Why Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch? (Physics Explained)

You may have noticed that the chain of your chainsaw stretches over time. Have you ever wondered why do chainsaw chains stretch?

Chainsaw chains are known for stretching out because of two primary causes. The first is thermal expansion as a result of friction, which causes it to stretch. Second, constant usage wears down the chain.

As you use your chainsaw, the chain may become loose or stretched owing to a variety of causes. Let’s have a look at how the chainsaw chain works in depth.

After reading this article, you will learn why do chainsaw chains stretch and what to do when it happens. If that sounds interesting enough to you then keep on reading!

Why Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch 1

Why Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch?

Chainsaw chains are made of metal, and like all metals, they expand when heated and contract when cooled. The expansion and contraction are caused by the atoms in the metal vibrating more or less as the temperature changes.

As you use your chainsaw, the friction between the chain and the wood generates heat. This heat causes the atoms in the chain to vibrate more, which makes the metal expand.

The expansion causes the chain to become longer and, as a result, loosen up. In other words, your chainsaw chain stretches when it gets hot.

One way to think about this is to imagine a metal chain as a rubber band. When the rubber band is cold, it is shorter and harder. As you heat up the rubber band, it expands and becomes longer and softer.

The same thing happens to a chainsaw chain, except that the expansion is much smaller. Nevertheless, over time, the effect can be significant, and your chain may become retched by as much as an inch or more.

In addition to thermal expansion, chainsaw chains also stretch because of wear and tear. Every time you use your chainsaw, the chain rubs against the wood. This friction wears down the metal, causing it to become thinner.

As the metal becomes thinner, the links in the chain become longer. And as the links become longer, the chain stretches.

So, to summarize, chainsaw chains stretch because of two primary reasons: thermal expansion and wear and tear. Now that we understand why chainsaw chains stretch, let’s look at what you can do about it.

Can a Chainsaw Chain Stretch Too Much?

Yes, a chainsaw chain can stretch too much. If your chain stretches beyond a certain point, it will no longer fit properly on the saw and will need to be replaced.

You should never ever use a loose chain on your saw as it can cause serious injury.

Chainsaws are extremely dangerous tools and with a slight bit of carelessness, you can permanently injure yourself or even cut your limbs.

A fixed chain with appropriate length

How Do You Reduce Chain Stretch?

Although this is a natural phenomenon and there is nothing much you can do about it. I mean you can’t completely stop this whole process but still, there are ways to reduce the stretching of the chainsaw chain.

To reduce the chain stretch it needs to be well lubricated with oil. Oil will dissipate the heat produced due to friction and as a result, lesser thermal expansion will take place.

However, if you lubricate the chain too much then there is a higher chance of it slipping from the bar guide which is extremely dangerous. Imagine a chain rotating at its full speed all of a sudden slips from its bar guide. It will be complete chaos.

How Often Should You Have to Tighten Chainsaw Chain?

Now that you know why your chainsaw chain stretches and how you can reduce it, you might be wondering how often you should have to tighten your chain.

It depends on how often the saw is used and what type of wood is being cut with it. For a typical wood-cutting session that lasts around 2 to 4 hours, the chain needs to be tightened 2 to 3 times.

This can be more or less depending upon the situation and the saw as well.

In general, though, you should check your chain before each use and tighten it as needed. Doing this will help ensure that your chain stays tight and doesn’t become loose and dangerous.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should never wait until your chain is completely loose to tighten it. If you do, you risk the chain coming off entirely, which can be very dangerous.

When Should I Tighten my Chainsaw Chain?

Most beginners don’t have any idea about the chainsaw chain tightening which can put them in a pretty dangerous situation. In order to prevent any kind of accident, it is mandatory that you know when to tighten the chainsaw chain.

As a rule of thumb, you should always check the tightness of your chainsaw before starting to use it. If the chain is too loose, and the links are disengaged from the bar guide when pulled then it needs to be tightened.

However, you should also keep in mind that the chainsaw chain can sometimes be overtightened which is also something you should avoid. To avoid such a situation you need to make sure that the chain has very little play.

Can I Use a Different Gauge Chain on my Chainsaw?

Let’s say your chain gets damaged and you need to replace it but the only thing available is a different gauge chain. Can you use it?

The answer is no. You can not use a different gauge chain on your chainsaw. It is because the drive sprockets don’t have any issue with the gauge of the chain but the pitch will cause issues.

Therefore, it is a must to use a chainsaw chain with the exact same gauge that is compatible with your saw. This will help keep the tool in a good state and allow you to work efficiently without worrying about anything at all.

chainsaw chain links

Do More Drive Links Matter on Chainsaw?

Speaking of the chainsaw links, another thing that people wonder is whether more drive links on a chainsaw actually matter or not.

The answer to this question is both yes and no. In some situations, more drive links will provide you with better cutting performance while in others it will make very little difference.

As a general rule of thumb, though, more drive links will usually mean a smoother and more efficient cut. This is because the chain will have more contact with the wood, which can help to prevent kickback and provide a cleaner cut overall.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that more drive links also mean that the chain will be longer. This can make the saw harder to handle and can also increase the chances of kickback.

Therefore, it’s important to choose a chain with the right number of drive links for your saw and your needs.

How to Keep Your Chainsaw Chain from Slipping?

One of the most common issues that people have with their chainsaws is that the chain slips. This can be a major problem because it can cause the saw to stop working altogether.

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to help prevent this from happening.

First, make sure that your chain is properly tensioned. If the chain is too loose, it will be more likely to slip. Second, check the bar and the chain for damage. If the bar is bent or the chain is damaged, it will be more likely to slip.

Finally, make sure that you are using the right type of chain for your saw.

If you are unsure about what type of chain to use, consult your saw’s manual or a professional. Using the wrong type of chain can cause it to slip, so it’s important to be sure that you are using the right one.


As you can see, there is a lot to know about chainsaw chains. By understanding the different parts of the chain and how they work together, you can help to keep your saw running smoothly and prevent problems such as kickback and slipping.

By following the tips in this article, you can keep your chainsaw in good condition and make sure that it is always ready to use. I hope after reading this article you have got an answer to your question i.e. Why Do Chainsaw Chains Stretch? 

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I warmly welcome all suggestions from my readers.

Thank you so much for reading! 


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