How to Tighten a Chainsaw Chain

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It’s time to get your chainsaw running like new again!

Chainsaws are an essential tool for any yard work. But as we all know, they can be a little tricky to maintain and keep in perfect working order. If you’re not careful, it won’t take long before the chain starts slipping and getting stuck on the bar.

And if that happens, things could go south pretty quickly- leaving you with a broken saw and no way to cut through firewood or turkey legs without breaking out the ax. So don’t wait until disaster strikes- follow these simple steps below to tighten up your chainsaw chain so it’ll stay strong and sharp for years to come.

What Will Happen If The Tension Of The Chainsaw Chain Isn’t Proper?

If the tension of the chainsaw chain isn’t proper, it will eventually lead to the chain becoming loose and coming off the bar. This can cause injuries to you or others around you, as well as damage to the chainsaw itself. Other dangers of running a chain with improper tension are:

  • Slanted cuts: When running a loose chainsaw chain, you will be limited to making perpendicular cuts to the ground. The cut will not come out clean and straight if the saw is angled up or down even slightly.
  • Jump Cuts: When cutting through wood, having your chain too loose means it’s more likely to jump off the wood entirely if it catches on a knot or other imperfection in the wood. This can result in an incomplete cut, or even worse, the chain flying back at you and causing serious injury.
  • The chain keeps spinning around the guide bar: This is what’s known as a “bar spin.” It can cause the chain to loosen and eventually come off the bar.
  • Chain puts too much pressure: A tight chain puts more pressure on the bar and can cause it to bend, warp, or even break.
  • Overconsumption of bar oil: A chain that’s too tight will bind the chainsaw guide bar and cause it to overheat. This can lead to an oil overflow, which will cause poor saw performance and eventually destroy the engine.
  • Damage to the bearings and the clutch: When the chain is too tight, it will also pressure the bearings and the clutch. This can cause them to overheat and wear down prematurely.
  • Cause fire: If the chain binds too tightly to the guide bar, it can create friction and heat. This heat can potentially start a fire if it builds up enough.

How Tight Should a Chainsaw Chain Be?

In a nutshell, your chainsaw chain should be “snap tight.”

The term “snap tight” refers to being able to pull your chain up until the drive links are somewhat exposed but not entirely free of the guide bar. If your chain is set correctly, it will “snap” back into position if you tug on it.)

It does not sound theoretical. Don’t be concerned. We’ve outlined a simple method for measuring chain tension below.

The snap test

To measure the chain tension, do the snap test. With the saw turned off and unplugged, hold the chainsaw to point down the bar.

Now use your fingers to “snap” the chain back up until you can see some drive links exposed (but don’t let it go all the way). If it snaps back into place quickly and easily, the chain is too loose.

If it takes effort to pull it back up, or if it doesn’t snap back into place at all, the chain is too tight.

The pull test

Another way to measure the chain is with a pull test.

With the saw turned off and unplugged, hold the chainsaw, so the bar is pointing down. Now use your fingers to tug on one of the drive links near the tip until it slightly pulls away from the guide bar.

The chain is too loose if you can easily yank it away from the bar. If it’s very difficult to pull away, or you can’t pull it away at all, the chain is too tight.

Closeup of a blade of a electric chainsaw

How to Tighten a Chainsaw Chain Like a PRO

Although we’ve already outlined the proper chain tension in the previous section, we want to make it very clear how to tighten a chainsaw chain.

The information below should ensure you don’t damage your chainsaw while adjusting the chain’s tension.

1st Step – Locate the Tension Screw:

Chainsaws come in many types and models. Therefore the tension screw is positioned at various spots on each model.

We’ll look at the most typical locations where this screw may be discovered, depending on the most popular types on the market. There are only three areas that need to be addressed, and they include;

  • The front panel – The screw is often positioned at the front panel’s right side and the left side of the bucking spikes on specific versions.
  • Side panel – This is the tension screw’s most common placement. It’s on the side of the saw opposite the bar and chain.
  • Integrated tension system – Some chainsaws have an integrated tension system that can be found behind the saw’s engine.

2nd Step – Get the Right Tool (If Needed)

Two types of screwdrivers can be used to tighten a chainsaw chain. The first is adjustable, and the other is non-adjustable.

  • The need for an adjustable screwdriver – Using an adjustable screwdriver means you don’t have to worry about buying another kind. The only downside is it’s likely to be more costly than the non-adjustable type.
  • The need for a non-adjustable screwdriver – Non-adjustable screwdrivers are likely to be less expensive, but they can only be used on certain chainsaw models. Before buying this kind of screwdriver, you should check that it will fit your chainsaw’s tension screw.

3rd Step – Tighten the Chain

When the chain tension screw is convenient for you, you can proceed to add or reduce tension.

If your saw doesn’t have an integrated tensioning system, turn the large screw counterclockwise with a screwdriver to increase chain tension.

