How do I adjust my chainsaw chain tension?

Chainsaw chain replacement and tensioning rules

Chain tension on a chainsaw affects not only the normal operation of the device, but also the safety of the operator working with it. A chainsaw is a very dangerous tool, and loosening the saw chain can lead to unfortunate consequences. A chain that is too strong increases the stress on the tool. You should therefore make sure that this important element has the right tension before each start-up.

How to Determine the Tension Level

Checking the degree of tension of the chain is very simple: you have to grab the tooth and pull upwards. When the chain is really tight, the end will sink into the slot of the rail by 1/3 of its height. A crossing of this indicator indicates excessive tension, and a drop in the indicator indicates low tension.

Normally the saw should move freely along the rail without much effort. If the element is difficult to move, it is a sign of excessive tension.

If the cutting edge of the chainsaw is under too much tension, the bar will begin to heat up and wear down, the load on the engine will increase and it will quickly become unusable. Do not operate the machine if the chain is loose, because the chain can get caught and break while sawing, which is dangerous to the user of the machine. The chain can jump off the rail and injure your limbs, in addition, it often tears itself and damages the rail. In addition, working with a loose chain element leads to one-sided wear of the bar, after which the device ceases to make even cuts and the saw moves sideways.

Chain tensioning of a chainsaw chain

Main chainsaw chain problems

Chain saw users often have problems with the tensioning of the saw chain. It either loosens spontaneously or expands and comes off. As a rule, these malfunctions are caused by a defective device. You should therefore check and correct any possible causes of the malfunctions before continuing to wear the chain.

Causes of chain saw chain overstretching can be high loads or insufficient lubrication of the bar. This causes the saw to overheat, the metal lengthens, the saw element enlarges and flies off the bar. The oil supply can be interrupted if the pump fails, the channels get clogged or the oil hose ruptures.

If you have changed your chainsaw chain to a new one, be prepared for some stretching during the insertion time. You just need to check the tension in a timely manner so that the element doesn’t fly off the bar.

A chain made of poor quality steel will stretch quickly.

Chainsaw chain

If the chainwheel or drive wheel is worn, the grip effectiveness of the chain elements is reduced, causing the saw element to fly out. In this case it is necessary to unscrew the chain drive and replace the pinion. In addition, the saw element of the device can come off due to its stretching or deformation of the bar.

If the chain of your chainsaw loosens, the cause of this malfunction may be a faulty clamping mechanism.

Tensioning Algorithm

Before you tighten the chain on the chainsaw, you must turn off the engine of the device or unplug it if it is an electric saw. Do not install the saw blade or replace it while it is hot. If you do, the metal will shrink after it has cooled and the tension becomes too high, which can put too much stress on the motor and deform the bar.

The chain tensioner is located on the right side of the machine under the cover where the clutch brake and bar holder are located. On Husqwarna, Stihl, Poulan and Partner chainsaws, the external tensioner looks like a normal screw.

Outer tensioner

So, to adjust the chain element of the device, you need to do the following steps.

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  1. Secure the nuts on the right cover to keep the bar from coming off.
  2. Insert a screwdriver into the tensioner adjusting screw and turn it to the right (clockwise). This will cause the tire to move and the chain to tighten. If you turn the bolt to the left (counterclockwise), the chain members will relax.
  3. Next, tighten the chain so that it does not dangle or hang loose.
  4. Check the tension of the element: take hold of the cutter about halfway down the bar and pull it down with a little effort. The chain should be tight and elastic and the cutting element shaft should sink into the bar slot.

In the Makita electric saw, the voltage regulator is designed so that it can be turned without tools. Turning it clockwise tightens the chain, turning it in the opposite direction loosens the tension of the chain element.

Makita tensioner

Chainsaw chain replacement

If you need to replace the chain of your chainsaw, proceed as follows:

  1. Remove the cover that covers the chainwheel. This usually involves unscrewing the fastening nuts.
  2. After loosening the fasteners, remove the clutch cover with the sprocket.
  3. Take hold of the rail by hand and bring it up to the chain wheel to loosen the chain.
  4. Remove the chain element from the drive chain wheel.
  5. Now you must install the chain on the chainsaw. Take the new saw blade and put it on the drive wheel first.
  6. Then you need to put the chain on the bar and insert the element into its groove all around the circumference. It is important that the limbs sit correctly on the chain drive wheel at the top of the tire. When installing, pay attention to the direction of the cutting elements. On tires, they should face away from the machine.
  7. Point the tire in the opposite direction from the engine to tension the chain.
  8. After laying the saw element and before putting the cover back on, the screw that sets the tension should be aligned with the regulator behind the bar. Only then can the cover be put on and the nuts slightly tightened. Next, a screwdriver must be inserted into the adjusting screw and the final tension must be set. How to make the correct tensioning of the chain was described above.
  9. Lift the pole slightly and tighten the nuts to lock them in place. It’s important not to overdo it and tear the threads.

