How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be – 2 Testing Methods Applied

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Optimal performance for any chainsaw begins with proper tensioning of the chain. Poor tensioning can lead to the guide bar, clutch, crankshaft, sprocket and even the chain its self wearing out prematurely. So, how tight should a chainsaw chain be?

If you have just recently purchased a chainsaw, then you must be asking yourself that question. Fortunately, below we are covering everything you need to know to get the correct tightness of your chainsaw’s chain.

How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be

Test the Tension of Your Chainsaw Chain

Testing the tension of your chainsaw chain is done in two methods. These include the snap test and the pull test. Let’s take you through both.

The Snap Test

The snap test is done by gently pulling the chain away from the bar. Pull it as far as it can go and then release it. In case you fail to pull the chain, it simply means that the chain is too tight.

Now, when you do manage to pull it away from the bar, one of these two things might happen. The chain may snap back snugly in place meaning it is properly tensioned which is good.

Or, the chain may go limp meaning the chain is too loose and poorly tensioned.

The Pull Test

Here, you will have to pull the chain again away from the bar. Do this by partially lifting it away from the bar. When the drive links come completely clear of the bar groove, then the chain is loose.

On the other hand, if the drive links pulls out a little and the ends remain within the bar groove, then you have a good amount of tension.

Tighten the Chain Your Chainsaw Chain- The First Step to Chainsaw Maintenance

The Correct Tension

For a correct tension, your chain should be a little loose as it rests on the guide bar. While it should be a bit loose, it should also be tight enough in a way that you are not able to pull the drive links off the bar nose.

To confirm this, you can perform a test using any of the methods we looked at above.

Pull the chain away from the guide bar a little. So what exactly will happen in case of a correct tension? Well, the drive links will remain engaged meaning you don’t have to make any other adjustments.

The chain is properly tensioned and it is ready to do its job.

The Wrong Tensioning

What happens in this case? The first thing you can do is to try and detect a loose chain. Perform a test by pulling the chainsaw chain away from the guide bar.

With incorrect tension, the drive links will disengage from the bar when you pull the chain away from it. This means you will have to tighten the chain.

Another case of wrong tension is when the chain is tightened a little too much. How do you know this? As you perform your test, the chain drive links will not leave the bar once you pull it away.

Meaning you went overboard with the tension. What you can is to reduce the tension because the chain may end up breaking if you don’t.

How to Tighten A Chainsaw Chain

Locate The Tension Screw

Chainsaws come in different models and makes meaning, the tension adjustment screw is located in different places on each model.

We shall look at the most common places that this screw can be found depending on the most common models on the market. There are basically three areas and these include;

  • The front panel. Some models have the screw at the front panel at the right side of the bar guide and the left side of the bucking spikes.
  • Side panel. Here it will be just between the bolts holding the guide bar in its place
  • Integrated tension system. Most chainsaws feature an easy in-built tension system. These models don’t have a tension screw instead they have an integrated handle used to adjust tension.

Get The Right Tool (If Needed)

Not all chainsaws will require a tool to tighten the tension screw. Those that don’t a tool are the models with an in-built tension system.

In case your chainsaw needs a tool for adjusting the tension, then a wrench will be the best tool to use.

Tighten The Chain

When you are done locating the tension screw and you get the right tool, you are now ready to start adjusting the tension of your chain. However, if you own a chainsaw with a tension system, use the tension handle to do the adjustments.

Step By Step Guide On How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be

Follow these directions to correctly tighten your chainsaw chain. Remember missing out on even the smallest detail can lead to wrong tension.

  • Start by loosening the bolts on the side panel of the guide bar on the chainsaw. Once they are lose, there will be more room for easy adjustment of the chain from the guide bar. If you own a chainsaw with brakes attached to its side panel, unlock them first and then remove the side panel.
  • Next, you have to adjust the tension screw. By now you know where to locate it regardless of the model you have. Tightening the chain if its loose requires you to tighten the screw and to loosen the chain just loosen the screw. Once you are done, perform a test to see if you got the right tension.
  • After you are sure the tension is correct, tighten the nuts of the guide bar side panel. Do it by lifting the nose of the chainsaw so that there isn’t any malfunctioning.

How Often Should You Tighten Chainsaw Chain With the Proper Chainsaw Tension

BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Chainsaw, 10-Inch (LCS1020)

If you have a new chainsaw, the user manual should show its break-in period. It is during this time that the chain needs to be tightened frequently. It will not be the case with a chainsaw chain which has been in use for a very long time.

