How to Tell if a Chainsaw Bar is Worn Out

chainsaw bar chain cutting tree

Ah, the noble chainsaw bar, the unsung hero. We often focus on the more prominent aspects of these saws—like the chain or the motor. We likely don’t spend much time considering the bar that holds it all together. A chainsaw bar in good working order will provide stability, guidance, and efficiency. But what about a worn chainsaw bar? It can make your logging and limbing projects a real chore. Here’s how to tell if a chainsaw bar is worn out and needs replacing.

How to Recognize a Worn Chainsaw Bar

As a chainsaw bar wears out, you lose cutting accuracy and cuts take longer. If the same type of cuts that your saw used to breeze through now take twice as long—even with a sharp chain—you might look at how worn your bar has become.

Worn Chainsaw Bar
A nice fresh chain saw bar without a single sign of wear or tear…it won’t stay that way!

Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to check wear on a chain saw bar. With your chain tensioned, start by wiggling the chain back and forth laterally. You shouldn’t notice a whole lot of back-and-forth movement. A worn chainsaw bar allows a lot more movement side-to-side.

Your chainsaw chain fits into your bar “tongue-and-groove” style. The groove on a new bar has a simple U-shape to it. As it wears down, the top of that “U” wears into a “V” shape. Obviously, this extra room lets the chain move more than it should.

Straight Edge Test

Worn Chainsaw Bar

While new bars allow for a tiny bit of lateral movement, you want to know when that becomes a problem. There’s an easy way to figure this out. Tension your chain, and then grab a straight edge. You can use a ruler, speed square, pencil—whatever. Press it up against the side of the bar and an outside tooth on your chain. When you press, is there still a gap between the bar and the straight edge? If so, you’re still in pretty good shape.

With a worn chainsaw bar, pressing your straight edge against that outside tooth causes the tooth to shift over. That lets your straight edge lay flat against the bar with no gap in between. If you can basically shift the chain over that far with your finger, how much worse do you reckon it is when bearing down on a branch or log?

How to Tell if a Chainsaw Bar is Worn Out

Precautionary Measures

Of course, you can extend the life of your bar by taking some precautions. Before using your chainsaw, adjust your chain tension. When you complete a job, release some tension from the chain before putting up the saw.

You also want to make sure that your chain stays oiled while in use. Double-check that your oil port is clear of any blockages. Every time you sharpen your chain, take the opportunity to flip the chainsaw bar upside down. Seriously, just try it.

Taking these steps toward preventative maintenance should keep your chainsaw bar from wearing out prematurely. A new chainsaw bar can run anywhere between $30 and $60. You’ll appreciate it when you don’t have to throw away worn chainsaw bars as often.

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