Should Chainsaw Chain Be Tight or Loose?


A chainsaw is a useful piece of equipment that will only be effective if it is maintained properly. Not only is it crucial for the efficiency of the chain saw, but maintaining these tools is also essential for personal safety.

Since it has a chain, a chainsaw is more susceptible to damage and regular wear and tear. Because of this, several people find it troublesome to keep a personal chainsaw, as its maintenance can be a headache.

However, you can achieve that in a few simple steps. The first and foremost stage is to take care of the chain. Before you learn how to tighten a chainsaw chain, the question, “How tight should the chainsaw chain be?” must have crossed your mind.

If yes, continue reading to find the answers.

How Tight Should the Chainsaw Chain Be?

A close-up of a chainsaw with a chain attached. The chainsaw chain should be tight

The easiest way to explain this is that the chain should be snap-tight. It means that you should be able to lift the chain about 1/8th way off the chainsaw bar, and as soon as you leave it, the chain should snap back in place. Another way is to observe the chain.

If you look at the interior of the chain carefully, you should be able to see the teeth perfectly aligned with the grooves on the bar. Try to move one of the teeth out of its groove. If it moves easily, it signifies you have a loose chain. If it doesn’t move from its position, the chain might have fit perfectly on the bar.

The chain must not be too tight, or the drive links won’t turn freely. However, it should be tight enough to minimize slack. You can utilize the tensioning screw if you think you need help. A tensioning screw is located at the top or side of the chainsaw and allows the user to tighten the chain.

If you think the chain is taut around the bar, tighten the screw to hold the chain securely in place. At any point, if you have a doubt, it is advisable to refer to the manual or user guide. You can even call a professional.

However, determining how tight a chainsaw chain should be comes with experience, and you might not be able to judge accurately the first time.

How to Tighten A Chainsaw Chain?

Over time, as you use the chainsaw, its chain stretches and begins to sag. Ensuring the chain is tight around the bar is critical in maintaining the equipment. To begin with, you can verify whether the chain is tight enough by pulling it slightly away from the bar.

If the drive links remain engaged, it has good tension. On the other hand, if the drive links disengage, your chainsaw needs maintenance. If you find that your chainsaw chain needs tightening, refer to the following easy steps.

  • Loosen The Nuts: The first step is to loosen the nuts on the side panel of the guide bar to create enough space for the chain to be adjusted. If the brakes are directly attached to the side panel of your chainsaw, ensure that they’re unlocked beforehand.
  • Adjust The Screw: Tensioning screws are located on the top or the side of the chainsaw guide bars. On tightening the screw, the chainsaw chain will be tightened, and vice versa. Keep verifying the tension in the chain before moving on to the next step.
  • Tighten The Nuts: Once done, lift the nose of the chainsaw to tighten the nuts on the side panel of the guide bar. We end where we started. Ensure to check the tension of the chainsaw several times before you firmly set the nuts in place.

As is evident from the above guide, you can easily tighten the chain of your chainsaw by yourself in three simple steps. However, it is possible that you may not get the knack for it immediately, in which case you can keep practicing till the tension in the chain is perfect, or you can get help from someone experienced. Either way, you’ll quickly master the art of maintaining your equipment over time.

Why Should the Chain Have the Correct Tension?

the chainsaw while ensuring the chain has the correct tension.

As previously mentioned in the above sections, appropriate tension in the chain of a chainsaw not only determines the efficiency and performance of the equipment but also denotes the personal safety of the user. If the chain is loose, it may cause warps in the guide bar, leading to other rapidly wearing parts. The loose chain may also derail and come off the guide bar completely.

This may cause severe injury to the user. On the other hand, chainsaws whose chains are too tight may wear out other parts prematurely by applying too much stress to the clutch, bearings, or even the motor.

This may lead to the device to heat up, thereby becoming a fire hazard. Thus, the tension in the chain of a chainsaw must be appropriately maintained.

Final Thoughts

To answer the prevailing question, “Should a chainsaw chain be loose or tight?” the chain must be appropriately tight. It means that the tension in the chain must be perfect to ensure the optimum performance of the chainsaw.

A loose chain poses the risk of causing severe injury to the user, like loss of a limb, and chains that are too tight may eventually cause a fire hazard. Thus, you should routinely check the tension in the chains.

Tightening the chain can be achieved in three simple steps – loosening the nuts on the sidebar, adjusting the chain and the tensioning screw, and tightening the nuts on the sidebar again. It is advisable to check the condition and maintain the chainsaw components routinely over time.

Does your chainsaw require routine maintenance? Let us know in the comments section below!

Be sure to check out these other posts for more insights and tips:

Kalista Howell
Kalista Howell is an accomplished writer with over 12 years of experience in journalism. She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Her career began in 2009 as a reporter for a local newspaper, where her flair for realistic storytelling quickly garnered attention. With an extensive background in educational content creation, her expertise lies in translating complex concepts into accessible, reader-friendly formats. Beyond her professional life, she is a passionate advocate for lifelong learning, often conducting community workshops on digital literacy. In her leisure time, she enjoys gardening.

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