How Tight Should a Chainsaw Chain Be? (Guide to Proper Tension)

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Achieving optimal performance for your woodworking needs doesn’t end with purchasing a chainsaw. With poor tension comes poor performance, but users’ most common and worn-out question is knowing how tight a chainsaw chain should be. 

This article will guide you through all the necessary information you have to consider before tightening your saws. Let me share what I’ve learned about getting that tension right.

How Tight Should a Chainsaw Be

Maintaining the machine well-maintained to avoid any dispute while using it is vital. Getting the proper chain tension prompts the longevity of your machine and prevents the chain from stopping or falling. 

assembling Blue Max chainsaw

The right chainsaw chain’s tension should “snap tight.” To get a visual of what the “snap tight” means, pull the chain up until the drive links are almost exposed but should not be free of the guide bar when pulled. A properly tensioned chainsaw should snap back once you pull it. 

How to Test the Tension of Your Chain

1. Snap Test

Pull the chain away to do a snap test on your chainsaw. Pull as far as possible before releasing; if it returns or springs back in place, you can consider that a great tensity. 

The tension must be too tight if you can’t pull the chain away freely. Hence, the chain may be too loose if you pull it away and it doesn’t snug back. 

2. Pull Test

More often than not, woodworkers favor the pull test due to its effectiveness and simplicity. To execute a pull test, firmly grip the chain with your fingers and gently pull it away from the guide rail.

chainsaw pitch

Ideally, the chain should only partially lift away from the bar, with the links still intact. The drive links should not fall off the groove when you pull it, and the ends should remain intact to the bar groove.

What is the Correct Tension?

To assess whether your chain needs to be adjusted, pull the chain away from the guideway, and ensure that the drive links remain engaged. If not, then I recommend making certain adjustments.

The chain should be loose enough to be stretched but not so loose that the links fall from the bar nose. If the links get disengaged, you will have to tighten your chainsaws properly, but be careful as fastening it too tightly risks breaking the chain during operations.

How To Tell If the Chain Has Wrong Tensioning

1. If the tension is wrong, the links will get disengaged from the guide rail, and often, if it’s too tight, the chain drive will stick with the guideway, even if you pull it away. Performing either of the two chain tests will help you determine if you have the correct chainsaw traction or not.
2. Knowing the proper way to correctly tension your saw is crucial to avoiding these kinds of incidents.

checking chainsaw chain tension

3. Slanted Cuts. Loose chains often result in slanted cuts by the wood being forced to the guide rail. If this continues, you may end up with bent bars too. 
4. Derailing. When the chain keeps spinning on the guideway, it will often derail the chain. If you’re operating at high speed and the chain derails, this can lead to chainsaw accidents and injuries to your face. 
5. Early wear and tear on the drive nose. Putting too much pressure on the drive sprockets and the bar nose can cause wear and tear. 
6. Snapping. A loose chainsaw chain will cause snapping, forcing them to eat into the guide rails. 
7. Overconsumption of Bar Oil. When there’s an incorrect pull on your chains or problems with the oiler pump, you end up using more oil because there’s either too much friction or too less, and both will lead to overconsumption of oil.  

How to Tighten The Chainsaw Chain

Step #1: Find the tension screw

A tensioning screw holds the chain rigidity, and the first step to tightening your chainsaw chain is to locate such. Chainsaws’ features vary due to models and make, meaning some parts may be placed differently, depending on the model. 

Echo CS-310 Chainsaw

Here are the common areas to look at when locating your tension screw. 

Step #2:If applicable, get the correct tool.

Oregon chainsaws do not need screnches or chainsaw tools, as it’s usually adjusted on the “easy tension system.” However, getting the apt tool is a must when tightening your chainsaw if you’re using the other models.  

Step #3:Tighten the chain

Clamp the nose of the bar rails with your hand, and use the scrench to move the tensioning screw. Turn the screw until the links are fixed appropriately. 

Continue turning until it is tight enough when performing a snap test. Remember that the drive links should be hidden by the drive bar.  

adjusting tension chainsaw

How to Tighten An Electric Chainsaw

1. Loosen the guide bar nuts on the chainsaw blade arm to create more space for adjustments. If you’re using an advanced electric chainsaw with brakes on the guide bar side panel, we recommend unlocking it before any procedure. 
2. For an electric chainsaw chain that keeps coming off, use a tool to rotate the screw until you reach the desired tightness. Adjustment screws are commonly used to adjust chains but always find the perfect tool.
3. Inspect the tightness and secure both panels and guide bar if you’ve reached the correct tightness. 

How to Tighten A Stihl Chainsaw Chain

1. To tighten the chain, disengage the brakes, often found at the side panel. Loosen both nuts that support the sprocket, and continue until you can wiggle it down freely. Please don’t force the nuts as it may cause damage to your sprocket.

adjusting chain tension screw

2. Grab a screwdriver to fix the adjustment screw, and lift the chainsaw bar with the other hand. To locate the Stihl Chainsaw chain tensioner, inspect the guide bar, which is placed a few inches away from the cover nuts of the sprocket. 
3. To correctly tighten that chain, rest it against the underside of the chainsaw. Proceed to retightening until the good tension is achieved. 

