Chainsaw Chain Replacement. Tips from professionals


When you use your chainsaw a lot, your chain and bar will slowly wear out. They are the parts directly involved in cutting. After an extended period of usage, the chain and bar can become damaged and worn out to a point where they can’t be sharpened or repaired. In this case, they need to be replaced.

How to replace a chainsaw chain:

  • Step 1: Measure the pitch and gauge and purchase a replacement
  • Step 2: Remove the side plate
  • Step 3: Release the chain tension
  • Step 4: Remove the chain
  • Step 5: Loosen the tension screw
  • Step 6: Install the new chain
  • Step 7: Put tension into the chain
  • Step 8: Reinstall the side plate
  • Step 9: Tighten the chain
  • Step 10: Check

I will show a more detailed step-by-step procedure later in this blog post. And how to find the perfect chain replacement for your chainsaw

The Step by Step Chain Replacement Procedure:

Before diving into the details, let’s have a look at the needed steps:

  • Step 1. Purchase a new replacement chain: Measure the pitch and gauge. They can usually be found stamped on the bar, but if not, measuring the chainsaw bar is pretty easy to do.
  • Step 2. Remove the side plate: Use a wrench to remove your chainsaw’s side plate/guide bar side panel. You might also need to unlock the chainsaw’s brake before taking out the old chain.
  • Step 3. Release the chain tension: Pull the chainsaw bar’s nose away from the saw’s body to release the chain tension.
  • Step 4.  Remove the chain: with the tension released and the brake unlocked, remove the old chain from your chainsaw.
  • Step 5. Loosen the tension screw: Loosening the tension screw located on the inside of the bar will make the installation of the new chain easier.
  • Step 6. Install the new chain: Carefully thread the new chain onto your chainsaw’s clutch drum.
  • Step 7. Put tension into the chain: Pull the bar’s nose away from the saw’s body to put some tension into the chain.
  • Step 8. Reinstall the side plate: Reinstall the side plate, tightening the nuts using a wrench, but do not tighten the nuts all the way just yet.
  • Step 9. Tighten the chain: Tighten the new chain to the correct tension by adjusting the tension screw.
  • Step 10. Finish: With the new chain tightened to the correct tension, tighten the side plate nuts all the way to finish the chain replacement procedure.

We will now look into each step in more detail:

● Step 1: Measuring the Chain and Bar on Your Chainsaw:

Not every chain or bar is suitable for your saw. For instance, larger chainsaw bars are best suited to more powerful saws because it takes more energy to drive a chain around a long bar. For this reason, electric saws use bars 18″ and shorter.

Similarly, chainsaw chains are measured to fit specific bars. If you try to fit a chain onto a bar that’s too long, too short, or too narrow for it, your saw won’t work.

You can usually find all the information you need to choose a replacement chain or bar in your chainsaw’s manual, but what if you’ve lost the manual or you’re too busy working outside and can’t look it up?

There is no need to worry. You can easily measure both your chain and bar to determine which replacement parts you should buy.

– Measuring the Chain:

There are two ways to figure out the size of your replacement chain without having to access the product manual. You can either measure the chain yourself or locate the chain measurements on other parts of your saw.

Measuring the Chain Yourself:

You can measure your chain in two measurements:

  • Pitch:  it is the distance between your chain’s drive links
  • Gauge: it is the width of the groove where the chain fits into the bar

To determine the pitch, all you need to do is measure the distance between any three consecutive rivets and divide the result by 2. The rivets are the small, round pegs that hold the chain segments together. Measure from the first rivet to the third, then divide that number in half to get your chain’s pitch.

The most common pitch measurements you’ll find on replacement chains are 3/8″ and .325″.

To measure your chain’s gauge, use the simple method explained below:

  • Coins: Find a quarter, a dime, and a penny
  • Clean the bar: Use a flat blade screwdriver or a bar cleaning tool to clean as much debris out of the bar’s groove as possible
  • Use the coins: One by one, slide each of the three coins into the chainsaw bar groove
  • Find the best fit: Determine which coin fits into the groove snug without being forced
  • Convert: Use this measurement to measure the gauge: quarter= 0.063 gauge, penny= 0.058 gauge, and dime= 0.05 gauge
Looking for Chain Measurements:

Alternately, your chainsaw bar may have the measurements you are looking for stamped right onto it. Chain measurements can usually be found near the back of the bar, where it mounts on the saw body.

– Measuring the Bar:

When looking for a replacement bar/chain for your chainsaw, you’ll need to determine the size of the bar.

For this, you’ll need to measure the useable length of the bar, known as the “cutting length” or the “called length.”

To measure the called length of your bar, measure it from its front tip back to the cutter closest to the saw’s body. Then round this measurement up to the nearest even number in inches. For instance, a bar that measures 18 3/4″ will have a called length of 20″.

