I've got to replace the timing chain on a XS400 motorcycle. To do this I must break the chain, then connect it back up once it's in position.

I've been practicing on the broken chain, which has already been removed, with a chain breaker. I can break the chain and remove the pins fine, but when it comes to replacing them I have problems.

The pin won't seat in the chain so I can't use the riviting punch to push it through the link. Sometimes I end up bending the pin, or at the very least, it slips out to the side.

Is there some way I can seat the pin in the chain links before I use the rivet tool to flatten the heads?

  • is that really the proper procedure or are you trying to avoid pulling the sprockets?
    – agentp
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 22:38
  • @agentp On this particular engine the timing chain is between the 2 (inline) cylinders (who does this!?!). I'm not sure there's even a way to remove the crank sprocket from the crank.
    – MeltingDog
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 23:04
  • relevant .. xs400.com/threads/a-master-link-issue.14699
    – agentp
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:21

2 Answers 2


I would recommend taking a link off the chain and using a master link (pictured below). This is typically a link with a removable plate and is commonly used to reconnect chains that have been broken. Make sure you get the correct size for the chain you have. An extra advantage of this approach is if you need to remove the chain again, you only need to remove a spring clip rather than having to go through the whole process of breaking the chain again.

To install it, the process for the typical style of link is to place the pins into the links you've removed pins from, set the opposite plate onto the pins, then set the spring clip onto the pins and squeeze the clip with pliers around the pin and spring clip.

example master link

  • As an aside, I've never managed to actually re-rivet a chain using only the previously pressed rivet and that kind of tool. If I had to guess, one way to do it might be to leave the pin in the freezer for a while and heat up the chain at the point you're reconnecting it at, to get as much clearance as possible
    – Ceshion
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 13:26
  • Some timing chains are double row - can you get these for that type of chain?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 16:20
  • @SolarMike You mean like this?
    – Ceshion
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 17:29
  • Just checking: is this kind of thing safe to use inside an engine at high RPM?
    – MeltingDog
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 22:26
  • I haven't done timing chains before, but this is how I've always done and seen fastening for motorcycle drive chains so I'd say it's probably safe
    – Ceshion
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 22:49

this is what I ended up doing.

  1. Punched out a link from the old chain with the chain breaker. I got one from the old chain as I didn't want to damage the new chain when removing the pin. I'd use this old pin as my master pin.
  2. Used a Dremel to grind the head off a pin on the new chain. This wrecked the pin but ensured I could remove it without damaging the chain links. I then removed that pin and tossed it.
  3. With a vice and Dremel I carefully ground off the 'mushroom head' of the pin from the old chain. I didn't shorten the pin, just slightly ground the sides so it would slide through the chain links easily without damaging them.
  4. Using a wire hook and a 'grabbing' tool I threaded the chain around the engine's crank sprocket. I then used wire to temporarily link the chain (keeping the links I wanted to join clear of wire of course). I used a screw driver in place of the camshaft for the time being so the chain wouldn't fall back down into the crank case.
  5. I used rags to cover the engine as best as possible to prevent anything falling into the crank case. I then used the chain breaker with a flat end punch to just seat the new pin (smooth, grinded side first) in the chain links.
  6. Once the pin was seated I took a small hammer and tapped the pin through the link. I had a friend hold the chain against a solid flat metal surface (in my case the side of the chain breaker) to act as a sort of horizontal anvil.
  7. With the pin positioned correctly with the hammer (you can tap it back the other way if you've gone too far) I tested the chain to see if the link had become stiff.
  8. Finally, using the 'horizontal anvil' technique above I used a rivet punch to re-mushroom the head of the pin. Again I tested the chain to see of it was stiff.
  9. Then I replaced the screwdriver with the actual camshaft and sprocket.

I would not recommend attempting this technique by yourself.

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