Neglect is one thing. But your motorcycle is much better off with no attention than with an assault from misguided wrenches. Even something as simple as installing a new chain and sprocket can be messed up to the point where you do more damage than good. Here are the dangers and solutions to what should be a simple job.

Even this much wear on a sprocket can damage a brand new chain. Once your chain and sprocket have worn out together, they should be pitched out together.

Look at your knuckles right now. Are they scarred? Are they bleeding? If not, let’s keep them that way and put on gloves before we start. Worn sprocket teeth are bitter about being thrown out and will bite. Also on the equipment list should be a high-quality combination wrench. You won’t be able to get a cheap one on all the nuts.

You really should get new bolts when you replace the sprocket. Not only that, they should be the ones made for your bike. If the replacement bolts are too long they can damage the spokes. If they have the wrong taper they can come loose.

We’ll forgive you if you have to use the old bolts, but for heaven’s sake, clean them. You might even soak old nuts and bolts in contact cleaner to strip off the old thread compound.

Use mild thread compound on the sprocket bolts, NOT red Loctite.

If you’re Jonesing to use the hard stuff, use red Loctite on the heads of the bolts. That will keep the bolts from turning and keep the sprocket tight longer.

When you tighten the sprocket bolts, don’t turn the bolt. Turn the nut only. Again, you can’t do this with a cheap, fat wrench. Motion Pro, Snap-on, Mac or Craftsman Pro make wrenches that have thin wall box-ends that will get over most nuts.

Don’t skimp on the new chain or you will ruin your new sprocket. We’ll shamelessly plug the Krause Sidewinder pictured here because we know it lasts. When you get the wheel back on, connect the old chain to the new one with a masterlink and thread it around the countershaft.

Lay the new chain on the sprocket and mark the link that needs to be cut. You might have to clean some grease off the chain before the ink will stick.

At this point you should get out your trick Motion Pro chain breaker. What? You say it’s still on order? Okay, then break out the grinder and go to town. Grind the marked outer link flat until you can’t see the pins anymore. We’ll forgive you for doing this on the bike because the sprocket holds the chain in place nicely, as long as you temporarily put the masterlink in place on the loose chain before you start. Direct the sparks away from the bike, gas, other people and your coffee.

When the outer plate looks like this, you’re only half there. Keep on grinding until the outer plate is half its original thickness.

Now use a hammer and punch to lightly tap the pins out of the outer plate. You’ll have to kind of guess where those pins are because of the grinding marks.

Now put the masterlink on the shortened chain. Vicegrips work nicely. You know which way the keeper goes, don’t you? Don’t you?

The secret to keep the chain adjuster lock nuts from coming loose is to  turn both the nut and the bolt in the same direction (tighter) for the final snug-up. If you hold the bolt still and only tighten the lock nut, it will probably come loose on the first ride.

When you tighten the axle, you need to make sure that the axle blocks are all the way forward, tight against the adjuster bolt heads. The time-honored way to do this is to stick a wrench between the chain and sprocket. Crude but effective. Now go and do your best to wear it all out again.

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