Picture this: You’re cruising down the trail on your quad. You’re blasting the latest Swift jams and loving the freedom of the outdoors. Then, kablammo! Your ATV stops and your chain is laying on the ground. You really should’ve learned how to tighten the chain on your ATV before you blew it. At least you’ve still got Taylor.

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That hasn’t happened to you yet (we hope), and we’re here to make sure it doesn’t. We’ll also give you a few extra pointers to make sure your ATV’s chain is off the chain and running smooth.

What to Consider Before Tightening the ATV’s Chain

First of all, are you even sure you need to tighten your ATV chain? Overtightening your chain can cause just as many problems as undertightening.

Symptoms of a Loose Chain

Let’s look at the symptoms of a loose chain:

Jerky feeling when you accelerate due to slackPower loss and clicking noise from the chain skipping over sprocket teethYour chain falls off mid-ride

If you notice any of these things happening while you ride, you need to tighten your chain ASAP. In fact, you shouldn’t let your chain get this bad in the first place.

Instead, you should compare the slack in your chain to your manuals guidelines before it gets bad. Once you start noticing these issues, you’ve already subjected your drivetrain and sprockets to excessive wear and tear.


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This rusted-over chain needs replaced. The clip-style master link is clearly visible in the center and replacing this chain is as easy as popping the link off, matching the link count to the new chain, and putting the new chain on. This easy job is more than worth the trouble.

Here’s how to remove a chain with a clip-style master link:

Find the master link on your chain—it’s the link with the clipUse a flathead screwdriver to remove the clipRemove the face and O-rings (if you have them) followed by the back plate and pinsCount the links in your current chain and add or remove links to your new chain to make them the same (don’t measure to compare—your old chain will be stretched somewhat)Fit the new chain over the sprockets and connect the master linkFollow the steps above to tighten your chain to the appropriate slack

And that’s all it takes. There’s no reason to put it off, so get it done today.

Changing your chain won’t necessarily solve all your problems. One of the persistent issues some people have with ATV chains is that the dang things keep falling off. Don’t worry—if you can identify the cause, you’ll be able to solve this problem, too.

Why an ATV Chain Might Keep Falling Off

There are three reasons your ATV chain might be falling off:

1. It’s Too Loose

You’ve let it go too long without tightening it up again. Tighten it up right away to avoid other damage.

2. It’s Stretched Out

An old stretched out chain might get booted off the sprocket if it doesn’t fit quite right. No amount of tightening will fix this and it’s likely to brake soon. Replace it.

3. It’s Unprotected

Do you have a skid plate or chain guard? If not, sticks, rocks, and bumps can knock your chain off at any time! Not to mention, they can permanently damage your sprockets and other drivetrain components. Do not ride again without adding a skid plate or chain guard.

Don’t Forget About the Rest of Your ATV

If you need more information about the bits and bobs that make your ATV purr, check out some of our other articles. Keeping your ball joints in working order is key to making your suspension run smooth. Another central part of any ATV’s reliability is the winch. If you don’t have one, you should get one and then check out these 5 ways to use an ATV winch—they’re not just for getting unstuck.

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Feel better about this whole chain thing? You should. Maintaining your ATV chain is easier than changing your oil and should be checked just as regularly. Just remember: happy chain, happy life! Yeah, we know it doesn’t rhyme.