Know When and How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain - DevsIT


Know When and How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain

The most important component of a chainsaw is the chain. Without the chain, a chainsaw is a useless tool that is unable to cut through any thickness of wood. Many chainsaw owners wonder how often they need to replace their chain. Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer for this question.

The length of time a chainsaw chain will last depends on the type of cutting required along with the kind of wood. Harder woods such as oak, hickory, and maple require a stronger cutting ability along with cross-cutting. The harder the wood, the more worn the chainsaw chain becomes.

We have put together this definitive guide to help you know when and how to replace your chainsaw chain, so your saw will operate safely and effectively at all times.

Signs It’s Time for Chainsaw Chain Replacement

Knowing when to replace a chainsaw chain is essential for proper operation. According to Stihl, a trusted name in chainsaw manufacturers, there are some signs that prove a chainsaw chain needs replacing. (1) If you begin to notice any of the following signs, it is time to purchase a new chain:

  • It takes applying a greater amount of pressure before the chainsaw cuts.
  • The chainsaw kicks up a lot of smoke even though it has ample oil.
  • The chainsaw creates crooked cuts because the chain is only running in a single direction.
  • The chainsaw begins exhibiting jerky movements and vibrating heavily during use.
  • Split and cross-cutting results in a fine blend of sawdust instead of coarser strands.

How to Replace a Chainsaw ChainIn some cases, owners sharpen their chain a few times before it fails entirely. If multiple issues from the above list are occurring, it is wise for you to purchase a new chain and install it properly. While there is no way to guarantee the lifespan of a chainsaw chain, you can certainly protect it and prolong its life expectancy by keeping the oil tank filled at all times.

Is It Really Necessary to Learn How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain?

Without a sharp chain, what good would any chainsaw be? If your chainsaw seems to be bucking and burning through each cut with no sense of stability, it is likely your chain has become overly dull and is no longer offering the right level of cutting ability.

Professional fellers routinely replace their chainsaw chains because they know the true danger of kickbacks. There are three main things you can do to prevent kickbacks:

  • Make sure your chain is sharp and ready to cut.
  • Keep the slack and tension at the correct ratio.
  • Do not use the kickback danger zone (the upper tip) for cutting.

One of the most important reasons for changing a chainsaw chain is safety. Without maintenance, chainsaws are dangerous tools and can lead to serious accidents. According to the Advances in Emergency Medicine Volume 2015, Article ID 459697, there were 115,895 chainsaw emergency injuries between 2009 and 2013. (2) If you do nothing else to protect yourself while using your chainsaw, changing the chain when it becomes necessary is essential.

Properly Changing the Chainsaw Chain Is Important

There are a few steps involved in the proper operation of a chainsaw, and one of them is knowing how to replace a chainsaw chain. Thankfully, the steps are not too difficult. When in doubt, always refer to your chainsaw owners’ manual.

Knowing these steps will save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation. We are here to help you learn the steps involved in changing the chain; the entire process can take less than five minutes once you know what you are doing. Regardless of your chainsaw’s brand and model, you will find these steps easy to follow:

Step One: Remove the Guide Bar Side Panel

You must remove the side plate before you will be able to remove your chain. Most chainsaws have two nuts holding the plate in place. Removing the nuts should allow you to remove the chain. Some chainsaws have the brake attached to the guide bar side panel. If this is the case with your chainsaw, unlock the brake and remove the sprocket line before proceeding with the panel removal.

Step Two: Release the Chain Tension

Now that you have removed the guide bar side panel, the old chain should be fairly easy to remove. You will next need to release the tensioner by pulling on the nose of the chainsaw. Pull it away from you to carefully release the chain from the tensioner.

Step Three: Remove the Chain

With so much slack on the chain, you should not have any trouble removing it. Simply pull the chain’s drive links from the guide bar and carefully pull the rest of the chain over the clutch drum.

Step Four: Lightly Loosen the Tension Screw

Since removing the chain, you can make the installation of the new chain easier by slightly loosening the tension screw at this time. This screw is on the front or side of the chainsaw body.

Step Five: Threading the New Chain

Maneuver the new chain over the clutch drum and place the drive links into the sprocket, making sure they properly engage and remain on track. Work the chain around the guide bar, finishing with the nose.

Step Six: Properly Align the Guide Bar

This is one of the most important steps in installing a new chainsaw chain. To perform this step, gently pull on the nose of the chainsaw to create some tension on the chain. Make sure you seat the guide bar properly on the pin during this process.

Step Seven: Replace the Guide Bar Side Plate

You can now replace the two nuts that hold this plate in place, but do not fully tighten them yet. To get the correct amount of tension, make sure there is still some movement and give in the guide bar.

Step Eight: Time to Correct the Tension

While all of the steps of learning how to put a chain on a chainsaw are vital, this is truly important for the safe operation of the chainsaw. Remember how you loosened the tension screw in Step Four? You will now see the purpose of this little step. You will next tighten the chainsaw tension to ensure you achieve the right level of tension. For the correct methods of adjusting the tension, watch this handy video provided by Echo, a proud maker of American chainsaws.

Step Nine: Tighten the Guide Bar Side Panel

Finally, you are at the last step involved in replacing your chain. This is the easiest step and simply involves fully tightening the two nuts that hold the side panel in place. Your chainsaw is now ready to provide you with excellent cutting ability again.


You now know how to easily change your chainsaw chain and the signs you need to look for to determine if your chain has become dull. While there is no set time period for when to change a chain, knowing the signs of a dull chain can save you big headaches and injuries. We hope this guide has helped increase your knowledge and understanding of how and when to change your chain. Always practice the highest level of safety when using your chainsaw or performing any maintenance tasks.


1) 5 signs of a dull saw chain. (2017, April 06). Retrieved from

2) Hammig, Bart, Jones, & Ches. (2015, September 17). Epidemiology of Chain Saw Related Injuries, United States: 2009 through 2013. Retrieved from  

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