If you ride frequently, your dirt bike chain will eventually stretch enough to need an adjustment. The process of tightening a chain isn’t difficult, but it does require a handful of basic tools. If you’ve never completed the job, we’ll take you through the tools needed and how to tighten a chain on a dirt bike.
Tools Needed to Tighten a Dirt Bike Chain
These are the tools you will need to tighten the drive chain on your dirt bike:
- Dirt bike stand or swingarm stand to hold your dirt bike upright with the rear tire off the ground
- Large crescent wrench or ratchet + socket for the axle nut
- Wrench for the adjustment nut
- Wrench for the adjustment bolt
- Chain adjustment guide, tape measure, or a ruler
Optional tools for proper maintenance:
- Torque wrench (will be used with the socket for the axle nut)
- Your dirt bike owner’s or service manual
- Chain/grease cleaner
- Chain lubricant
- Cleaning towel or rag
- Cleaning brush
- A water source for rinsing the chain (hose, bottled water, etc.)
- Compressed air, hose, and air nozzle
You should reference your dirt bike owner’s manual to determine what size of wrenches and sockets are required for maintenance and adjustment of the chain. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, the same information can typically be found via a search on the internet.
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How to Tighten a Dirt Bike Chain
Tightening the chain on a dirt bike just requires a few steps to maintain peak performance. We will mention cleaning as part of the process, but it will be up to you if you want to clean the chain before or after the adjustment.
Prepare dirt bike
Place the motorcycle on the stand with the rear wheel off the ground. Also, shift the transmission to neutral to allow the rear wheel to turn and chain to move freely.
Loosen axle nut
Loosen the axle nut with either the large crescent wrench or the socket and ratchet.
Loosen chain tension nuts/bolts
Use your smaller wrenches to hold the adjustment bolt on one side of the swingarm and loosen the locking nut on the bolt. Use your fingers to loosen the nut a few turns to allow the bolt to turn freely. Complete the same process on both sides of the swingarm.
Adjust chain tension nuts/bolts
Turn the left (chain side) adjustment bolt counter-clockwise to lengthen it until the chain has the proper amount of tension. Note the position of the alignment mark on the axle block to the mark on the swingarm, and then adjust the right side to match the same position. Your drive chain should have a small amount of slack in it and be able to slightly move up and down. Here is how tight your dirt bike chain should be.
Tighten chain tension nuts/bolts
Once both adjustment bolts are equal and the chain has the proper tension, you can use your small wrenches to tighten the locking nut on each adjustment bolt. Use one wrench to hold the head on the bolt, then use the other to tighten the nut against the swingarm. When the nut contacts the swingarm, turn it ¼-turn more for proper tightening.
Tighten axle nut
To tighten the axle nut properly, it’s recommended to use a torque wrench to achieve the proper clamp load on the nut. Set the wrench to the torque listed in your manual and torque the nut.
At this point the adjustment process is complete, but it is good practice to lubricate the chain after adjustment. If you haven’t cleaned the chain, use a cleaner and brush to clean the chain. If you use water to rinse the chain off, allow it to dry completely or use compressed air to remove all of the water from the chain links. Once it is dry, spray lubricant on the chain as you rotate the wheel. When the complete chain has been lubricated, you’re ready to clean up and go for a ride.
While you’re tightening your chain, you might be thinking you need a new chain, or wondering if dirt bike sprockets are universal. Here is the chain I like to use on my bikes:
Chain Tightening Video
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Tighten a Dirt Bike Chain
You make your dirt bike chain tighter by adjusting the chain tension nuts/bolts near the rear wheel in the swingarm.
You tighten a chain on a pit bike by using the chain tension nuts/bolts near the rear wheel and swingarm.
Dirt bike chains become so loose when they are worn out or improperly set up. Here is how tight your dirt bike chain should be.