How Tight Should a Chainsaw Chain Be? – Answered

| Last Updated: February 6, 2021

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The tension of your chainsaw chain is important to get right. You don't want it too tight that it'll cause friction and break, but not too loose that it falls off.

Below, we'll walk you through everything you need to know. 

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

The chainsaw chains tightness is crucial to get right, otherwise you’ll experience problems. Take a look below on our guide to find the ideal tension of a chainsaw. 

  • The chain should be tightened every few cuts while in the break-in period. 
  • The chain shouldn’t be visibly slack but enough to give it a slight pull.
  • Constant loosening could be down to incorrect placement or worn bolt threads.
  • You can fix the tension by adjusting the screw opposite the bar on the inside casing.
  • As long as you properly maintain your chain it should last for 10 or more years.

Chainsaw Tension 101

Correctly tensioning your chain can be tricky at first. The following section will go through what you need to know and can expect. 

How Often Should You Tighten the Chainsaw Chain?

After the initial purchase, you'll go through a break-in period with your chainsaw, which can last up to 15 tank refills. Within this time, you can expect to tighten the chain regularly. 

The manual will usually tell you how long it can take to break it in. You should check and adjust the tension every few cuts you make. Here are a few questions to consider:

How Much Slack Should Be in a Chainsaw Chain?

This often varies on who you ask, but the general rule of thumb is that you should pull the chain away from the bar slightly, but it should have no visible slackness. If you've got it that tight that it isn't moving around the bar, then it's too tight. 

My Chainsaw Chain Keeps Coming Loose - What Do I Do?

There are a few things you can do to fix this issue. Remove the clutch cover and check to see if the bar is sitting on the adjustment pin correctly. Checking the threads of the bolts used on the bar studs is also useful as sometimes these threads can become worn. 

How Do I Tighten The Chain?

You first want to loosen the sidebar bolts, allowing you to adjust the guide bar and chain. At the side of the bar, almost inside the chainsaw casing, you'll see a screw, clockwise will tighten, and counter-clockwise will loosen the chain. Once you're happy, you can tighten the bolts back up and test it out. 

How Often Should I Replace The Chain? 

Chains don't require regular replacement and can last for as long as you take care of them. Most experts say that they can last for up to a decade or longer if they're maintained properly

Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch?

They do stretch. When you're operating a chainsaw, the heat created will soften the chain, and therefore they can stretch more.

However, when they cool down, it automatically contracts back down. This is why it's important to always wait for your chain to cool down before tightening it. 

My Chain Keeps Coming Off Chainsaw - What Do I Do?

This is mainly due to it being too loose; within the first few minutes of operation, your chain will heat up and become softer and then stretch, tighten it up once cool, and then your problem should be fixed. 


Chainsaw chains can be tedious to play around with, especially when you're having issues with tension. However, all the information above should be all you need to know in regards to chains.