How to Unkink a Chainsaw Chain?: A Comprehensive Guide

how to unkink a chainsaw chain

Maintaining a chainsaw is crucial for optimal performance and safety. A common issue many chainsaw owners face is a tangled or kinked chain, which can be frustrating to deal with. Successfully unkinking your chainsaw chain requires patience, the right tools, and following a systematic approach. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the complete process to assess, lubricate, untangle, inspect, and reassemble your chainsaw chain to get it back in working order.

Assessing the Situation to Unkink a Chainsaw Chain

how to unkink a chainsaw chain

The first step is to thoroughly examine the chain to understand what you are dealing with. Lay the chain on a flat, clean surface and look for twisted or tangled areas. Identify where the chain links have become interlocked and take note of the location and severity of each kink. Check carefully for any broken or damaged links as you assess the situation. Damaged links will need to be replaced before the chain can be safely reinstalled and used.

Proper lubrication is key to smoothly untangling a kinked chain. Chainsaw chains need lubricant to reduce friction as the links articulate against each other. Applying lubricant will allow you to carefully work the links free without damaging them further. Use a quality chain lubricant and generously coat each section of the chain as you unkink it. Proper lubrication makes a difficult job much easier.

Working the Chain Free by Creating Loops

With the chain well lubricated, you can begin gently working out the tangled areas. Create two small loops of chain at opposite ends. Lift the center of the chain off the surface and slowly rotate and manipulate the two loops in opposite directions to create slack. Keep rotating the loops, adding more slack to the chain as you go. Once enough slack builds up, you can massage apart the specific kinked and twisted sections.

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Repeat this process of rotating the opposite chain loops to add more slack and continue working on freeing up the tangled areas. Be patient and take your time as you work the chain free, link by link. Applying controlled pressure in small increments is the key. If needed, use pliers wrapped in protective cloth to get a better grip on the chain. Keep lubricating periodically as you unkink the chain. With patience you will methodically straighten out even the most stubborn tangles.

Inspecting and Reassembling the Chain onto the Chainsaw

Once fully unkinked, do a final inspection of the entire chain. Make sure all links are straight and that you cannot see any areas that remain jammed. Check carefully again for any damaged links or teeth. Any defective links will need to be replaced before the chain can go back on the chainsaw.

Provided the chain checks out, you can reinstall it on the guide bar and chainsaw. Make sure it is properly tensioned – tight enough to stay on the bar but still able to freely rotate. With the chain back in place and undamaged, you can get back to safely using your chainsaw. Taking the time to properly unkink chains will extend their lifespan.

How to Unkink a Chainsaw Chain?: A Comprehensive Guide

Common Chainsaw Chain Problems and Solutions

While unkinking a tangled chain is one issue owners face, there are other common problems that can arise with chainsaw chains:

Preventing the Chain from Slipping Off

Chains popping off the guide bar is a nuisance that interrupts work. Several issues can cause this, including incorrect chain tension, temperature changes, or worn sprocket or bar. Ensure the chain is tensioned according to the saw manufacturer’s specifications. Check that the chain drive links are properly matched to the saw. Over time, the guide bar and chain drive sprocket may wear, allowing the chain to derail. Replace damaged parts to get the chain tracking correctly.

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Freeing Stuck Chain Links

Over time, sawdust and debris can build up and restrict the articulation of chain links. Regular cleaning and lubricating helps prevent stuck links. For stubborn stuck links, soak the chain in lubricant to loosen the sawdust. Gently work the link back and forth to free it up or use a pick to clear compacted debris. For severe cases, the damaged links may need replacement. Periodically inspecting and maintaining your chainsaw chain helps avoid frozen links from building up.

Key Chainsaw Chain Maintenance

Proper maintenance is crucial to extending the life of your chainsaw chain and ensuring optimal performance. Here are key maintenance tips:

Regular Cleaning

Over time, sawdust and resin will stick to the chain. This gunk builds up and causes excess friction and wears the chain prematurely. Regularly clean the chain with a stiff brush and a solvent like kerosene or diesel fuel. Thorough cleaning clears the debris and reduces friction during use.

Sharpening the Teeth

A dull chain makes cutting difficult and can lead to overheating or damage to the saw. Regularly sharpen the cutter teeth with a round file of the proper size. The chain’s rakers may also need periodic filing to set the proper depth gauge. Maintaining sharp cutters and depth gauges keeps your chainsaw cutting smoothly and efficiently.

Lubricating the Chain

Bar and chain oil is essential to reduce friction and dissipate heat as the chain cuts. Ensure to fill the oil tank and check that the oiler is working before each use. The proper lubricant clings well to the chain and guide bar without slinging off or thinning out. Quality bar and chain oil improves performance and prolongs the life of chainsaw components.

Safety Tips for Handling Chainsaw Chains

While essential for yardwork, chainsaws must be treated with caution and respect. Here are key safety guidelines when handling chainsaw chains:

Wear Protective Gear

Chainsaw chains are sharp and can easily cut you. Always wear thick, cut-resistant gloves when handling, cleaning, or unkinking the chain. Gloves protect your hands and improve your grip on the chain. Wear proper eye protection like safety goggles when performing maintenance to guard against flying debris.

Proper Storage

Store chainsaw chains carefully to prevent tangling. Hang them or keep them flat in a rigid case. Do not pile or wrap them loosely. Keep them in a dry, dust-free space away from dirt and moisture which can accelerate wear. Proper storage prevents damage and keeps them ready for use.

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Regular Inspection

Inspect chains before each use for damaged, loose, or missing drive links. Check for stiff links and that the cutters are adequately sharp. The chain should flex freely and articulate smoothly around the guide bar. Replace any defective chains. Periodic inspection identifies issues for repair before they lead to problems during cutting.


Unkinking a tangled chainsaw chain simply takes patience, lubricant, and methodically working it free. Follow the steps to assess, lubricate, untangle, inspect and reinstall your chain to get your chainsaw functioning reliably again. Preventative maintenance like regular cleaning, sharpening, lubrication and inspections can help avoid many common chain issues. Chainsaw chains enable fast and efficient cutting, provided they are properly maintained and handled with due caution.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chainsaw Chains

How often should I clean my chainsaw chain?

Cleaning is recommended after each use to prevent buildup of debris. The chain should also be cleaned periodically with solvent to remove any accumulated resin or grime.

What type of lubricant should I use for my chainsaw chain?

Quality bar and chain oil that is designed to cling to the chain without slinging off, thinning, or evaporating is ideal. Chainsaw manufacturers often recommend specific grades optimal for their models.

How can I prevent my chainsaw chain from getting tangled?

Proper handling and storage helps prevent tangling. Do not pile or wrap chains loosely. Hang them or lay flat and straight in a case. Keep stored chains away from dirt and moisture.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my chainsaw chain?

Replace chains that are damaged or excessively worn. Look for stretched links, stiff links, bent or broken drive links, or cutter teeth that are deeply grooved and unable to be sharpened further.

Can I sharpen my chainsaw chain at home?

Yes, chains can be effectively sharpened at home with the right tools – round file of proper size, file guide, deburring stone, and depth gauge tool. Maintain the correct filing angle.

How do I adjust the tension of my chainsaw chain?

Consult your saw owner’s manual. Tension is typically adjusted by loosening the guide bar nuts and turning the tension screw to tighten or loosen the chain. Set tension so the chain has only about 1/4″ of sag along the guide bar.

What are the common signs of a damaged chainsaw chain?

Bent, broken, or seized links, cutters with uneven wear, stretching, stiff links, cracks, embedded debris, or excessive play between links indicate a worn chain needing replacement.

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