The break-in period usually allows any form of irregularities occurring on the friction surfaces to smooth out and the rivets on the chain drive links will be seated well.

The break-in period will be per tank gas fill. Before it ends, check the chain’s tension after you make a few cuts and tighten it. However, when the period is over-tightening will not have to be frequent.

Also, one of the best things to do after you are done cutting is to loosen the chain tension regardless of the break-in period. Here, it will be easy for you to start the chainsaw and chain will not have to grip the guide bar tightly when it cools.

How To Tighten Chain On Craftsman Chainsaw

CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (CMCCS620M1)

If your craftsman chainsaw chain keeps coming off or the craftsman chainsaw chain won’t stay tight, it is most likely that the tension in the chain is wrong.

Correct and adjust the chain tension is needed and it can be achieved by referring to the craftsman chainsaw manual or in the following ways.

  1. Wear safety gear before you begin tightening the chain of your chainsaw.
  2. Place the craftsman chainsaw on to a workbench and stand in front of the saw while facing the blade and the chain.
  3. Raise the tip of the blade with one hand and use the other to insert a chainsaw multi-tool into the tension screw at the right side of the blade if you are facing the chainsaw blade. Make the necessary adjustments.
  4. Check if your craftsman chainsaw chain has the correct tension by pulling the chain around the blade. So, how can you tell the chain has correct tension? It will show if the chain pulls around the blade having a snug fit. If the craftsman chainsaw chain keeps coming loose, then you need to tighten the tension screw some more until you get it right and you are good to go.

How To Tighten Chain On Electric Chainsaw

Oregon CS1500 18 in. 15 Amp Self-Sharpening Corded Electric Chainsaw

When it is an electric chainsaw, you will have to do the following to correctly tension the chain.

  1. Start by loosening the nuts found on the blade arm. This offers room to make quick and easy adjustments. Some electric chainsaws have brakes on their side panel. For these types of chainsaw, unlock the brakes before anything else.
  2. Find the tension screw head in order to adjust the chain. If your electric chainsaw chain keeps coming off, tighten the chain using a tool to turn screw head in a tightening direction until you get the right tightness.
  3. Check to see if you have the right tightness. When everything looks good, tighten the nuts to secure the side panel as well as the guide bar.

How To Tighten Chain On Poulan Chainsaw

Poulan Pro 20 in. 50cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw, PR5020

  1. How to tighten chain on Poulan chainsaw is similar to the method used in tightening a chain on an electric chainsaw. Here you need a flat screwdriver and a half-inch socket wrench.
  2. Start by loosening the side panel nuts using your half-inch socket wrench to get more space to make easy chain adjustments.
  3. Now, use the flat screwdriver to tighten the chain if your Poulan chainsaw chain keeps coming off, If it is too tight, loosen it until you get the right tightness for your Poulan chainsaw chain.

How To Tighten Husqvarna Chainsaw Chain

Husqvarna 120 Mark II 16 in. Gas Chainsaws, Orange/Gray

  1. This chainsaw model comes with brakes on the side panel therefore you have to disengage them before anything else.
  2. Now, using a combination spanner, loosen the bar nuts holding the clutch cover.
  3. Next, keep the tip of the bar raised and tighten the chain through the Husqvarna chainsaw tensioner When your Husqvarna chainsaw chain keeps loose, turn the screw clockwise to tighten it until it stops slacking under the bar.
  4. Check the chain by pulling it round by hand freely. If it slacks at the bottom of the guide bar, tighten it again until you get the right tension. Remember not to over tighten it as it might lead to damage of the chain.

How To Tighten Stihl Chainsaw Chain

  1. The first step on how to tighten Stihl chainsaw chain is by disengaging the brakes attached to the side panel first. When it’s done, loosen both of the nuts which hold the sprocket cover firmly in place. Do this until the guide bar can wiggle up and down freely rather than removing the nuts completely.
  2. Lift the guide bar of the chainsaw and use the screwdriver to adjust the tension screw tightness. This is done if your Stihl chainsaw chain keeps coming loose or when the Stihl chainsaw chain won’t stay tight. Stihl chainsaw chain tensioner is located below the guide bar and slightly ahead of the sprocket cover nuts.
  3. Next tension the chain by making it rest securely against guide bar’s underside. Re-tighten the nuts and then check to see that the chain tension is correct. If it is not, repeat the tightening process.

