Let’s face it, motorcycle chains are much noisier than shaft or belt drives. Therefore, chain noise on motorcycles is considered acceptable up to a certain point. But if you feel your chain is making more noise than it should, the cause could be various things such as:
- The bike is running on a stand with no load
- Improper chain tension and alignment
- Lack of cleaning and lubrication
- Chain contacts the sprocket cover/chainguard
- Chain is rusty or worn out
- Damaged or worn sprockets
- Loose drive sprocket nut
- The noise is coming from somewhere else (gearbox, primary chain, clutch, bearings, timing chain)
If you want to learn more about these issues and their remedy, you are in the right place.
We as PowerSportsGuide have compiled the best tips on how to fix a noisy motorcycle chain!
Should a Motorcycle Chain Make a Noise?
Yes, unfortunately, each motorcycle chain makes some characteristic noises. The type and the intensity of this “base noise” depends on many factors such as the quality and design of the chain and the sprockets. Some chains generate more noise while others run more smoothly. But if the chain is rattling, slapping, or clicking, it’s always a sign of a lack of maintenance or other malfunctions.
In some cases, you can feel the clanking and the vibration through the footpegs.
To prevent further damage or even a chain break, you should inspect and maintain the chain immediately.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and see what could cause a noisy chain!
Why is my Motorcycle Chain Making Noise?
1. The Bike is Running on the Stand
The general rule is that if your motorcycle is running on the stand, its chain is always much noisier. While sitting on the stand the wheel is in the air and there’s no load on the bike, which always results in a loosened chain and the resulting noise.
This is because the engine power is not constant but slightly pulsating, which causes the chain to oscillate between being loose and tight.
In another words, the front sprocket continuously tightens and loosens the chain, which results in a slapping and rattling noise.
What’s more, since the rear wheel is in the air the chain is at its slackest, which also contributes to the increased noise.
So, if the chain is making noises on the stand while the rear wheel is in the air don’t worry. These sounds typically don’t happen when you’re riding the bike.
Just take it for a quick ride to see how it sounds! If you are lucky, the chin will run more smoothly.
If not, keep in mind that motorcycle chain noises under load are always signs that your chain requires some attention and care.
Let’s move on and check how can you fix it!
2. Improper Tension and Alignment
One of the leading reasons why motorcycle chains can be noisy is improper chain tension/alignment. Too much slack allows the chain to move up and down too much, which often results in a rattling noise.
Check your manual for the correct slack and set the chain tension based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Just like improper tension, chain misalignment can also cause various noises.
When you adjust the tension make sure that the rear sprocket is perfectly aligned.
Besides a visual inspection you may want to check it with the “string method.”
3. Lack of Cleaning and Lubrication
Grinding and clunking noises from a motorcycle chain typically means that it’s dirty or isn’t sufficiently lubricated.
Clean the chain carefully with a brush and kerosene or a chain degreaser spray. Then wipe it off and apply some chain lubricant.
In most cases this simple maintenance can eliminate chain noise!
4. Chain Contacts the Sprocket Cover/Chain Guard
You should also verify that the chain isn’t contacting the sprocket cover or the chain guard.
If one of them is bent, it can even reach the chain causing a chirping noise.
5. Chain is Rusty and/or Worn Out
Let’s face it, motorcycle chains don’t last forever. Each chain has its own wear limit, and if it’s over that limit the chain becomes much noisier.
Besides the excessive wear, rust on a motorcycle chain can also make it much louder and it can even cause the chain to break.
Therefore, to stay safe and reduce the noise it’s recommended that you inspect the chain and replace it if needed.
Sure, new chains are also somewhat noisy.
But as a rule of thumb, this sound shouldn’t be noticeable when you are riding the bike.
You can hear the difference between the sounds of a new and worn-out chain in this video:
6. Motorcycle Sprocket Noise
It’s a lesser-known fact that chain noise can be caused by worn out sprockets.
If the sprockets are bent or worn the chain can’t engage their teeth perfectly.
Another common problem occurs when a new chain is installed on worn sprockets, as they typically don’t fit perfectly.
