Introduction: How to Replace a Chainsaw Chain

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Because it's a normal part of chainsaw use and ownership, knowing how to correctly replace a chainsaw chain can save tool users time and money.

Even though the steps for a chain replacement are simple and can take less than five minutes, it's important to point out a few repair details that can make all the difference between a chain that's installed correctly and an incorrectly installed chain.

Chainsaw Chain

Of course, the first step toward a proper chainsaw chain replacement is getting a matching replacement chain for your chainsaw.

To learn how to match chainsaw chains for compatibility, please read our article: Chainsaw Chain Measurements, Sizes, and Types. Continue below for chainsaw chain replacement steps.

Steps to Replace a Chainsaw Chain

Other chainsaw designs may be a little different than that of the chainsaw we use here as an example, but chainsaw designs are similar enough for the steps in this article to help most chainsaw owners regardless of the model they own.

The only tool needed for this repair is the scwrench that most likely came with your chainsaw. Otherwise, a flat head screwdriver and a socket wrench will do just fine.

Step 1: Remove the Old Chainsaw Chain

1. Remove the guide bar side panel.

The side plate on most chainsaws will most likely be held on by two nuts.

Side Panel Nuts

Using a scwrench or wrench, unscrew the nuts and remove the plate to access the chain.

Side Plate Removed

A chainsaw's brake is sometimes attached to the guide bar side plate, like the chainsaw in our example.

If your chainsaw's brake is attached to its side plate, make sure to unlock the brake before removing sprocket the plate. Removing the side plate with the brake in the locked position can make it difficult or impossible to reinstall.

Step 2: Release the Chain Tension

The old chain is ready to be removed now that the sprocket plate is off of the saw. Pull the nose of the chainsaw's bar away from the chainsaw to release it from the tensioner.

Pull Chainsaw Bar Nose

Step 3: Remove the Old Chainsaw Chain

The chain will easily remove from the guide bar with all that slack in it.

Remove the Old Chainsaw Chain

Pull the drive links out of the guide bar and slip the other end of the chain around the clutch drum.  

Step 4: Loosen the Tensioning Screw

Locate the tensioning screw on the inside side of the guide bar and loosen it a little. This will make installing the new chain easier.

Chainsaw Chain Tensioning Screw

Step 5: Thread the New Chain Onto the Saw

Carefully thread your new or recently sharpened chainsaw chain around the chainsaw's clutch drum, making sure that the drive links engage in the sprocket.

Thread Drive Links

Thread the rest of the drive links into the guide bar and around its nose.

Step 6: Align the Guide Bar

With the chain properly threaded along the clutch drum and guide bar, put some tension into it by pulling on the nose of the guide bar away from the chainsaw. 

Pull the Guide Bar

While pulling the guide bar, make sure to seat it onto the saw's adjustment pin.

Chainsaw Chain Adjustment Pin

Step 7: Replace the Side Plate

The side plate is ready to go back on as long as the guide bar is properly positioned beneath.

Replace the plate and the nuts that hold it into position, but do not tighten the nuts down all the way yet. The guide bar must be allowed to move a little while the chain is tightened to the correct tension.

Step 8: Tighten the Chain to the Correct Tension

Use the tensioning screw to the side of the guide bar to adjust the tension on the chainsaw chain. 

Turn Tensioning Screw

To read about correct chainsaw chain tension, see our article: How to Tighten a Chainsaw Chain.

Step 9: Finish Tightening the Side Plate Nuts

The chainsaw chain replacement is now complete.


Has your chainsaw chain seen its last sharpening? Visit our Chainsaw Chains page to find a matching replacement chain for your saw. is here to provide the quality tool parts ordering and shipping services that tool owners need, and the information tools to help them get the most out of their powered products.

To get started with another chainsaw repair, visit our Chainsaw Parts page or type your saw's model number in the search field at the top of the page.