How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be?

Your chainsaw chain’s tightness is critical, and it should be checked regularly. Ideally, your chainsaw chain should be snap-tight, meaning it will “snap” back into place when pulled upon.

That isn’t the most precise of terms, I know. Fortunately, there are easy ways to test for it…

How to tell whether your chainsaw chain is snap tight

First, you can pull your chainsaw chain as far from the bar as possible to see if it snaps back into place. If it does, that suggests it is about as tight as it should be. However, you will need to do some adjusting if you experience the two other potential outcomes.

You know your chainsaw chain is too tight if you can’t pull it away from the bar. Meanwhile, you know your chainsaw chain is too loose if you can pull it out of place rather than it snapping back into place.

Second, you can pull your chainsaw chain to see how far the links come away from the bar. The tightness is right when the links can rise to some extent without their ends separating from the bar altogether.

You know you have an issue if you can’t lift your chainsaw chain at all. Similarly, the chainsaw chain shouldn’t be so loose that the ends of its links can come right out of the bar groove.

How to adjust your chainsaw chain’s tightness

Newer chainsaws often have a built-in system that makes it much easier to adjust the tightness of their chains. Essentially, you just need to locate the relevant handle. After which, you can turn it until your chainsaw chain is as tight as it should be.

Other chainsaws aren’t as convenient. For them, you are going to need to locate the tension screw. This isn’t in the same place for every chainsaw. Sometimes, it is on the front panel. Other times, it is on the side panel.

If you aren’t sure, you can always consult the user manual for this kind of information. Please note that you are also going to need a scrench, which you should be able to get anywhere you can get a chainsaw.

Use one hand to hold the bar. Simultaneously, use the other hand to adjust the tension screw using the scrench. Test the chainsaw chain’s tightness using the aforementioned methods until you are confident it is as it should be.

Why should your chainsaw chain be snap tight?

Snap-tight makes for the best performance in more than one sense. If your chainsaw chain is too tight, you can expect it to increase your chainsaw’s rate of deterioration.

Just about every machine accumulates wear and tear through its use. However, it can deteriorate much faster when it is used improperly, thus forcing you to either repair or replace it sooner than otherwise necessary.

A loose chainsaw chain is even worse because it can come off of the chainsaw. If you are lucky, you just have to deal with repair and replacement; if you aren’t, chainsaw chains can inflict serious injuries on human flesh.

How long does a chainsaw chain last?

According to advice on multiple chainsaw manufacturer websites, a chainsaw blade should last 5 years with proper care and maintenance. This is dependant on usage, cutting intensity, type of wood, and maintenance regime.

The life of a chainsaw chain is dependent of several factors including frequency of use, cutting intensity, wood type, and maintenance. Lets investigate each of these factors that can impact the life span of your chainsaw chain one by one:

Chainsaw Usage

Using a chainsaw every day will obviously inflict more wear and tear on your chainsaw chain than if used only occasionally. Each time a chainsaw is used, the teeth of the blade lose microscopic amounts of steel which eventually dull the cutting surfaces.

More time spent cutting means more wear on the chainsaw chain.

Cutting Intensity

Chainsaws are very effective at cutting wood, and can glide through tough logs effortlessly. However many folks apply too much pressure to the chainsaw when cutting in an effort to force the blade through the wood.

This is unnecessary and can lead to premature wear of the cutting surfaces.

Type of wood

There are many, many different varieties of wood that a chainsaw may be asked to cut through. Hardwood, softwood, knarled & knotted wood – you name it. The type of wood will have a significant impact on the condition of the chain over time.

You may also be cutting wood which has nails, screws or other hard particles that come into contact with the blade during cutting. This will damage the chain pretty quickly so always ensure the wood is clear of these items before you begin.


A poorly maintained chainsaw chain will lead to corrosion and improper function of the chainsaw as a whole. Regular maintenance is a prerequisite of owning a chainsaw and should be done after each use.

Clean the chainsaw of any muck, dirt and particles. Check oil and fuel levels and store correctly to prevent leakage.

Do chainsaw chains stretch?

Yes. Over time a chainsaw chain will stretch and become loose due to wear and tear. This is perfectly natural and should be part of regular chainsaw maintenance to ensure the chain is sufficiently tightened to the bar.

How to fix a stretched chainsaw chain

Most modern chainsaws have a chain tensioning mechanism to account for loosening of the chain. This is usually a tensioning screw on the chainsaw guide bar that is simply tightened with an appropriate tool.

To fix a stretched chainsaw chain, the tensioning screw should be turned enough so the chain is ‘snap tight’ to the bar. Simple.


A chainsaw is a fantastic piece of kit, and a sharp chain is your route to effortless wood cutting! The smooth and effective operation of your chainsaw relies on the chain tightness to be just right, so maintenance is required to check this on a regular basis.

A check of chainsaw chain tightness requires no special skills or measurement, simply pull on the chain and observe that it snaps back into place on the bar.

I hope this has been of some help… Happy cutting!


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