Kettenmax Chain Cleaner
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld
| Many comments on chain cleaning in the comments section of
our original chain cleaning article
This is the next chapter in our
never-ending search for the easiest
and most efficient motorcycle chain cleaning method...
webBikeWorlder Tim S. (Oz) read our
review of the
Chain Scrubber and suggested we try the Kettenmax
Chain Cleaner. He said that the Kettenmax seemed
to be "similar" to the Moose version.
After receiving the Kettenmax from its
manufacturer in Austria, I'd say it's much more than
similar -- I don't know which one came first (I suspect
the Kettenmax) but I'm surprised that there isn't a
patent issue involved here, because these chain cleaners
are definitely first cousins, if not siblings.
Nevertheless, the Kettenmax seems to be
a more advanced version of the Moose product, and it
also did a better job of cleaning the chain on our Tiger
I'll get into the details in a moment,
but first I want to ruminate on the efficacy of these
devices, which are designed to clean a motorcycle chain
and, I assume, whose purpose is to make the job easier,
cleaner and/or more efficient.
I'm still not sold on the concept of a
semi-automated device for cleaning a motorcycle chain.
all, it doesn't take very long to slop on some
Motorex Chain Cleaner (or
Motul Chain Clean) and scrub away with the
Grunge Brush or even some wadded up paper towels.
Our favorite chain cleaner was
WD-40, which seemed to do the best job. But we've
been warned off using it because it can apparently dissolve the grease packed
behind the O-rings on a motorcycle chain. Although
it's apparent that some webBikeWorld
visitors still swear by this method, based on the emails
we've received on this topic.
The Grunge Brush is still one of the
best products to use to clean a motorcycle chain in my
because it can easily be used to scrub in different
directions, with differing levels of pressure that allow
the user to
focus on the dirty sections. It doesn't take much
time to pull the Grunge Brush out of its home (an old
oil drain pan used to hold all the greasy dirty stuff in
the garage) and get down to business.
The problem with the semi-automatic
chain cleaners like the Kettenmax and Moose is that it
can take more time to get them set up than it does to
actually clean the chain. They're also
messy, although let's face it -- cleaning a motorcycle chain
is a messy job no matter how you slice it.
But pouring chain cleaner into the
Kettenmax or Moose cleaning boxes and rotating the chain
around seems to spread the cleaning solution mess over a
wider area as the chain rotates, so plenty of newspapers
are called for to protect the floor, wheel and tire.
The question is, does a semi-automatic
chain cleaning device do a better job than the manual
method? One of the photos (below) is a close-up of
the Tiger's chain after running it through the Kettenmax
device for about 5-6 revolutions. The chain certainly
looks clean, but on closer inspection, is it really?
I have no data to support this, but I
could probably argue that clean side plates do nothing to
increase chain life. Rollers maybe, but what's
really important is getting the grunge out from between
the side plates; that is, the places where the plates rub against each
other as the outer links rotate over the inner link
sections. And neither the manual nor the
semi-automatic chain cleaning methods seems to
do a good job at cleaning those areas. So who
really knows how much longer a motorcycle chain will
last using the commonly applied methods of chain cleaning?
I'm being somewhat rhetorical here,
because there's certainly experience that demonstrates
taht clean chains last longer, but the real question is
how clean do they really have to be and how much longer
will they last?
Maybe it's enough to simply wipe 'em
down once and a while to remove most of the obvious grit
and then to spray on some decent chain lube as insurance.
Who knows for sure? Some people in the know say
that a modern grease-filled O-ring type chain doesn't
even need external lubrication, and some of the spray
lubes may actually get the chain sticky enough to allow
the dirt to collect on the chain, causing most of the
Alright, enough theorizing -- the bottom
line is that the average owner will still feel guilty if
the chain isn't kept
clean, which brings us back to the Kettenmax and the
search for the best/most efficient chain cleaning
The Kettenmax comes in a box with what
at first appears to be an overwhelming assortment of
parts. Even though the instructions are printed in
about a dozen different languages, the only photos in the box
were on a small strip of paper with three grainy
color images, obviously spit out of someone's ink jet.
My first suggestion, therefore, is to can the printed
instructions and just provide a handful of clear photos
for prospective Kettenmax owners, which is why we've
added some larger sized photos in this article to
illustrate the process.
The basic feature of the Kettenmax Chain
Cleaner is a brush-filled box that clamps around the
motorcycle chain. Chain cleaning fluid is
introduced into the box, which cleans the chain as the rear wheel is rotated.
The brushes provide the physical agitation necessary
to remove most of the grit off of the chain and into the
fluid, where it (supposedly) exits out the bottom of the box and into
a catch basin.
The brushes in the Moose
chain cleaner seemed too widely spaced to
work very well on the size 530 chain of our
Triumph Tiger. In comparison, the Kettenmax box has
plenty of brushes, but the brushes that
clean the side plates must first be trimmed
to fit the chain width. The box will
not fit over a 530 (and probably wouldn't
fit a 520 either) as it comes from the
The brushes slide into
holders on the sides of the box and they can
be easily removed, so it would have been
nice if Kettenmax had provided a variety of
brush widths for cleaning different sized
Instead, the brushes must
trimmed by cutting them with a scissor.
Once they're cut, they obviously will not
fit a chain smaller than the new width.
So the trick is to be very careful about
cutting them, making sure that they are not
trimmed too much, which would leave them too
narrow to effectively clean the chain's side
We tried a couple of different methods
for trimming the bristles, but a long pair of scissors
worked best -- the longer the better. Insert the brushes back into the box
The next step is to clamp
the box over the chain. A large O-ring
is provided (along with a spare), which
wraps around the bottom of the box and holds
it tight. The yellow square object in
the photo above is wedged behind a blue
plastic tab, which holds the box tightly
around the chain.
