Chainsaw Chain Direction: A Comprehensive Guide For The Newbie

For any new enthusiasts, there will be plenty of chainsaw blunders until they get a hang of it. So many challenges! Figuring out the right chainsaw chain direction is one of them.

I am not saying the chain direction is rocket science, but to run your chainsaw effectively and smoothly, you have to get it right. It’s associated with lots of factors and considerations.

But you have stumbled into the right place to get all of your questions and confusions clear. You will learn all about the chain of your chainsaw. Read on!

How Do You Know The Chainsaw Direction Of Chain Is Right?

Chainsaw Chain Direction

Don’t worry, if the direction is wrong, I will show you how to get it right within just 3 steps right below this section of the article.

But for any newbie, it’s easy to get confused understanding whether the chain is facing the right direction already or not. Otherwise, you will get into more trouble!

There are 3 ways to figure this out and I strongly recommend checking these 3 methods if you are a complete stranger in the chainsaw world.

  • Look At The Chainsaw Top

Of course, the blades sit atop of the chain, and just like a knife, they have both a sharp and a dull edge. And no matter what type of chainsaw you got, the chain always rotates in a clockwise direction.

So, if the sharp edges of the blade rotate the clockwise direction, it’s in the right direction. Also, make sure the blades are pointing away from the body of the chainsaw or the motor when they are on the top side of the chainsaw.

  • Look At The Chainsaw Bottom

When the chain is properly installed, the teeth will face away from the chainsaw body at the top of the rotation. So, the blades should be facing towards the body at the bottom of the chain’s rotation.

  • Check The Drive Link

The drive link (wave-shaped) should be pointing forward if installed correctly in the right direction. If it’s pointing towards the end of the bar, the chain is already in the right direction. So, you should observe this carefully.

  • Run A Smaller Test

Let’s say you have completed all the inspections and performed every check known to you. But you are still not sure whether the chain is properly installed or not. What should you do?

Well, I always like the old school trial and error method! This is how you should perform a test run…

Cut a smaller log of wood with your chainsaw. If it rattles excessively or the wood starts to burn or smoke, you have installed it improperly.

You can also draw your conclusion regarding the dullness of your chainsaw blade if it cuts very slowly. If there are no sharp edges, it becomes hard to tell whether the chain is properly installed or not.

Importance Of Getting The Direction Of Chain On Chainsaw Right

I don’t mean to scare you, but sometimes fear works better to stay safe. As per the U.S. CDC, around 36,000 people take medical treatment due to chainsaw-related injuries.

So yes, your chainsaw is not to be toyed with. It needs to be handled and maintained correctly. This is probably the type of the most complex saw type of its kind. So, it needs your complete attention.

Apart from the physical injuries, let’s check some problems putting the chain in the wrong direction:

  • Severe Damage To The Chain Link

The chain link is a vital part of the chainsaw. With a damaged chain link, your chainsaw won’t be able to operate effectively or will stop working totally.

To provide the exact amount of support to the chainsaw blade so that it can propel effectively, the chain-link always has to be at the bottom position.

So, to avoid damages to your project and the chainsaw, it’s vital that you fix the drive link the correct way.

  • Stress On The Guide Bar

The guide bar plays an important role while cutting wood. And you will face a lot of problems if the chainsaw blade has a wrong alignment.

If you continue cutting woods with that wrong alignment, there will be a huge stress on the guide bar. This is when things get serious. The chain will be forced into the wood and you will damage the guide bar.

  • Bar Oil Wastage

The main job of the bar oil is to be in usage until the completion of a certain project. But the bar oil will run out fast before completion of the project if the chain is in the wrong direction.

If you get the chainsaw hawser fixed on the wrong side, it will cause the waste of bar oil. That waste also results in the damage of the chainsaw too. Do you see the problem?

  • Damaging The Engine Motor

When you keep cutting woods putting too much pressure on the dull edges of the chain blade, will affect the chainsaw in turn. Gradually, such forced woodcutting will reduce the lifespan of the engine motor.

  • Burnout Clutch Problem

Your chainsaw is not cutting anything but you keep pressing down the clutch. This is what people normally do when they start their chainsaws. But this is what causes the clutch to burn.

And when you have a burnout clutch, your chainsaw won’t work anymore. Ensuring the right chain direction will make sure that the clutch does not get burnout.

  • And Lastly, You Will Have Doubt On Your Skills.

It will kill your confidence badly and you need your confidence to deal with such a complex saw. Placing the chain in the right direction will make it work from the very first and it will make you trust in your own skills.

