When and How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain- A Complete Guide

This post may contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Are you a gardening enthusiast? Then you must be a fan of trimming and modifying your garden from time to time. It is where a chainsaw comes to your rescue.

When we talk about the garden, it not only refers to small plants or grasses but also huge trees. It mainly depends on your gardening skills and wishes.

As we were talking about modifying a garden, you must also deal with tall and huge trees. While small plants and weeds can be dealt with manually or with simple gardening equipment, you need to upgrade your gardening tools for the trees.

A chainsaw can prove to be versatile gardening equipment. It is because you can put it to multiple uses, be it cutting the branches of trees to build benches and fences using wood.

The portability and functionality of a chainsaw are the reason behind its popularity as a cutting tool for gardens. But no matter the robustness of a machine, we know nothing lasts forever.

Its parts, especially the chain, degrade with time. Due to the chain’s continuous engagement in cutting, it loses its sharpness and efficiency. So, even though the chain of your chainsaw lasts long enough, you will need to replace it at some point to continue gardening safely and smoothly.

Hence, if you own a chainsaw and are confused about whether it is time to replace the chainsaw chain or to sharpen the chain, you have come to the right place. Here, we have listed all about replacing the chain of a chainsaw.

When to Replace a Chainsaw Chain?

We know that a chainsaw chain loses its performance with time. Sometimes it might just lose its sharpness, and you need not replace but sharpen it.

Hence, it is necessary to know the right time when your chainsaw chain actually needs replacement, and not just sharpening.

So here we have listed the conditions when you must replace the chain.

1. Slacked Chain

Slacked Chain
Image Source: bobvila

The chainsaw chain might lose its tension sometimes. You can retain the tension by adjusting the tightening a screw on the guide bar. But if you are facing tension issues frequently and the chain keeps on slacking, you need to replace it immediately to avoid accidents due to a loose chain.

2. Lower Performance

Lower Performance
Image Source: toolboxbuzz

If you notice a decline in the performance of your chainsaw, it is time to replace the chain. A low performance could be in the form of uneven cuts on wood, difficulty in slicing wood, or a shaky chain.

Also Read:- Chainsaw History: When and Why Were Chainsaws Invented?

3. Teeth go Missing

Teeth go Missing
Image Source: housegrail

Sometimes, the teeth of the chain might go missing or get uneven or damaged by nails on the wood. Hence, you must replace the chain if you have missing teeth in your chainsaw.

4. Smoky Cuts

Smoky Cuts
Image Source: backyardgadget

Smoke while cutting operations is a sign of dull teeth of the chain. The smoke could result from the friction between the wood and the saw due to unexpected motion.

Your saw might be worn against the wood rather than cutting it, enhancing the friction. Hence, smoke released while cutting indicates that you must replace the chain. Otherwise, the excess friction might end up damaging the tool.

5. Blades Losing Sharpness

Blades Losing Sharpness
Image Source: mybackyardlife

You can also come across dull blades using a chainsaw. While you can sharpen a flat blade, it is not always the solution, and replacement becomes necessary.

Some signs of the dull blade could be sawdust while cutting the wood instead of chips, the larger force required to cut a tree using the chainsaw, and chain cutting in a specific direction.

6. Rusted Chain

Rusted Chain
Image Source: cgtrader

A rusted chain of the chainsaw has no alternative but replacement. Improper storage conditions and lack of maintenance may cause the chain to rust. Hence, you must replace the chain if it is rusted.

So, you can look for these signs in your chainsaw chain and replace them in time to avoid further damage to the machine or injury to the operator.

Steps to Replace the Chain of a Chainsaw

Now that you know whether your chainsaw chain needs replacement, you must be eager to learn the procedure to do the same. So, to make things easy on your side, here is the step-by-step process of replacing a chainsaw chain.

However, before replacing your chainsaw chain, you must have the materials and equipment required at your side. To replace a chainsaw chain, you must have a chain compatible with the chainsaw, just like the chainsaw getting replaced.

