Easy fixes for a dirty or noisy bike chain

Easy fixes for a dirty or noisy bike chain

Don’t let a dirty or noisy bike chain spoil your ride. With the tips below, you can easily clean or fix your chain at home and be back on the road in no time.

Problem: My chain is caked in dirt

Solution: Deep clean it using a few household items. A chain that has become caked in dirt over a period of time may not come clean when treated with degreaser. However, you can restore it to pristine condition with some more aggressive cleaning.

  1. Split the chain with a chain tool and remove it from the cogs and derailleurs. Scrub the chain with degreaser to remove as much dirt as possible.
  2. Arrange the chain in a single coil in the bottom of a cheap or old pan. Pour a strong (1:10) mixture of detergent and water over the chain and then heat the pan to bring it to a boil. It’s best to do this on a camping stove outdoors rather than in the kitchen, as it is a smelly process. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer the chain for a few minutes. This treatment will dissolve any congealed grease.
  3. Drain off the liquid and repeat, this time using only clean water.
  4. Drain again and heat once more, this time with no liquid at all, to evaporate any moisture in the chain.
  5. Allow the chain to dry fully before reinstalling it using the chain tool.

Problem: My chain is noisy

Solution: Clean and lubricate it properly to ensure a smooth ride. A dirty transmission is one of the most common causes of gear problems. Ironically, over-lubricating your chain and cogs can make your gear-shifting even worse.

  1. Clean the chain and cogs by scrubbing them with degreaser, then rinse them with water and allow to dry.
  2. Lubricate the chain sparingly, applying a drop of lubricant to each barrel on the chain, not the connecting links, and turn the pedals 10 times to spread the lubricant.
  3. Leave for five minutes to allow the lubricant to penetrate into each barrel, then wipe off any excess with a clean rag.

Problem: My chain makes a rubbing sound

Solution: Check the chain and chain rings. A kink – two seized sections of chain – can cause the chain to rub; a loose chain ring on the crank arm can have the same effect.

  1. Lubricate the chain by dribbling lubricant along the full length of the chain and on both sides. Use a piece of cardboard as a shield to protect the rim.
  2. Loosen any kinks by working them back and forth.
  3. There are five or six bolts that mount the chain ring to the crank arm – make sure that they are fully tightened.

The right tool for the job

To remove or install a bike chain, you’ll need a simple and inexpensive device called a chain tool, which you can buy from any bike store. The tool is comprised of a shaft connected to a screw thread and handle, and a clamp that firmly holds a chain link.

  • To break a chain, position a link in the tool, then screw the shaft clockwise to dislodge the pin holding together two adjacent chain links.
  • To install a chain, use the tool in reverse, pushing the pin in to join adjacent links together.

Keeping your chain in good working order is an important part of overall bike maintenance and doing so is easy with the simple fixes described above.


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