How to Adjust the Chain on Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Adjusting the chain on your Vehicles is an important part of your Vehicles maintenance. If you allow the chain to become too loose, it can fall off during operation and become ruined, potentially damaging other parts on the Vehicles. But if you allow the chain to become too tight, it can chew up the Vehicles sprocket and stretch and break the chain. The process of tightening and loosening an Vehicles chain requires only basic tools, and can be completed by almost anyone.

Under The Hood:

 How to Adjust the Chain on an ATV

Pull the ATV to an open, accessible location, and lift the rear end of the vehicle onto a block. Make sure that all pressure is off the rear tires.

Use a crescent wrench to loosen the lug bolt holding the axle bolt between the rear tires.

Starting with the left tire, loosen the securing nut, keeping the chain tightening bolt on the swing arm in place using an end wrench.

Adjust the chain tightening bolt as needed. Twist the bolt carefully, as it is quite easy to strain the bolt and break it. Feel the chain as you adjust the bolt, and attempt to get the chain taught, but still with a small amount of slack. Then, once you have the bolt in the desired place, hold it firmly using an end wrench, and tighten the securing nut using another end wrench.

Look at the notch on the top of the square tightening bracer, and complete the adjusting process on the other swing arm, matching it up with the notch the same as the other side. This is very important, as the axle needs to be straight as possible.

Use a crescent wrench to tighten the lug bolt once again.

Items you will need

  • Crescent wrench (monkey wrench)

  • Standard end wrench set

 How to Adjust the Chain on a Harley Motorcycle

Loosen the axle nuts on both sides of the rear tire with an adjustable wrench. Do not remove the nuts from the axle.

Locate the chain adjustment bolts. On the right side of the Harley, the bolt is located to the right of the axle nut. On the left side of the Harley, the bolt is located on the left side of the axle nut. Both bolts are perpendicular to the axle nut and both have either a hex head bolt or an Allen head. This depends on the model of Harley you own.

Turn the adjuster on the left side of the motorcycle one complete rotation then duplicate the process on the right side. Always make sure you turn each bolt equal distances to ensure the rear wheel stays straight.

Check the chain tension by pushing down on the top center of the chain. If you can push the chain downward more than a 1/2-inch, repeat step three until the chain has less than a 1/2-inch play in it.

Tighten each axle nut with the adjustable wrench.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Hex head socket (optional)

  • Allen Wrench set (optional)

 How to Adjust the Chain on a Suzuki Z400

Park the Suzuki Z400 in a level, well-lit location, such as a garage. Shift the gear into neutral by moving the gear shifter.

Slide a crescent wrench over one of the lug nuts on a rear wheel of the Suzuki Z400. Loosen the lug nut by turning the wrench counterclockwise. Repeat the process for all of the lug nuts, and for the other rear wheel.

Loosen the securing nut of the left tire using an end wrench. Loosen the securing nut of the right tire using an end wrench.

Locate the Suzuki Z400's chain, near the bottom-rear of the ATV. Locate the chain's tightening bolt, near the rear of the chain. Turn the tightening bolt clockwise to tighten the chain. Turn the chain one to five full rotations, depending on the desired tightness.

Tighten the securing bolts of both wheels using a wrench.

Tighten the lug nuts on each wheel using a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • Crescent wrench

  • End wrench

 How to Adjust a Chain on a Shovelhead

Support the bike on its stand. Use a rear wheel stand that raises the rear wheel slightly off the ground without blocking the rear axle bolt, if possible.

Loosen the axle retaining nuts on either side of the rear wheel, but do not remove them.

Adjust the chain tension bolts on either side of the swingarm. Turn each bolt counter-clockwise to tighten it or clockwise to loosen it. Turn each bolt in half-turn increments, ensuring that you turn each side evenly.

Measure the amount of chain slack between each turn of the chain tensioning bolts. Measure chain slack from the bottom center of the chain, between the front and rear sprockets. This point should have no more than 1 inch of vertical play. Do not measure the top chain because this should have more tension.

Tighten the axle retaining nuts when you have tensioned the chain appropriately.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape

  • Adjustable wrench

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.