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How Tight Should a Chainsaw Chain Be?

By: Daniel Smith




Say you are cutting some wood in your backyard and you notice your chainsaw chain is starting to lose its tension. This is a common problem but luckily for you, there is a simple solution.

In this guide, we will help you answer the question: “how tight should a chainsaw chain be?” and show you two simple steps to get your chainsaw tension back to normal again!

How tight should a chainsaw chain be?

If you safely want to use your chainsaw the chain should be, what the experts call, “snap tight”. This means you should be able to lift up your chainsaw chain about 4-5 mm until the drive links are partially exposed.

If you pull on your chainsaw chain and release it, it should “snap” back into its original position. If this is the case, congratulations, your chainsaw chain has the right tension!

Testing your chainsaw chain tension

Example demonstrating the right tension of a chainsaw chain
This is what the right Chainsaw chain tension should look like

There are 2 methods for testing your chainsaw chain tension:

1. The snap test

As we’ve said before the easiest way to test your chainsaw chain tension is by performing the snap test. To perform a quick snap test, gently pull the chain from the bar as far as it will go. 

Next release the chain. If the chain snaps back into its original position it’s a great sign that your chain tension is correct.

In case the chain does not snap or does not go back to its original position, the chain tension is probably too loose. On the other hand, if you are unable to pull the chain at all, it is likely your chain tension is too tight.

2. The pull test

The easiest way to test your chainsaw chain tension is by doing a pull test.

Gently pull the chain away from the bar. With the right tension, you should be able to pull the chain about 4-5 mm without fully exposing the drive links.

In this infographic you see what the right chainsaw tension should not look like:

Chainsaw tension is too loose

an infographic showing a chainsaw tension that is too loose

In this infographic you see what the right chainsaw tension should look like:

Chainsaw tension is correct

an infographic showing a chainsaw tension that is correct

How to adjust the chain tension on your chainsaw

Most, if not all, modern chainsaws have a dedicated screw for tensioning the chain. This screw is located on the chainsaw itself, where the bar meets the saw.

Here are the simple steps to tighten your chainsaw chain:

Tensioning time: 10 minutes

  1. Locate your chainsaw’s tension screw

    The tension screw should be on the chainsaw where the bar meets the saw.

  2. Use the right tool to adjust the tension

    Most tension screws have a minus-type screw. If your tension screw is a different type you have to get the right tool.

  3. Test the tension and repeat

    Test your chainsaw chain tension using one of the above tests. Repeat this step until your chain has the desired tension.

Final thoughts

Retensioning your chainsaw chain is very easy if you follow our guide!

If you are unable to tension your chainsaw’s chain it could be time for a replacement. If this is the case, have a look at our guide: The best cordless chainsaws.

Good luck!

The Author
Daniel Smith
My passion for power tools and work clothing started when I was a kid. My father and I used to build tree houses together, he taught me all the tricks of the trade! Meanwhile, I'm a 28-year-old with more than 7 years of experience on various job sites.

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