How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be?

How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be

If you have ever used a chainsaw, you may have wondered about the tension on the chain. Just how loose or tight it should be? It can be difficult to understand chain tensions and there is no one single measurement that can give you an exact answer. Rather, when it comes to the tightness of your chainsaw chain, it’s all about adjusting the chain until the tension is just right.

Your chainsaw’s chain should be adjusted until it is tight enough that the chain can’t slip off the saw. It should also be loose enough that it doesn’t fit too tightly around the saw and have a hard time moving.

Put simply, the chain should be able to flex as it is used but also be firmly positioned on the saw during use. Fortunately, the process for adjusting your chainsaw chain is relatively simple. We’ll walk you through all of the necessary steps to adjust and test the tension so that you can achieve the proper level of tightness in your chain.

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How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be?

Chain tension is crucial when you’re working with a tool as powerful as a chainsaw. Understanding how to get it right can be challenging, especially if you’ve never had to adjust the chain before.

If your chainsaw chain is too loose, it can jump off during use. A jumped chain can result in a just simple inconvenience or a very serious injury. Alternatively, a chainsaw chain that is too tight can grind out the motor, effectively ruining the device.

With that being said, your chainsaw chain should be what is commonly referred to as “snap tight.” When the chain is “snap tight,” you’ll be able to pull up on it until the drive links are partially exposed and then it will snap back in place.

Testing Chain Tension

You should test the chain tension before you make any adjustments, and also afterwards. There are two primary methods for testing your chainsaw’s chain tension: the snap test and the pull test.

To accomplish a “snap test,” grasp the chain and pull it away from the bar. Pull the chain as far as it will go and then release it. If the chain snaps back into place, this indicates that your chainsaw has proper tension. If you cannot pull the chain away from the bar, the chain is too tight. Alternatively, if the chain goes limp when you pull on it, it is too loose.

To perform a “pull test,” grasp the chain and pull it away from the bar. Continue pulling as far as you can comfortably, while maintain grip on the chain. The goal is for the chain to lift away slightly but you don’t want the drive links to be completely clear of the bar. If the ends of the drive links remain in the bar groove and only pull out a little, this indicates appropriate tension.

If the chain is too loose, the lack of tension will allow the drive links to go under the blade and will look loose and saggy. The links should only leave the bar slightly, any more or less and the chain needs to be adjusted.

Adjusting Your Chainsaw Chain

It can take several rounds of adjustment to get a chainsaw’s chain to this specific level of tightness noted above.

Step 1

To begin, turn your chainsaw off and use the chain brake. Then, wait a few minutes to allow it to cool down. When it’s hot, the chain will be expanded and look looser. However, when it cools off, the expansion will be gone and you can see how tight or loose the chain really is.

Step 2

Place your chainsaw on a stable table and find the screws that allow adjustment of the tension.  Most of the time they are located in between the inside teeth and the guide bar. If it isn’t there, look on the side cover in between the saw’s bar nuts. If you still can’t find them, look through the manufacturer’s manual.

Step 3

Find the nuts that hold the bar and loosen them enough so that you can slide the bar when you hold its nose. Never try to adjust your chain when the bar is tight. This can cause the tension pin a lot of damage.

Step 4

Next, go to the chain break and deactivate it. Always hold the saw’s guide bar upwards using its nose to keep it in the correct position. It allows for consistent tension.

Step 5

Then, take a screwdriver and either tighten or loosen the tension. A counter-clockwise turn of this screw will loosen the chain while a clockwise turn will tighten it.

What Happens When the Chain Isn’t Properly Adjusted?

If the chain is too tight, it can cause the engine to stall, and it will be difficult for you to move it manually. It can also cause smoke and sparks when in use.

Running the chainsaw with the chain too tight will cause the guide bar to start to curve each time it is used. Over time, this can cause the saw to break or simply not work any longer.

If the saw is run with its chain too loose, running the saw puts you at risk of having the chain come off. This can cause a severe injury to yourself or anyone else who is near you.

Before using the saw, always check the tension in the chain to prevent this.

Why Does the Chain Loosen?

As you use the chainsaw, the chain will stretch and add slack. The more you use the chainsaw without adjusting the chain, the looser it will become. It’s important to tighten the chain so that it doesn’t slip off during use. This can be a dangerous scenario while you’re using the chainsaw.

After every use, feel the chain to see how much tension it has. This will be your best guideline for how much it needs to be adjusted.

Tips for Adjusting Chain Tension

  • Remove any debris that you see when you are adjusting the chain. Debris can interfere with the way the saw works.
  • Check the sharpness of the chain as you are adjusting it. If it is too dull, you may need to sharpen it.
  • Remember to tighten the nuts on the side panel of the guide bar when you’re finished. Lift up the saw’s nose as you tighten the nuts to avoid damaging the saw.

How Do You Sharpen the Chain?

Step 1: Get the Chainsaw Into Place

To sharpen the chain, get a file to do the sharpening. Then to start, put the chainsaw on a steady surface like a sturdy table.

Step 2: Set the Brakes

Be sure to set the brakes. Without this step, the chain would move as you sharpen it, making a serious injury possible.

Step 3: File the Teeth

Using your file, file the teeth at a right angle to increase the sharpness. File each of the cutting teeth an equal amount.

Step 4: Turn It Over

Sharpen one side first and then turn the saw upside down and do the teeth on the other side. Sharpening the chain’s teeth is easy enough that it can be done at home without any need for professional maintenance.

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Related Questions

Do You Need to Buy a New Chain for the Chainsaw?

Even if you have taken good care of your chainsaw’s chain, you might want to buy a new chain for it. Often, the chain included by the manufacturer is of poor quality and can be replaced with a better chain.

Chainsaw chains are inexpensive and generally available in home improvement stores. The cost for chains is around $20. However, if you are happy with the chain the saw came with, there is usually no need to replace it.

If you feel that the chain could be better, choose a sturdy chain that will fit the size of your chainsaw.

How Big Should Your Chainsaw Be?

When you’re choosing a chainsaw for home use, it’s important not to choose one that is too big. Instead, choose one that is just right for the jobs you will be doing with it.

A good guideline is to buy a chainsaw that is anywhere from 14 to 20 in. Any saw that is larger than this will make the work you do with it unnecessarily difficult.

Try holding different lengths in the store, and choose the one that is most comfortable for you to handle.

How Do You Take Care of a Chainsaw?

Like a car, your chainsaw requires regular maintenance to keep it running at its best. Each time you use your chainsaw, check its oil level both on the chain and the bar before turning it on.

Then, check the sharpness of the chain. If it isn’t sharp, it won’t cut as well as will run inefficiently. When it’s sharp, it also decreases the likelihood of a kickback.

Before using the saw, always check it for any debris. If debris is left in the saw, it can become permanently lodged there are and be extremely difficult to remove.

Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners and home improvement enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and gardening tips with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance, cleaning your carpet, or even putting up a fence, we've got you covered.

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