How to Change a Chainsaw Chain


You might not even be using your chainsaw frequently but, like almost every other tool, with gradual use, the chainsaw chain wears out. Consequently, you will begin feeling like you are using more energy than usual with your chainsaw. In addition, the chainsaw may be sluggish and take longer to cut, and the chain is thrown out constantly. These show that you need to change your chainsaw chain.

However, changing a chainsaw chain is not the action of replacing only. It involves understanding the different features of a chainsaw and recognizing signs that your chainsaw chain needs changing. With that said, here’s what you need to look out for when you are changing your chainsaw chain.

What to Look for When Changing Your Chainsaw Chain

chainsaw that needs a chain changed
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

When seeking another chain to replace your old chain, you must keep a few things in mind. To begin, regardless of how frequently you are using your saw, you should always keep a few chains available. The regular swapping of these chainsaws aids in the creation of even wear on your chain. Second, if your chain stalls and you don’t have the means and a tool to sharpen it, you won’t be able to keep working.

This said you need to know the pitch, drive links number, and gauge of your chainsaw.  

1. Pitch

The pitch refers to the distance between the middle of any three rivets divided by two. It is the measurement that defines the number of linkages on your chainsaw.

The pitch of the chain you want to install on the chainsaw must match the pitch of the drive sprocket on the saw as well as the pitch of the nose sprocket on the bar. 

However, you can check the pitch measurements usually written in the drive link. This number identifies the pitch and gauge of the chain.

2. Gauge

The gauge is characterized by the thickness of the drive links, and it is determined by measuring the portion of the chain’s drive link that fits into the guide bar’s groove. 

The gauge of a chain is expressed in thousandths of an inch. This measurement tells the user of a chainsaw the strength of the drive links of the chains. 

Drive links that are thicker are usually stronger and heavier. However, since weight affects the performance of the chainsaw, you should always keep it to a minimum. Consequently, this will maximize cutting speed.

 3. Drive Link Number

The length of a chain is not determined by its physical length. Instead, it is determined by the number of drive links that are in the loops. A drive link refers to the portion of the chainsaw chain that goes inside the groove of the bar. 

You need to know the number of the drive links when changing your chain. Drive links are counted manually. However, the drive link number is also written on the guide bar of the chain. Furthermore, it is also usually mentioned in the user manual. Counting the drive links on your chain is easy. Simply take off the chain from the chainsaw’s guide bar to count them.

Steps to Change a Chainsaw Chain

best chainsaw
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Chainsaws are of different models. However, these chainsaws have similar designs. Therefore, you can change the chain in a similar process. 

Here are the steps to follow when you are changing your chainsaw chain.

Step 1: Remove the side panel

Most chainsaws have the side plate fastened by two nuts. First, using either a screw or a scrunch, loosen up the bar nuts and then remove the side plate, giving you access to the chain.

Some models of chainsaws, however, have the chainsaw brake attached to the side plate.

With such a model, ensure that you unlock the brakes before removing the side plate. It is almost impossible to change the chain if the brake is not unlocked.

Step 2: Detach the guide bar

Now that the tension is relieved of the guide bar and chain, go on and detach the guide bar from the chainsaw. You detach the guide bar from the tensioner by pulling the nose of the guide bar out away from your chainsaw.

The guide bar will come off as one piece.

Step 3: Remove chainsaw chain

Now that you have detached the guide bar from the chainsaw, you can remove the chain from the guide bar. However, you can also detach the chain first in step 2 and then remove the guide bar. Do whatever suits you.

Step 4: Adjust tensioning screw

After removing the chain, find the tensioning screw and loosen it. This tensioning screw is usually on the inner side of the chainsaw’s guide bar. Loosening this tensioning screw makes changing the chain much easier.

Step 5: Thread your chain onto the guide bar

Now that you have already removed the old chain, thread your new chain all around over the guide bar. Ensure that you have placed the chain facing the right direction. The cutting edge should be on the outer side to cut through wood.

Step 6: Reattach the guide bar to the sawing machine

After threading the chain properly on the guide bar, reattach the guide bar to the sawing machine. Fit the chain around the clutch. It will fit nicely and easily because the tensioning screw is loose. The guide bar will snap into place easily too.

Step 7: Reattach the side plate

After properly aligning the chainsaw’s guide bar, replace the cover with the chainsaw. Also, replace the bolts that hold the guide bar to the position. However, do not tighten the nuts completely yet. The reason for not tightening is to allow the guide bar space to be movable, and this will allow easy adjustment of the chain when tensioning the tensioner. 

Step 8: Tighten and secure the chain to the precise tension

You now need to get the proper tension on the chain. Following the reattachment of the side plate, adjust the tension of the chainsaw chain. Use your tensioning screw to adjust this tension from the tensioner. However, ensure that the chain brake is disengaged; otherwise, the chain will not tense.

Give the tensioner a slight twist. This will pull the guide bar away from the saw. Consequently, this will put tension on the chain. Do not stretch the chain too much. 

Step 9: Tighten nuts that fasten the side plate

You have now achieved the desired tension. Use the other end of the scrunch to tighten the bolts that hold the guide bar into position.

Step 10: Check the tension of your chain

A good way of checking the tension of your chain is by checking whether the chain spins freely without binding. To check this, while avoiding cutting yourself, take the scrunch behind the chain teeth and push as if it is in motion. The chain should be able to spin freely. 

Once the chain is moving freely, pick up and drop the chain freely without pulling the chain off the bar to confirm the tension. 

Congratulations. You have now completed changing the chainsaw chain.

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5 Reasons to Change Your Chainsaw Chain

chainsaw chain with broken and unevenly worn teeth
Image by FotoFanni on Pixabay

You may be wondering why you need to change your chainsaw chain. Here are five reasons.

Reason 1: Broken and unevenly worn teeth

When working with your chainsaw, the chain is likely to hit hard objects such as a rock or nail. The objects will damage these teeth. If you notice your chain has broken teeth that are unevenly worn, assess them to ascertain if the damage is repairable. If not, you will have to change the chain.

Reason 2: Problems with the tension of the chain

The chain should never be loose. When you realize that you are frequently tightening a loose chain that loosens again, this is a sign that the chain needs replacement. A loose chain can snap during work and cause you harm. Therefore, you will have to change the chain if you constantly tighten it.

Reason 3: Smoke while cutting

Smoke may result from a lack of lubrication or a loose chain. However, if your chain is tight and well lubricated yet still smoking, then the chain is struggling while cutting, and you need to replace your chain.

Reason 4: Sawdust

Despite sharpening your chain, it may be throwing out sawdust or fine chips. A good chain should produce coarse chips. This shows that the chainsaw is not sawing efficiently and thus needs changing or sharpening.

Reason 5: Unbalanced chainsaw

A properly functioning chainsaw should feel balanced while in use, and it should also be cut evenly. If you have balanced your chain’s cutting teeth and adjusted tension, but the chainsaw still feels unbalanced, then you need to replace the chain.


To sum it all up, changing the chainsaw chain is inevitable. It does not matter how frequently you use your chainsaw or the amount of work your saw does. You will have to change your chainsaw someday. You need to sharpen your chain; therefore, you must remove it or change it to a sharper one. In addition, you also need to replace a worn-out chain.

Therefore, using the steps we have given you, you can comfortably and easily change your chainsaw chain and continue working. 

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