Yes, there are some serious consequences of getting the wrong chain direction. And not the newbie gets it wrong alone, even an expert with years of experience can make such a mistake.

Power tools like the chainsaw require regular replacement of blade, bar, or the chain itself. But during the restoration of such parts, anybody can make a mistake setting the chain in the wrong direction.

And such absent mind while restoring can lead to some serious damages!

How To Get The Right Direction Of Chain On Chainsaw?

If you have never seen the easy way to do it, it’s pretty frustrating. I know! But how do you get the right direction?

Well, that’s the easy part. But I am gonna cover it first because a lot of you been asking me about this for some time. So, here is an in-depth guide on how to put a chainsaw chain on.

But you can follow the short-cut version mentioned-below if you already know about it. Let’s get you up and running with some easy to follow steps:

  1. To get the right chain direction, you need to get to the chain and bar first. So, remove the side casing of your chainsaw.
  2. Before we get to the main part, let’s remove the chain off the saw keeping everything out.
  3. Now put everything back together (bar, chain, etc.) and tighten them if you have already figured out the chain direction. Remember, installing the chainsaw blade in the right direction is the central part.
  4. Now that you have completed everything like chain mounting, bar attaching, and getting the right chain blade direction, let’s finish the last step. Just tighten up the chain so that it can run without any trouble.

While tightening the chain, make sure don’t make it too tight r too loose. In either case, you will have a problematic chainsaw to cut your wood.

Now, if it seems difficult to understand how to actually put it all together, watch the video:

Evaluating The Condition of The Chainsaw Chain

Congrats! You have already learned so far. It’s time to have a deeper look at the chain itself. Even if the direction of the chain is right, you may not get the optimal speed or quality of cut you deserved.

It will happen most likely if the chain is already damaged or at least dull.

As you keep mastering yourself with the chainsaw, you need to learn every detail about it in addition to the direction of the chain. And the most important one is to figure out whether the chain is dull or not.

Luckily, there is no guesswork to figure this out. Here are the 5 signs that will tell you whether the chain is dull or not (originally recommended by Stihl):

  1. Instead of the chainsaw working for you, you need to push it hard to make a cut. It simply does not cut like it used to. The blade teeth get stuck in the wood and it takes painfully much longer time the finish the project. As the chainsaw is not pulling it itself, you will have to apply huge body force to cut any wood. Ideally, you don’t need to struggle with it. You just need to keep it stable with your firm grip. If the scenario is the opposite (plenty of smoke without doing any actual work), it’s a surefire sign.
  2. If it does not make large wood chips but fine dust only, it’s an obvious sign of a dull or worn-out chain. The ideal scenario is it should spit out wood chips if your chainsaw has a sharp chain. The dull chain keeps scratching the wood like sandpaper instead of chipping away. Because of the dull chain, you are getting fine sawdust with sparking and smoking instead of coarse strand or wood chips. Until you sharpen the chain again, it will keep burning away the wood instead of cutting it.
  3. Even when the chain tension is right and you have done proper lubrication, your chainsaw starts smoking.
  4. You are noticing a crooked cut as the chainsaw keeps pulling in one direction.
  5. During the cut, it keeps bouncing or shaking. This may happen due to a damaged guide bar or a faulty sharpening of the blade. Even if you set the depth gauge incorrectly, you will face similar trouble. The chain will sit on a tilted position if the guide bar rails have uneven heights.

You may notice several of the above signs or only one of them. And it’s a sign of a damaged or dull chain. Now, the question is—why it happens and what to do about it?

Also Read: Stihl MS 271 Complaints.

Expert Observation: Why The Chain Keep Coming Off?

The reclaimed lumber is embedded with dirt, nails, etc. If you have to cut one of them or you cut a lot of dirty wood, you are most likely to strike a nail or rock occasionally.

If that happens and even if a single or more cutting teeth from the chain break away, it will wobble during the cut. It wobbles because the centrifugal forces are not even across the chain.

Even if striking such snails does not break the teeth right away, some of the teeth will get bent out for sure. So, you will notice some bouncing of the chain and there will be no smooth gliding over.

A stretched chain is another reason why it keeps coming off. Each time you use a chainsaw, the chain slowly stretches.

That’s the reason you need to check the tension of the chain after every 20 minutes of continuous cutting. Because, when you cut any wood, the chain feels huge pressure and it may become quite loose. So, the chain might come off any moment!

