How to Untangle a Chainsaw Chain: A Guide for 2024

how to untangle a chainsaw chain

Having a tangled chainsaw chain can be incredibly frustrating. As any experienced chainsaw user knows, a tangled chain prevents you from getting work done and can even damage the saw if not addressed promptly. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the steps needed to successfully untangle your chainsaw chain so you can get back to sawing.

First, let’s touch on why chainsaw chains get tangled in the first place. The metal links that make up the chain are designed to slide smoothly around the guide bar and drive sprocket, but debris buildup, lack of lubrication, improper storage, and chain wear can all cause kinks that lead to annoying tangles. Removing a stubborn tangle requires some finesse, but don’t worry – with the right techniques and tools, even the gnarliest chain knots can be smoothed out.

Ready to get that saw up and running again? Here’s my tried-and-true process for untangling chainsaw chains quickly and safely:

How to Untangle a Chainsaw Chain?

To untangle a chainsaw chain, first remove the chain from the chainsaw and lay it on a flat surface. Lubricate the chain with oil to make it easier to work with. Then, use the double loop method or hold the chain from two opposite loops and let it fall downwards to untangle it

                    How To Untangle a Chainsaw Chain Easily in 2024?

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Having a proper workspace set up will make the untangling process much easier. Look for a large, flat surface like a workbench or sturdy table. You’ll need enough space to lay out the length of the chain. Make sure the area is clear of debris and flammable materials.

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Gather any tools you’ll need beforehand – this includes thick protective gloves, a flathead screwdriver, adjustable wrench or pliers, and lubricating oil. Safety should be the number one priority when handling chainsaw chains because of the sharp cutter teeth. Leather gloves work well to protect your hands from accidental cuts or punctures while you manipulate the tangled links.

Step 2: Remove the Tangled Chain from the Chainsaw

Using the proper size screwdriver, wrench, or pliers, remove the chain from the chainsaw by loosening the fasteners that hold the guide bar in place. With the bar removed, you can slide the chain off the drive sprocket.

Taking the chain off the saw gives you much more freedom and visibility to work with the tangles. Attempting to untangle it while still attached to the saw is nearly impossible.

Step 3: Lay the Chain on a Flat Surface

Drape the chain in a circular configuration on your work surface. Try to line up all of the tangled loops and kinks on the exterior of the circle. This positions the tangle ready to be unwound.

Step 4: Lubricate the Chain

Application of lubricating oil will help loosen up stiff chain links and make untangling much easier. Apply a generous amount of chain oil, grease, or WD-40 to the links using either a spray bottle or brush. Rotate the chain to distribute the lubricant throughout.

Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes before manipulation. This gives the penetrants time to work at freeing up any rusted or stuck joints. Proper lubrication is key for smooth untangling.

Step 5: Untangle the Chain Using the Double Loop Method

With the chain oiled and laid out, you can begin working at the tangles. I find the double loop method to be quick and effective:

  • Locate two loops next to each other along the tangled area. Using your hands or pliers, grasp the sides of the two loops and rotate each loop in opposite directions. This will cause the chain to twist up into a figure eight shape.
  • Once you’ve made two loops, lift the chain up slightly and let the figure eight untwist itself downward. This helps unlock the chain.
  • Repeat this process – making two loops and letting them untwist – multiple times until the tangle is smoothed out. Be patient and work at small sections of the knot at a time.
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An alternative approach is holding the chain up by two opposite end loops and gently bouncing the chain to let gravity help untangle the center knots. Just be cautious of where the cutter teeth land while doing this.

Step 6: Inspect and Reassemble the Chainsaw

With the bulk of the tangle removed, do a final inspection of the chain for any kinks or stiff links. Use a small pick to work at any trouble spots. Lube the chain once more and replace it on the chainsaw, being careful to align the drive links correctly.

Reattach the guide bar and tighten everything to the proper tension. Make some test cuts in wood to ensure the chain runs smoothly before resuming heavy duty sawing. Taking the time to fully untangle the chain now will save you headaches down the road!

Tips for Preventing Chainsaw Chain Tangling

While removing a tangled chain is doable with some time and effort, prevention is always preferable. Here are my top tips for keeping chains from tangling in the first place:

Proper Storage

Allowing your chainsaw chain to rattle around unprotected is asking for tangles. Invest in a chain bag, sheath, or hard case designed specifically for storing chains. This keeps links from shifting and rubbing during transport or when not in use.

Regular Maintenance

Consistent cleaning, inspection, and lubrication goes a long way for chain longevity. Debris buildup in the cutter teeth can restrict movement. Running chainsaw chains without ample oil leaves them susceptible to binding rust. Get in the habit of routine maintenance to avoid tangling situations down the road.

Safety Precautions When Untangling a Chainsaw Chain

While this process may seem straightforward, it’s important to keep safety at the forefront. Chainsaw chains are designed to cut rapidly through wood – they can easily cut flesh too. Here are key precautions to take:

Wear Protective Gloves

Heavy duty non-slip gloves that cover the hands and wrists are a must for protecting against the sharp cutter teeth along the chain. Leather gloves provide puncture resistance. Work deliberately and avoid placing hands underneath the chain.

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Use Safety Goggles

Bits of debris, dirt, and metal shards can fling off the chain as you work out kinks. Wearing sealed goggles protects eyes from flying particles during the untangling process.


Removing tangles from a chainsaw chain takes concentration, but is doable with some mechanical know-how. The key steps are removing the chain from the saw, lubricating it thoroughly, employing the double loop untangling method, and conducting a final inspection before reinstalling a smooth, kink-free chain. Exercise caution by wearing gloves and goggles throughout the process.

While tangled chains are a nuisance, taking preventative measures like proper storage and regular maintenance makes them less likely to occur. With this comprehensive untangling guide, you can get even the most stubborn chainsaw chain knots smoothed out and back to cutting.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do chainsaw chains get tangled?

Chainsaw chains usually get tangled due to a buildup of sawdust and debris in the links, lack of lubrication causing rust and stiff joints, improper storage leading to kinks, or normal wear-and-tear on older chains.

Can I untangle a chainsaw chain without removing it from the chainsaw?

It is not recommended to attempt untangling a chain while still attached to the chainsaw. Removing the chain fully gives the best visibility and maneuverability to unwind knots.

What tools do I need to untangle a chainsaw chain?

Useful tools are thick protective gloves, flathead screwdriver, adjustable wrench or pliers for chain removal, lubricating oil or penetrant, rags, and safety goggles. Avoid using hands or fingers directly on the sharp cutter teeth.

How can I prevent my chainsaw chain from tangling in the future?

Prevent tangles by storing chains properly in protective cases, maintaining cleanliness by removing sawdust, regularly lubricating, inspecting for wear and damage, and replacing older stretched-out chains.

Is it safe to untangle a chainsaw chain by myself?

It is safe if you use extreme caution – wear thick gloves and goggles at all times, work slowly and deliberately, keep hands clear of the cutter teeth, and secure the chain flat on a stable surface. Consider asking for help if new to chainsaw maintenance.

How often should I clean and lubricate my chainsaw chain?

Ideally clean the sawdust from your saw chain after each use, and apply lubricating oil every few hours of run time. This frequency keeps the links from binding and reduces friction during cutting.

When should I replace my chainsaw chain?

Look for a new chain when you notice sagging, damaged rivets or drive links, stiff joints, or excessive stretching. With routine sharpening, quality chainsaw chains can last many months before needing replacement.

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