How to shorten a chainsaw chain

An overstretched chain is hazardous and may affect the chainsaw efficiency when doing ordinary tasks. Luckily, you can fix a stretched chainsaw yourself or take it to a professional.

Because shortening it is not an intricate process, you can do it at home. You only need a chainsaw chain repair kit, which comprises pliers, wrenches, chain-breaking tools, and rivets.

So, how do you shorten a chainsaw chain? First, you need to remove the chain from your chainsaw. Remove a link to make it shorter. Finally, reassemble the saw with the shorter chain. However, if the chain is still loose, repeat the process.

Since the process is technical and there are many potential dangers, it is advisable to wear protective gear. For instance, you should have safety goggles and gloves. Besides safety gear, use the tools highlighted above.

To shorten a chainsaw chain:

Step #1: Remove the chain from the chainsaw

Chainsaw chain
Photo: Difydave

Removing the chain from the machine may be an intimidating process, especially if you have never repaired a chainsaw before. But, it is not an intricate process. The golden rule in this stage is to ensure that the saw is cool.

To remove the chain:

  • Find the chainsaw’s side cover
  • Using a wrench, remove all the bolts
  • Unlock the brake (on the side cover)
  • Pull the blade slightly away from the machine
  • If it clicks, it means you have released the chain tension
  • Lift the chain off the machine
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The six steps are vital in many ways. For example, unlocking the brake makes it easier to return the shortened chain to the chainsaw. Also, using a wrench makes it easier to remove screws without damaging the machine.

Step 2: Take a link out of a chain

Once you have removed the chain from the machine, it is time to remove a link and make it shorter for better performance. To remove a link:

  • Locate the master link
  • Pop it open
  • Using pliers, remove the link connected to the master link
  • Attach the master link to the new link
  • Snap the new link to close it

The master bit is different from other chainsaw chain joining links. Its main goal is to make it easier to shorten the chain. However, if yours does not have a master connection, the process is different.

To remove a link when you do not have a master link:

  • Locate a connection you want to remove
  • Use a chainsaw chain breaking tool to break it
  • Pull the link from the chain
  • Connect the new ends
  • Place a pin to the new connection
  • Press the chainsaw chain rivets on the new link and the shortened chain will be ready.

The last procedure is technical, and you need to protect your hands by wearing workshop gloves. Also, wear goggles to keep your eyes safe from small metallic pieces.

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Step #3: Reassemble the chainsaw and test it

Once you have shortened the chainsaw, the final step is to reassemble the machine and test whether the new chain length is perfect or not.

To reassemble:

  • Ensure the tension screw (on the side of the machine’s blade) is loosened
  • Thread the new chain on the blade
  • Pull the blade away from the machine to give it tension
  • Then adjust it using the adjustment pin
  • Put the side cover back
  • Tighten the nuts (first with hands and then with a wrench)

Once you have reassembled the chainsaw, you need to check whether the chain length is perfect or not. To test the length:

  • Pull the adjusted chain up and far from the machine’s blade
  • Release the chain quickly
  • If it snaps back in place, you have the right length
  • However, if the chain sags away from the machine’s blade, you need to repeat all the processes above.

When re-shortening the chain, you should not remove more than one link. A longer chain is better than a shorter one as you can still remove links and make it better.

While you can contact a professional if your chainsaw chain is loose, shortening it at home saves money. Since the process is technical, you need to protect your hands and eyes. Also, using the right tools saves time and energy in each step.

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