A Leather Gloved Hand Adjusting A Motorcycle Chain

Using Kerosene to Clean Motorcycle Chain [Is It OK?]

The chain is an integral component of your motorcycle that directs the power to the rear wheel. No chain – no go! 

When you’re off-roading frequently, it doesn’t take much time for the gunk to get deposited on the chain.

So, it’s not rocket science that properly maintaining your chain isn’t an option, but a necessity. Ignore it and the chain will wear out faster you can say ‘Bonga Bonga’.

And kerosene is one of the best choices for cleaning a motorcycle chain

Yes, it’s a bit smelly. But stay with me, and I will tell you what makes cleaning motorcycle chains with kerosene one of the best options.

Why is it Important to Clean the Motorcycle Chain?

A Motorcycle Chain With A Buildup Of Gunk

Now, motorcycle chains can be plain or sealed. A plain chain has direct metal-on-metal links. These are usually found in vintage bikes or off-road motorcycles.

A sealed chain has rubber seals (O-rings or X-rings) between the metal links that keep the grease inside the connecting pins. This helps to keep the chain clean and increase its life span.

Even though sealed chains are expensive, they offer better performance and consume less lube oil.

No wonder, they are the popular choice in most modern motorcycles.

It goes without saying, motorcycle chains aren’t fully enclosed. So, the poor thing is subjected to the thrashings of the harsh environment at all times. So, what happens when you don’t clean the chain?

Well, it causes two things. Firstly, the abrasive grit that gets accumulated on the chain wears down the chain components and the sprockets. 

Next, the lack of lubrication can dry out the seals and increase friction between the metal parts. The result is the same- damage to the chain components and sprockets.

(Someday you’re gonna drive Sherlock jobless with those deduction skills.)

Kerosene has been around for a long time and finds use as jet fuel to cooking fuel. And very few oils are as versatile as kerosene. It’s a super-effective degreaser too.

Is It Safe to Clean a Motorcycle Chain With Kerosene?

A Large White Tank Of Kerosene

Cleaning with kerosene is completely safe for the chain.

Kerosene has a complex chemical structure and mostly consists of compounds like paraffin and naphthenes. This also makes it an excellent cleaning agent without any corrosive side effects.

If you haven’t used it before, you will be surprised to find out how fast it works.

In fact, even the best chain cleaner kits on the market have kerosene as one of their components. Moreover, it’s cheap and is readily available. 

The fact is, you can’t use harsh cleaners on chains with seals. It will simply damage the O-rings and you will have no other option than to replace the unit.

On the other hand, cleaning motorcycle chains with kerosene will not damage the rubber seals.

A word of CAUTION:

We all know that kerosene is highly flammable and has a low flash point. So, use it with caution and ensure there are no nearby ignition sources.

Also, make sure you clean your bike in an airy space with good airflow. We wouldn’t recommend inhaling kerosene vapors in an enclosed space.

If the smell is an issue, leave your bike in an open space after cleaning. The smell should go away after a few rides.

How to Clean the Motorcycle Chain With Kerosene?

Gloved Hand Using Spray On Degreaser On A Motorcycle Chain

Cleaning the motorcycle chain with kerosene is simple. You can clean the chain every time you apply the lubricant spray. Using these two activities as a pair is good for your bike.

If you’re riding in non-dusty conditions, cleaning and lubricating the chain every 500 miles should be good enough. Plain chains need more frequent cleaning. Check your owner’s manual for more specific instructions.

However, ff your chains are caked with mud and grime, don’t count the kilometers. Clean them immediately. Remember, gunk is as bad to motorcycle chains as kryptonite is to Superman!

And we also recommend using a pair of rubber gloves to keep your hands clean and smell-free.

 Here are the steps you can take.

  1. Firstly, set the bike up on a stand. If you don’t have a stand, you will have to move the bike around to get access to the entire chain. If you’re using a paddock stand, engage the gearbox in neutral to allow the rear wheel to move freely
  2. Put the kerosene in a spray can and spray it on the chain thoroughly. (It’s cheap, so don’t hesitate to be liberal.) Give the oil a few minutes to settle down.
  3. Then you can rub the chain with a clean rug or towel. We suggest that you also use a cleaning brush for scrubbing. This will help you to remove the grit more effectively from the chain components. A cleaner surface will also help the lube oil to penetrate more effectively.
  4. Once the chain is clean, use a piece of cloth to rub off the excess oil.
  5. If the first round of cleaning wasn’t able to get rid of the entire chain grime, go for a second round. 
  6. Let the chain dry for an hour so that the kerosene evaporates. Then spray the lubricant across the chain to cover all the surfaces. And don’t be tempted to start the bike at this stage. That’s too risky. Always rotate the rear wheel by hand.

Great! That sounds easy.

Hold on. There’s something else.

This one-to-one personal interaction with the chain is also a great time for a thorough inspection to check chain wear and symptoms of a loose chain.

Basically, the chain components are held together by the master link. Check them for any signs of weakness. Also, check for loose pins, and damaged rollers.

Besides, you need to check the sprockets too. The sprocket teeth should be flat and not sharp like that of a man-eating shark from wear. Also, there shouldn’t be any broken or chipped teeth.

Note, changing either the chain or the sprocket isn’t a good idea. For the best fit, you need to replace both together.

And while you are at it, why not check the tire tread as well? (Mashing two potatoes with one fork, eh!)

What about using cleaners other than kerosene to clean motorcycle chains?

There are plenty of good chain cleaners on the market. You can even pick an environmentally friendly biodegradable degreaser.

But when it comes to a cheap and effective choice, kerosene is hard to beat.

Are we all done?

Time to go for a ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Very Muddy Motorcycle Engine

Is kerosene good for chain cleaning?

Kerosene is a good choice for motorcycle chain cleaning. However, you can’t use it as a chain lubricant.

Which kerosene is best to clean motorcycle chains?

You can use the kerosene available in gas stations or hardware stores. Just don’t use any variety of cleaning fluid by mistake.

Can I use diesel to clean the chain?

Diesel can be used to clean the motorcycle chain as well. The only thing is, you may find it more strongly smelling than kerosene.