The yellow nipples are used
to introduce the chain cleaner into the box.
But first, the box must be secured to the
This is done by using the two provided hooks and nylon
rope. The box has a tab attached on either side of
the upper and lower sections and each tab has three holes to locate the hook.
The idea is to locate the hook as central to the chain
as possible to avoid skewing the box as the chain is
By the way, the photo above shows the chain before
cleaning. It looks much cleaner in this photo than
it was; the brownish-green discoloration does indicate
some of the dirty grunge on the sideplates.
The other (larger) hook must be located somewhere on the
motorcycle, towards the front. We were able to
located it on the Tiger's exhaust crossover underneath
the engine. Finally, the nylon cord is used to tie
the two hooks together. I used a slip knot, which
makes it easy to untie the cord when finished.
Once the box is properly located on the chain and
secured to the bike, the clear hoses that are provided can be
installed on the nipples. The shorter, larger tube
goes on the underside and is supposed to direct the
fluid out the bottom and in to a catch basin.
The directions say that one or more of the holes can be
used to clean the chain in any combination, depending
upon how dirty the chain is. A "Y" connector is
also provided; we opted to use it to introduce the
cleaner into the box through the top two nipples.
The pink-colored fluid shown in these photos is the
"Sludge Away" Chain Cleaner fluid, which seems to
work well in the Kettenmax bottle. We have also
used the Kettenmax Chain Cleaner with kerosene as the
cleaning fluid, which works well and is a better method
of applying the kerosene than anytyhing else we've
found. Our alternative has been using a rag dipped
in kerosene, which is both messy and dangerous.
By the way, remember that rubber gloves are recommended
when using any of these types of cleaning solutions or
petroleum based products.
One of the three photos that come with the Kettenmax by
way of instructions show the user spraying chain
cleaning fluid into the bottle from a spray can.
We tried this but it seems wasteful and it's also messy.
A six or eight ounce can of spray is expensive and not
really designed to be emptied out of the spray can and
into a vessel.
Once the box is attached, the actual cleaning process is simple; hold the bottle
containing the cleaning fluid
above the Kettenmax box and rotate the rear wheel.
After about 5-6 runs through the box, the chain looks
pretty clean. As I mentioned above, it takes much
longer to get everything set up than it does to actually
clean the chain.
After using the Kettenmax several times on different
bikes, we've found that the dirty cleaning solution
doesn't always exit the box via the bottom hose.
A lot of it stays on the chain as it's rotated and also
spills out the back of the box, depending upon the
rearward tilt of the chain and tire. So it's
important to place newspapers or something around and
under the entire chain to prevent a mess.
Here's a photo of the chain shown above after running it
through the Kettenmax. It looks nice and clean
from a distance, and it is, in fact, cleaner looking than we've
been able to get it with any manual cleaning method.
However, on closer inspection, here's the same chain,
photographed with our Nikon 60mm macro lens:
As you can see, there's still lots of grit between the
inner side plates and the back side of the outer side
plates. This is probably one of the most important
areas to get cleaned to help prevent wear and to
minimize the amount of grit that can get on to or past
I'm not sure how to get this area cleaned properly; the Grunge
Brush doesn't work on this area either. Perhaps removing
the chain and soaking it in kerosene might help, but
that would be way too much work to do every 200 miles or
so. I wonder how much of this grit is caused by
dirt sticking to the chain lube?
After running the chain through the Kettenmax device, we
wipe the chain clean with paper towels and then let it
dry before lubricating it.
We have mixed feelings about the Kettenmax Chain
Cleaner. It is easier to set up once the routine
is learned. It does seem to do a good visual job
of cleaning the chain, and the chain does look cleaner
than it does after using any other method we've found so
far. Whether or not this will translate into
longer chain life is anyone's guess.
Review: Kettenmax Chain Cleaner
Retail Price: € 29 ($37.46) plus S/H. It cost €
52.32 ($67.58) to purchase the Kettenmax and have it shipped to the
Comments: Relatively expensive way to clean a motorcycle
chain, but does seem to do a better job than most other methods we've
tried. Many comments on chain cleaning in the comments section of
our original chain cleaning article
Review Date: June 2006
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►Your Comments and
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From KettenMax USA: "I just stumbled across your review
of the KettenMax Classic, and just wanted to comment on a few things.
I am glad that you gave KettenMax a shot, but I would really love for you to
try the Premium Version of it.
KettenMax Premium comes with four different brush sizes to
accommodate different chains, an improved brush system, a bag that catches
the excess cleaner and lubricant (instead of just the hose) and a few other
tweaks I think you would approve of.
Also, I see that someone else commented on KettenMax being
in the US now, which is true. You can order through
From "M.M.": "I have tried both the Kettenmax Classic
(the product you tested) and the Kettenmax Premium.
I feel the Classic does a good job if you have one bike and trim the brushes
properly. I also found the more frequent I used it (I cleaned my chain
about every 500 miles), the better it cleaned the chain each time.
I purchased the Kettenmax Premium when I got my new bike.
Since my wife and son also ride, we now have 4 motorcycles. 2 Harley
Davidsons, 1 Kawasaki street bike and 1 Yamaha dirt bike. The Premium
kit comes with 4 different size brushes (no trimming brushes), of which are
color coded to match up with the colored measuring guides. I found the
process to be very simple.
Your web site said that if there was a better way to clean
your chain, please let you know. I bought the Kettenmax Premium Kit
from Onemarket in Grand Haven, MI. They told me they are the now state
side for the US, Canada and Mexico markets and will be in full operation by
February. Please try the Kettenmax premium kit. I think you will
be impressed. Onemarket's telephone is (616)846-0060. The Premium Kit
was $69.95 + $5.95 shipping."