If your saw has an integrated tensioning system, arrows usually indicate which way to turn the screwdriver to add or reduce tension.

Turning the screwdriver in the opposite direction will loosen the chain.

4th Step – Test the Chain Tension Again

Now is a good time to test the chain tension again. You can do the snap test or the pull test as outlined earlier.

Make sure you don’t over-tighten the chain, as this can damage your saw. Ideally, you should be able to tug on one of the drive links and feel resistance, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to pull away from the guide bar.

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Related Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you tighten the chain on your chainsaw?

There isn’t a definite answer to this question. It’s best to check the chain tension every time you refuel or at least once per season.

What happens if a chainsaw chain is too tight?

If a chainsaw chain is too tight, the saw might have trouble turning, or the chain might come off. It could also cause the engine to overheat.

What happens if a chainsaw chain is too loose?

If a chainsaw chain is too loose, the chain might come off, and it could be dangerous. You’ll also need to tighten the chain more often.

Why does the chain keep coming off my chainsaw?

There are many reasons why a chainsaw chain might come off, but some of the most common include having the wrong type of chain, tensioning the chain too tightly or loosely, and using the wrong bar oil.

Other issues which can cause a chainsaw chain to come off include:

  • Not using enough bar oil – This will make the chain and sprocket dry and burn up.
  • Using the wrong type of bar oil – Using bar oil that is too thin or thick can cause performance issues and possibly reduce your saw’s lifespan.
  • Not lubricating the chain enough – Lubrication is important for ensuring the chain doesn’t come off and prolonging the life of your guide bar bearings.
  • Having a defective bar – This can cause the chain to come off.
  • Having a defective drive sprocket – This can cause the chain to come off or reduce power while cutting.
  • Having a defective tensioning system – If this is broken, it can lead to other problems, including having your saw’s engine overheating.
  • Using the wrong kind of gas – Mixing gas with the wrong oil ratio can also cause the chain to come off.
  • Worn out or damaged parts – If any of your saw’s parts are worn out or damaged, it could lead to the chain coming off.

And how to fix it if the chain keeps coming off?

Following are the steps:

  • Obtain the correct chain type for your saw – Consult your saw’s owner’s manual to find the right chain type.
  • Tension the chain correctly – Refer to Step 3 on how to tension the chain.
  • Use the correct bar oil – Use bar oil recommended for your chainsaw and climate.
  • Ensure the chain brake is working properly – The chain brake should be engaged whenever the operator isn’t holding the saw.
  • Fix if the chain keep coming off – If you suspect that your chain brake is defective, you should replace it to ensure personal safety.

Keep these tips in mind to keep your chainsaw running smoothly and safely. If you feel like you need further instruction on how to tighten a chainsaw chain, consult with an expert by checking out one of the many online chainsaw tutorials.

How long do chainsaw chains last?

The lifespan of a chainsaw chain is dependent on the size, material type, and degree of dullness.

A smaller saw will typically have its sharpest chain in 6 to 9 months, while larger saws are good for about one year.

Typically, you should replace your chainsaw’s bar before replacing the chainsaw itself. Most chainsaw chains are made of hardened steel to be sharpened and reused several times. However, if the chain becomes too dull or is damaged, it will need to be replaced.

How do you tell when a chainsaw chain is worn out?

To check if your chainsaw’s chain is worn out, run your fingertips along the face of the drive links. If you feel no burrs or roughness on the edges, there isn’t much left to do but enjoy using your saw.

If there are problems with your chainsaw chain that can easily be fixed, you might want to fix them yourself before purchasing a new chain.

To check if you can sharpen your chainsaw’s chain, run your fingertips along each sharpened edge and look for any burrs or roughness. If there is no sign of the old burr, then you might be able to get more sharpening out of it once you’ve sharpened it to the correct angle.

Is it worth sharpening a chainsaw chain?

The decision to sharpen a chainsaw chain is ultimately up to the operator.

As mentioned above, most chainsaw chains are made of hardened steel and can be sharpened multiple times. However, if the chain becomes too dull or is damaged, it will need to be replaced.

If you’re comfortable with sharpening a chainsaw chain, then it will likely save you some money.

However, if you don’t have the knowledge or experience to maintain a chainsaw chain, it might be best to replace the chain before further damaging your saw.

Chainsaw Chain Keeps Jamming, Why?

There are several reasons why a chainsaw chain might keep jamming.

The most common reason is that the chain is too tight and prevented from moving freely. Other reasons include:

  • Having a defective bar
  • Having a defective drive sprocket
  • Having a defective tensioning system
  • Using the wrong kind of oil
  • Using the wrong kind of gas
  • Having incorrect tensioning levels

Final Thoughts

Having a chainsaw chain that keeps coming off can be dangerous and frustrating.

However, by following the tips above on how to tension a chainsaw chain and using the correct parts, you can help prevent this from happening. If you’re still having problems with your chainsaw chain, consult with an expert to find the best solution for you.

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