too much dirt or mud, you may wash it with water and do some light scrubbing using a brush to reduce build-ups.

You may use a garden hose, but spray water at low pressure because high pressure can move or displace the chain’s O-rings.

Lastly, wipe the wet chain before moving to the next step.

Step 4: Spray Chain Cleaners


This step can be done in two ways:

  • Leave the chain on

Spray and soak the chain with a generous amount of your chosen dirt bike chain cleaner. It will remove the stuck grease and dirt from the chain.

  • Remove the chain


Another option is to remove the chain from the sprockets and clean it separately. You don’t have to do this every time you clean the chain. You can keep it well-maintained even if you do the work with a chain attached.

However, if you need to inspect the chain’s condition thoroughly or it’s so grimy and rusty, you may follow these:

1. Find the master link of the chain. You can spot this quickly because it either has a clip, or the pins look different.

2. Use a pair of pliers to push the side of the clip with a narrow opening towards the closed end. For rivet-type links, a chain removal tool available online or in hardware and motor supply stores can push the master link’s pin off.

3. When the clip or pin is already out, it will let you split the chain, hold one end and gently pull it from the sprockets.

Once removed, you may place it in a small washbasin and soak it in cleaners to dissolve grease and dirt.

Step 5: Scrub the Chain with Brushes


Scrub the links and rollers by fitting the grunge brush on the big sprocket side to clean the outer part of the chain.

With your other hand, manually spin the tire while you scrub up and down to thoroughly remove the dirt trapped on all sides of plates and rollers.

Next is to scrub the chains underneath, but this time, it’s sideways left and right as you turn the wheel to clean every part of the inner surface of the chain.

If your chain has thick dirt and is rusty, you may use a brass brush. Make sure you inspect and remove grime around your sprockets and chain.

Step 6: Wipe the Chain with Dry Cloth and Repeat Steps if Necessary


Wipe away the residues of dirt and liquids with a dry cloth and repeat the steps as necessary to thoroughly clean the chain.

Step 7: Lubricate the Chain.


When the chain is all dry, apply the motorcycle chain lube.

The best spot to apply lubes is through the underneath chains while slowly spinning the rear wheel with your other hand to distribute the right amount of lube on the entire chain links.

Commonly, lubricating motorcycle chains are done over the inner surface. You can start anywhere underneath, near the sprocket, so long as it can cover the rest of the plates and rollers.

Remember that excessive lubricants may suit standard chains but not sealed ones with rings. Too much grease or oil can cause the O-rings to wear fast.

Once done, lightly wipe the chain with a dry cloth, just enough to remove residues. Finally, allow some time to let the lube to penetrate and stick on both plates’ sides.

If the chain was removed, place it back to the sprockets and attach the clip and pins back through the same tools that detached it.

What to Use to Clean a Motorcycle Chain?

There are a lot of bike cleaners to choose from in the market but stick with your chain manufacturer’s preference or be mindful of its ingredients.

If you’re using chains with O rings, try using Kerosene. You can also use WD40 to clean motorcycle chains. They can be even a better cleaner alternative.

Care and Maintenance Tips for Bike Chains


Here’s some motorcycle chain maintenance that helps you keep it in good condition for smooth rides:

1. Before cleaning the chains or occasionally, check them and the sprockets to see if they’re still in good condition. Chains and sprockets are made to match each other, so if one is no longer in its best form, we recommend replacing both rather than maintaining them to prevent chain breakage.

2. Make sure to choose a durable chain for your motorcycle’s capacity. Always properly fit and aligned.

3. Never ignore noise or chain commotion. Most likely, it’s a call for proper chain inspection and maintenance.

4. Lubricants come in various chain-filling methods; some cans have straws, while you may directly apply the ones with spray caps. Go for lubes that don’t fling a lot, which depends on the type of caps or straws and their chemical composition.

To be on the safe side, buy the one that your chain manufacturer recommends.

How Often Do You Need to Clean a Dirt Bike Chain?


To maintain a healthy motorcycle chain, experts recommend cleaning and lubricating it every 300 to 500 miles of rides. Lubes must be applied once the chain is clean and dry. The goal is to let grease and oil penetrate the inner surfaces of the links, particularly the rings, for more reliable transmission and to prevent rust.

Another thing is when your motorcycle is soaked in the rain. It can wash away lubricants applied to the chains. Thus, you must clean and lube your bike’s chain.

A well-maintained and regularly lubricated chain may last as much as 30,000 miles.

Frequently Asked Question

What are the Types of Bike Chains?

There are two types of bike chains. Standard or plain chains and Sealed chains. Both are assembled or made the same except that sealed chains have rings. Sealed chains have O-rings and X-rings.


Dirt bike chain maintenance can sometimes be sweaty, but bringing it over to a shop could also be an unnecessary effort and time, especially when you have the tools at home and a few steps to follow.

Moreover, knowing your two-wheel’s flaws firsthand and figuring out the best way how to clean a dirt bike chain would save you money, fuel, and safety.

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James Stevens

James Stevens is an expert bike mechanic who knows everything from basic repairs to custom modifications. What sets him apart is his ability to explain complex concepts in a way that's easy to understand. Check out his content on Speedway if you need help with upgrades or modifications for your bike.