Can you shorten the chain yourself?

When the chain has stretched so far that it can no longer be pulled, you need to shorten its length.

This is also necessary if the existing bar is shorter than the chain and it is not possible to find a suitable sawing attachment.

You can also enlarge the saw element by adding new links, which can be purchased separately or removed from a similar one. In stores, you can see chainsaw chain wound on spools sold by the meter. In general, chainsaw chain repair can be done at home, as it is not difficult to find all the components for this.

How to remove the rivet

To replace or shorten chain elements, you need to separate the links as follows. Secure the chain element in a vise and grind off the rivets, that is, their protruding parts. You can use a file or needle file for this. Be careful not to sand the sides of the link.

The use of a grinder is not recommended because of the risk of overheating the links, which will change the physical properties of the metal.

Use a bead (as shown in the photo below) to dislodge the rivet.


There is another option for disconnecting. You don’t have to grind the rivet flats to do this. Place the link, and specifically its rivet, over the hole in the metal or over the jaws of the vise slightly apart. Then place the metal bead on the rivet head and hit it several times with a hammer.

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Connection separation

Continue to hammer both rivets alternately until they are firmly attached to the opposite side of the link. Gradually, the rivets will come out of the top of the link and it will loosen.

Connection separation


The advantage of this method is that the rivets can be reused because they do not wear out.

How to join the links

First you need to buy the right links for your type of chain from a specialty store. This is necessary if you grind the rivets when disassembling the chain element. Then you need to assemble the link correctly, taking into account the arrows indicated on it. Place the assembled element on the anvil and lightly tap the rivets with a hammer.

Don’t be afraid to over rivet, as there is a bulge in the middle of the rivet that serves as a stopper.

Some craftsmen advise joining the links by welding. This method works if the rivets have been filed. But first you need to experiment on a piece of iron to choose the right welding mode.

It is necessary to weld with a shortened and thin electrode. The rivet is welded to the side of the link, and the excess metal is removed with a needle file. The only disadvantage of this method is the overheating of the metal from which the chain elements are made. As mentioned above, overheating can reduce the wear resistance of the links.

Tensioning the chainsaw chain step by step – how it should be tensioned

During the use of a chainsaw, there is a natural loosening of the chain tension. Do not operate the tool with a loosened saw headset, as this not only leads to increased engine wear, but also reduces the safety of operation. When working with the device with a loose cutting head, the power of the tool is significantly lost, but most importantly, the chain can jump off the bar during operation, which can lead to personal injury (in the absence of a catcher). This is why you should periodically check the voltage level while operating the unit. Learn and explore in the material how to tighten the chain on a chainsaw and how often this operation should be performed.

Installation process

Tensioning the saw and why you need this procedure at all

When the chainsaw is in operation, not only the engine, but also the saw headset heats up. This happens because of the movement of the chain along the bar level, and thermal energy is released, which includes the expansion of materials. The bar is oversized so heat is dissipated quickly and the saw is heated to high temperatures and cools down very slowly. The quality of cooling of the part is especially reduced when sawing large-diameter hardwood.

As the chain heats up, the size increases linearly due to the high temperatures. As a result, the chain sinks relative to the cover, causing the headset to fall. The consequences of lifting off the tire when working with a tool are extremely unfavorable. Therefore, it is always very important to operate the machine before starting work. It is necessary to check the degree and quality of tensioning of the cutter receiver. This applies to absolutely all brands of chainsaws, Husqvarna, echo, partner, makita and others. In addition, you should pay attention to the voltage not only in the case of chainsaws, but also with electric saws.

