How To Replace a Chainsaw Chain

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Are you a chainsaw user having trouble with replacing your chainsaw because you don’t know how to? If yes, then you are definitely in the right place

Replacing a chainsaw chain is simple as long as you know the right steps. All that you’ll need to do is disconnect the chainsaw’s chain brakes, detach the chainsaw’s side plate, loosen the chain, disconnect the chain, make the necessary adjustments to the tensioning screw, put the chain back, reconnect the side plates, re-tighten the chain’s tension, and pull the chain together. Having a sharp chain is essential for the proper functioning of the chainsaw. While you can sharpen it a few times, but eventually, you will need to replace it. To replace it successfully, you’ll have to know how it is done.

In this article, you will get to learn all about chainsaw chains, how to replace a chainsaw chain, signs that it is time for chainsaw chain replacement, the problems with chainsaw maintenance, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Replacing a chainsaw chain

For a wide variety of occupations, a chainsaw is helpful as an important piece of equipment. Whether you are a professional logger, a landscape gardener, or just an amateur looking to cut firewood, everyone will find some use for the chainsaws.

For the overall efficiency of the chainsaw, it is important to maintain the chainsaw chain’s sharpness. Professional loggers often replace chainsaw chains for the purpose of improving efficiency. It is also significantly less expensive and time-efficiency to replace the chainsaw chain correctly. Replacing the chain will also reduce the risk of injury when operating the saw.

If you’re using a rusted, obsolete, or unfit chain, your chainsaw’s engine could experience unwanted heating and kickbacks.

There is a wide variety of options available if you want to replace the chainsaw’s chain. The edges might be dull or damaged. You might need to carry out a complete maintenance and examination of the chainsaw so that you can check if it’s in order.

Alternatively, you may even need to replace the chainsaw chain to slice across various metals.  On the other hand, you may want to keep the chainsaw away for the long term. 

chainsaw bar and chain

How to replace a chainsaw chain

Replacing chainsaw chains can be easy and these days, it can be as easy as changing the oil in the engine. Once you know the right instructions, replacing the chainsaw chain will feel like a piece of cake. With the simplicity of these steps, even beginners will be able to replace the chainsaw chain with ease. 

Step 1: Disconnect the chainsaw’s chain brakes

The chain guard will be mounted to the side plate of chainsaws, including the gas, battery, and electric chainsaws.

Due to the general chain brake, reinstalling the saw will be tough if you don’t remove it and separate the chain from your chainsaw. As a result, the chainsaw’s chain brake must be removed. 

Step 2: Detach the side plate of the chainsaws

To obtain the chainsaw, you need to detach the side plate first. The side plate is generally kept in position by two screws, which you’ll be able to remove with a tool. Once you’ve reinstalled the chains, you need to maintain the disconnected screws in a container where you will find them.

Step 3: Remove the chainsaw tension

Start pulling the farthest end of the shaft away from the tool for removing the chainsaw tension. As a result, the chainsaw chain will loosen.

Step 4: Disassociate the chain

Now, you should gently pull the chain after the chainsaw has become slack. In case the chainsaw is excessively tight or rusted, you must wear a glove when doing this.

Step 5: Make necessary adjustments to the tensioning screw

You will find the tensioning screw at the bottom of the shaft. Gently unscrew it using a flathead screwdriver so that the re-installation becomes much easier.

Step 6: Pull the chain back on the chainsaw

For reconnecting the chain, you will need to follow these steps –

  • Begin by threading it through the back drum
  • Twirl the chain ring for ensuring that the driving connectors are properly aligned with the chain ring
  • Check if the chain ring is rotating with the chain ring
  • If it isn’t, you should re-thread the chain with the clutch drum and then re-examine 
  • Now, restore the original position of the shaft 

The guide bar needs to be aligned after the chain has been installed. After releasing the pressure on the shaft in step two, you must return the guide bar to its initial position. Once you’re done moving it back, you should make sure that it is seated in the chainsaw’s adjustment pin.

Step 7: Reconnect the chainsaw’s side plate

Once you’ve connected the chain, you need to return the side plate to its initial position. After that, using your hands, you should replace the bolts and then screw them in. However, be careful that you don’t end up over-tightening them, as you’ll really need to tension the chain first.

Step 8: Re-tighten the chain’s tension

The tensioning nut that is positioned at the bottom of the chainsaw shaft must be adjusted. For completing this step, you must tighten it back into place, and then check whether it is securely retaining the chain or not.

Step 9: Pull the chain tighter

Once you have followed the instructions carefully, the chain will probably be flexible at this stage. However, before you have started using your chainsaw, you will need to set this.

