Chainsaws are one of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can own. They’re great for cutting firewood, trimming trees, and clearing debris. But keeping your chainsaw in good working condition is essential, and a poorly maintained chain can cause problems and reduce overall performance.
Your chainsaw chain should be loose enough that when you pull the trigger, the chain doesn’t snap back and hit you in the face but tight enough that it doesn’t vibrate excessively while it’s running. A too-tight chain might break, and a chain that’s not tight enough will lower performance.
It’s important to have the proper tension on your chainsaw. This is because it affects the performance of your saw, and you want to be able to use it effectively when you’re working on a project. In the rest of this article, I’ll expand on the importance of proper chainsaw chain tension and give you some info on tightening your chain.
What Is the Correct Chain Tension for a Chainsaw?
Chainsaw tension is the pressure exerted by the chain’s pitch during use. The pitch refers to how much space exists between each link in your chain, which affects its ability to cut through the wood when used with great force (source).
The chain needs to be tight enough that you can’t push the drive links out of the bar nose but not so tight that it’s hard to push the guide bar through the saw body. However, the correct tension for your chainsaw will vary on what you are using it for and what feels best with your model.
The tension should also be just a little loose on the chainsaw guide bar so that when you squeeze two adjacent teeth together with your fingers and let go, they’ll spring back into place. This characteristic is known as “spring back” (source).
Additionally, the correct tension for a chainsaw chain depends on what kind of project you’re working on. Low tension is fine if you’re just cutting small pieces of wood like kindling. However, if you need to cut thick logs and branches, high tension will give you more power and make the job easier. As we’ll explain below, though, this can be overdone!
The Benefits of Proper Chain Tensioning
When your chainsaw chain is tightened, you’ll find that your chainsaw is working at the optimal speed. With a correctly tightened tension, you should find:
- Reduced vibration and noise.
- Improved fuel efficiency by the reduction of energy loss in the chain and saw blade.
- Reduced risk of kickback and cuts.
- Improved chain sharpness, preventing premature wear or failure of your saw’s bar, chain, sprocket, and clutch plate (if equipped).
If you’re experiencing the opposite of any of these things, it could be a sign you need to do some extra tightening.
How To Check the Chain Tension
Here’s how to check the tension of your chainsaw chain. Make sure you are wearing gloves and eye protection when performing this procedure. You should also ensure that the chainsaw is turned off and disconnected from the power source:
- Remove the bar and chain from your chainsaw to check the chain tension. This will require loosening bolts that hold it in place by turning them counterclockwise with a wrench. You can also use an Allen wrench if needed.
- Once these have been removed, lift out your saw’s bar assembly until all parts are visible before moving on.
- Check for correct tension within your chain itself. If you need more information on this, I’ve included a video a bit further down in the article to show you how to check where your adjustment screw is and remove it. It also walks you through a total adjustment.
How To Know if Chainsaw Tension Is Too Tight
There are a few ways to tell if your chainsaw’s tension is too tight. Here are a few telltale signs:
- The chain will be difficult to push because it will be hard against the bar nose. You may also hear a weird grinding or some other noise that isn’t typical.
- When you pull back on the chain with your hands, it will feel stuck on both sides of the guide bars. Don’t attempt this investigation unless your chainsaw is off!
- When you try to move around a guide bar or turn corners with your saw, it’ll be more difficult. This is because there won’t be enough room for free movement between links and guides at certain points along the bar.
Can You Overtighten a Chainsaw?
The simple answer is yes. And if you overtighten, you’ll know!
A too-tight chain can affect your chainsaw’s overall performance, but a way-too-tight chain will ruin your saw. If you overtighten your chain, it will break and could injure you. A chain might even fly off and hit you, which is why it’s important to have all your gear on properly!
However, if you adjust things a bit too tight, it may take a little more time for you to notice the difference. Your chainsaw chain will wear out quickly if you don’t have the right tension.
How To Tighten Your Chainsaw Chain
Adjusting the chainsaw tension is not something you should do on a whim. It requires careful consideration and meticulous attention to detail. Whether you are using a new chain or an old one, there are ways that you can ensure that your saw is working at peak performance.
This YouTube video shows a step-by-step of how to get your chainsaw tension tightened:
What I love about this video from Steve’s Small Engine Saloon is the example he uses at the beginning: if you ask five loggers what the proper tension is, all five of them might have a different answer!
A properly-tensioned chain will have enough stickiness between each link so as not to come off while cutting, but not so much stickiness as to cause unnecessary friction and wear on both itself and other components such as guide bars and sprockets.
While an adequately tight chainsaw chain is important, your clutch is also an essential component. If you’re experiencing clutch slipping while using your chainsaw, you should find out the reason. I’ve presented common issues and ways to fix them in a complete guide.
It is important to keep the tension of your chainsaw chain at the right level, so it performs well and doesn’t break. It is also important to check this often as, over time, it will stretch out due to normal wear and tear. The most common way to check your chain tension is by using a gauge tool or gauge pin that fits into the slot on each side of the teeth of the chain nose.