How to Untangle a Chainsaw Chain: Step-by-Step Guide

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By Jake Hill


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Chains consist of tiny but sharp teeth that do all the cutting. Chains can chop and remove the cut wood for hours. However, the real problems start when this smooth chain tangles. Right then, all your work stops and the frustration begins. Things can even get more complicated when you try to untangle them, and nothing works out.

Unlike what many people believe, a tangled chain is a very common chainsaw issue. Many users need to learn how to untangle a chainsaw chain. If this happens with your chain, consider how you maintain it. In this blog post, we will help you straighten your chain. So, stay tuned.

Safety Precautions Before Untangling a Chain

Safety always comes first. This is a general rule of thumb whenever you are handling a chain. Before attempting to fix this tangled situation, you should ensure your safety. This includes wearing PPE, especially protective goggles and thick protective gloves. 

Also, it would help if you increase your safety by wearing protective pants and safety boots to avoid cutting your feet and legs. 

Another important safety aspect in the untangling process is ensuring that the engine is not running. Moreover, you will need to check that the chain brake is engaged. This action will prevent the chain from moving while trying to untangle it. Unexpected movement of the chain will lead to severe cuts and injuries.

Also, make sure to have someone nearby, but not too close. When handling a chainsaw, having someone rescue you in case of hazards is better. Still, your bystander should maintain some distance. Additionally, it would be best not to start working on the chain when there is debris or rocks.

Such a thing can lead to accidents when you operate the chainsaw. Lastly, working on your tangled chainsaw chain is always better, but make sure the weather is clear. 

Identifying the Problem

When your chainsaw chain becomes tangled, you can quickly identify this issue. First of all, your chain won’t rotate properly. Also, it will lose its appearance due to visible knots.

Despite being a common problem, a tangled saw chain does not happen independently. It is always associated with improper chain storage and poor maintenance.

If you want to avoid this problem in the first place, make sure the chains are stored in an adequate space. Also, keep the chain oiled adequately during the operating season.

Removing the Chain

Now that you are ready to untangle your chain, you must take the chain off the chainsaw. You would need a scrench to perform this task, as there are nuts and screws to manipulate.

This tool is usually part of the machine’s accessories. However, you can buy it online or from a hardware store if you are still looking for it. Follow these simple steps to remove the chain successfully:

1. Loosen the Guide bar nuts

You will start by removing the side panel of the bar. A couple of tight nuts attach this panel to the chainsaw body. Once you remove this plate, you will easily access the chain. Make sure you remember where you put these nuts.

2. Release the Brakes

This is not the standard procedure in all cases. It should only be released if your chainsaw model has brakes attached to the plate. Only in this case will you release the brakes before taking off the plate. This enables you to reinstall the plate when everything is finished efficiently.

3. Release the Tension 

You will need to release the chainsaw chain tension to get a loose chain. This can happen when you pull the guide bar’s nose away from the machine. This will smoothly free the chain from the tensioner.

4. Pull the Chain out

All that is left is to remove the chain links from the bar. Then the whole chain will be in your hands.

Untangling the Chain

Now that the chain is out of the machine, you can efficiently work on its knots. This is a simple procedure, but you will need to be very careful in following the steps:

1. Put the chain on a flat table.

You will need to put the tangled chain on a flat surface. Make sure this surface is even, clean, and sturdy. You do not want the sharp metal teeth of the chain to scratch the surface. Also, you do not want the dirt and debris on it to be transferred to the chain.

2. Clean and lubricate the chain.

Clean the chain to ensure there is no stuck debris or gunk. These small particles can be the reason for a jammed chain. Then you should add some fresh chain lubricant. In the case of a simple tangle, the knot would be treated instantly. However, bad knots won’t disappear that easily.

3. Work on the two loop knots 

This is the easiest and most common way to detangle chainsaw chains. It would help to make the chain as tidy as possible to do it properly. Try to spread the chain in a circular position. This way, you will get to see the loop knots more clearly.

Pick only two chain loop knots, but not random loops. These need to be on opposite sides. For instance, one should be located outside the chain circle while the other should be on the inside. Bring these loops closer and make them face in the same direction.

4. Hold the loops

Hold each loop with one hand and spread them out in opposite directions. Pull them as far away as possible. Then, raise the chain in the air and quickly pull over the top chain until it comes to the bottom. Keep pulling till these two knots are resolved.

These steps can untangle the main two knots you are working on. However, you can keep repeating them till all the knots are gone.

Reinstalling the Chain

Now that you have a knot-free chain, it is time to bring it back home. To reinstall the chain, you should follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that the pointy end of the chainsaw chain teeth is facing forward.
  2. Put the chain on the bar.
  3. Wrap the chain around the round sprocket and position the bar correctly.
  4. Make sure the tensioner fits the hole in the bar.
  5. Place the bar side plate in its place and tighten the nuts, but not too tight.
  6. Adjust the chain tension using the scrench. Keep turning the screwdriver end of the scrench till the chain can snap back at the bar. This is when you know you have the proper alignment.


Untangling a chainsaw chain is easy and won’t take much time or effort. However, it can be prevented with proper care and correct storage of this metal chain. Keeping the chain lubricated can also resolve a simple tangling issue. However, you can follow the double loop method if the knots are multiple and complex.

But you should generally only approach your chainsaw chain with protecting your hands. Your hands will be close to these sharp cutters. So to avoid unnecessary injuries, keep your safety mitts on throughout the process.

Meanwhile, you should know your way around removing and reinstalling the chain. If you are uncertain, you can open the user’s manual. There would be sufficient instructions regarding proper installation and user safety. 

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