How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be: All You Need to Know

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By Jake Hill


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If you want the best performance from your chainsaw for cutting trees, you will need to keep it always sharp and properly maintained. That is why you should always inspect its cutting chain tension. Correct tensioning protects you from getting injured while cutting.

It also enhances the cutting quality and improves the chain’s lifespan.

That said, the proper tension or tightness level is unknown to all users. If you want to know more about how tight a chainsaw chain should be, keep reading this post. We’ll help you understand everything related to cutting chains’ tightness.

The Importance of the Right Tension

It is always important to check the chain tightness before you operate the machine. Correct chainsaw chain tightness is a significant safety factor. Also, it is mandatory for the efficient operation of the machine.

Every time you operate your chainsaw, its chain is likely to stretch and become loose. Any cutting chain that becomes sagging or too slack should be replaced. Typically, a loose chain won’t cut. More importantly, it can free itself from the bar and jeopardize your safety.

A too-tight cutting chain, on the other hand, will not provide efficient cutting. More accurately, it won’t cut wood at all. It will eventually damage the bar. A too-tight chain will stress the bar and sprocket more, eventually causing them to wear out.

You can rely on the chain’s drive links to determine whether to readjust the tightness. You can perform this test whenever you want to ensure the correct tightness. Pull the links from the chainsaw guide bar.

If they do not easily get pulled away from the bar, the chain is not tight enough. If you pull the chain and the links are unengaged, it is time for tensioning. 

How to Measure Chain Tension

Chainsaws do not include gauges that can give a sign of correct tension. However, measuring the tightness is not a challenging task. Measuring the chain tension does not require any special tools. You can use a finger to pull the chain from the bar. If it sags, it is loose.

If the chain holds itself too tightly to the bar, it needs a bit of loosening. A general rule of thumb to measure the proper tension is that the chain should move only 1/4 inch away from the bar. Otherwise, you will need to manipulate the adjustment screws.

Adjusting Chain Tension

As you already know, chainsaws come from manufacturers such as Husqvarna, Stihl, and Echo. They come with different power options. So, there are gas-powered, battery-powered, and electric chainsaws. However, all these different types and brands can be tightened similarly. Here are the steps for successful tension adjustment:

1. Find the Tensioning screw

In some models, tension screws are between their bars and felling dogs. However, this screw is found outside the bar’s cover in most models. More accurately, you will find it positioned between the nuts on the cover of the guide bar.

2. Loosen the Guide Bar nuts

If you need to know which nuts to work on, you should aim for those securing the bar. In some models, there is only one bolt holding the bar. However, in other models, these screws can be two or three.

You should not remove these nuts, but make them slightly loose. This step gives the bar room to move while trying to reach the proper chain tension.

To loosen these bolts, you can use a scrench. It is an essential tool for maintaining any chainsaw. It is a combination of a flathead screwdriver and two wrench sockets. Make sure that you are using the socket end for this purpose.

3. Readjust the Tension level

Find the tensioning pin and manipulate it a bit. This chain tightener is, in fact, flat-headed, so you will need to use the screw end of the wrench. Before adjusting the tightness, it is mandatory to keep the tip of the guide bar nose up.

This helps reach the correct adjustment even when the bar moves up slightly. Otherwise, the chain will sag once the chainsaw starts cutting. So, do not release this tip until you finish the adjustment.

Then, turn the pin clockwise until the chain is adequately tight. You will know when the moment comes because you will find the chain holding itself against the chainsaw blade. Lastly, you will retighten the chain tension bolt and cover nuts.

If you follow these steps correctly, you will efficiently and quickly adjust the tension of any chainsaw. You will need to repeat this routine every three hours of operation. 

Safety Precautions while Adjusting the Chain tension

As you might have guessed by now, adjusting the tension of your chain is manageable. However, it is risky, like dealing with any part of this heavy-duty machine. To avoid the risk of injury, you should keep these considerations in mind:

1. Wear your PPE

When you come into contact with your chainsaw, wear your protective equipment. However, it would be best to pay attention to wearing thick hand mitts when handling the chain. The chain is sharp, and the cutting risk is not underestimated.

2. Make sure the machine is Turned off

It is not safe to adjust the chain when the machine is running. Even if the chainsaw is idle, it is still dangerous. So, the engine should remain shut off. Also, corded chainsaws should not stay connected to their power sources.

3. Clean the Blade

The blade, during cutting, can get jammed with dirt or greasy deposits. In general, a lack of bar cleanliness will weaken the effect of bar chain oil. So, it is highly recommended to clean it before adjusting the tension. This step increases the chain’s safety, as it won’t sag easily. Also, it will help the chain settle in the correct position.

4. Do not operate on a Hot machine 

While it is recommended to readjust the chain after each use, it is not right to do so when the machine is hot. A hot chainsaw will have a hot chain. The chain is made of metals and adheres to the heat expansion rule. So, give it a chance to cool down before making any adjustments.

Routine chain adjustment is relatively easy, but only some are comfortable or skilled enough. If you feel the same way about doing this routine, it is always better to seek the help of a professional service. At least for the first couple of times, until you are familiar with the process.


Tightening a chainsaw chain is not an extra activity. It is necessary for keeping the machine in shape. It is also required for maintaining the users safe. You will have to readjust the chain’s tension whenever it is too tight or loose.

It is too tight when the chain is stuck to the chain. When it is saggy and looks very loose, adequate tightening is necessary.

In general, you will have to check the condition of the chain after each session. However, shorter sessions won’t count. It is recommended to check the chain after three or four hours of operation. By doing so, you will make your chain cut sharply and powerfully. You will also reduce the chances of getting injured. 

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