How to Tighten Chainsaw Chain

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Are you a chainsaw user and your chain has come off, but you don’t know how to tighten it? If yes, then this is the perfect place for you to be.

Tightening chainsaw chain is pretty easy and can be done within a matter of minutes. The right way to tighten a chainsaw chain includes first loosening the nuts on the guide bar side panel, adjusting the tensioning screw, and tightening the guide bar side panel nuts. Although tensioning a chainsaw chain is quite easy and takes a few moments, it’ll be important to do each step correctly and carefully. Forgetting to do something as fundamental as lifting the guide bar nose when tightening can seriously affect your chainsaw. Further, remember to wear safety gear and follow necessary safety protocols when handling a chainsaw.

In this guide, you will get to know all about tightening a chainsaw chain, how to tighten chainsaw chain, how to set the right chain tension, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Chainsaw Stretching is Common During Chainsaw Use

Chainsaw chains stretch and become loose over time during regular operation. The chainsaw chain stretches during normal operation and starts sagging on a chainsaw’s guide bar. If the chainsaw chain is allowed to become too loose, it can easily come off the bar during operation and create unsafe situations for the users. 

Chainsaw chain tension must be checked and tightened from time to time. Before knowing how to set the right tension, you will first want to know what proper chainsaw chain tension looks like.

A properly-tensioned chain is a chain that should still be a little loose on the guide bar, but the chain must be tight enough that you cannot pull the drive links out of the chainsaw’s bar nose.

To determine whether the chain tension must be adjusted, you should pull the chain away from the guide bar slightly to see if the drive links remain engaged.

But what constitutes bad tension? A loose chainsaw chain looks like something that gets saggy when pulled away from the guide bar. If the drive links are disengaged from the guide bar when it is pulled, it’ll be time to tighten it. 

Remember, chainsaw chains can be overtightened too. There must be at least a little play in the chain, only enough for the drive links to leave the guide bar. Tightening the chainsaw chain too tightly will reduce, breaking it during operation.

Step 1: Loosen the nuts on the side panel of the guide bar

This step will give the guide bar and chain ample room that they have to be adjusted. The brakes if sine chains are attached to the side panel directly. If this is the case, then you should ensure that you unlock the brake before removing the side panel.

Step 2: Adjust the tensioning screw

Tension adjustment screws are generally located toward the side of the chainsaw guide bars. Tightening the screw tightens the chain, and loosening it will loosen the chain. Remember to double-check the chain and see that it is at the correct tightness before you move on.

Step 3: Tighten the side panel nuts of the guide bar

It is important to lift the nose of your chainsaw when you are tightening the nuts that keep the side panel and guide bar secured. It will be easy once the know-how is in place and your chainsaw is properly tensioned.

How to Tighten Chainsaw Chain

Chainsaw chains are the part of the chainsaw blade responsible for cutting through wood. Over time, the chain will stretch during use, which will reduce the chainsaw’s wood-cutting effectiveness, slow down the cutting process, and require the user to exert a lot more pressure on the chainsaw. In case the chain gets too loose, it can come off the bar too. 

DIY woodcutters and loggers are well aware of the fact that chains can loosen up pretty quickly during heavy use. Tightening the chainsaw chain is a simple task that can be done pretty quickly so that the user can return to cutting wood.

All chainsaw chains can be tightened similarly, although some brands might feature a different bolt and tension pin configuration from the one featured here. Before starting, there are a few tools and supplies that you will need to gather for the task – 

Tools and materials to gather

  • Chainsaw 
  • A chainsaw scrench (screwdriver + wrench)
  • A wrench (if you can’t find a scrench) 
  • A flathead screwdriver (if you can’t find a scrench) 

Before you start, it is important that you learn to recognize the signs that your chainsaw chain is getting loose, including the prospect of exerting additional force on the chainsaw to cut through logs or the chain coming off the bar entirely. If it is a new chain or a new chainsaw, odds are that you need to tighten the chain occasionally to keep your chainsaw in good cutting order.

While merely tightening the chainsaw chain will alleviate cutting problems in most cases, when the chainsaw still isn’t cutting properly after taking the steps to tighten it, the chain might be dull, and you will have to sharpen the chainsaw chain. Alternatively, the chainsaw can be managed and require the services of a professional repair person. If so, you should contact the chainsaw manufacturer for further guidance.

Step 1: Locate the chain tensioning adjustment on the chainsaw

Most chainsaws come with a chain-tensioning adjustment on the side of the chainsaw case. It will be near the bolts that secure your chainsaw bar in place. This resembles a flathead screw, even though it is actually a pin that moves the chainsaw bar slightly for creating more tension on the chain.

Depending on the model of your chainsaw, there might be one to three bolts. These bolts are important during the chain-tightening process, and they are also instrumental for holding on the side plate covering the chain and gear assembly.

Step 2: Loosen the bolts that secure the chainsaw bar before you adjust the chain tension

Before you adjust the tensioning pin, you need to loosen the bolts that are holding the side plate in place. You should use the socket end of a screntch for loosening the bolts slightly.

These bolts are also responsible for securing the bar beneath the side plate. You shouldn’t take them off, as that won’t be necessary.  You should just loosen them a bit (about ½-turn) until you’re able to wiggle the chainsaw bar slightly. Now, you will be ready to tighten the chainsaw chain.

Step 3: Use the screwdriver end to turn the tensioning pin

Once you have loosened the bolts on the side of the chainsaw, you will be in a position to tighten the chain. Insert the screwdriver end of the scrench into the flathead tensioning pin and then turn it clockwise for tightening the chain. The chain won’t actually become tighter, instead, as you’re turning the tensioning pin, it will push the chainsaw bar out slightly, which takes up the slack on the chain.

