How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw

Written by melinda rizzo
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How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw
A standard sized, gasoline fuelled chainsaw (Photographs Courtesy of Melinda Rizzo)

Chainsaws are useful tools used for pruning, tree cutting and removal and for gathering firewood. With a few skills and safety precautions, homeowners can own and operate chainsaws safely. Chainsaws are used by professional lumber, sawmills and lawn, garden maintenance and arborist (tree) crews.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Chainsaw
  • Replacement chain
  • Gloves
  • Combination socket wrench and screwdriver tool, or the tool supplied with the chainsaw upon purchase
  • Possible guide bar (replacement piece)

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  1. 1

    Before doing any maintenance, make sure the chainsaw is turned off and the blade brake is not engaged.

    Electric chainsaws must be unplugged.

  2. 2

    Remove the sprocket cover by loosening the nuts holding it fast.

    How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw
    The sprocket cover shown as it is removed
  3. 3

    Remove or loosen the tension on the blade. There should be an adjustment screw, which is often located on the guide bar. On some chainsaw models, adjustment screws may be located on the front of the saw.

  4. 4

    Remove the guide bar and saw blade by carefully sliding them out.

  5. 5

    Remove the loosened blade from the guide bar by carefully picking it off. Wear protective work gloves.

  1. 1

    Inspect the guide bar, and remove and replace it if the guide bar sprocket is damaged.

  2. 2

    Install a new blade on the guide bar by inserting the bottom of the blade into the slot on the guide bar. Teeth (cutting edge) on the bottom of the guide bar must be facing toward the saw, not facing away from the saw. The blades face rotating toward the saw on the bottom.

    How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw
    A loosened chainsaw blade
  3. 3

    Place the guide bar on the saw, and position the blade around the saw sprocket.

    How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw
    Fitting the chainsaw blade into position
  4. 4

    Tighten the blade slightly so it sits on the saw. This makes it easier to install the sprocket cover. Install the sprocket cover with the work wrench or screwdriver by repositioning it and tightening the fastenings.

    Do not completely tighten the sprocket cover.

    Tighten the blade so the blade is set firmly against the guide bar but still slides easily along the guide bar.

    How to Change the Chain on a Chainsaw
    Tightenin the assembly
  5. 5

    Tighten the sprocket cover. Test the saw by turning it on. After the saw has run briefly, reset the tension on the blade so it is tight against the guide bar. New blades will stretch with use.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep chainsaw blades sharp for maximum use efficiency.
  • Blades can be sharpened and reused. Look for maintenance shops in your local area through hardware, building supply and lawn and garden retailers who provide this service.
  • Always keep a spare chainsaw blade on hand. Broken blades should be discarded as they are not repairable.
  • Chainsaw blades are extremely sharp and require the utmost care and respect.
  • Follow manufacturer's product instructions for use and safety.
  • Use hearing and eye protection when operating.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Always replace saw blades with equivalent (quality) blades from the same manufacturer for best results.

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