The reasons why it is necessary to monitor the quality of the chain tensioning are the following:

  1. Decreased efficiency in sawing wood. A tool with a loose chain has less power. This manifests itself in the fact that the cutting time increases.
  2. The motor, clutch, sprocket, bar charge increases – and this applies not only to a loosened chain, but also to a stretched chain.
  3. Wear and tear on the chain itself – when you’re running as a unit with an improperly tensioned set, that means accelerated wear and tear. This is because the temperature rises, so the teeth wear down faster and use limbs.
  4. Unsure tool operation – running the unit with a loose or torn sentence is not only bad for the chainsaw, but also dangerous for the sawdust. In addition to coming off the tire during high speeds, the chain can break (if it is overstretched), which ultimately has the effect of developing fatal consequences.
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Now you understand how important the chainsaw’s cutting disc breakage procedure is. And here it does not matter how high the tool or chain is, as loosening the tension of the headset is a natural process.

Interesting to know! With frequent temperature fluctuations and operation of the tool, not only jagging of the chain, but also stretching of the limbs occurs. It is the stretching of the joints (increase in diameter) that should be the procedure for setting the degree of tension.

Check that the headset is set correctly or how much tension the chain needs to be stretched

Before installing the chain on the chainsaw, you must make sure that this procedure is necessary. You can verify the need for tension adjustment by pulling it off the channel in the middle of the bar. If the shank leaves the channel up to 2/3 of its length by one distance, such a chain will not need to be tensioned. Another method of checking is that the ends of the three shanken should be visible when the headset is pulled.

However, these checks are not done correctly if they are done while the headset is hot. The tension check on the saw headset should be done before starting work if the headset is cold.

The chain must be replaced if the user recognizes the following signs:

  1. Severe stopping of the cutting element on the bar.
  2. The appearance of a metallic grinding and creaking noise, indicating that the headset tension is loose.
  3. Appearance of vibration, indicating that the track is loose. Vibration contributes to rapid wear of the bar grooves, chain shanks, as well as the teeth of the LED and tool drive stars.

Voltage should only be checked and adjusted with a cold headset, as the voltage level of the chain on the fire sign is not set correctly. Once you are satisfied that the headset voltage needs to be adjusted, you should get down to business. In order for the manipulation performed to be correct, it is recommended to understand the structure of the tensioning mechanism.

Design features of chainsaw chain tensioners

To adjust the degree of tensioning of the chain on the chainsaw, the design of the tool includes appropriate adjusting screws. The first two screws, which fix the hoop, allow you to roughly adjust the degree of tension.

A special screw is provided in the tool’s design for fine-tuning the tension of the headset. This screw is connected to the bar tensioning mechanism during rotation for more precise adjustment. In order to provide a coarse adjustment, it is necessary:

  • To increase the tension, you must move the hoop away from the sprocket.
  • To loosen the tension, move the bar toward the drive sprocket.

The chain tensioner mechanism has a simple design consisting of a threaded screw with a spike and a pinion. This spike meshes with the bar and acts on the bar as the screw moves. The pinion is designed to transmit force to the screw as the adjusting screw rotates. The simple design of the adjusting mechanism affects its reliability. In chainsaws this mechanism is very rare, but even in this case, the part is inexpensive.

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The tensioning mechanism on chainsaws from different manufacturers may differ in design, only the principle of operation in all devices is the same. The difference in the design of the mechanism affects the location of the adjusting screw, which can be located on the side (the most common variant) of the end part or at the bottom. In addition, the head of the screw may be a straight screwdriver or hexagonal shape.

Adjusting the chain tension on chainsaws of different brands with their own hands

The algorithm for adjusting the chain tension for chainsaws of different manufacturers is almost the same. For some chainsaws, the procedure is slightly different, but first let’s consider the general principle of adjusting the level of tension of the headset.

  1. First of all, make sure that the tool should set the tension degree itself. Taking the headset out of the hoop at the top, you must make sure that the protrusion of the leg does not exceed a distance of 3-6 mm. Do not forget that measurements and adjustment manipulations should be carried out on a cooled instrument and only at positive ambient temperature.
  2. If the chain has a significant stretch, it is not subject to adjustment. Such a headset must be replaced or repaired by removing a few links.
  3. The chainsaw is on a table or other level surface. This is necessary to increase the convenience of the procedure. If the work is carried out in the woods, it is clear that it is not necessary to bring a table for this.
  4. With the tire wrench “on 13” loosen the tightening of the two nuts. And this loosening should be insignificant – no more than half a turn.
  5. The front of the tire must be lifted up and held in this position.
  6. Next is the adjusting screw, the location of which may vary on different models of the tool, but in general it is near the connection of the bar to the chainsaw body. This screw must be turned to set the tension of the cutting attachment.
  7. This screw is turned with a screwdriver or hex wrench, which also depends on the shape of the cap. As you move the screw clockwise the tension increases and in the opposite direction the tension decreases.
  8. As you turn the screw, you should check the degree of tension by pulling the chain from the bar at the top. As mentioned above, the initial value of the link shape should not be more than 6 mm.
  9. The cutting bike set is also checked by manually moving the bar. It should move easily and without physical effort. If the chain is tensioned and the link outreach is 6 mm, but the headset moves by hand with difficulty, the tension should also be loosened.

