Can Chainsaw Chains Stretch?

The chainsaw chain is one of the most essential parts of a chainsaw. It gets to do most of the work as it bears the blades that do the cutting. As a result of it doing a lot of work, it stretches.

Although looking at it technically, we can say it does not stretch because what happens is that the chain loop gets longer after the chain’s initial use as the chain’s rivet wears due to thermal expansion.

When your chainsaw chain stretches, if you don’t attend to it and get it tightened, especially before use, it can cause a lot of damage to you, the wood, and the chainsaw. In this article, we have addressed some important questions concerning the stretching of chainsaw chains.

Why Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch?

Whenever you discover a stretch in your chainsaw chain, you don’t need to worry because it is typical for such to happen. Below are the reasons why chainsaw chains stretch.

1. Heat: Heat is generated due to friction in the chains when a chainsaw is switched on and used. This heat leads to an expansion of the chain, which loses the chain in the process.

Note: Chain stretches caused by heat slightly return to their initial position after cooling.

2. Wearing off: Chainsaw chains wear off after being used over a long time. Wearing off takes a long time; however, it happens quickly if the chainsaw is not used correctly. Older chainsaws stretch more frequently than new ones because of the wearing off of the chains and sprocket.

A rule of thumb goes, “The older your chain, the more frequently you should examine its tension before each use.”

Why do chainsaw chains stretch

3. Dull chains: There is a very high probability for you to hit a hard material when using your chainsaw. For example, there are times when your chainsaw hits a hard rock when in use, which makes the chainsaw blades and chains dull.

Dull chains, when used, stress the chain, leading to a high amount of heat in the chain, leading to a chain stretch.

Tip: To avoid excessive chain stretching, sharpen the chains before use.

What Are The Effects of Chain Stretching?

When your chainsaw has a stretch, and this stretch is not checked before its next use, it can cause harm to you as well as the chainsaw. When the stretch in the chainsaw chain is not checked and tightened correctly, the chain bar that bears the chain will wear off faster than normal, eventually damaging it.

Also, a loose chainsaw chain risks coming off its guide bar when in use; this can be very dangerous, as it may lead to injury if the chain comes in contact with your body.

Some chainsaw brands have a chain catcher to catch the chain if it slips off its guide bar. However, it is much better to prevent using a chainsaw catcher by regularly checking chains for stretches and tightening them before use.

How Much Will a New Chainsaw Chain Stretch?

A new chainsaw chain will stretch for about 0.01 inch per link. This means a longer chain with up to 75 links will stretch around 0.75 inches, and a shorter chain will stretch almost half an inch.

This is because the chains are designed to run in one direction, causing all the rivets to get pulled towards one side of the clearance. Moreover, a chainsaw chain with a loop of 50 chain links would have stretched by about half an inch after the first use.

This chain stretch is normal and should not be a cause for alarm. After this stretch, subsequent stretches will occur due to fatigue of the chains.

Can Chainsaw Chains Be Prevented From Stretching?

Just as we cannot prevent the sun from shining, chainsaw chains cannot be prevented from stretching, no matter how hard you try. This is why regular check-up of the chain before use is very important.

Tip: Check your chain tension before use to know when it needs to be tightened. Chain stretches occur in old and new chainsaws, so check for stretches even if you use a new chainsaw.

How Can I Know If My Chainsaw Is Stretched?

It is hard to know if your chainsaw chain is stretched, which is okay. We have carefully provided steps for you to follow when checking for chain stretch in your chainsaw; they are as follows:

  • Step 1: Place your chainsaw on a level surface, preferably on a vice.
  • Step 2: Make sure your chainsaw is switched off and allowed to cool down, so you don’t judge the stretching based on the heat factor.
  • Step 3: Look at the side of the chain under the chainsaw guide bar.
  • Step 4: If the chains appear to sag down, showing a space between the chain and its guide bar, it is stretched and needs to be tightened.
  • Step 5: Tighten it until it is in close contact with the guide bar.

Two tests can be carried out to verify if your chain is tightened correctly.

  1. The snap test.
  2. The pull test.

1. The Snap Test: In this testing method, you pull gently on the chain and observe; you then leave it. If the chain stretches slightly and returns to the guide bar when left alone, it is well-tightened.

It is loose and needs to be tightened if it does not return to its initial position. If it does not pull away from the chain bar, it is too tight and needs to be loosened.

2. The Pull Test: In this method, you gently pull the chain away from its underlying bar as far as possible without losing your grip on the chain. With this test, you get to feel the tension on the chain. Ensure the drive links don’t come out wholly from the chain bar groove when pulling.

How To Tighten a Loose Chainsaw Chain?

How much do chainsaw chains stretch

When you discover that your chainsaw is loose and needs to be tightened, here are some easy steps to follow to get it to the right state.

Step 1: Switch off the chainsaw and allow it to cool. You don’t want to tighten a loose chain in action. Also, after switching it off, allow it to cool down, so you don’t over-tighten the chain.

Step 2: Place the chainsaw on a vice to stabilize the chain.

Step 3: Loosen up the bolts that hold the bar in position

Tip: when loosening the bolts, be careful not to lose them completely. Lose them just enough to feel the best, becoming a bit looser.

Step 4: Tighten the chain adjustment screw. Use a screwdriver to tighten the chain adjustment screw located at the base of the chain bar in most chainsaws. However, some chainsaws have an adjustment dial instead of a screw. In that case, you don’t need to use a screwdriver to adjust, just the dial.

Tip: Check the manual guide to know where the adjustment screw or dial is located on your chainsaw, as the location varies with chainsaw models.

Step 5: Lift the chain bar as you adjust the chain tension. This allows you to feel how tight the chain is, so you know if you should stop or continue the tightening process. Continue with this process until the chain is well-tightened. Once the chain is tightened, tighten the bolts that hold the chain bar.

Step 6: Recheck the chainsaw chain. Now, this is the final and most crucial step. Many people tighten their chains and fail to recheck them. We are humans, and most times, what we think we have done correctly needs to be well scrutinized before being put to use to avoid unforeseen circumstances.

There is every tendency that the chains may be too tight or less tight. If any is the case, follow through on the abovementioned steps and tighten the chains properly.

How Tight Should Chainsaw Chains Be?

Now that you know how to tighten your chainsaw and prevent ever repeating the tightening process, how tight should the chains be? First, it is good to know that when tightening chainsaw chains, the extremes are the enemy; your chains should neither be extremely tight nor loose.

Optimum tension is the right tension for your chainsaw chain, and you can verify your chainsaw tension using the snap test or pull test.

Tip: Check the manual guide to ascertain how tight your chainsaw chain should be, as each model has its optimum tension. Also, remember that when testing your chain tension, do not rotate the chain backward to avoid cuts.


Chain stretches occur in new and old chainsaw chains, which is normal and should not be something to worry about. When your chainsaw stretch, tighten it before use to prevent it from causing damage.

We advise that you carry out regular checkups on your chainsaw chains to know if it needs to be tightened so that you don’t use a loose chain to cut wood. To tighten your chainsaw, follow the steps above and recheck using either the snap or pull test.

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