Which Way Does a Chain Go on a Chainsaw: A Complete Guide?

If you have ever worked with a chainsaw, you would know a specific direction in which the chain is installed. Knowing how to check the direction is a handy thing.

So, this guide will be all about which way does a chain goes on a chainsaw. We will tell you which way you should install the chain on a chainsaw and how to check it to get the installation right every time.

Why Does the Right Direction Matter?

You might be wondering what does it matter whether you properly put the chain or not. It should work all the same. Well, it's not quite that simple. The direction matters if you want your chainsaw to work effectively.

Also, there is a safety concern. Putting the chain incorrectly can make the chainsaw dangerous to use. Given chainsaws are a powerful tool and can be dangerous; you don't want to increase the risk by any means.


Installing the chain backward will mean the cutters are directly facing you. We are sure you don't need us to tell you how dangerous that can be. Bits and pieces of whatever you're cutting can fly right at you. And as we mentioned earlier, the chainsaw itself won't work as well either.

Other than this, there are a lot of problems that you may face if you install the chain in the wrong direction. Here are some of the most common ones.

It Damages the Chain Link

Chain link damage is one of the major concerns. The links of the chain are vital for it to perform optimally. And if the links themselves are damaged, the chain won't work as you would expect it to.

Damages the Chain Link

A bad chain link will also damage the project you're working on. So, as you can see, it isn't worth it. Set the link in the bottom position. That way, you will get the most support.

Motor Damage

Your chainsaw's heart is the motor that runs it. Putting the chain in the wrong direction will also cause unnecessary stress on the motor, which will lead to damage.

That's why many people might report that their chainsaw motor gave up earlier than expected. In reality, the issue wasn't the quality of the motor itself but the wrong chain direction.

Wastes Bar Oil

Normally bar oil is kept to be used when a specific project is done. If you put the chain on the wrong way, this can cause you to unnecessarily waste more bar oil. Causing you to run out faster than expected.

Not only that, it will, of course, cause even more damage to the chainsaw itself. As you can see, it really is worth it when it comes to checking the direction of your chainsaw chain.

Degrades the Quality of Your Work 

If the physical damage to the chainsaw wasn't enough, how about your work quality? Putting the chain on the chainsaw the wrong way can also mean the quality of your work can go down.

This might cause you to doubt your skills. When you're working on a project that didn't come out like how you wanted it to, it may cause you stress. It may make you feel like you did something wrong or don't have the required skills.

Degrades the Quality of Your Work

When in reality, the problem was just that you made a mistake putting the chainsaw chain backward.

Clutch Burnout 

When using the chainsaw, you will need to put the chain in the right way. Otherwise, since it won't cut as nicely if the chain is installed improperly, there will be a tendency to hold down on the clutch harder and for longer.

This will cause the clutch to burn out and be damaged. Not something you want at all! The clutch is the most likely and the only component that can burn out. So, be careful.

Guide Bar Stress

The guide bar is one of the most important components. Improper installation would put unnatural levels of stress on the guide bar and will cause damage. Since the chain of the chainsaw is installed poorly, the cutting efficiency won't be there.

Guide Bar Stress

So, when the chainsaw has to work twice as hard as it would have. That's where the stress of the guide bar comes from. And we are sure you don't need us telling you that this is bad for the durability and longevity of your chainsaw.

Which Way Does a Chain Go on a Chainsaw?

Alright then, let's get right into it. Which way does a chain go on a chainsaw? There are just a couple of simple things you need to keep in mind. The pointy blade teeth of the chain should face the way the blade rotates.

a Chain Go on a Chainsaw

This is sort of the rule of thumb. This means, when you run the chainsaw, the blade edges on top of the bar should move away from the body and go towards the tip.

To make sure you get the direction right every time, you need to check which way you put the chain on each time you replace the chain. Here is how to do it.

How to Check the Chain Direction?

Ideally, there are 3 views. Making sure you check each view of the blade will ensure you get it right. This whole process might seem very confusing at first, but trust us, once you get the hang of it and understand the concept, it's going to be very easy.

Check the Chain Direction

The Views

  • Top view
  • Side and front view
  • Bottom view

Top View 

The first order of business is checking the chain and the chainsaw from the top. This is what we call the top view for obvious reasons. The blades of the chainsaw will rotate in a clockwise direction.

Naturally, what you are looking for from the top is whether the blades are facing the same clockwise direction or not. Just look at the blades from the top, and you would easily get what needs to be done.

Let us make it even easier for you. When looking at the chain, the blades will face the opposite direction from the motor. And the motor is usually located in the body.

Side and Front View

Next up is checking the chain from the side views. Checking all these sides are a good way to make completely sure that the direction of the chain is on the right way.

Turn the chainsaw so that the motor is on your left side and the blades are on your right-hand side. Once you check from the side view, you should check it from the front view as well.

Side and Front View

When checking from the front, the blade should come from the upside to the downward position.

Bottom View

The last view you need to check is the bottom view. If you have been paying attention, you will know that the bottom view should be the complete opposite of the top view.

Blades on the bottom of the chainsaw should be facing the direction of the motor, and the blades on the top will be facing away from the motor/body.

Sharpening or Replacing the Chain 

If you have checked all the necessary things and still feel like the performance of your chainsaw isn't good, then there can be one of two things. Either the chain needs to be replaced, or it needs to be sharpened.

Replacing is straightforward. Replacing the chain is the best bet for irreparable damage like chips, bending, or missing pieces. In some cases, the chain's physical qualities might still be intact.

