Home » Should You Flip Your Chainsaw Bar Upside Down: Here’s Why

Should You Flip Your Chainsaw Bar Upside Down: Here’s Why

Admittedly, I am not what you would consider a chainsaw expert.  There are many skilled loggers and wood cutters that have many more years of experience behind the throttle of a chainsaw.  So when I noticed more than a few upside down bars on the expert’s saws, I figured there must be something to it.

As usual, I asked a few questions and eventually learned something immensely useful about flipping your chainsaw bar upside down.  And guess what?  My first thought was to share the answer with you, so read on and find out why you might need to flip your chainsaw bar upside down.

Do you need to flip your chainsaw bar upside down

There is a lot of power created by a 2-stroke motor on a chainsaw.  And all that power is converted into some serious rotational force that sends the chain ripping around the bar at high speed.  As you might expect, parts start to wear out from friction.  While we all assume the chain is the first thing to fatigue, most of us don’t realize that the bar supporting the chain can actually wear out just as fast.  

Does that mean you need to replace your bar every time you replace the chain?  Or do you just need to flip the chainsaw bar upside down?

You can easily double the life of your chainsaw bar by flipping it upside down.  Doing so evens out wear and tear on the bar caused by the rotation of the chain.  All chainsaw bars are engineered to work upside down or right side up.  

If you have doubts that your bar can flip upside down, all you need to do is check that there is an oil port (basically a hole) present on either side of the mounting groove where the bar attaches to the saw body.  Trust me when I say that every bar I have ever seen on a standard chainsaw can flip upside down.

What causes bar wear

The majority of bar wear occurs on the bottom side and tip of the bar.  This makes sense because almost all the cutting force from normal use is focused downward on the underside of the bar.  It’s this added frictional pressure that accelerates bar wear.  

Anyone bucking large amounts of firewood has probably noticed discoloration or chipped paint on the bottom side of their bar.  It’s a sign of normal wear but also an indication that your bar could benefit from a flip upside down.

Normal use causes bar wear but it takes a lot of use to really chew down the track on a good quality bar.  Premature bar wear occurs due to a lack of bar oil.  Either because you forget to use it or the oiler gets clogged.  Without bar oil, rotational friction generates a ton of heat between the bar and chain.    

Do all chainsaws have bars that can be flipped

As I briefly mentioned earlier, all chainsaw bars are designed to work properly either upside down or right side up.  Bars have a symmetrical shape and dual oiler ports that feed bar oil into the bar track.  

Chainsaw bars also have a simplified mounting groove that allows the mounting bolt and pins to fit and tighten regardless of how the bar is flipped. 

If by chance you have the rare chainsaw that has a bar which can’t be flipped then your only choice is to replace the bar.  In all likelihood, the replacement bar will be flippable.  Just make sure that the oiler hole and the oil port in the bar line up both ways.  You don’t want to block the oiler port or you’ll burn up your saw.

Never use a chainsaw with a worn out bar.  Not only will it cut crooked, it’s also more likely to throw the chain.  That’s a dangerous scenario better avoided.    

How often should you flip your chainsaw bar

Now that you know your chainsaw bar is flippable, how often do you actually need to flip it upside down?

It really depends on how hard you work the chainsaw and whether or not you have the proper tension on the chain and a constant supply of bar oil.  You can burn through expensive bars faster than your wallet can replenish the cash if you don’t keep things lubricated during use.  

In general, you should flip your bar every time you sharpen or replace your chain and replace the bar completely once you wear out two chains. 

It’s easy to tell if your bar is worn by checking for side to side wobble of the chain.  A new bar firmly holds a properly tensioned chain and prevents side to side wobble.  The chain track should be U-shaped as well.  A worn bar that would benefit from a flip has a flared V-shaped track and the chain wobbles easily.

Anytime I hear someone complain that their saw keeps throwing a chain while they are cutting, I suggest they check for bar wear.  More often than not, flipping their bar solves the problem.  

5 easy steps to flip a chainsaw bar

You don’t need to take your saw to the shop to flip the bar.  It’s easy to do at home and the only tool you need is the scrench that comes with almost every chainsaw.  If you don’t have a scrench, then use a socket wrench with the appropriate sized socket and a flat head screw driver.  Flipping the bar takes less than 10 minutes, so let’s get started.

Step 1:

Remove the bar nuts and cover.  Using the scrench tool that came with your chainsaw, remove the bar nuts and set aside.  If you don’t have a scrench tool, then a regular socket wrench will work to remove the bar nuts.  Then, pop the cover off.  Be careful not to break any plastic tabs when removing the cover.

Step 2:

Disengage the chain break, loosen the chain tensioner and remove the bar and chain.  First, disengage your chain brake safety mechanism.  Then, with the cover removed, use the flathead part of the scrench or a flathead screw driver to loosen the tensioning screw.  With the chain loose, you can now remove the bar and chain.

Step 3:

Clean away debris and check for clogged oil ports on the bar.  With the bar removed, you can inspect the bar for wear.  If both sides look equally worn then replace the bar with a new one.  If the top looks okay then simply flip it upside down.  It’s very important that you take the time to clean out the ports on the bar.  They gather a lot of gunk so use a small pick or blow out any debris blocking the oil port.  This is also a good time to remove debris from the chain sprocket, oiler port and the inside of the cover.

Step 4:

Flip the bar and place on the mounting studs followed by the chain.  With the bar flipped upside down, mount it back on the studs.  Now, reinstall the chain.  Be sure that the teeth are facing forward towards the tip of the bar on the top side.  Starting at the socket, loop the chain along the top of the bar and around the tip.  The chain guides should be resting in the bar groove.

Step 5:

Properly tension the chain, install the cover and tighten down the bar nuts.  Once the chain is in place, tighten it up.  It should be “snap tight” which means the chain guides just peek out above the bar groove when pulled and snap back in place when let go.  After applying proper tension to the chain, install the cover and torque down the bar nuts.

Final thoughts

It’s important to get the most out of your tools.  It saves you money and makes your tools work better and harder so you don’t have to.  Flipping a chainsaw bar upside down seemed like a silly thing the first time I saw it but now I know better.  Professional loggers flip their bars for a reason and even the average homeowner can benefit from this nifty trick.  Try it out and extend the life of your chainsaw bar!