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FIX IT: How-to Install a chain

December 9, 2016
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Everyone who owns a chain-driven machine will go through one or two in its life. On 450s and big-bore sport quads, you may go through more. It’s one of the most important parts of your driveline, and you shouldn’t neglect it, so don’t let it rust or get coated in grime. When it is time to replace it, you have a few options. The best option is to simply buy a chain-breaker tool; you can find them at any motorcycle dealership or online from companies like Tusk, Motion Pro and many more. You can find them for under $10 online, but a good-quality kit like the one pictured below from Motion Pro will set you back around $75.

Make sure you know what you’re buying. OEM chains generally don’t have removable master links, but many aftermarket chains do. Make sure that if your new aftermarket chain does not have a master link that you have the proper chain press and rivet tool to install it. Chains without master links are called “endless chains.” We grabbed an ATV O-ring chain from Renthal to install on our Raptor 250, as we purposely exposed the chain to the elements to show you just how bad it can get. A chain in bad condition like this can rob you of 3–4 horsepower easily, and eventually, it will break on the trail and leave you stranded. So, let us show you a couple ways to fix it—the hard way and the easy way.


If you have a chain breaker, like this inexpensive one from Motion Pro, this job will be a lot easier for you. Simply open the tool up by turning both threaded pieces counterclockwise, then clamp the tool over a link using the larger threaded piece. Once the tool is tight on the chain, turn the pin in to press the chain apart. Simple, right?


If you’re too lazy to go spend $15 on a chain breaker, or you’re stuck in a bind and there’s no way to get a hold of one, you can grind the plates off of the stock chain. Using a die grinder, grind the heads of the pressed pins flat to the chain plate, then use a large flathead to pry the plate off of the link. Then, slide the link off the chain and remove the entire thing.

Once the chain is apart, you’re going to want to adjust your chain tensioner in evenly. There are a few different types—the most common being eccentric (snail-type) and threaded adjusters. On the Raptor 250, the adjuster is a threaded type. Loosen the clamp bolts, and turn the adjuster mechanism in so the rear wheels move closer to the engine. You want to have the adjuster about three-quarters of the way fully turned in (wheels closer to engine), as the new chain will stretch as it breaks in.

Thread the new chain onto the sprockets, and determine how many links you will need to remove. For both types of chains (endless and master linked), make sure that when you break the chain to length, you have both open ends of the chain ending on a smaller (internal) link. The master link or final link (for endless chains) will make up one more link. Align the chain on the rear sprocket to hold it in place, and install the master link or end link.


Master links are easy. If it’s an O-ring chain, make sure all the O-rings are properly seated on the pins, then press the link through the chain by hand with the open pins facing outward. Press the other plate on, then hold the plate clip in your hand. Press it against the plate and put the forked opening against the rear pin so that the clip opens to the rear and not the front. Using pliers, pinch the rounded part of the clip against the front pin, and it should clip on with ease. If you install the clip backwards, the clip will pop off as the chain rotates forward, and the chain will come off the machine—and that could be detrimental to your health.


If you have an endless chain, use the press tool to clamp down on the plate and press it onto the pins. A peening rod will be included with the kit to mushroom the heads of the pins so they don’t fall out. This will take more time and effort than a master-linked chain, and isn’t as easy to remove later. After the chain is installed, tighten the chain to proper slack, which is 1/2–3/4 of slack at ride height (with a rider onboard).


Motion Pro: www.motionpro.com or (650) 594-9600
Renthal: www.renthal.com or (877) 736-8425


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