The faulty glide bar full of debris in its rails is another reason why the chain keeps coming off. To check if it’s okay to work with, remove it from the body and inspect it carefully. It’s dangerous to work with a shabby glide bar due to its sharp outer edges!

Dull Chainsaw Chain: Replace or Repair?

Over time, the chain gets dull and problematic. Just like any other chainsaw brand, it’s a common Husqvarna chainsaw problem. You will have to just deal with it!

A further evaluation is needed to determine whether you should repair the chain or completely replace it with a new one. I know it’s gonna cost you a few bucks but I strongly recommend if you notice any broken or chipped links.

As a newbie, repairing the chain is never recommended. But if it’s in good condition and you are 100% sure a little sharpening will do the trick, you can go ahead sharpening it yourself.

But keep in mind that you can’t just keep sharpening the chain again and again. It is only good to re-sharpen only a few dozen times. The reason is pretty simple.

During the sharpening, every time you take away some material from the cutters. So, they keep getting smaller and smaller. Eventually, it will reach the witness mark on the cutter and you won’t be able to re-sharpen it anymore when it does.

There is an easy way to figure out exactly when you need to stop sharpening it and replace it with a new one. You will find a marking on the side or top of the chain or on the chain guide links.

If the chain has been already sharpened beyond those markings, stop re-sharpening it. Get a new one and stay safe.

Finding The Perfect Replacement Chain of Your Chainsaw

figuring out the right chain direction

Let’s say you have determined to replace the chain entirely instead of repairing it. And I strongly recommend doing so if you see any damages there.

But you must get the right and perfect replacement chain that is compatible with your chain saw. And you can get the right one if you follow consider the below-mentioned factors while buying one:

  • Right Pitch Size

Normally, the pitch indicates the average distance between the two successive chain links. And if you divide the distance between the two repeated chain links, you will get the average distance.

It’s crucial that you get the right pitch size because ensuring that alone will make everything else easy.

Depending on the type of chainsaw you have, you must find the perfect pitch size that will perfectly match your chainsaw. There are different chainsaw pitch sizes like ¼ inch, 0.325 inches, 3/8 inch, 3/8-inch low profile, and 0.404 inches.

The general rule of thumb is that you need a larger pitch size if you have a heavy-duty chainsaw and vice versa. Know the size of your pitch size and ensure that while you buy a new chain.

  • Gauge Size

You will find multiple sizes of gauges like 0.043-inch, 0.050-inch, 0.058-inch, and 0.063-inch. Now, you need to determine first what size is right for your chainsaw.

Since you are a newbie, it’s okay if you don’t know what is this gauge I am talking about. Let me explain.

It indicates the measurement of how deep the groove of your chainsaw is on the guide bar. Usually, heavier chainsaws have a hither gauge. You must get the right size of gauge that fits your chainsaw perfectly.

  • The Drive Link Count

It indicates the drive links of your chainsaw’s chain. So, you need to first determine the length of your chain then get the one that will fit into your bar nicely. Follow this forum to learn about drive-link in-depth

The above-mentioned 3 factors play a vital role in finding the right replacement chain. But you must always follow the one that is recommended by the manufacturer of your chainsaw.

And you will find such information from the user manual. If you have already lost the manual, I believe you can always download a PDF copy from the website of the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Is My Chainsaw Blade Smoking?

Lack of air in the engine or lubrication to the air or guide bar will result in smoking. Of course, it should produce some sort of heat. But if it’s smoking or overheating, it’s a problematic sign.

What chainsaw chain cuts the fastest?

All the professional people use the Square ground chisel chain (like Oregon CJ & CK) because it’s the fastest cutting chain.

Can a chainsaw chain be installed backwards?

No. If you install it backward, it won’t cut. The cutting side of the blade should be facing away from you while holding the chainsaw.

What is the difference between .325 and 3/8 chain?

For a durable and long-lasting performance and if you use it almost every day, you should get the 3/8-inch chain. Some people like the .325-inch chain because it’s faster. But it’s not ideal for everyday usage.

How do I know if my chainsaw chain is backwards?

If the drive-link is pointing backward, your chainsaw chain is in the wrong direction.


As you can see, figuring out the right chainsaw chain direction is the easy part. But there are many things to keep in mind while dealing with such stuff.

To stay safe, you should check the chain and bar thoroughly before you use your chainsaw on any project. It’s always a good idea to look for cracks or bends in the bar, missing teeth on the chain, or lack of proper tension.

I tried to keep all the important stuff in one place so that you can get them all in no time. I hope, it helps you even a bit.

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