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What Happens If a Chainsaw Chain Breaks? (Plus Tips to Prevent It)

What Happens If a Chainsaw Chain Breaks? (Plus Tips to Prevent It)

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For those working with powerful power tools, the last thing they want is for one to break. Chainsaws are one of the types of tools that are very useful but can become dangerous if improperly handled. Chainsaws need to be correctly maintained to avoid accidents.

Have you ever wondered what happens if a chainsaw chain breaks?

Chainsaw chains usually break while the chainsaw is in use. It will fly off of the chainsaw at high speeds and can cause severe damage to whatever it touches, especially if the chain ricochets off of the impact site. Chainsaw chains break when they are incorrectly used and not maintained properly.

I heard of a friend whose chainsaw chain broke and shattered his car windshield. He was lucky that he didn’t get hurt. His chainsaw chain broke due to improper tension on the chain.

So I thought that I would do some research on what happens if a chainsaw chain breaks and share what I found.

What Happens When a Chainsaw Breaks?

When a chainsaw chain breaks, there are a few likely outcomes. Most of the time, the chainsaw chain gets stuck in the branch or tree you are cutting.

It might flail after breaking and fall to the ground, or it could jam in the drive sprocket and then break. The last scenario that you want is for it to break, ricochet off of something and hurt you or a bystander.

What Causes Chainsaw Chains to Break?

If you have a chainsaw and you don’t keep it in good condition, it might give you problems or even cause an accident. You might just be cutting into a piece of wood or cutting down a tree, and there might be a foreign object like a nail stuck in the tree that alone can snap the chain.

There are quite a few reasons a chainsaw chain will snap, become damaged, unusable, or break. Here are some of the main reasons.

1 – Improper Use of a Chainsaw

The most common cause of chainsaw chain damage and breakage is probably a lack of knowledge of properly using and maintaining a chainsaw. When you don’t read the instruction manual or are new to using chainsaws, you are more likely to misuse a chainsaw unknowingly.

Here are a few factors you should remember when using a chainsaw.

  • Remember to always release the safety break on the chainsaw before starting it.
  • Don’t allow the chain on the chainsaw to touch the ground when you start it or anytime it’s still running.
  • Never touch a rock, stone, or concrete with a running chainsaw.
  • Please read the manual on your chainsaw to make sure what kind of materials it can handle to cut through. If you use it to cut materials it was not made to handle, it will break.

When a chainsaw is not used properly, it will damage the chain and compromise its durability and strength, causing it to snap.

Standing at least 15-20 feet away from any objects or people when starting your chainsaw will help keep you, others around you, and any items lying around safe from a chain that might break and ricochet.

2 – Improper or Lack of Maintenance of a Chainsaw

If you want your chainsaw to work properly and last you longer, regular maintenance is involved. Here are some things that need to keep maintained.

  • You need to sharpen the blade regularly to help it cut with precision and keep it from getting stuck.
  • You need to check the chain oil and chain break each time you use the chainsaw.
  • Make sure the guide bar is always aligned in the correct position.

You need to also keep an eye out for rust on your chainsaw. Rust will erode the metal and can lead to a chain break if not taken care of as soon as you spot it.

Keep in mind that although you need to regularly sharpen your chainsaw’s cutting teeth to keep it sharp, the depth gauge will wear down to the point where you won’t be able to sharpen it any longer, and you will need to replace the chain.

3 – Using Low Quality or Cheap Chains or Other Parts

When you need to replace a part on your chainsaw, whether a chain or another part, never try to be frugal and save money by getting cheap or low-quality parts; one of the main causes of chain breaks in a chainsaw is a low-quality chain.

These chains are made with inferior metals, and when they get stuck or snap, you and those around you could get severely hurt. That can happen with other low-quality replacement parts as well.

If something needs to be replaced on your chainsaw, it is best to get good quality parts, or you might need to replace it with a better quality part later on anyway. Also, keep the chainsaw better maintained in the future.

4 – Not Keeping the Chainsaw Properly Lubricated

When you are doing regular maintenance, you must look in the lubrication chamber. You should make sure it isn’t clogged up and that there is enough chain oil to keep it running smoothly without a hitch.

The chainsaw oil helps prevent dust and debris from building up. It also helps keep the blade from getting stuck and keeps it cutting properly.

5 – Check for Loose Rivets

Another huge problem with chainsaw chains breaking is loose rivets. Having only one rivet loose or damaged on a chainsaw can be a major issue.

Before each use and when doing regular maintenance, it is very important to check each rivet on the chain for any irregular wear and tear or unusual damage.

If you find any problems with rivets on your chain, even if it is only one rivet, you should replace the chain before using your chainsaw again.

6 – The Wrong Chain Tension on Your Chainsaw Chain

If the chain on your chainsaw sags away from the bar or feels too tight to pull, it needs to be either tightened or loosened.

You need to check the tension on the chainsaw chain before every use to ensure that you won’t use the chainsaw and the chain unexpectedly snaps.