How to Tighten A Husqvarna Chainsaw Chain

1. This chain features the brakes on the side panel, and to tighten it, disengage the brakes first.
2. Loosen the bar nuts with a combination spanner.
3. Raise the tip bar when tightening the Husqvarna chainsaw tensioner. To tighten a loose chain, turn the screw in a clockwise direction until the chain stops slacking.

adjusting tension on a Husqvarna chainsaw

4. With your hands, pull the chain freely. If you still encounter problems and the chain slacks under the guide bar, just manually adjust it until a good pull is achieved. Do not over-tighten to avoid unnecessary damages. 

How to Tighten A Poulan Chainsaw Chain

1. In tightening a Poulan Chainsaw, the procedure is comparable to that of an electric chainsaw. Just in here, you’ll be needing a half-inch socket wrench and flat screwdriver to adjust the screws.
2. Use the half-inch socket to loosen the side panel and acquire more space for chain adjustments.
3. To keep your Poulan chainsaw chain from coming off, utilize your flat screwdriver when tightening.

How to Tighten A Craftsman Chainsaw Chain

1. One of the probable reasons why your craftsman’s chainsaw chain is coming off is incorrect tension. Refer to your Craftsman Chainsaw Manual before operating on adjusting your machine.

adjusting tension on a Craftsman chainsaw

2. Secure that you are in safety gear before starting the procedure. Lay the chainsaw on a bench and position yourself in front, facing the blade and chain.
3. Insert the approved multi-tool into the panel nuts, and use your other hand to raise the bar’s tip. The screw of a craftsman’s chainsaw is located on the right side of the blade.
4. Pull the chain around the blade to check for chainsaw chain tension. Adjust traction with your chainsaw multi-tool gear and adust until you get the correct chainsaw chain tension. Correct tension should show if there’s a snug fit around the blade.

How to Put Back the Chain on a Remington Electric Chainsaw

In putting a chain back on a Remington Electric Chainsaw, you won’t have to disassemble the entire machine, unlike all other models. To put a chain back, here are the steps to follow.

adjusting tension on a Remington chainsaw

1. Gather the necessary supplies such as a flathead screwdriver, socket wrench, leather gloves, and your machine.
2. Pull the chainsaw from its power cord and find the side panel and sprocket cover. Loosen the nut with your socket wrench to remove the sprocket cover.
3. Push the guide nuts gently and remove the access slack in your chain. Remove the chain from the sprocket. In the chainsaw body, locate the sprocket and fix the new chainsaw. Thread over the bar, and ensure that the cutting edge is away from the bar.
4. Rotate the guide bar track with one hand and use the other to keep the chain near the bar’s groove. Look for the screw, and tighten until the desired stretch is reached. If you have a faulty screw, replace the chainsaw adjustment screw right away.

How Often To Tighten Your Chainsaw Chain

Chainsaw manuals usually have a break-in period which indicates when it’s recommended to properly tighten chainsaw chains. The break-in period is the interval or period for the friction surfaces to smooth out. 

It’s also when the rivets on the chain links can be left to sit well. This period is commonly per refill of tank gas. 

tightening saw chain

Loosen the chain tension, no matter the break-in period, after you are done cutting to make it easier for you to start the chainsaw. This way, the chain will be free and won’t grip the guideway when cooling down.

However, the mechanics of when to tighten a chainsaw chain that has been over-used is different. 

Common Chainsaw Chain Issues

Chain is Coming Off

One common culprit of a chain that comes off is slack chain tension. Another is worn-out drive sprockets. When the drive sprocket wears out, it will lose the ability to hold the chain intact. 

This is also the same case with worn-out heels. When the bar heels wear, the distance traveled by the chain increases, causing it to jump frequently. 

Chain Keeps Coming Loose

Chainsaw users often assume that when chains come lost more frequently, they should be replaced immediately. But don’t rush searching for a new pair because here we’ll break down solutions to still work on your chainsaw.  

First, take off the clutch cover and make a few inspections on your guide bar. One culprit to a loose chain is if it does not sit well on the adjustment pin. There may also be problems with the thread at the bar studs. 

Remington bar and chain adjustment

Worn-out threads often cause loose chains too, which can cause serious injury to users, which is why users should be wary of these signs. 

The chain tensioner pin can be another factor in loose chains. To fix such a problem, adjust the pin away from the bar and powerhead. After, turn the tension screw clockwise. If all of these are not possible, the tension pin must be replaced.  

Chain Keeps Jamming

A chainsaw will keep jamming brought about by several reasons. If the engine starts but the chain doesn’t disengage the chains, then try to restart again. Also, adjust tension through the tension screw. Loosening it up a little will help fix this problem. 

jammed saw chain

Improper guide rails and misaligned chain assemblies can be a culprit too. If you notice that the chain is incorrectly positioned, re-install it right away. Users often miss out on cleaning the air filter, which is why chains jam often. 

Chain Tightens on Its Own

Chainsaw chains tighten due to a dry chain and bar. To avoid this, its recommended to always check for oiler holes, which may get clogged from excess oil. 

Ensure that the tanks are always clean from any debris that may cause clogs in oil flow. However, if the issue is already on the drive sprocket, then you will have to get those replaced right away. 


The above article is your ultimate resource to know how tight should a chainsaw chain be. Hence, remember that whether you’re a regular user or an occasional DIYer, knowing how to use your tool and identifying the suitable chain for your chainsaw using this chart is a necessary skill for longevity. 

Also, the more frequently you use your chainsaw, the more precaution and attention you must keep in place.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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