Which Way Does the Chain Go on a Chainsaw?

Which Way Does the Chain Go on a Chainsaw

Photo: woodlandinfo.org

Like any other power tool, chainsaws require high maintenance. One of the issues that arise from everyday chainsaw maintenance activities such as blade, bar, and chain replacement is setting the chain in the wrong direction. This mistake can have implications on everything from cutting efficiency to safety, and hence it is vital to set the chain in the correct direction.

Problems Faced in Putting the Chain in the Wrong Direction 

Besides being quite risky for the tool use, mounting a chainsaw chain in the wrong direction comes with many issues that include the following.

1. Clutch Burnout and Motor Deterioration: Since the blunt edges on the chain are what will be hitting the wood when you have the chain in reverse; it encounters more resistance than usual. If this happens for long as you force the chainsaw to cut, it can cause clutch burnout. Putting too much pressure on the chainsaw also deteriorates the motor significantly.

2. Bar Oil Wastage: When you have the chain mounted in the wrong direction, the bar oil will not be getting to the parts it is meant to lubricate, and so most of it goes to waste. Worst still, this causes greater damage to the chainsaw as there is more friction and overheating.

3. Chain Link Damage: The chain link is also prone to getting damaged when you have the chain in the wrong direction. Remember, the chain link has to be at the bottom position, and so having it in any other place can damage it, which then affects the overall efficiency of the chainsaw.

4. Unnecessary Guide Bar Stress: The guide bar does a crucial job on a chainsaw. Therefore, when there is an issue such as wrong chain direction, it will have problems. Since the chain will be forced into the wood by the user’s muscle power instead of using its sharp edges, it ends up putting unnecessary stress on the guide bar, and you can even damage it entirely.

5. Can be Embarrassing Trying to Cut: It can be very embarrassing trying to cut with a chainsaw when the chain is in reverse. This is more so if you take it to a dealer claiming it is not cutting wood just to find you have the chain in the wrong direction. When it happens in front of a client, it can make you doubt your skills and portray incompetence.

How to Make Sure that your Chainsaw Chain Direction is Right

How to Make Sure that your Chainsaw Chain Direction is Right

Photo: opereviews.com

For those just starting with chainsaws, figuring out how to install the chain correctly can be a little confusing and overwhelming. But, here are a few ways to ensure the chain is in the right direction.

Check from the Top View

When looking at the chain from the top, you will notice that it has several blades with two edges. One of the edges is sharp, and it is what cuts through the wood, and the other is dull.

Given that a chainsaw always cuts in a clockwise direction regardless of the type, size, or model, the blades’ sharp edge should also face the clockwise direction. If not, it means the chain is mounted in the wrong direction, and you have to make adjustments.

Another way to tell whether the chain saw faces the right direction or not when looking from the top view is by comparing it to the motor or chainsaw body. The sharp edges on the blade should always face the direction opposite the motor/chainsaw body when the chain is mounted correctly.

Check from the Front & Side View

When looking at the blade from the side with the engine on your left side and the chain on the right-hand side, the blade’s direction should be from left to right, meaning it will move in a clockwise direction as it cuts.

Additionally, remember also to check the chainsaw from the front. For a correctly mounted chain, you should see the blade coming from the upside to the downside from the front view. However, if the edge appears to be moving backward, it means the chain is facing the wrong direction.

Check from the Bottom View 

It should be obvious that when viewing the chain from the bottom, it should look the opposite of what you see from the top view when correctly installed. A correctly installed chain should have the blades facing the body or engine when looking from the bottom.

How to Make a Chainsaw Blade Run in the Right Direction? 

How to Make a Chainsaw Blade Run in the Right Direction

Photo: STIHL

If you notice that the blade is not facing the right direction by doing the checks above, you need to restore it to the correct position. For this, you should follow the steps below.

Step 1: Attach the Chainsaw Bar

As you reset your chain to face the correct direction, the first step is to attach the chainsaw bar. Here you need to make sure you secure the bar carefully and that you do it in the correct direction.

It is vital to ensure that you have the correct bar type and length if you are replacing the original one with a new bar. After installing the bar, you also need to make sure you adjust it correctly because if you do not, it can affect how the chain fits.

Once the bar is in place, you can put the chain and make sure it is not tight, as a loose fit is ideal.

Step 2: Check Chainsaw Blade Direction

After installing the chain, you now need to check its direction to ensure you do not make the same mistake of having it in the wrong direction. With the chain loosely on the bar, you need to use the checks discussed previously to ensure it is facing the correct direction.

Step 3: Tighten the Blade

The last step is to tighten the blade but make sure you only go to this step once you are entirely sure the chain is facing the right direction. However, as you tighten the chain, you have to make sure you do not overdo it since a chain that is too tight or too loose does not work well.


A chainsaw is a handy power tool for both professionals and DIYers, but it is vital to make sure yours runs correctly. Keeping the blade in the correct direction is one way to ensure this, and the good news is that there are easy ways to check whether it is correct such as how the blade edges appear. What’s more, correcting the direction is also relatively easy as you only need to reinstall the blade, check the direction and tighten.