Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Basic Maintenance - Cleaning & Lubricating the Chain

The NX is the first bike I've owned that does not have an o-ring (or x-ring) chain. So, the chain is a little more susceptible to becoming less efficient due to debris. If the weather remains dry, the chain will remain in good condition for several weeks. However, if I happen to ride through the rain, it quickly loses its efficiency.

Tools used:

  • 3/8" drive ratchet
  • 3/8" drive 12mm shallow socket
  • 1/4" drive ratchet
  • 1/4" drive 8mm deep socket
  • 1/4" drive 10mm deep socket
  • 1/4" drive 3" extension
  • 1/4" drive 6" extension
  • Flat head screw driver
  • shallow (oil) drain pan
  • degreaser (Simple Green - I have also used turpentine)
  • source of compressed air
  • rags or paper towel

Here's the starting point. I prefer to remove the chain from the NX to lubricate it. It keeps the lube from running all over the swing arm (and making a big mess). Since the chain requires a cleaning, it's coming off of the NX for sure. Strangely, Honda mounted the left passenger footpeg directly in front of one of the fasteners for the chain guard.
So, use the 3/8" ratchet and 12mm socket to remove the footpeg entirely (2 bolts). Remove the chain guard by removing the three 10mm collared bolts with the 1/4" ratchet and the 10mm deep socket. Two of the mounting tabs can be seen on the swing arm (one, just above and to the left of the "P" and the other just above the "K"). The third tab is opposite side of the chain and is accessed from the other side of the NX. I use both 1/4" extensions (3" & 6") to reach across the gap. I tried using a 10mm box end wrench once but was limited by the tight quarters. I found it easier to use a ratchet and socket.

While it is not necessary to remove the front sprocket guard to remove the chain, you will need to remove it to put the chain back on. So, it may as well come off now. This provides access so that you can clean the guard as well as the sprocket (and areas around the sprocket). Also, check the sprocket for wear (fish-hooked teeth). A 1/4" ratchet and 8mm deep socket are used to remove the sprocket guard.

Locate the master link. The master link on the NX used to be marked with a dab of white paint. It has since worn off. Some owners use a dab of fingernail polish to make its location easier to find. It may be a little hard to see but the master link is centered in the picture. Counting the pins, from the top of the image, the master link spans pins #4 & #5. This is not quite the position I like to have the master link in. I rotate the rear wheel (counter-clockwise, in this case) so that the master link is in about the 1 o'clock position. I do this so that when I re-install the chain, the chain will stay on the rear gear without me having to hold it there. I can then install the master link without worrying about holding the chain in place (if you have someone helping you, this is a moot point). Use the flat bladed screwdriver to remove the master link clip. I hold the edge of the blade against the open end of the clip (the open end is pointing downward in the picture). Use the palm of your other hand to hit the end of the screwdriver handle. This should provide enough force to pop the clip off. I choose to work on a (semi) clean piece of cardboard. This ensures that small parts (like the clip) don't disappear and cardboard tends to be easier on the knees (than concrete).

Here's the NX with the chain removed. Clean the rear gear and inspect for wear (again, looking for fish hook shaped teeth). I also clean the swing arm and the 'shark fin' (the white plastic piece below the swing arm). They tend to gather a haze of chain lube which attracts dirt.

Here's the chain soaking in a shallow pan of Simple Green. I use an old toothbrush to remove grime from the side plates. Although, using a "panning for gold" motion removes a lot of the accumulated debris. Don't forget to clean the master link, master link side plate and clip.

Here's the chain after a rinse in water. I was very surprised at how much debris actually washes off. It took several rinses (again using that "panning for gold" motion) before the water, drained from the pan, was clear. The key now is to dry the chain before it can start to surface rust. Allowing it to air dry would be counterproductive. At that point oxidation has begun to occur.

I chose to use my step ladder to hang the chain. Using this method allows me to capture anything that happens to drip off of the chain (water or lube). I have a small air compressor and use it to rapidly dry the chain. It takes several passes before there is no more moisture (in mist form) coming from the chain. At this point, there is still some moisture trapped in the rollers (not good). So, I give the chain a light misting of WD-40. WD-40 (like the name implies, is water dispersing) drives the moisture out from the rollers. I allow a few minutes for the dissipation to occur. Then, I apply the Liquid Wrench chain lube in the same manner. I allow the lube to dry for about an hour. The chain will still look shiny but will be (mostly) dry to the touch. Now, when you install the chain, your hands will stay mostly clean and there won't be any lube running down the swing arm. Reassemble in the opposite order of dis-assembly. When installing the clip on the master link, be sure the closed end of the clip faces in the direction of travel. This way the clip won't be accidentally knocked free if you happen to hit an object while riding. Inventory your tools and make sure you haven't forgotten to re-install any parts. Now is a good time to check the chain tension adjustment.

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