By using the screwdriver side, you can easily alter the tightness of the chainsaw chain. A chainsaw’s pressure screw is usually present in one of two positions –

  • On the side of the chainsaw, near the casing-holding screw 
  • Across the bar, straight on the end of the bar confronting the chainsaw’s body
How To Replace Your STIHL Chainsaw Chain | Chainsaw Maintenance | STIHL Chainsaw | STIHL GB

The problems of chainsaw chain maintenance

For the most part, your chainsaw will likely function as you’re expecting it to, ready to jump into action any time you need to use it. However, this will only happen if you are taking the time to ensure proper maintenance

One of the most important aspects of chainsaw chain maintenance is sharpening. It is the chain sharpening that keeps your cutting crisp, protects the saw for long-term usage, and ensures that you’re getting the right results each time.

If your saw isn’t performing quite as well as it did when it was brand new, then a chainsaw sharpener will be an option. Both electric chainsaws and manual chainsaw files will be great options. Both these options will make sure that the chainsaw is working as you’d expect. However, there will be a point where the chainsaw chain loop simply cannot be sharpened anymore, or your efforts aren’t giving the expected improvements. At this point, you will find it more cost-effective to simply order a new chainsaw chain and replace the current one.

Potential signs that it is time to replace the chainsaw

There are a few points that you will need to keep in mind when it comes to changing your chainsaw chain. Here is an overview of some of the pointers that will help you know that your chainsaw chain is beyond sharpening, and it is time to replace the chain altogether.

1. The chainsaw is no longer pulling itself to the wood

One of the major benefits of chainsaws is that they’re quite efficient workers that need a steady hand instead of a forceful one for operating them. In case you find yourself having to manually compress the chainsaw to keep it stable, it is a sign that the chain is no longer capable of drawing itself into the wood. If this is the case, you will be denied a major benefit of the chainsaw, which is that they’re rather effortless to use. This is where a new chainsaw chain is definitely worth considering.

2. Difficulty with positioning

When it is set against a piece of wood, chainsaws in good shape must remain stable. If the chainsaw chain is in dire need of replacement, however, you will experience a bouncing or rattling sensation. This is a sign that the chain is past its best days, and there’s also an underlying safety concern. So, you might want to get a new chainsaw chain as soon as possible.

3. Too many missing or damaged teeth

When you sharpen the chainsaw chain, you should take the opportunity to properly inspect the teeth for any signs of wear and tear. Damaged, broken, or off-center teeth are a bad sign, especially since there’s no way to rectify this issue with sharpening.

When a chain’s tooth is compromised, it will be considered a potential hazard. All use of the chainsaw must cease until you’ve replaced the chainsaw chain. If you find any missing teeth on the chain, this isn’t that hazardous, but it still means that the chainsaw is nearing the end of its natural life.

Chains that are in proper working condition don’t lose teeth, so you should see missing sections as a sign that a new purchase is needed in the coming days.

4. Smoking, even chainsaw tension is correct and lubrication is good

If the chainsaw is giving smoke when it is being used and the usual causes for this problem can be discounted, then you should check the health of the chain.

Not only is it important to change the chainsaw chain as soon as possible, but it is also a precision one. Not even the most experienced and seasoned pros can give the best results with a view obstructed by smoke. Moreover, it is worth pointing out that using a smoking chain is merely a symptom of poor chainsaw maintenance and a general disregard for safety.

5. Crooked cuts

When a chainsaw chain is reaching the end of its lifespan, the direction in which it cuts will be more jagged and crooked. If you’re experiencing this issue, then it is a sign that dull-cutting teeth have been preventing the chain from being able to give clean, smooth cuts.

Sharpening the chain might remedy this, but a new chain is generally the best option, especially if it has been a while since the chainsaw chain was last replaced.


Which way will the chain go on a chainsaw?

The chainsaw chain generally revolves clockwise. Therefore, the sharp edge on the end of the chain should be leaning towards the motor and the right side. Make sure that the guide connection blades point in the right direction by inspecting them properly.

Can you replace the chainsaw chain with any brand?

A wide variety of brands makes chainsaw chains, and not all versions will be compatible among all manufacturers. If you’re looking to change the chain with a different manufacturer, you will need to know the height, exact size, and pitching of the previous chain. Connecting the incorrect chain could lead to equipment failure or even potential injuries.

Does gauge matter on chainsaw chains?

A chain gauge is among the most fundamental parts of a chainsaw. The breadth of the chainsaw’s driving links can be measured in gauge. The section of the drive linkage that’s put into the guide bar should be measured to get this figure. This dimension is important as the gauge of the chain needs to be equal to the gauge of your instrument.

How to know the chainsaw chain size?

To get the correct chainsaw chain size, you should count 3 rivets on the chain and then measure the distance between them from the center points. After that, divide it by half to get the chain size. As an example, three rivets measuring ½ an inch across divided by two will give you a pitch of ¼ inch.

Will any chainsaw chain fit your chainsaw?

Not every bar or chain will be right for every chainsaw. For instance, larger chainsaw bars work best with more powerful chainsaws, as it takes much more energy to drive a chain around a long bar. This is why electric chainsaws use 18-inch or shorter bars. The chainsaw chains must be measured to fit certain bars.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.