Chainsaw Chains: When is it time to get a new one?

Chainsaw Chains: When is it time to get a new one?

At this time of year, a lot of you are likely taking your chainsaw out from storage and are either felling your trees or getting prepared for the storms to come. When taking your chainsaw out from an extended period of storage, it’s always best to give it a once over and ensure that all the parts are clean and working properly, you never know, you might have put it into storage thinking a damaged chain was present you’s problem and forgotten.


So, how do saw chains work?

As you can imagine, saw chains are propelled around the guide bar at a fast speed, they cut into the side and bottom and dispose of the chips, this is why depth must be controlled when operating a chainsaw and is also why only professional or those experienced should use a chainsaw, this is a high powered machine which has the potential to do a lot of damage so even for the professionals, caution during use is advised.


Signs you saw chain may need to be replaced.

Before you even attempt to start it up and give it a trial run there are a few signs of wear that you can visually see which should give you an indication of whether your saw needs a new chain.


  • Missing teeth. It happens, the chain can get caught and just not be able to withstand the strain or perhaps it has gone right through to the concrete ground below or hit against a rock. All of these things and more can lead to your chain having some missing teeth. If there are teeth missing, then it is recommended to replace the whole chain.
  • This is quite an obvious one but if you see signs of rust then it is most definitely time for a new chain. Saw chains rotate at a large speed and go through a lot of tension and strain. Rust can cause damage to the rest of the saw, lead to blocking or chain snapping, all of which you don’t want to happen to you mid cut.
  • If the chain has been filed past the safety lines. On a lot of modern chains, take Stihl for example chain markers are used to guide the user when filing, when the last chain marker is filed and the chain is down to the safety line, this is when a new chain is required. This simple idea is useful to anyone who uses a saw and helps in ensuring all your teeth are filed to the same length.
  • Check how sharp the chain is. This is something which may also require some performance testing as those inexperienced in chainsaws may not be able to recognize the difference between a dull and sharp chain, or perhaps the chain remains dull even after sharpening, this can indicate that a replacement is needed.


If you have checked these but are still unsure if your chain is suitable, checking with a professional is advised, the safety risk of operating an unsure chain is much higher than the time taken to double check.


Say you’ve checked all of these, deem the chain and saw in good condition then it’s time to get to work. Caution is still advised and attention should be paid to the performance of the chain as changes can indicate issues.


  • Tensioning issues- this is where chainsaw experience comes in handy, if you are having to continuously tension your chain or if the tension is too tight then both of these can cause issues, knowing where this middle sweet spot is, is an essential part of chainsaw safety. Having a loose chain is particularly dangerous due to snapping or kickback scenarios where even appropriate safety gear may not be enough to prevent injury.
  • This should hopefully be an obvious one but if there’s any signs of smoke coming out of your saw or any fumes aside from petrol if you have a fueled saw, then you should stop immediately, this is a clear indicator that something is not right with your saw.
  • This is where either general experience, or experience with your own saw will pay a role. If you are used to your saw, you know how it runs, you know what it feels like then you will be that much more prepared for issues because you will be able to recognize when your saw feels off balanced, off center, slow or making it more difficult for you to cut.


It is important to remember than whenever using a chainsaw, regardless for how briefly, appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn.


Replacing your saw chain.

If one or more of these issues have been identified, then you will be on the lookout for a new saw chain. When getting a new saw chain, it is important to know the type of chains, different types will be used depending on your type of saw, for example what type of application it is designed for.

There are also different lengths and pitches, all this information is what you will need to know to find a new chain. There are also different brands, some of which are not interchangeable with different models. Care should be taken when purchasing and installing a new saw chain as an ill-fitting chain can result in injury both for the user and the machine itself.

Need help? Finding the right chain for your saw can be challenging, particularly if you aren’t familiar with chainsaws or a first-time buyer. Our parts department is here to help. They will ask you some details regarding your saw and our experts will be able to make recommendations, and if we don’t have the ones you are looking for in our extensive stock then our parts department are excellent at sourcing the parts you need.

Get in touch today to learn more.