How to Take a Link Out of a Chainsaw Chain: A Guide

How to Take a Link Out of a Chainsaw Chain: A Guide

Taking a link out of a chainsaw chain is an essential maintenance task for any chainsaw owner. Keeping the chain properly tensioned and at the right length is crucial for efficient and safe cutting. In this guide, I’ll walk through the complete process of removing a link from a chainsaw chain, from safety preparations to reassembling the chain. Whether you need to shorten a stretched chain or replace a damaged link, these steps will ensure you can get your chainsaw’s chain back in working order.

Importance of Chainsaw Chain Maintenance

A chainsaw is only as effective as its chain. As the cutting teeth of a chainsaw, the chain takes the brunt of the wear and tear from regular use. Over time, the constant friction can cause chainsaw chains to stretch, links to bend or break, and the cutting edges to become dull. That’s why routine chain maintenance is so important. It keeps your chainsaw running safely and efficiently for every project.

Taking out a link or two is often needed to restore proper chain tension on a stretched chain. Replacing broken links can also prevent more extensive damage. And removing extra links allows you to shorten chains that are too long, avoiding problematic slack. With a well-maintained chain, you can expect smooth, steady cuts and increased chainsaw performance.

Before removing a chain link, always take proper safety precautions. Chainsaws are dangerous power tools, and working with the chain requires your full attention and care. But with the right approach, taking out a link is a straightforward process that any DIYer can tackle.

How to Take a Link Out of a Chainsaw Chain?

How to Take a Link Out of a Chainsaw Chain: A Guide

Taking out a chainsaw chain link involves just a few key steps. Be sure to follow all safety measures before getting started.

Safety Measures

Chainsaws require extreme care and precaution when handling. Before removing the chain or working on any part of the saw:

  • Unplug the chainsaw or remove the spark plug wire. This prevents accidental starting while your hands are near the chain.
  • Allow the chainsaw to fully cool if recently used. The chain and metal components get very hot.
  • Put on protective gloves, goggles, and chainsaw chaps. These will shield your hands, eyes, and legs from injury.
  • Use a vise or clamp to securely hold the chainsaw bar in place if needed. This provides stability when removing components.
  • Work in a clean, well-lit area so you can see what you’re doing.

Taking these basic safety steps reduces the risks of working on a chainsaw chain. Always put safety first before continuing.

Removing the Chain from the Chainsaw

To take a link out of the chain, you first need to remove it from the saw:

  • Locate the chain brake and engage it to lock the chain in place. This prevents it from moving during the process.
  • Find the nuts holding the chain bar cover in place, typically one on each side of the saw. Use a wrench to loosen them and remove the chain bar cover.
  • Identify the chain tensioning screw or knob, and turn it counter-clockwise to relieve tension on the chain. This loosens the chain so it can be maneuvered off the bar.
  • Lift the loose chain up and off the guide bar. You may need to slide it back and forth to work it free.

With the chain removed from the saw, you can now clearly see each link and pin needed for removal. Lay the chain on a flat, sturdy surface for the next steps.

Identifying the Master Link

The master link is a specialized connection that holds the two ends of the chain together in a loop. Removing this link allows the chain to be taken apart for repairs and adjustments. Here’s how to find it:

  • Closely visually inspect each link in the chain. Look for one that appears different than the others.
  • On many chains, the master link has protrusions or flattened sections for the clip to grab onto. It may be slighter larger than typical links.
  • Try flexing the joints between links. The master link will likely have more play since it connects the two chain ends.
  • Refer to your chainsaw manual to check the manufacturer’s master link design. This can provide visual confirmation.

Carefully identifying the right link to remove is crucial, so take your time inspecting. Once located, avoid bending or stressing the master link to prevent damage.

Removing the Master Link

With the master link found, it’s time to work it free:

  • Use a specialized chain breaker tool that fits over the link and pushes the side plate out. This is the easiest and safest option.
  • If you don’t have a chain breaker, a flathead screwdriver can pry the clip and side plate off the master link pins. Take care not to bend or distort the link.
  • Plier jaws can also grip and maneuver the clip off the pins once partially lifted with a flathead screwdriver. Again, take care not to distort the soft link metal.
  • Apply slow, steady pressure when prying at the link. Don’t force it or damage may occur. If needed, use penetrant lubricant to loosen a stuck link.
  • Once detached on one side, rotate the link to free the other side and remove it from the chain.

Removing just the master link allows the chain to be separated while keeping all other links intact. Use caution not to bend or twist the link once removed.

Removing Additional Links

If shortening the chain, you’ll need to remove links adjacent to the master link:

  • Measure your guide bar’s length and compare it to the chain. Calculate how many links need removal to achieve the ideal chain length.
  • Use a chain breaker tool on the determined links, pushing out the link pins. This avoids bending the side plates.
  • Alternatively, a flathead screwdriver can pry up the link side plates to pop them out. Take care not to distort the soft metal.
  • Penetrant lubricant sprayed into the link joints can help loosen stiff pins for easier removal.
  • Remove the broken side plates and pins to detach the link from the chain. Removing one link takes out two side plates and two pins.

Removing additional links beyond the master link allows shortening of over-long or worn chains. Just be sure to take out the right amount to match the guide bar.

Reassembling the Chain

Once all links are removed, it’s time to reconnect the chain:

  • Align the open ends of the chain and insert the master link to join them. The protrusions should align with the side plate holes.
  • If using a clip-style master link, securely snap the clip back in place over the pins.
  • For press-fit master links without clips, use a vise or pliers to press the pins fully into the side plates.
  • Check that the master link is firmly in place by trying to wiggle it. There should be no looseness or play.
  • Lay the reassembled chain back on the guide bar and adjust the chain tension as needed before use.

