How to Fix a Stretched Chainsaw Chain in 5 Easy Steps

Whenever you use your chainsaw, the chain will stretch to some extent. With all the heat and friction involved in a chainsaw’s operation, it’s unavoidable!

It’s important to check your chain tension every time you go to use your chainsaw. If it’s too loose, it can become dangerous and ineffective.In some cases, the chain may even fly off the bar mid-use! 

Ideally, part of your regular preparation before you start cutting should involve checking the chain.

If you do find your chain has stretched – don’t worry! It’s an easy fix that takes a few minutes and only requires tools that are usually included with your chainsaw (such as a wrench and a screwdriver).

In this article, we’ll break down the five easy steps on how to fix a stretched chainsaw chain. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • How to properly check the tension of your chain
  • How to remove the side panel
  • What to do if your chainsaw brakes are attached to the side panel
  • How to change the tension of your chain
  • How to put your chainsaw back together and get it ready for use
  • Some common questions about chainsaw chains.

Let’s get started!

Here are 5 steps on How to Fix a Stretched Chainsaw Chain

Step 1: Check Your Chainsaw Chain Tension

Check Your Chainsaw Chain Tension

Before you start messing around with your chainsaw, you should always make sure it’s completely off and that the spark plug has been removed. This ensures it won’t turn on while you’re touching the chain.

If you’ve used it recently, you should also let the chainsaw cool completely before fiddling with it.

Now, place your chainsaw on a level table or ground surface. Then, examine the chain by pulling it away from the guide bar gently.

It should have some slack, allowing you to pull it slightly away and create a small gap between the chain and the bar. The drive links should never completely leave the bar nose. If they do, your chain is too loose.

If you can’t pull the chain at all and it’s completely rigid against the bar, it’s too tight!

This is also a great time to check for broken and worn teeth or other damage to your chain and bar. If you notice anything, it’s probably time to replace the damaged part.

Step 2: Remove the Nuts on the Side Panel

Using a wrench (which is normally included with your chainsaw when you first purchase it), loosen the nuts on the side panel. You need to remove the panel to give you space to access the tension screws and adjust your chain.

The nuts should be fairly easy to see. However, if you’re not sure, the instruction manual of your chainsaw will point them out.

Step 3: Unlock the Brake and Remove the Side Panel Fully

You may notice your side panel doesn’t come free at this point.

In this case, it’s probably because of the brakes! On many modern chainsaws, the brakes are attached to the side panel and stop it from releasing until they’re disengaged.

Unlock the brake, then remove the side panel fully.

Step 4: Turn the Tension Adjustment Screw Clockwise

Turn the Tension Adjustment Screw

Find the tension adjustment screws. They will look like normal screw heads and are generally placed on either side of the base of the guide bar.

Use a flathead screwdriver (also normally included with a chainsaw purchase) and turn the screws clockwise to tighten the chainsaw chain. If your chain is too tight, you can turn the screws counterclockwise to loosen it.

Before closing your chainsaw back up, make sure to re-check the tightness of your chain.

Now is the easiest time to make any adjustments. Nothing’s worse than putting your chainsaw back together only to realize you have to undo it all again!

Step 5: Double Check Your Tension, Then Place Your Side Panels Back Over the Guide Bar

At this point, you could also check the lubrication of your chain before replacing the side panel. It’s important to regularly lubricate your chainsaw to avoid damage to its parts and ensure it’s working at maximum efficiency. 

A chainsaw is important to look after properly! Keep in mind that if it starts performing poorly, it could become a safety issue.

Once you’re happy with your adjustments, you can replace the side panel and do up the nuts. As you do up the side panel nuts, make sure to lift the nose of your chainsaw slightly so that it’s not touching the surface it’s sitting on.


chain saw machines row perspective in market

Voila! Your chainsaw chain is fixed and no longer hanging loose.

As we said, this is a relatively easy process and ideally should be done regularly. Generally, you’ll have to tighten your chain every 1-2 uses depending on the intensity of your use and what you’re cutting.

Whenever you’re handling a chainsaw – including times when you’re carrying out maintenance work like this – you should use protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection, and chaps. Remember that a chainsaw only needs a second of error to cause serious injury!

This is also why it’s so important to make sure your chainsaw is off and the spark plug is removed before doing any work near the blade.

If you’re ever uncomfortable performing chainsaw maintenance or aren’t sure how to tackle a problem, you should approach a professional mechanic. They’ll be able to instruct you on proper procedures and diagnose any issues that need fixing.

With a tool that has such potential for danger, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Hopefully, this guide has given you the tools you need to fix your stretched chainsaw chain. Each time you go through this process, it’ll get easier – and soon, it’ll be second nature!


Can you fix a stretched chainsaw chain?

Yes, you can do this by adjusting the tension of your chainsaw chain using the tension screws on the body of the saw. All you need to do this is a wrench and a screwdriver. Make sure to double-check your chain tension before using your chainsaw again.

Can you shorten a stretched chainsaw chain?

Though you can’t un-stretch a chain, you can often shorten it by removing links.

To do this, identify the master link. Normally, these are a different color or shape. Then, you can simply take out as many links as you want, then replace the master. Now, your chain is shorter.

Why does my chainsaw chain stretch so fast?

Usually, this is because the chainsaw is very new, very old, or damaged in some way. The more you use your chainsaw, the faster its chain will stretch due to the heat created by friction. Make sure to regularly check your chain tension before use.

Do chainsaw chains stretch over time?

Yes. A chainsaw chain will always stretch with use and eventually require tightening and replacement. However, you can slow this process with proper maintenance, lubrication, and use.

How can you tell if a chainsaw chain is stretched?

Place your chainsaw on a level surface and gently pull the chain away from the guide bar. You should see a small gap, but the drive links should never leave the guide bar completely. If they do, your chain is stretched and needs tightening.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.