You could look for a new bar with a 20″ bar length with the called length known. 

After purchasing the replacement chain, it’s time to remove the old chain on your chainsaw. The detailed step by step replacement procedure is given below:

● Step 2: Remove the Side Plate

The side plate on most chainsaws is attached to the saw body by two nuts. Using a wrench, unscrew the nuts and remove the side plate to access the chain. A chainsaw’s brake is sometimes attached to the guide bar side plate and needs to be unlocked before removing the sprocket plate.

If your chainsaw’s brake is attached to its side plate, make sure that you unlock the brake before removing the sprocket plate. If you remove the side plate with the brake in the locked position, reinstalling the side plate later will become very difficult.

● Step 3: Pull the Bar to Release the Chain Tension

With the sprocket plate removed, nothing stands in the way of your old chain coming off. However, it cannot be taken off the clutch drum in its tense state, and therefore, it needs to be released. So, pull the chainsaw bar’s nose away from the chainsaw body to release the chain from the tensioner.

● Step 4: Remove the Old Chain

With the side plate removed and the chain tension released, the chain is ready to be taken off. Remove the chain’s drive links out of the guide bar and the sprocket one by one. The chain will come off.

● Step 5: Loosen the Tension Screw

The tension screw on most chainsaws is located on the inside of the bar. Locate the tension screw on your chainsaw and loosen it using a flathead screwdriver. This step is important because loosening the tensioning screw makes installing the new chain easier.

● Step 6: Install the New Chain

Carefully thread the replacement chain or a recently sharpened chain around the chainsaw’s clutch drum, making sure that the chain’s drive links engage properly in the sprocket. Thread the rest of the chain’s drive links into the guide bar and around its nose one by one until the new chain is completely installed.

● Step 7: Put Tension into the Chain

After the chain has been properly threaded over the clutch drum and your chainsaw’s guide bar, put tension into the chain by pulling the guide bar’s nose away from the chainsaw. When you pull the guide bar, make sure to seat it onto the chainsaw’s adjustment pin.

● Step 8: Reinstall the Side Plate

The side plate is ready to be reinstalled in its position as long as the guide bar is properly positioned beneath it.
To reinstall the side plate, replace the plate and the nuts that hold it into position by hand and do not tighten the nuts completely. This is because the guide bar must have the allowance to move/adjust a little while the chain is being tightened to its correct tension.

● Step 9: Tighten the Chain

Adjust the tension screw on the inner side of the guide bar to tighten the newly installed chain to its correct tension. Tightening the screw will tighten the chain and vice versa.

For chainsaw users who aren’t sure what the proper chain tension means, here’s a brief overview of different chain tensions:

  • Good tension: A properly tensioned chainsaw chain would still be a little loose on your chainsaw’s guide bar, butthe chain should be tight enough so that the drive links can’t be pulled out of the bar nose. The best way to determine whether your chainsaw’s chain tension needs to be changed is to pull the chain away from the guide bar a bit to check if the drive links remain engaged or not. If the drive links remain engaged, the chain is in proper tension.
  • Bad tension: A loose chainsaw chain is one whose drive links are disengaged from the guide bar when pulled.

Looseness is not the only issue. Chainsaw chains can be overtightened too. There should always be a little play in the chain, just not too much that the drive links get disengaged from the bar. A chain that is too tight can break during operation.

● Step 10: Finish Up

Finish the procedure by tightening the side plate nuts firmly. Now, the chain on your chainsaw has been successfully replaced.

Finding the Right Chain Replacement for Your Chainsaw:

As stated before, chainsaw chains are not universal. Although the chain replacement procedure is mostly the same for all chainsaws, chains differ in size, sequence, cutter type, etc. The correct chain size is the most important factor because a chain that is not designed for your saw in terms of measurements will not fit and will be of no use.

Other factors such as chain sequence and cutter type should be based on your needs. The various cutter types available for chainsaw chains are:

  • Chipper
  • Chisel
  • Semi-chisel
  • Chamfer-chisel
  • Micro-chisel

The various sequences available for chainsaw chains include:

  • Standard
  • Semi-skip
  • Skip

Chains differ in terms of cutter material too. Therefore, you should analyze your needs and do thorough research before making a decision.

Aggressive Chainsaw Chains:

Many chainsaw users ask about the fastest cutting or the most aggressive chains. An aggressive chain can cut an object at a super-fast speed.

Stihl produces some of the most aggressive chains that feature long-lasting, strong blades and high cutting speeds.

Husqvarna is also a well-known brand for its 20-inch H80-72, 18-inch H30-72, and H4 684 0.050-inch aggressive chains.

Oregon has also provided some of the best aggressive chains, namely 18-inch, 20-inch, L81 20″, D72 20″, S62 18″, S62T, which are some great options if you need quick cutting. These chains offer high performance at low vibration and noise and come at an affordable price.

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