Once the saw’s pitch adjustment has been made, it is necessary to tighten the bar mounting nuts. After that, the adjustment procedure is complete, and you can work with the tool.

Interesting to know! Chain tensioning adjustment on chainsaws should be made not only while the tool is working, but also if the process takes place on the machine.

A clear example of chain adjustment on chainsaws brand Shtil is shown in the video below.

Chain adjustment on chainsaws Husqvarna, Makita, Partner

Below are videos on how to adapt the cutting chain tension to chainsaws from different manufacturers.

  • Husqvarna – chainsaw instructions
  • Partner Motopil instructions
  • Carver chainsaw tinting algorithm

As you can see, the principle of adaptation to chainsaws of different brands is almost the same. The most important thing is to perform the adjustment procedures correctly, so that the cutting headset does not go through and is not overtightened.

How to adjust the tension level of the headset with a no-tensioning system

Owners of new chainsaws are increasingly asking service centers how to adjust the chain tension on a tool with a no n-Clue mechanism. Nowadays, chainsaw manufacturers have improved the mechanism for adjusting the tension of the cutting attachment, thus eliminating the need for wrenches and screwdrivers.

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If the device is equipped with a modern tensioning mechanism, it is necessary to manually move a special wheel to adjust the chain. The movement of the wheel contributes to the displacement of the bar, which is achieved through a special mechanism that consists of a sprocket and a washer stretching machine. The main advantage of such a system is that the adjustment is carried out without the use of additional tools, which means that the period for the procedure is reduced. That’s just the disadvantages of such mechanisms are much more:

  • Complexity of design, which contributes to the occurrence of breakages and difficulties in adjustment.
  • Difficulties in the installation of the sawmill.
  • A small setting stroke, which makes a slightly stretched chain impossible to tension, as in conventional tension mechanisms.

The method of setting the tension degree on chain saws with the be-kickback system is also called the be-kickback method. It’s actually a lot easier with this system, but the biggest difficulty is that if there is a little wear on the headset, it has to be replaced.

Interesting to know! Experts recommend not pulling the chain, but rather pulling it. When it is plucked, the engine is overloaded. In addition, the degree of friction between the bar and the chain increases, and consequently, they get hotter and wear out faster.

Causes-why the chain weakens the chainsaw

Beginners often wonder why the chain tension in chainsaws regularly loosens. Everything has its own explanation, and to understand how often you need to adjust the tension of the headset, let’s understand the problem in more detail.

The reasons for loose chain tension on chainsaws are as follows:

  1. When working with the tool, not only the engine, but also the cutting layer is subjected to enormous temperature stresses. Exposure to high temperatures causes the metal to expand and consequently stretch. Repeated temperature fluctuations contribute to the gradual elongation of the chain due to the expansion of the metal.
  2. Chain members are connected by sockets. The socket holes on each member have an increased diameter, thus providing counter reaction and the ability to fold the chain into an ellipse. As the headset is moved, its length is increased by increasing the diameter of the socket holes. In the process, the diameter of the socket tool gradually increases, making the headset longer.
  3. The chain stretches not only because of natural wear, but also because of the edges of the drive and driven stars and the groove of the tire. Licking the top edge of the tire tread contributes to the chain tension on the chainsaw decreasing.

As you can see, there are more than enough reasons why the chain tension on a chainsaw decreases. Working with a tool with weak or torn chain is strictly contraindicated. In order to achieve the effectiveness of the tool, it is necessary to prepare its maintenance.

Interesting to know! If you start a new tool or install a new chain on a chainsaw, it is important to understand that the degree of tension must be checked every 30 minutes. Moreover, accelerated wear and tear is observed when grinding a new headset.

If you summarize all of the above, it is worth noting that there is no specific interval for checking the quality of chain tensioning. Each craftsman must understand for himself when it is necessary to adjust the headset. Sawing wood with a dull adjustment contributes to its rapid stretching. Therefore, one should not be limited to a certain time frame here. It is better to check the readiness of the tool for work once more, than to end up in the hospital with serious injuries.

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