If you use a chain that is too tight, the pressure for it to turn will become too much, and it will snap at speeds of up to 60f per second. It can cause fatal injuries.

If the chain on a chainsaw is too loose, you will have uneven cuts, and it might break under extreme conditions or get snagged on something.

Here is how you check the tension on your chainsaw chain to see if it is too tight or loose.

  1. Before checking, the first thing you need to do is turn it off and let it cool down completely.
  2. Next, you need to gently pull on the chain to see how loose it is. It should pull but offer a little bit of resistance.
  3. Now release the chain; it should snap back into place if the chain has the proper tension.

Loosen the chain if it won’t turn at all because it is too tight, and tighten the chain if it sags at all when you pull on it.

7 – Lack of Guide Bar Maintenace

The guide bar is a crucial part of the chainsaw and also needs to be maintained properly for the chain to work correctly. If the guide bar is not maintained, it could lead to a chain break.

Before using the chainsaw, you need to check the guide bar to see if it’s straight or bent. If it has a curve, bend, or nick, you need to fix it before you use it. If you use it without fixing the problem, the chain will malfunction.

8 – The Incorrect Chain Angles

If you have incorrect chain angles, they are caused by improper chain filing. It happens if the fillings don’t have the correct diameter for your chainsaw. It could lead to the chain breaking.

Make sure you choose the proper filing and remember to restore the angles of the chainsaw to their proper positions after hand filing.

9 – Hitting a Nail

Before you cut down a branch or fell a tree, try to see if you can find any nails or steel objects that might be embedded in the wood.

If you cut down the tree and accidentally hit a nail, it will break the chainsaw chain and cause a serious hazard.

10 – Chainsaw Kickback

Another thing that can happen when a chainsaw is improperly used is kickback. When you use a chainsaw incorrectly, there can be a fast upward motion of the guide bar.

It happens when the end part of the guide bars’ nose hits an object, and the chain becomes pinched. It could, in turn, lead to the pressure building and the chain snapping.

Safety Precautions if a Chainsaw Chain Breaks

When a chainsaw chain breaks, there are certain factors that you need to keep in mind to minimize the damage it can do to you, those around you, and other nearby objects.

You Need to Use the Proper PPE

When working with dangerous power tools like a chainsaw, you need the proper PPE(Personal Protective Equipment). It is the best line of defense you have to keep you safe in case of a chainsaw chain breaking.

You need to make sure you are wearing the proper PPE at all times; here are some of the PPE gear that can save your life.

  • Gloves
  • Chainsaw Chaps
  • Protective eyewear like a face shield or safety goggles
  • A Hardhat
  • Ear protection like earmuffs or earplugs
  • Heavy boots, steel-tipped boots, or logging boots
  • Proper thick logging jacket

Built-In Safety Features of Chainsaws

Safety features are built into most chainsaws that help prevent accidents like chain snapping. Here are some of the built-in safety features of a chainsaw.

  • They have a throttle lock to ensure it only works when the right button is pressed.
  • They have right-hand guards to protect your hands against a derailing or breaking chain.
  • It also has a stop control button to stop the chainsaw instantly should you need it to; this button is easily accessible.

Refuel the Chainsaw Safely

When you run out of fuel and you need to refuel the chainsaw, you should always be cautious and stay safe by keeping these rules in mind:

  • Don’t refuel your chainsaw if it is still hot or was recently used.
  • Only use fuel containers that have been tested and approved by testing facilities like the Department of Transportation.
  • Don’t exceed the fuel level of the chainsaw.
  • Never smoke while refueling your chainsaw.
  • Don’t refuel a chainsaw near any sparks or flames.

Tips on How to Use a Chainsaw to Prevent the Chain from Breaking

  1. Before using a new chainsaw, read through the manual thoroughly.
  2. Try not to use a chainsaw if you are tired or for long periods; you need to stay alert.
  3. Be extra cautious when you are cutting branches; there might be kickback.
  4. When you are preparing a tree for felling, remember to use the underside of the guide bar.
  5. Never use the chainsaw above your shoulder height; it will reduce the chances of kickback.
  6. Remember to check the chain brake on your saw before using it.
  7. Please make sure the nose of your chainsaw bar and how it is positioned.
  8. Choose the best low kickback chain for your chainsaw.
  9. Use narrow nose bars to ensure the highest kickback safety.
  10. Avoid using clothes that are too loose or too tight.
  11. When you are using the chainsaw, make sure all your fingers are wrapped around the chainsaw handle.
  12. Regular maintenance of your chainsaw is essential; remember to follow the instructions in your chainsaw instruction manual.

Final Thoughts

Chainsaws are some of the best power tools for anyone to have at their disposal, but it needs to be properly used and be maintained. The chain breaking on your chainsaw can lead to serious injuries and even death.

You need to check on all the different components of your chainsaw to ensure it is safe to use and that all the safety features are in place. Remember always to wear your PPE when using your chainsaw.


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