5 Symptoms of a Loose Motorcycle Chain (And How to Fix!)

5 Symptoms of a Loose Motorcycle Chain (And How to Fix!)

Wondering what are the symptoms of a loose chain in your motorcycle?

In this blog post, we cover the symptoms and effects of a loose chain, the main reasons for it, and the remedies and preventive measures that you can adopt to avoid your motorcycle chain from becoming loose.

The major symptoms of a loose chain include:

  • Chain teeth skipping over the sprocket
  • Loss of power and uneven acceleration
  • Jerky wheel movements
  • Chain slapping the swindle arm
  • Chain coming off the sprocket

That’s the gist.

Let’s look into each one of the symptoms when the motorcycle chain is loose.

Symptoms of a Loose Chain on a Motorcycle

Here are the major symptoms that you can see while riding a motorcycle with a loose chain.

#1. Chain teeth skipping over the sprocket

If the chain is too slack, it can skip over the teeth in the sprockets.

Motorcycle chain dirty and unclean

As a result:

The loosened chain starts skipping over the teeth.

For a smooth transmission in the motorcycle, the chain must smoothly roll over the sprockets.

But a loosened chain will have too much slack to roll properly.

The chain won’t transmit right. Skips over the teeth. And cause power and acceleration problems. Which brings us to the next point.

#2. Loss of power and uneven acceleration

A loose chain leads to a loss of power on a motorcycle.

Motorcycle throttle

The chain transmits the power from the engine to the rear wheel.

When the chain is loose, the chain skips over the teeth (as discussed earlier).

The chain skipping over the teeth leads to uneven transmission of power from the engine to the wheel.

As a result:

There will be a loss of power. Uneven acceleration. the motorcycle speed will unevenly oscillate without any intervention from the rider.

#3. Jerky wheel movements

Throughout the continuum of loosened chain operating, there will be uneven transmission of power to the wheel.

And since the wheel is not receiving the power from the chain properly, the speed continuously dwindles.

Motorcycle Alloy Wheel

This uneven transmission leads to a continuous barrage of jerky wheel movements.

So, whenever you feel the jerks coming from your wheel coupled with the chain lash sound, stop the motorcycle first.

Check for a loosened chain immediately.

#4. Chain slapping the swindle arm

As the chain gets more loose, it starts slapping on the swindle arm.

You start hearing loud slapping sounds from the chain.

Especially when you are speeding up.

Motorcycle chain loosened

The slapping noise is a big giveaway that the chain is loosened.

One can easily hear the sound of chain slapping. Loud clunking noises.

And it’s a clear indicator for you to check the chain immediately.

If left unchecked, we would be going into the red territory now.

#5. Chain coming off the sprocket

There will be a chain lash and a jerky feeling when you speed up the motorcycle coupled with a chain lash sound.

And after some time, the chain will come off the sprocket.

Motorcycle chain loosened and coming off the sprocket

Once the chain comes off the sprocket, the transmission to the wheel will halt.

As a result, your motorcycle will come to a halt.

In some cases, the chain can get damaged and break as well.

Motorcycle chain broken

The chain coming off of the sprocket is the final stage symptom of a loose chain.

But it can get dangerous if you are riding at high speeds or on a high-traffic road.

So, it’s better to be cautious and check the chain from the above symptoms rather than wait till it comes off.

Reasons for a Loose Chain

Here are the main reasons why your motorcycle chain is loose.

  • Chain and sprocket have worn out: A worn-out chain and sprocket is a common cause for the loosened chain in your motorcycle. When you pull the chain away from the rear end of the sprocket and if you can see any wear and tear there, the chain has become loose because of the worn out sprocket.
  • Rust in the Chain: A rusty chain and sprocket can also be the cause of a loosened chain. Examine the entire length of the chain for any signs of rust and damage.
  • Rear axle is stripped: This is the most common cause. Inspect the threads on both the axle nut and the axle to see if they are mangled or rounded off. Another way to check axle stripping is by examining the tension of the chain while tightening.

Is it okay to ride when the motorcycle chain is loose?

Absolutely not.

Riding a motorcycle when you have a loose chain can get risky.

No matter the speed at which you are driving, there is a high probability that the action will result in massive damage both to you and the motorcycle.

Motorcycle chain loosened

Chances are, with a loosened chain, you are going to have jerky wheels every other second.

And if your luck runs out and the chain comes off the sprocket, you are going to fall off the road along with the motorcycle.

In the case that you are riding the motorcycle at a higher speed, the potential damage would be far too much.

So, to avoid such events of massive damage – both to you and the motorcycle – do NOT ride the motorcycle when the chain is loose.

How to repair a loosened motorcycle chain?

First, for a one-off chain loosening, tightening the chain is the solution.

A guy measuring the motorcycle chain slack with a ruler

If the chain has become loose or had too much slack, you just need to adjust the slack and tighten it.

If you want to DIY, here is our detailed guide on chain tightening.

Second, for damaged or worn-out cases, you must replace the chain entirely.

If the chain is loosening because of rust or because the sprockets have worn-out, then the solution is to replace the motorcycle chain with a new one.

Motorcycle chain old and filled with dirt

Third, if the rear axle is stripped, you need to repair or replace the rear axle nuts.

The solution here varies from adjusting the slack and tightening the nuts to even replacing your rear axle.

If it’s some simple strip, you can tighten the nuts.

Motorcycle rear axle bolt tightening

But if the threads are damaged, you have to replace the axle nut entirely.

If you are unsure, take the motorcycle to the dealer or a service shop.

Preventive Measures

If you do not have any chain loosening problems as of now, here are the preventive measures you can take to not face this issue.

  • Check for any sign of rust or worn-out teeth in the chain and sprocket every 3 months.
  • Clean the chain sprocket with a maintenance spray frequently, especially after a long ride where you have run the motorcycle over muddy roads.
  • Lubricate the chain and sprocket regularly. The thumb rule is to lubricate for every 5,000 miles you drive.
  • Ask your mechanic to adjust the chain tension whenever you take your motorcycle for servicing. Maintaining the chain tension and adjusting it whenever required go a long way in avoiding worn-out chain teeth.

Before you go…

Here are a few more posts on motorcycle chain that might interest you further: