How Often Should You Tighten a Chainsaw Chain? by Experts!

Doesn’t it sound AWFUL!

87% of beginners don’t know when to tighten a chainsaw chain!

They either tighten it too much and RISK damaging the chain or don’t tighten it enough, reducing the cutting effectiveness.

Tightening chainsaw chain while holding the bar up.

So, how often does a chainsaw chain needs to be tightened?

You should tighten your chainsaw chain when it gets loose and sags below the level of the guide bar. Also, it’s a good practice to check the tension at least once every tank of fuel, before you start cutting and throughout the job.

But there’s a CATCH!

Depending on several factors (e.g. the number of cuts you are doing, the type of wood you are cutting, the type of saw, etc.), the chain may need to be tightened MORE often.

What are the factors? Keep reading to find out…

Why Do Chainsaw Chains Get Loose in the First Place? (Don't skip!)

Chainsaw chains get loose due to the HEAT being generated from the chain striking against the wood (as well as from FRICTION). As the metal of the chainsaw heats up, it expands, causing the chain to become loosened.

Chainsaw chain sagging at the bottom of the bar. An example of a loose chain.

It’s NORMAL and happens to all the chainsaw chains out there!

Besides this, a few other things can CAUSE a chainsaw chain to become loose. For example-

  • Not having the chain tensioned properly,
  • Damaged guide bar,
  • Worn-out sprocket,
  • Broken chain tensioning system (and many MORE).

For in-depth knowledgeread this article where I’ve described why chainsaw chains get loose (and how to prevent them).

How Frequent Should You Tighten Your Chainsaw Chain?

I’ve already answered this question in the intro. (Scroll to the top if you’ve MISSED it!)

But can I be totally honest with you?

The answer is ONLY 65% correct!

Let me explain why

Giving an EXACT answer to this question is almost impossible because there are so many factors at play that can affect how frequently one should tighten his chainsaw chain!

That’s why this section is dedicated to giving you an overview of what those factors are and how they affect FREQUENCY.

(Recently, I posted a thread on our Reddit Community regarding this topic. Throughout this section, I’ll also be sharing the thoughts & insights shared by the members. Here’s the full post)

The type and size of wood you cut


Cutting hardwoods (e.g. hornbeam, oak) applies more FRICTION and force on the chainsaw chain than softer woods (e.g. cedar, spruce). As a result, the chain gets loose quickly. (Sometimes in 5 minutes or LESS!)

Similarly, when you cut LARGER (and thicker) logs, the chain may get loose faster than when cutting smaller ones.

(Here’s what one member had to say about it:)

A real user's opinion on how the size of wood affects the frequency of tightening a chainsaw chain.


So, depending on the type and size of the wood you’re cutting with your saw, you might need to tighten your chain more often than usual.

The sharpness of your chain

Another crucial factor that affects the time span in which you need to adjust your chainsaw chain is its “SHARPNESS”.

Let me explain:

Image of chainsaw cutters after sharpening.

When a chain gets “dull,” it creates more friction and heat, which, in turn, makes it get loose FASTER!

On the other hand, “sharp” chains cut through the wood like BUTTER, which reduces the amount of force & friction on the saw chain and causes it to stay cool (and tighter) for longer.

So, the bottom line is – “if your chain is dull, you may need to tighten it more frequently.

Related Post: Chainsaw Chain Got Stuck in the Bar and Won’t Move!

The age of your chain (New VS Old)

It’s no SECRET that new chains have a “breaking-in” period in which the chain will stretch more than an old, used chain.

A line chart that shows the relation between your chain age and how much it would stretch.

That’s why you may need to tighten NEW chains more often than OLDER ones!

When I get a new chain, I tend to adjust the tension every 15 minutes (or less) until the “stretching” stops.

One of the Arboristsite community members says, “Sometimes (I’ve to tighten my chain) every 60 seconds or less when the chain is NEW.” (Source)

The amount of work you put into your chainsaw

It’s quite OBVIOUS that the more work you put into your chainsaw, the faster its chain will get loose and need to be tightened (regardless of the type and size of wood you’re cutting!)

Here’s what a professional woodcutter shared on my thread –

“I work 5-6 days a week, 6-9 hours a day professionally for 7 years now. I tighten the chain 2-3 times (a day) or maybe more…” (Here’s the full comment)

So, if you use your chainsaw for hours on end, you should expect to tighten the chain MORE often.

Related Post: How to Get a Pinched Chainsaw Out?

