How to Change the Chain on a 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.

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

Electric chainsaws must be unplugged.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.