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I'm aware of how important they are, but have been coming up empty in my searches to determine if they're worn to the point of needing replacement. The service manual just says to inspect and replace as necessary (as a set). I don't see anything I can measure to determine if there is any wear? Obviously there's a point somewhere in between waiting for it to fail and replacing it every time I ride... :-)

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What's the make & model of your motorcycle? Also, what's the make & model of chain? How many km/mi has the chain done so far? – SparKot Mar 9 '14 at 14:12
Worn out sprockets and Worn Sprockets – SparKot Mar 9 '14 at 14:22
1994 Suzuki GSX600FR Katana. Unknown make/model chain. Unknown mileage on the chain. – Brian Knoblauch Mar 9 '14 at 20:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I got this advice from this website:

Go to your rear sprocket and pull straight back on the chain. If your chain pulls away from the sprockets by much, it is probably stretched out. If the chain does not pull away and stays right on the sprocket, then the chain is not stretched out yet. Also, if your sprockets no longer look like points but a bunch of little hooks you need to replace it all. Another wear indication is tight links or kinks in the chain. This is caused by a lack of lube that has caused links stick.

The most common way to know if your chain needs to be replaced comes from measuring your slack. As a chain wears, grooves are cut into the pins which gives the illusion of chain-stretch. No chain wears perfectly even so every chain will develop a variance in the chain slack measurement. If the variance between the tight spots and loose spots of the chain become too great, you'll want to replace the chain. If the chain is not replaced at this point, the variances in slack will put a lot of stress on the sprockets. Replace the chain early and most times you can run two chains to one set of sprockets.

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Thank you very much for the info provided. – user9758 Mar 14 at 21:18

The rule-of-thumb I was taught is to pull the chain away from the back of the sprocket. If the chain pulls away by more than half a roller it's time to replace it.

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According to both the Chilton workshop manual and the Clymer workshop manual for Norton 750 and 850 twins, remove the chain from the motorcycle. (I temporarily connect a spare chain to the rear chain to make reinstalling the chain easier.)

Lay the chain on a flat surface and compress all the links together. Measure the length of the chain and write that measurement down. Now stretch the chain, re-measure it, and write that measurement down. Chilton: "The maximum acceptable extent of chain wear is about 1/4" per foot. If the chain stretches more than this amount, the hardened surfaces on the bearings will have worn through and the chain should be replaced. If the chain has reached this point, removing a link is not the proper remedy."

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