How To Put Chain Back On Remington Electric Chainsaw

Remington RM1645 Versa Saw 12 Amp 16-Inch Electric Chainsaw with Automatic Chain with Auto Oiler-Soft-Touch Grip and Hand Guard, Orange

How to put chain back on Remington electric chainsaw can be done by you easily. You don’t have to remove the entire guide bar replacing the chain. Follow these steps to put back your Remington chainsaw chain.

  • Get a few supplies such as flathead screwdriver, socket wrench set, leather gloves for work and a chain you wish to put back.
  • Next, disconnect the chainsaw from its power cord and then locate where the guide bar plus the sprocket cover nut is. Using your socket wrench, remove the retaining nut so as to remove the sprocket cover from the chain.
  • After, access the slack in the chain you are removing by gently pushing the guide bar toward chainsaw body. Now, the chain is easy to remove from the chain sprocket and from the guide bar.
  • Get the new chain you wish to put and place it into the chain sprocket which is located in the chainsaw body. When it is in place, thread it over the guide bar at the top. Make sure the cutting edge of the chain is not near the saw.
  • Using one hand, hold the chain close to the top groove around the guide bar. With the other hand, rotate the guide bar track. Doing this will help rotate the chain to the rest of the guide bar.
  • To re-attach the chain sprocket cover, pull the guide bar away from the saw so that it can take the slack out of the chain. Place back the retaining nut and tighten well. It’s time to slide back the guide bar into the chainsaw and then tighten its retaining nut.
  • Lastly, locate the tension screw and tighten the chain accordingly. Proceed to do a Remington chainsaw tension screw replacement in case the screw is faulty and won’t stay tight.

Chainsaw Chain Keeps Coming Loose

Husqvarna chainsaw chain 18-Inch .050 gauge .325 pitch low kickback low-vibration

Often, most people experience their chainsaw chains coming loose more frequent. You don’t have to throw it away and begin searching for a new one.

Rather, you can make a few inspections, get the solution and still keep the chainsaw.

For example, if your Husqvarna chainsaw chain keeps coming loose or your Poulan chainsaw chain keeps loosening, take off the clutch cover to inspect the guide bar. It may not be seated well on the adjustment pin.

Also, it could be a problem with the threads that are located at the bar studs. Worn out threads can be dangerous as they cause the chain to loosen frequently and tend to maximize the amount of play in the guide bar.

Another cause may be the chain tensioner pin. Here you need to adjust the pin so that it is away from the powerhead as you adjust the tension screw in a clockwise direction.

Likewise, when turning the tension screw counter-clockwise, the pin should be towards the powerhead. In case you can’t achieve any this, it simply means the tension pin is broken and it needs replacement.

Chainsaw Chain Keeps Jamming

It could be because of a few things.

  • If the engine starts but the chain won’t move, check the brakes of the chain if they engaged. If they are, disengage them and try again.
  • Check the chain tension and see if the chain that is too tight. Fix it by loosening the tension screw a little.
  • It could be improper guide bar and chain assembly. Fix it by re-assembling them.
  • The chain may be placed incorrectly, remove it and re-install it well.
  • Check the air filter to see that it is clean.
  • Is the drive assembly damaged, refer to the service information on the manual to fix this
  • Maybe the guide bar and the chain need replacement.

Chainsaw Chain Keeps Coming Off

This is caused by numerous reasons but the most common could be that your chainsaw has a slack chain tension. There are other reasons like the drive sprocket of the chainsaw being worn out.

When this happens, the drive sprocket will no longer be in position to hold the chain in position hence coming off. Another thing could be because of a worn-out bar heel.

The bar heel is close to the drive sprocket and when it wears out it increases the chain’s travel distance making it jump off often.

What Will Happen If The Chainsaw Chain Tension Isnt Proper?

It is always said that proper chainsaw chain tensioning is proper for optimal chainsaw performance. You have also been told to always check the chain tension before you begin any kind of cutting.

So, what will happen if the tension of the chainsaw chain isn’t proper? Well, you should never underestimate any of these warnings because so much can happen when a chainsaw chain tension problem.

A loose chain can cause kickback as you cut which is very dangerous. Kickback can cause very serious injuries and it is one of the most dangerous accidents a chainsaw can cause. Poor chain tension can lead to a shortened lifespan of different chainsaw components.

Aside from poor performance or no performance at all, the chain will also frequently be thrown off the guide bar if the chainsaw chain tensioner needs replacement.

