How to tighten a chainsaw chain


Chainsaw chains are the part of the chainsaw blade that cuts wood. Over time, the chain can stretch slightly during use, reducing the saw’s wood-cutting efficiency, slowing the cutting process, and requiring the user to exert more pressure on the saw. If the chain becomes too loose, it may even come loose from the bar.

Loggers and do-it-yourself loggers are well aware that chains can loosen quite quickly with heavy use. Tightening a chainsaw chain is a simple task that can be done quickly so the user can get back to cutting wood.

All chainsaw chains can be tightened the same way, although some brands may have a slightly different bolt and tension pin configuration than shown in this tutorial. The following tools and supplies are needed for this common maintenance task.

Tools and materials

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Learn to recognize the signs that the chainsaw chain is coming loose, including needing to exert extra force on the chainsaw bar to cut logs or the chain coming off the bar entirely. If it’s a new chain or chainsaw, chances are you’ll need to tighten the chain from time to time to keep the tool in good cutting condition.

Although simply tightening the chain will reduce cutting problems in many cases, when the chainsaw still does not cut well after taking the following steps to tighten it, the chain may be dull and will require sharpening of the chain. the chainsaw. Alternatively, the saw could be damaged and require the services of a professional repairer. If so, contact the tool manufacturer for more information.

STEP 1: Locate the chain tension adjuster on the side of the chainsaw, near the base of the bar.

how to tighten a chainsaw chain

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Most chainsaws have a chain tension adjustment on the side of the chainsaw housing, near the bolts that hold the chainsaw bar in place. It looks like a flat-head screw, although it’s actually a pin that moves the chainsaw bar slightly to create more tension on the chain.

Depending on the chainsaw model, there may be one bolt, two bolts, or even three. These bolts are essential during the chain tightening process, and they are also instrumental in holding down the side plate that covers the chain and gear assembly.

STEP 2: Loosen the bolt(s) securing the chainsaw bar before adjusting the chain tension.

how to tighten a chainsaw chain

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Before adjusting the tension pin, you must loosen the bolts that hold the side plate in place. Use the socket end of a scrench (a screw/wrench combo) to loosen the bolts slightly.

These bolts also secure the bar under the side plate. Don’t remove them – it’s not necessary – loosen them slightly (about 1/2 turn, or so) until you can wiggle the chainsaw bar around a bit. Now you are ready to tighten the chain.

STEP 3: Use the screwdriver end of the screw to turn the tension pin.

how to tighten a chainsaw chain

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Once you have loosened the bolt(s) on the side of the chainsaw, you can tension the chain. Insert the screwdriver end of the screw into the flat head tension pin (the chain tensioner) and turn it clockwise to tension the chain. The chain doesn’t actually tighten – instead, when you turn the tension pin – it pushes the chainsaw bar a little, which takes up the slack in the chain.

During a typical afternoon woodcutting session that lasts 2-4 hours, you may need to tighten the chain two or three times. But it’s quick and easy since you don’t need to disassemble the saw. Keep a scrench nearby for tightening.

Related: Solved! What to do when your chainsaw won’t start

STEP 4: Test the chain tension to determine if it is tight enough.

how to tighten a chainsaw chain

Photo: Glenda Taylor

How tight should a chainsaw chain be? Chainsaws don’t come with gauges that show when the chain is at the correct tension, but there’s an easy test you can do to figure it out.

After adjusting the tension pin, grasp the chain at the bottom of the saw blade between thumb and forefinger and pull it down. You should be able to pull the chain enough to see a small gap between the links and the bar. However, the inside points of the links should always be positioned in the groove of the bar.

If you can pull the whole chain under the bar, it is still too loose. If the chain does not move at all, it is too tight and you can turn the tension pin counterclockwise to loosen it a bit.

STEP 5: Retighten the bolts after adjusting the chain tension.

how to tighten a chainsaw chain

Photo: Glenda Taylor

The final step in the process is to retighten the bolts after adjusting the chain tension. Using the socket end of the screw, turn the bolts until they are snug. It won’t take long, just about 1/2 turn.

Now you are ready to start chopping wood again. But beware, chainsaws are powerful tools that require care and respect.

Related: These are the best chainsaw chaps you can buy

Final Thoughts

Chainsaws are great power tools. Although more battery-powered models are available today, many still run on gasoline or diesel and create deafening noises during operation. Operating one requires physical strength and attention to safety. When a saw chain is too loose, it increases the risk of the saw kicking back or the chain coming loose, which can lead to injury.

As a general rule, users should check the chain tension before using the saw each time and frequently during use. Once you’ve mastered the process of tightening the chain, it won’t take more than a few minutes, and the only tool you’ll need is a wire nut.

However, tightening the chain is not a panacea for a worn chain. Over time, usually after a few months of frequent use, the chain can wear out and the blade links can become dull or worn. When you start to tighten the chain twice as often as when it was new, it’s probably time for a new chain.

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