Taking your time to properly reassemble the master link ensures the chain stays connected during chainsaw operation. Double check the link for tightness to prevent dangerous chain derailment.

Chainsaw Chain Maintenance Tips

While removing a link occasionally is needed, there are ways to prolong the life of your chainsaw chain between adjustments:

Regular Inspection

  • Routinely check the chain for damaged, loose, or excessively worn links and side plates. Look for cracked or distorted components.
  • Also inspect the guide bar’s condition, watching for burring, wear, or damage in the chain groove. A nicked bar can rapidly deteriorate chain performance.
  • Replace damaged links or components as needed before they fail or further degrade. This prevents bigger issues down the road.

Proper Chain Tension

  • Check the chain tension frequently, especially when noticing cuts becoming more difficult.
  • Gently pull the chain around the guide bar by hand. If very loose, the chain needs tightening. But it should still move freely without binding.
  • Use the tensioning screw or knob to achieve the ideal tension. Chains that are too loose or too tight both cause problems.
  • Refer to your saw’s manual for the manufacturer’s tension adjustment method and specifications.

Chain Sharpening

  • Regularly sharpen or replace the cutting teeth as they naturally dull with use. Sharp cutters are essential for fast, efficient sawing.
  • Use a round chainsaw file of the right size for your chain. Carefully file from the inside of each tooth at the specified angle.
  • Seek professional chain sharpening if unsure about the proper technique. They can expertly sharpen each tooth’s cutting edge.

Proper care goes a long way in maximizing the lifespan of your chainsaw chain. But occasionally links still need removal, making it important to know the full process.

Troubleshooting Common Chainsaw Chain Issues

While chainsaw chains are robust, issues can arise that require link removal or replacement:

Stretched Chains

With extensive use over time, chains naturally stretch from the tension on the bar. Signs include looseness, sagging, poor cutting, or the chain derailing from the bar. Removing several links can often restore a stretched chain, but replacement is needed if excessively elongated.

Broken or Damaged Links

The metal links take a beating during cutting. Side plates can crack or break off, and pins can shear or fall out. It’s important to remove any damaged links before catastrophic failure occurs. But one or two broken links may allow salvaging the chain.

Chain Slipping Off the Guide Bar

If the chain becomes loose or jumps the guide bar during operation, several potential causes should be checked. Improper tension, worn rails in the bar groove, bent or broken links, or even insufficient lubrication could be contributing factors. Adjusting chain tension or removing problematic links helps prevent derailment issues.

Diagnosing and addressing common chain problems keeps your chainsaw running safely and efficiently. Know when link removal provides a quick fix versus when a new chain is the better solution.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chainsaw Chains

Removing a chainsaw chain link brings up some common questions for first-timers. Here are answers to a few key queries:

Can you remove links from a chainsaw chain?

Yes, many chainsaw chains are designed to allow removing links as needed. This allows shortening or repairing the chain by taking it apart at the special master link and reconnecting it. Permanent riveted chains, however, don’t permit link removal.

How do you replace a link in a chainsaw chain?

Start by removing the damaged link by detaching the master link and prying off the side plates. Insert the replacement link at the proper spot and reconnect using the master link. Proper installation ensures the replacement link doesn’t immediately fail.

How often should you inspect a chainsaw chain?

Regular inspection before each use is recommended, watching for damaged links, dull cutters, and wear. More extensive inspection of link condition should also be done periodically as preventive maintenance. This helps spot potential problems.

Can you shorten a chainsaw chain by removing links?

Yes, removing a certain number of links is an effective way to shorten a chain that is too long for the guide bar. This avoids the problem of the chain being loose and sagging which can cause poor cutting or derailment.

How can you tell if a chainsaw chain is too loose or too tight?

Turn the chain by hand around the bar. If very loose it will sag. Too tight and it will barely move. The ideal tension allows the chain to move freely without sagging and without binding up. Refer to your saw’s manual for specifications.

What are the risks of using a damaged or improperly tensioned chainsaw chain?

Safety risks include increased kickbacks which can seriously injure the operator. Performance also suffers, with potential chain derailment, slower cutting, and excessive wear to the bar’s rails.

When do you need to replace a chainsaw chain instead of repairing it?

Once a chain is extremely stretched out or has multiple damaged links, replacement is usually the better option. Trying to salvage a worn-out chain by removing links rarely restores performance. Know when it’s time for a new chain.

Proper chain maintenance and understanding when link removal can help are crucial skills for chainsaw owners. Correctly applying the steps outlined in this guide allows fixing many common chain issues to keep your saw cutting smoothly. But don’t hesitate to buy a new chain when the existing one has reached the end of its functional lifespan. Keeping your chainsaw chain in top working order makes every job safer, easier, and faster.


Chainsaw chains endure punishing forces during cutting. That’s why every chainsaw owner needs to understand chain maintenance best practices. Removing a link from the chain is a useful technique for repairs, adjustments and part replacements. With the right safety precautions taken, the process involves simply detaching the master link, pressing out pins to remove additional links as needed, and reconnecting the chain ends. Keeping your chainsaw chain properly tensioned, at the correct length, and free of damaged links improves performance and safety during use. Take time to regularly inspect chain condition and make needed link removals and repairs. With a well-tuned chain, your trusty chainsaw will keep delivering the power and efficiency needed to conquer every cutting chore.

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