Dangers Of Running A Chain With Improper Tension

  • A loose chainsaw chain will make slanted cuts. It will not be able to feed into the wood meaning it has to be forced in by bearing the guide bar down with the help of your weight. This in the long run results to the bar bending.
  • Another danger of a loose chain is derailing as the chain keeps spinning around the guide bar. It happens when you are operating the machine at high speeds beyond 60 feet per second. Do you know what will happen to you when such events occur? You will be struck hard by due to the speed by a sharp steel cutter leading to loss of a few fingers or injuries to your face.
  • Now let’s look at the dangers of an extremely tight chain. In such cases, the chain puts too much pressure to the drive sprocket and the bar nose leading to early wear and tear.
  • Also, it will end up snapping at any moment making it eat into the bar rails.
  • Another danger is the overconsumption of bar oil. Instead of refilling the oil after a few months, you end up doing it after a few cuts.
  • Lastly, a tight chain can damage the bearings and the clutch of the chainsaw immediately you start the machine.

Chainsaw Chain Tightens On Its Own

When your chainsaw chain tightens on its own, it is usually because the guide bar and chain its self are dry. The best thing to do when the chainsaw chain tightens itself is to check for any clogged oiler holes which may be blocking oil from getting to the bar and the chain.

Clean them and the tank as well because it could be having debris clogging the flow of oil. In case you still get the same problem, check the oiler pump and the drive sprocket. When you see the issue is with the drive sprocket, it means it’s high time you replace it.

Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch?

The reason you have to keep an eye on the tension of the chain is because they tend to stretch. It will stretch and end up loosening at a time you are cutting putting you at risk of getting injured.

So, is your chainsaw chain stretching a lot?

Well, it happens because of wear and tear in most cases. It happens also because of prolonged usage. Have a new chain?  Be very careful because these tend to stretch more than the used ones.

Why? Simple it is because of the break-in period.  During the break-in period, make sure to inspect the chain frequently before use and during operations.

Heat can cause the chain stretch as well. During operations, the chain experiences lots of pressure and friction which can cause extreme heat.

When there is too much heat, the metal chain will loosen/stretch a bit. It tends to go back to normal once it chainsaw cools down.

DIY Chainsaw Chain Breaker

Some chainsaws have a removable master link to help remove an old chain. However, some don’t and it’s important to use your own chain breaker to do so. So, how do you remove a chainsaw chain with a pocket chainsaw chain breaker?

  • Start by aligning one of the chain links with the chain breaker opening. It will make the rivet to align with the push bolt. Make sure the bottom of the chain is also properly aligned the flat base which is located at the bottom of the chain breaker.
  • Next push the down the lever of your chain breaker. Endeavor to apply consistent pressure on to the lever so as to push the pin into rivet. The chainsaw should be resting onto a solid ground.
  • Continue putting consistent pressure until you see the rivet forced out of the chainsaw chain link. When it happens, the chain should be in position to break free from your chainsaw.

What To Do With Old Chainsaw Chains

Re-sharpen the chains for reuse until you can’t res-sharpen the teeth any more. When the teeth cannot be sharpened any longer, it is time to say goodbye to your chain.

Find a place you can dispose of it too. Make sure the place will not in any way affect the environment or end up hurting someone.

Final Thoughts

We have come to the end of our guide and by now you should know what to do in case you are faced with any chainsaw chain problem.

We have tried to cover all the important questions and topics that you may have been confused about. It is very easy to determine the right tension of a chainsaw chain and it will not take up too much of your time.

Remember a loose or tight chain can be very dangerous so you have to check it before you begin any work.

Avoid petty accidents that can come due to carelessness. Chainsaw accidents can be very traumatic and they can cause very serious injuries you may never recover from easily.

Regardless of your experience with chainsaws is our guide on how tight should a chainsaw chain be will help you overcome any issues.

You May Also Read:

1. How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Blade with an Electric Sharpener – Quick 10 Steps Guide
2. How To Sharpen A Chainsaw With A Dremel – A Handy Easy Guide (2020)
3. How To Measure a Chainsaw Bar Length – Useful Tips and Guides (2020)
Robert Terry

Robert Terry is a specialist author at He is very enthusiastic about woodworking and carpentry. His writings have been published in the wood magazine before. His passion for working with wood and woodworking tools lets him explore many pieces of informative content and resources. Besides working as a creative writer, he loves to share his skills and experiences with the woodworking and carpentry community.

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