Pre-stretched chain vs Normal chain

What are “Pre-stretched chains”?

Well, as the name suggests, these chains come “pre-stretched,” i.e., their tension is already adjusted before you buy them.

This means that they won’t stretch excessively during the “breaking-in” period, and thus, you won’t need to adjust their tension as OFTEN.

Here’s what a pre-stretched chain user had to say –


On the other hand, normal chains (that are not “pre-stretched”) tend to STRETCH more and need to be tightened frequently.

(As of my knowledge, only Stihl and Husqvarna offer pre-stretched chains. However, other brands may also have them.)

The power of your chainsaw

Last but not LEAST!

The POWER of your chainsaw is also related to how frequently you’ve to tighten your chainsaw chain.

In other words – the more powerful your chainsaw is the more FORCE it’ll put on the chain.

Chainsaws arranged based on their power.

The result? The chain would get “saggy” more quickly, and you’d have to adjust it MORE often.

(I’ve experienced this myself – the chain on my 90cc chainsaw tends to get LOOSE way faster than the chain on my 60cc one!)

What Do Chainsaw Manufacturers Recommend?

It’s always the BEST idea to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to maintaining your chainsaw or tightening its chain.

But, If you’re LIKE me, you might have thrown out the manual long ago! (hmm)

No worries!

I went through 6 MAJOR chainsaw brands and their chainsaw chain maintenance instructions.

The table below summarizes what they recommend:

StihlBefore starting work.Stihl Chainsaw Safety Manual (Pg. 27)
Whenever the tank is refilled.
HusqvarnaExamine the saw chain for correct tension (Daily).Husqvarna 120 Mark II Owners' Manual (Pg. 18-19)
Craftop(Tension your chain) As required. Craftop User Manual (Pg. 34)
OregonChain tension should be evaluated before beginning work and checked regularly throughout the job.Source
HomeliteRe-tension the chain whenever the flats on the drive links hang out of the bar groove. Homelite Operator's Manual (Pg. 24)
CraftsmanYou should recheck your chain tension each time before you start the chainsaw and adjust the chain tension as required.Craftsman Instruction manual (Pg. 18)

My apologies if your chainsaw brand isn’t listed!

(I HATE reading manuals as much as you do!)

I would recommend going to your manufacturer’s/dealer’s website and looking up the specific instructions for your chainsaw and chain.

Under the Maintenance > Chain Tension section, you should find instructions on how often and how tight to adjust your chainsaw chain.

(If you still can’t find it, leave a comment below! I’ll try my best to help you)

How Do You Know If Your Chain Needs to be Tightened?

If your chain sags at the bottom of the bar when your chainsaw is not running, then it’s an easy sign that it needs to be tightened. You can also make sure by pulling the chain out of the groove. If you manage to get 2/3 of the drive link out, your chain needs to be tightened.

That’s not all!

You should also look out for SIGNS, like –

A chainsaw cutting crooked (not straight).

These are all SURE signs that it’s time to TIGHTEN your chainsaw chain!

TIP: Always keep an eye on your chain tension when cutting. Don’t get UPSET if you need to tighten it often; it’s a normal part of using your chainsaw. In fact, keeping the chain tensioned properly is essential for maintaining its performance.

How to Keep the Chainsaw Chain Tight for Longer?

Here’re a few tips that can help you maintain your chainsaw chain for longer:

  • Make sure the chain is properly tightened before you start cutting. (Read this article where I’ve discussed how tight should a chainsaw be in detail)
  • Keep your chain sharp. As I’ve already mentioned, a sharp chain can go through wood much easier and stays “cool.” That’s why it expands LESS and stays tight for LONGER.
  • Make sure the oiler holes aren’t clogged up. Without proper lubrication, your chain will get overheated and stretched quickly.
An illustration of chainsaw bar oiler holes.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on your chainsaw. Let the weight of the saw do the work for you.
  • Take rests between. It’ll help both you and your chainsaw chain cool down and stay tight.
  • Invest in a pre-stretched chain (If you’ve got the money!). It’s a bit pricier, but it’ll last you longer and require less retightening.

Goodbye Words!

That’s all for TODAY!

I hope you got some useful information on how often to tighten your chainsaw chain. Let us know in the comments!

Happy sawing 🙂

Samuel Anali

Hey there! My name is Sam, and I'm the NERD behind this site. I'm an avid chainsaw enthusiast, and I've been tinkering with them since I was 17 (it's almost 20 years now!).

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