As you might assume, this mismatch between the sprockets and the chain can produce a lot of noise.
That’s why it’s advisable to replace the sprockets and the chain at the same time!
7. Loosened Front Sprocket Nut
If a motorcycle’s front sprocket is making noise it can be caused by a loose sprocket nut.
Unbolt the sprocket cover and inspect the front sprocket by moving it side-to-side.
If it has any play, it has to be tightened immediately. The required torque is typically stated in the sevice manual.
You may want to check the rear sprocket bolts, too.
8. The Noise is Coming from Somewhere Else
If you can’t find the source of the noise, you have to go one step further, as there are many moving parts around the chain that can make noises too. These mechanical sounds can often be confused with chain noise! Some of these noises are considered normal, while others are signs of malfunctions.
One of the most common is the output shaft bearing noise.
The shaft delivers vibration to the front sprocket and finally to the chain. That’s why the symptom of an output shaft bearing failure is typically chain noise!
What’s more, the transmission, clutch bearing, primary chain, or timing chain can also go wrong and generate various types of music.
How do I Stop My Motorcycle Chain from Making Noise?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to stop your motorcycle chain from making noise:
- Make sure that the chain doesn’t contact the sprocket cover/chain guard.
- Clean and lubricate the chain.
- Adjust the chain tension and alignment.
- Tighten the front sprocket nut if necessary.
- Tighten the rear sprocket bolts if necessary.
- Replace the chain and the sprockets if they are worn out.
- Inspect the primary chain and the transmission for malfunctions.
- Take your bike to a professional.
Motorcycle chain noise after an adjustment is also a clue that the chain tension or alignment is wrong.
Double-check your manual for the right measurement procedure and the recommended amount of chain slack.
Don’t forget to check the tension in more spots on the chain, as there are typically more parts that are too loose and/or too tight in the chain.
If you cannot determine the source of the noise then best practice is to take your bike to a professional!
Related Questions about Motorcycle Chain Noises
What Causes Motorcycle Chain Slap?
In most cases, a slapping motorcycle chain is caused by too much slack or excessive wear. If the bushings and the plates are starting to wear out, it means there’s less and less friction between them. Finally, it ends in loosened connections. Chain slap on a motorcycle is typically even more intense if you are carrying a passenger.
To eliminate chain slap on your bike, first try adjusting its tension.
If this doesn’t help, you should inspect it more carefully by quickly pushing the bottom of the chain.
If the top of the chain double-bounces, or there’s too much free play between the rear sprocket and the chain, this is a clue that it needs to be replaced.
Why Does My Motorcycle Chain Make a Clicking Noise?
It’s safe to say that each motorcycle chain makes some clicking noises due to its design. Chains are made of metal, just like sprockets. When the rollers contact the teeth of the sprockets, they generate little clicking sounds. Proper lubrication and the right chain alignment can reduce this noise to a certain point, but completely eliminating it is impossible.
If this clicking sound is becoming louder it probably means the chain is close to reaching its life cycle.
This is because as the chain ages, more and more links become stiff. As these links cannot embrace around the sprockets perfectly, they become louder when they run over them.
On other hand, clicking sounds on a motorcycle can also be caused by damaged bearings or worn sprockets.
The possible causes of a motorcycle chain making noise are as follows:
- The bike is placed on a stand and runs with no load (its rear wheel is in the air)
- Chain tension and alignment have to be adjusted
- Chain requires careful cleaning and lubrication
- The chain contacts the sprocket cover/chain guard
- Worn out or rusty chain
- Sprockets are worn or damaged
- Drive sprocket nut is loosened
- The noise is caused by something else (bearings, primary chain, clutch, gearbox)
If you can’t eliminate the noise, it’s highly recommended that you have your bike inspected by a professional.
Strange noises are always a sign of a malfunction, which must be investigated immediately.
As a final word, keep in mind that each motorcycle chain generates some noise, even new ones.
If you are looking for something quieter, you should consider a shaft or belt-driven bike, as these machines don’t feature metal drive chains!
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. Always refer to the owner’s manual and stop the engine before you do any maintenance on your bike!