Moreover, you require some tools, such as a socket wrench and a flathead screwdriver. If you don’t have these tools, the wrench with your chainsaw will work fine. So, without further ado, let us look at the steps you need to follow to replace the chainsaw chain.

1. Gain Access to the Chain

Gain Access to the Chain
Image Source: chainsawjournal

Before you attempt to remove the chain, you must first make it accessible. To do so, remove the guide bar side panel. The guide bar is the bar that holds the chain.

As you attempt to remove the side panel, you will find two nuts holding it. Hence, you need to unscrew the nuts using a wrench or a simple wrench. You can now remove the side panel and access the chain.

A precaution you must take here is that with the chain brake. Some chainsaws implement a brake in the chain, which needs to be unlocked before disassembling the side plate. Ignoring this would pose difficulties while reinstalling the guide bar side plate.

2. Loosen the Chain

Loosen the Chain
Image Source: timbergadgets

To remove the chain, you must first loosen it by removing the tension. There is a tensioner in the chainsaw that keeps the chain in tension. Hence, you can release the tension in the chain by pulling the nose of the guide bar away from the saw. It will detach the chainsaw bar from the tensioner.

3. Remove the Chain

Remove the Chain
Image Source: oregonproducts

The chainsaw chain is ready to be removed from the guide bar as you release the tension. Hence, you can remove the chain easily from its slacked position.

4. Adjust the Guide Bar for the New Chain Installment

You need to adjust the guide bar to make the chain installation easy. You need to get your hands on the tensioning screw in the guide bar and loosen it. 

5. Put on the New Chain

Put on the New Chain
Image Source: thetoolyard

Now, you can add the replacement to the chainsaw. Here you need to be careful with the engagement of the drive links on the chain with the sprocket. You must put the chain around the clutch drum of the chainsaw with great care.

6. Retain the Tension in the Chain

Retain the Tension in the Chain
Image Source: transagro

You need to bring back the tension in the chain as it is necessary for proper cutting using the chainsaw. You can do so by pulling the nose of the guide bar away from the chainsaw. You must put the guide bar on the adjustment pin attached to the chainsaw while pulling it away.

7. Reassemble the Side Plate

Reassemble the Side Plate
Image Source: firewood-for-life

Now that the chain is positioned correctly, you can replace the guide bar side plate. However, you cannot tighten the nuts as the tension in the chain is yet to be adjusted.

8. Applying the Correct Tension

Now, it is time to put the chain of the chainsaw to correct the tension. As mentioned earlier, you can tighten the tension screw in the guide bar.

9. Tighten the Nuts of the Side Plate

Tighten the Nuts of the Side Plate
Image Source: instructables

Now that the chain is tensioned correctly, you can tighten the guide bar side plate nuts. It finishes the replacement of the chainsaw chain.

Hence, you can follow these steps carefully to replace the chain of your chainsaw without any accidents or damage to the equipment.


  1. On what factors does the durability of a chainsaw chain depends?

The durability of a chainsaw chain depends on the type of chain, the wood being cut, the duration of the cut, and the maintenance.

  1. What is the safety line of a chainsaw chain?

Safety lines are the limits within which the chain should be polished. Getting beyond the safety line is an indication the chain needs replacement.

  1. Can regular sharpening of chainsaw chains prevent replacement?

Regular sharpening can enhance the life expectancy of a chainsaw but does not make it infinite. Hence, you can only sharpen it up to 4 to 5 times before finally replacing it.

  1. What decides the size of the chain you should buy?

The size of the chain is measured using its pitch. The pitch is the distance between the three rivets divided by two.

  1. Can you use a chain of a different brand than the previous one?

Yes, you can use a different chain brand only if it is high in quality and genuine.


A chainsaw is a versatile gardening tool. You can use it to cut the branches of trees or work with wood to make furniture. However, the chainsaw chain is the most crucial part and needs proper care.

It might lose its efficiency with time, making it necessary to replace it with a new or sharpened chain. Hence, now that you know the right time and method to replace the chainsaw chain, you can best maintain your powerful gardening tool.

Leave a Comment