All the pieces are there, no bending or chips. In that case, you can simply sharpen the chain to regain its cutting performance. A good-quality chain can be sharpened quite a few times.

But this will depend on how much material you take off the chain itself when you sharpen it. If you take way too much material off each time, you sharpen the chain, this will naturally give you fewer sharpening sessions.

Sharpening the chain

Don't worry about how much material you're taking off from the chain. Because most manufacturers will have markings on the top or side of the chain to show how much material is okay to take off.

This will make it easy when you sharpen the chain. So, even if you aren't a professional, you should still be able to do it without much hassle.

When to Replace the Chainsaw Chain?

In some cases, no matter how well you sharpen the chain or put it in the right direction, a chainsaw chain can't be saved. It needs to be replaced. But how do you tell when you need to replace it with a new one? Well, there are a couple of very hard-to-miss signs.

Replace the Chainsaw Chain

1. Slower Cutting Performance 

One of the most obvious signs is, of course, reduced cutting performance. If you have been using your particular chainsaw for some time and notice that the cutting performance has gotten weaker, then it may be because the blades became dull.

This means if something that took you half a minute or so is now taking you longer or double than that. Although if sharpness is the issue, you can sharpen the blades of the chain. But in some cases, the blades can't be sharpened anymore and need to be replaced outright.

2. If You See Fine Saw Dust

If you see fine sawdust when cutting a piece of wood, that means the blade isn't as sharp. Chainsaw blades chip at the wood. So, they shouldn't produce fine sawdust since the blades aren't meant to slice the wood.

So, when you see fine sawdust, that's a sign that the blades aren't chipping away, rather slicing the wood. That's something you don't want.

3. Smokes Coming Out of the Engine 

Another very apparent sign is smoke coming out of the engine. Now, this might seem counterproductive to you. You might think that if the smoke is coming out of the engine, why not check the engine and replace that? Well, sometimes, when the chain is dull, your engine needs to work harder to cut.

Smokes Coming Out of the Engine

That causes stress on the engine, which may also be a factor why it's smoking. This is especially true when you see the engine is smoking even though you lubricated it correctly and the chain tension is all okay.

4. Uneven Cuts

 If you are getting very uneven cuts, guess what? Yep, it's time to replace the chain. However, we suggest that you try and sharpen the chain before thinking of replacing outright.

It will help you be sure that you don't waste a chain that only needed a little bit of sharpening.

5. Rusty Chain 

This one is, of course, a no-brainer. A rusty chain isn't going to be of much use at all. It's going to be dangerous to use and also be very unnecessarily difficult to cut with. Using a rusty chain is not worth it. Replace it with a brand new one.

Rusty Chain

Some Chainsaw Maintenance Tips 

If you want the most out of your chainsaw, here are some maintenance tips that will help your machine last for a long time. These are pretty basic stuff that everyone can follow without any worry.

Chainsaw Maintenance Tips

1. Use Proper Tensioning 

Proper tensioning will help ensure good cutting efficiency and also won't cause premature wear and tear on your chain. The chain should fit snugly against the guide bar.

If you take it out in the open and look at the bottom of the guide bar, you shouldn't see any daylight between. Quite a nifty trick to see if it's installed properly, isn't it?

Another way of checking whether the tensioning is right is you should be able to move the chain. If it moves along the guide bar without any noticeable tight spots, you're all good. Make sure to wear gloves for safety.

2. Flip Out the Guide Bar

You should also flip the guide bar periodically. This evens out the wear and tear and doesn't put too much stress on one side. Proper cleaning is also important. Take the time during scheduled maintenance to get rid of any debris and other things you might notice. Also, check the grooves.

3. Use the Proper Sharpening Tools 

Just sharpening your chainsaw isn't going to help. You need to make sure you have the right tools too. Most people will use filing kits. Here is the thing about filing kits; they are chain-specific.

Proper Sharpening Tools

So, if you use the wrong kind, you will end up damaging them. Instead of sharpening the chainsaw, it will reduce the cutting ability — quite the opposite thing.

4. Use Proper Sharpening Technique 

Apart from the right, the technique is also important. If you're working on the cutters, use a vice grip so it won't move all over the place. When that's solidly held, then you can sharpen them more precisely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Chainsaw Maintenance

1. Why does my chain become dull so quickly?

Many things can accelerate chainsaw damage. It will become dull if you're hitting a nail or the ground too often when using it. Also, if you aren't doing any proper maintenance, then it won't last that long as well.

2. How often should I replace my chainsaw chain?

There is no single answer to this. The chainsaw chain will, on average last about 5 to 6 years. That's quite a lot of time. But if you see visible signs of wear and tear, then you may need to replace the chain earlier than that. Experience and visual identification are key here in deciding.

3. Are chainsaw chains easily interchangeable?

Not quite. Many brands make chainsaws and chains. And all of them are interchangeable with all models. To know whether a new one will work, you need to know the exact measurements like the gauge, pitch, and length of the existing or old chain. Be sure to use the right chain since.

Final Words

You should have a pretty solid idea about which way a chain goes on a chainsaw. Installing the chain in the correct direction can be dangerous and very bad for yourself and the chainsaw itself if you don't. Just make sure to check the direction the way we mentioned here, and you should be all good.

Also, do not be too hesitant in changing or replacing the chain if it needs a new one. Dealing with an old inefficient chain isn't just worth the time and hassle. Plus, it's also isn't safe either.

Leave a Comment