During a typical wood-cutting session that lasts a few hours, you might have to tighten the chain 2–3 times. However, it is quick and straightforward as you don’t have to disassemble the chainsaw. Keep a scrench nearby for tightening it.

Step 4: Test the chainsaw chain tension to determine its tightness

Chainsaws do not come with gauges that indicate when the chainsaw chain is at the correct tension, but there is an easy test that you can do to figure it out.

Once you have adjusted the tensioning pin, grab the chain at the bottom of the chainsaw blade between a thumb and finger and then pull it downward. You must be able to pull the chainsaw chain sufficiently to see a small space between the bar and the links. However, the inside tips of the chainsaw links should still be positioned in the bar groove.

If you can pull the entire chain below the bar, it will still be too loose. If the chain doesn’t budge at all, it is too tight, and you will be able to turn the tensioning pin counterclockwise to loosen it slightly.

Step 5: Retighten the bolts

The final step in the entire process will be to retighten the bolts after you have adjusted the chain tension. Using the socket end of the scrench, you should turn the bolts until they are snug. This will not take much, it should only be ½ a turn or so.

Now, you are in a perfect position to return to cutting wood. But you should be careful, as chainsaws are powerful tools that demand proper care and respect.

How to tighten a chainsaw chain

What Causes Your Chainsaw Chain to Become Loose?

Being one of the essential yet handy tools, a chainsaw holds a significant position in every household. It’ll not only help in the fast cutting of trees and trimming of branches, but it will also aid in cutting plastic pipes, scrap wood, shrubs, metal sheets, and more. 

With that said, the only downside of a chainsaw is that its chain starts to get loose a bit after a few hours of work as it sags from the bar. This condition is quite hazardous as it can easily harm the user by quickly jumping off the bar.

Hence, it is recommended that you should always double-check the chain each time you use the tool and tighten it when necessary. Further, it is also important to understand the different reasons that can cause the chainsaw to loosen up. These reasons will also help you in preventing the chainsaw chain from getting loose in the future too.

1. The chain isn’t set properly

Having improper settings is the foremost reason that might cause the chain to get loose after every few minutes. Hence, you should get it examined at a nearby tool shop to make sure that it is placed correctly.

2. The chain might be overtightened

Another common reason that might cause the chainsaw chain to jump off the bar is that you might have overtightened it.

Moreover, an overtightened chain will impact the handlers negatively, which will result in losing the chain. As a result, you will get a more unsafe chainsaw user experience. The situation will be even worse when it is used at high speed.

3. Temperature fluctuation

Surprisingly, temperature fluctuation can also affect the chainsaw by tightening or loosening the chainsaw chain.

How to Tighten a Gas-Powered Chainsaw in 3 Steps

Based on any of those reasons, your gas-powered chainsaw might result in an untightened chain. Here is the step-by-step guide on how you can tighten a gas-powered chainsaw in three simple steps – 

Step 1: Loosen the tension screws

First, you should mark the chain tension points on the chainsaw. Some common spots include the front of the chainsaw and the side cover. Remember, the adjustment points on some models will be housed under the side cover release knob.

After that, you should rotate the adjustment screws clockwise for loosening them. This is one of the most important steps of the entire process. It will create space for the chain and guide bar for ensuring easy adjustment.

For some chainsaw models, you might find the chainsaw brakes attached directly to the side panel. So, you shouldn’t forget that you should unlock them before removing the side panel.

Step 2: Adjust the tension screws

Now, this one is the game-changing step. You will find screws located on the side of the chainsaw guide bars. These are known as tension adjustment screws. Tightening these screws will tighten the chain, and loosening them would loosen the chain. Hence, adjusting the tightness of screws should be done according to the need of your chainsaw. Moreover, you should double-check it before you move it further to avoid any unease eventually.

professional logger tightening the chain in the chainsaw

Step 3: Tighten the side panel nuts of the guide bar

Lastly, you should tighten the side panel nuts and secure the side panel alongside the guide bar to reassemble the chainsaw. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t forget to lift the nose of your chainsaw while tightening the nuts. That’s it, you have completed the procedure of tightening the chainsaw chain.


How to know if my chainsaw chain has stretched?

You can find out that your chainsaw chain has stretched by following a simple process. You need to switch off your chainsaw, place it on the table, and allow it to cool completely. Now, you must check for noticeable space between the guide bar and the chainsaw chain. If you find significant space, then it means your chainsaw chain has stretched and needs to be tightened.

Is it possible to prevent my chainsaw chain from stretching?

The simple answer is NO. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to prevent your chainsaw chain from stretching. But it is possible to extend the period between each stretch by handing the chainsaw with care and investing a bit more time and amount on its regular maintenance.

How much slack should my chainsaw chain have?

An efficiently tensioned chainsaw chain needs to allow you to just move it up and down for ½ inch. Further, it needs to be a bit looser on the chainsaw sidebar, but be tight enough to the point that you can pull the drive links out of the bar nose.

In case you’re observing more slack in between, then the chainsaw chain has loosened, and you have to tighten it. On the other side, if there’s no slack in between, it will be a sign that your chain is unnecessarily tight and that you must loosen it.

A tightened chainsaw chain doesn’t tend to work with ease. Meanwhile, an overtightened chain can break at any time. Hence, you should always make sure that you keep the chainsaw chain at the right adjustment.

Why won’t my chainsaw chain tighten?

In case you cannot tighten the chainsaw chain, it means that you aren’t accurately implementing the procedure. Hence, you should return to the starting point, read the procedure carefully, and then implement it again.

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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.