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How Long Do Chainsaw Chains Last (5 Tips To Extend Its Life)

If you have ever owned a chainsaw (or have even just worked with one) then you know how frustrating it is if your chain is dull or breaks half way through the job. So, how do you extend the life of your chainsaw chain?

Chainsaw chains typically last for 5 to 6 years with moderate use. With proper care a chain can easily last much longer. To get the most out of your chainsaw chain, keep it professionally sharpened and oiled. Never cut dirty wood or dig your chain into the ground while cutting. In addition, ensure that your saw never runs out of bar oil.

What does “proper care” entail? I’ve made this extensive guide so that I can answer all the questions you might have about getting the most from your chainsaw chain. So, make sure you keep reading to find out more!

What causes a chainsaw chain to wear out

A variety of different factors will cause a chainsaw chain to wear out. Once it is worn out, cutting wood is nearly impossible and the chain could eventually break. Here are some of the more common causes that lead to chain damage:

  • Lack of Lubricant. You will always want to make sure that your chainsaw is filled with bar oil. Without bar oil, it will overheat while you are using it. Make sure it has plenty of oil and that the oil port is clear of blockages.
  • Improper Sharpening. Improper sharpening (or not sharpening at all) will wear out a chain much faster.
  • Improper Use. Cutting dirty wood or letting your chain hit the ground, causes significant damage to the chain.

How do I know if my chainsaw chain is worn out

There are many different ways to tell if your chainsaw chain is worn out and needs to be replaced. Experienced chainsaw users can just innately tell when the chain needs to be replaced. However, factors that signal the need to get a new chain include:

  • The chain comes off the bar easily due to worn out drive links.
  • There is smoke coming from the wood you are cutting, suggesting overheating.
  • Some teeth or rakers are missing.
  • The chainsaw chain is chipped and the teeth are cut in a U rather than a V.
  • A lot of rust builds up on the chain.
  • You cannot cut through wood as well as you would have expected.
  • The chainsaw has a shaky performance.
  • Your chainsaw is cutting crooked.

A lot of people experience crooked cuts which is a common symptom of a malfunctioning chain. Find out if that is the reason by reading my post about crooked cuts and how to fix it.

How often do I need to sharpen a chainsaw chain

When it comes to sharpening your chainsaw chain, you are going to want to sharpen it just about every time you run out of gas. Doing this minimizes the chance of the chain ever getting too dull and causing damage to the chainsaw. If you don’t use your chainsaw often, then it is recommended that you at least inspect for rust about every 3 months.

Is it worth sharpening a chainsaw chain

Sharpening a chain is not always easy, so what are the best options for you? Sharpening it yourself or having it sharpened by a professional? Or how about just going to a hardware store and getting a new chain?

When it comes down to it, sharpening your own chain is the cheapest option but if you don’t have experience sharpening, you might do more harm than good. Getting it sharpened by a pro will typically cost anywhere from $10 to $20. And if you are getting a new chain, it is going to cost you more in the range of $15 to $35.

Clearly, you can see that just learning to sharpen your own blade is the cheapest option. Yet, if you are not careful, you can sharpen the chain incorrectly and end up replacing it anyway.

5 Tips to vastly extend the life of your chainsaw chain

1. Avoid cutting dirty wood or hitting the ground

Letting the blade hit the ground or cutting dirt covered wood will quickly dull and damage a chain. It only takes a little bit of dirt or gravel to do some major damage. If you do accidentally burry your bar into the ground, be sure to stop cutting. Turn off the saw and clean the chain with compressed air or a brush before starting up again.

If the wood you plan on cutting is particularly dirty, take the time to brush it off as much as possible. That extra effort goes a long ways in preserving the life of your chain.

2. Start with a quality chain

Half the battle of extending the life of your chain is won when you buy a quality chainsaw chain. Not all chains are created equal. Poor construction or inferior metals all contribute to lower than average life expectancies. A cheap chain from an off-brand might last a year or two if you are lucky. Some of the best brands to get are Oregon, Husqvarna, and Stihl.

3. Learn to sharpen a chain properly

Properly sharpening a chainsaw chain is actually more of an art than a science for most. But, even a novice chainsaw user can learn how to sharpen their chain quickly and easily with a little practice.

Before you ever attempt to sharpen your own chain, it’s critical to learn the parts of a chain and what each part does. Understanding how rakers and the cutting teeth work in conjunction with each other will help you see issues before they cause major problems.

On top of that, you need to have the right tools. These include appropriately sized files, clams and maybe even a sharpening guide that makes setting the file angle much easier. Overtime, sharpening chainsaw chains yourself will save you money.

The video below shows the easiest ways to learn how to sharpen your chainsaw’s chain in a variety of different ways so that you can quickly learn how to sharper your chain without having to worry about damaging it.

4. Keep your chain clean and oiled

Along with making sure that the chain is constantly sharpened, you are going to want to make sure you are cleaning and oiling the chain often. A dry chain leads to rust and overheating, while a dirty chain reduces cutting efficiency and increases the likelihood of dulling and overheating as well. Most of the time, chains stay well oiled if you use adequate amounts of bar oil. That involves adding bar oil at regular intervals while cutting and ensuring that the oil port isn’t clogged.

When it comes to keeping your chainsaw clean, give it a nice wipe down after every use. Doing this will help remove any bits and debris so that your chainsaw will continue to last and extend its lifespan.

To clean, take the chain off your saw and brush away debris with a small brush or toothbrush. Caked on pitch is a trickier thing to remove from a chain but you can use a water and lye solution and let it soak. Then, hose it off and scrub with a wire brush. Follow up with a rag wipe down. Once you have it cleaned to your liking, sharpen if needed and dip it in some bar oil to keep it from rusting.

A saw that sits around without use also needs some extra oil. A quick dip in bar oil on occasion will keep rust at bay.

5. Get it sharpened professionally if you don’t know how

If the idea of inspecting and sharpening your own chain is too daunting, utilize a professional. Chainsaw supply stores generally offer some sort of sharpening and chainsaw maintenance services. It’s fairly affordable and a much better alternative to doing nothing at all.

Professional sharpening can greatly extend the life of your chain but make sure you compare the cost of replacing a chain with the cost to have it sharpened. It’s possible that replacing is less of a hassle and only a little more expensive.

How to save your chainsaw chain

Hopefully, at this point you have a much better understanding of what it takes to extend the life of your chainsaw chain. To sum it up:

  • Never let your chain rust or get used without adequate bar oil
  • Avoid cutting dirty wood and never dig your saw into the ground
  • Keep your chain sharpened right so it cuts efficiently without overheating or binding

Doing all of these simple things greatly improves the chance that your chainsaw chain will last an average of 6 to 7 years. But, it is entirely possible to have a high quality chain last even longer before you need a replacement.