How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the chain tension of chainsaws – how tight should they be? Some people maintain that they should be very tight so that the chain is held in place as tightly as possible.

Others believe that the chain should be relatively loose, to allow it to move more freely.

So, who is right?

Read on to find out exactly how tight a chainsaw chain should be and how to tension your chainsaw chain.

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How Tight Should A Chainsaw Chain Be?

Keep your chainsaw chain what pros call ‘snap-tight’. That is, the chain should be tight enough that you can just barely get it to move by hand when the chainsaw is not running. But not so loose that you can pull it out of the guides on the edge of the bar.

Having a loose chainsaw chain may cause the chainsaw to vibrate excessively and it could potentially come off of the bar while you’re using it.

If the chain is too tight, on the other hand, it will put unnecessary strain on the motor and make cutting difficult.

The ideal tension for chainsaw chains is somewhere in between these two extremes – not too loose and not too tight.

The best way to gauge whether your chainsaw chain is tight enough is by trying to push it with your finger. If you can get it to move, it’s too loose. If you can’t move it at all, it’s too tight. (Do this before you start the chainsaw).

You should also check the proper chainsaw chain tension before each use. This is because the chain will stretch over time and will eventually need to be tightened.

If you’re not sure how to get the correct chainsaw chain tension, consult your owner’s manual or take it to a professional for help to know the proper saw chain tension.

Keeping Track Of The Chainsaw Tension

When it comes to chainsaw chains, there are a lot of things that can go wrong if you don’t maintain them properly. One of the most important things to keep an eye on is chainsaw chain tension.

If the chain is too loose, it can come off the saw while you’re using it. If it’s too tight, it can damage the saw. So how do you know too much tension and how tight to make a chainsaw chain?

Types Of Chain Tension

There are two different types of tension that you need to be aware of with a chainsaw chain: static tension and dynamic tension.

Static tension is what keeps the chain from falling off when the saw is idle and not in use. Dynamic tension is what keeps the chain tight while the saw is running.

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How to Test Static Chain Tension

You can test the static chain tension of your chainsaw chain by trying a tension screw to pull it off the bar tip while the saw is not running.

If it comes off easily, then the chain tension is too loose and you need to tighten the chain bar adjustment. If you can’t pull it off at all, then the tension is too tight and you need to loosen it.

How to Test Dynamic Chain Tension

The best way to test dynamic chain tension is with a chainsaw file. Run the file along the length of the cutting teeth on the top side of the chainsaw chain.

If there are any places where the file catches or gets stuck, then that’s an indication that the dynamic tension needs to be adjusted.

In general, you want the chainsaw chain to be tight enough that there is no chance of it coming off, but not so tight that it puts unnecessary strain on the motor.

If you’re not sure, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and go with a tighter chain. You can always loose the chain if needed, but you can’t do much if the chain falls off in the middle of a cut!

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Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Chainsaw Chain

It’s important to keep your chainsaw chains in good condition if you want them to last. Here are a few tips on how to extend the life of your chainsaw chain:

Keep The Depth Gauges Set Correctly.

Incorrectly set depth gauges can cause the chainsaw chains to ride too high or low on the bar, which can damage both the bar and the chains.

Clean And Lubricate Regularly.

A clean and lubricated chainsaw chain will run better and last longer than one that doesn’t care properly and will cause a chain brake.

Don’t Use Too Much Force When Cutting.

Let the chainsaw bar do the work. Pushing too hard can damage the chain and the bar.

Don’t Use The Chainsaw For Tasks It Wasn’t Designed For.

Don’t try to cut through nails or metal with your chainsaw, for example. Doing so will damage the chain and could cause serious injury.

Keep The Chain Sharp.

A dull chain will cause the saw to work harder and can lead to kickbacks. So always keep the chain sharp.

By following these simple tips, you can help extend the life of your chainsaw chain and keep it working properly for years to come.

Testing Tension of Chainsaw Chains:

There are two ways to test the tension of your chain by a chainsaw user itself:

Measure the gap between the chain and the bottom of the bar

If you can fit more than three fingers between the bar and the chain, then your chain is too loose and needs to be tightened.

If you can only fit one finger or less, then your chain may be too tight and needs to be loosened. The correct chain tension is when you can fit two fingers between the guide bar rail and the chain.

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What happens if my Chainsaw Chain is too loose or too tight?

A loosely fitted chainsaw chain will come off the guide bar while you are using it and can cause serious injury. If your chainsaw chain is too tight, it will put unnecessary strain on the motor and can cause premature wear and tear.

It is important to check the tensioning pin of your chainsaw chain regularly, make sure it is properly tensioned, and adjust as needed. How often you need to do this will depend on how often you use your chainsaw and what kind of wood you are cutting.

  • If you are using your chainsaw frequently to cut wood, then you will need to check and adjust the tension by the chain tensioner pin more often than if you only use it occasionally or cut softwood.
  • If you are not sure how to properly tension your chainsaw chain, consult the owner’s manual for your particular model or take it to a professional for assistance.

With a little practice, you will be able to quickly and easily check the improper tension of your chainsaw chain and keep it running at peak performance and properly adjusted.

Now that you know how to properly tension your chainsaw chain, it’s time to get out there and put it to use.


In conclusion, it is very important to get the tension just right on your chainsaw, not too tight and not too loose!

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Sam Morgan is a general contractor based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He does home renovations, extensions, landscaping maintenance, and general handyman jobs for homeowners. He is also the part-time content writer at Machine Handyman and a lifelong tools enthusiast. Sam loves hand tools, power tools, machinery, and DIY gadgets of all shapes and sizes! He is always researching the different types of home improvement tools that will get the best results. This site will cover products like power drills, air compressors, saws, nail guns, screw guns, grinders, cutting tools, and many more.

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