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How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain: Step by Step!

In order to get the best cutting results, it’s vital that you have a good chainsaw chain. While the motor is an important part that drives the cutter, it’s the chain that does the cutting. Over time your chainsaw chain will begin to dull, corrode, break, etc. Meaning you’re going to need to replace it or risk fatal injury.

Do You Really Need to Replace Your Chainsaw Chain?

A chainsaws main parts are comprised of a guide bar, motor, and sprocket. As a chain becomes deformed and dull it drastically decreases the efficiency of the machine. As you probably know, chainsaws operate at high RPMs and these chain related issues can impact the safety of operation and can cause fatal injury. For instance kickback is considered to be the number one cause of chainsaw related injuries.

Factors to Consider When Replacing the Chainsaw Chain

When it comes time to change your chainsaw chain, you can refer to this guide on how to measure your guide bar as well as the pitch and gauge of your saw. A quick way to check these metrics is to look at the chainsaw bar. Most bars will detail the pitch, gauge, drive links, and length. On the off-chance it doesn’t, consult your manual or measure them manually.

It’s essential that your replacement chain fits the guide bar. It’s also important to note that not all chains will fit all bars. Chains need to be the appropriate length in order to function safely.

How to Replace Your Chainsaw Chain

This task may seem overwhelming but it’s actually relatively easy to do. You will need the following tools:

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Socket Wrench
  • Replacement chain
  • Your chainsaw

Step 1: Remove the Old Chainsaw Chain

Start by removing the side plate. To do this you will need to remove the two nuts that hold everything together. Use your socket wrench/t-wrench to unscrew the nuts so you can gain access to the chain.

Note: If your chainsaw has a brake that’s attached to the side plate, you will need to disengage it. If you don’t, it can be rather difficult to reinstall it.

Step 2: Release the Chainsaw’s Tension

With the side plate removed you can simply pull the nose of the guide bar away from the saw. This will cause the chain to release from the tensioner. The chain will become slack and you will be able to remove it.

Step 3: Loosen the Tensioning Screw

The next thing to do is to locate the tensioning screw. This is usually found on the inside of the guide bar. When you find it, loosen it with your flat head screwdriver a little so that the new chain will slip on easier.

Step 4: Threading the Chain onto the Saw

Once your chain is on the guide bar you will need to thread the chain onto the saw’s clutch drum. You need to ensure that all the drive links engage into the sprocket. Once threaded, you need to align the bar by applying some tension. You can do this by gently pulling the nose away from the chainsaw.

Step 5: Put the Side Plate Back On

Ensure the guide bar is level and in the right position. Put the side plate back on the chainsaw and put the nuts back on with the socket wrench. Don’t completely tighten the nuts yet. The guide bar needs to be able to move a bit while the chain is tightened to the correct tension.

Step 6: Tighten Everything

Use the tensioning screw to add tension to the chainsaw chain. Once you’ve reached the correct tension, you can tighten the nuts completely.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to know that you can sharpen your chainsaw chain a few times before replacing it. However, when it comes time to replace the chain, the guide above is fairly straightforward. We’d recommend using gloves when handling the chain because the teeth can be rather sharp.

John McDonald

As a person who has done a number of DIY projects, I know how intimidating power tools can be; Especially chainsaws and tools that feature a blade moving at a high rate of speed. SawFAQ hopes to provide thorough guides that can help you approach your next project with confidence.

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