Chainsaw Maintenance

Are Chainsaw Chains Universal? [Discover The Truth]

If you’re reaching for your trusty chainsaw to tackle some tough cutting, you might wonder if you can just grab any chain off the shelf to replace a dull or broken one. The quick answer is no, you can’t. 

Matching the pitch, gauge, and drive link count to your chainsaw’s guide bar is crucial for safe and effective operation. 

To find the perfect match for your chainsaw, it’s not about guesswork; it’s about knowing your tool’s requirements.  

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why chainsaw chains are far from universal and how you can identify the right one for your needs.

Are Chainsaw Chains Universal? [Explanation]


No, chainsaw chains are not universal. They must match the specific specifications of your machine’s bar. If a chain is too long or too narrow, it won’t fit. However, mixing brands is acceptable as long as they are compatible. Let’s dive deeper into these aspects.

Let’s explore the three main types of chainsaw chains: Standard, Semi-Chisel, and Full Chisel. Understanding these types will guide you in choosing the right chain for your cutting needs.

Different Types of Chainsaw Chains: Standard, Semi-Chisel, and Full Chisel


1. Standard Chainsaw Chain


Standard chains, often known as low-profile chains, are commonly used by homeowners for general-purpose cutting. They offer a smooth cutting experience, with reduced chances of kickback.

  • Cutter Design: Round-edge cutters make them less aggressive but safer to handle.
  • Performance: Suitable for softwood and occasional use, but not ideal for hardwood.
  • Maintenance: Requires regular sharpening but is generally easier to maintain.

2. Semi-Chisel Chainsaw Chain


The Semi-Chisel chain is a versatile option, favored by professionals and hobbyists alike. It’s ideal for cutting both hard and soft wood and retains its sharpness longer than the standard chain.


  • Cutter Design: Rounded corner cutters, provide a balance between performance and safety.
  • Performance: Suitable for both hard and soft woods, and offers good performance even in dirty or frozen conditions.
  • Maintenance: Holds sharpness longer but might be a bit more challenging to sharpen compared to the standard chain.

3. Full Chisel Chainsaw Chain


For those looking for high performance and precision, the Full Chisel chain is the go-to choice. Used primarily by professionals, it’s designed to handle tough cutting tasks.


  • Cutter Design: Square-cornered cutters, making it the most aggressive among the three.
  • Performance: Excellent for hardwoods and tasks demanding high efficiency.
  • Maintenance: Requires frequent sharpening, and is not recommended for dirty or abrasive conditions, as it dulls quickly.

Each of these has unique characteristics and may or may not be compatible with specific chainsaw models.

Chain Compatibility

Chainsaw chains differ in their size, pitch, gauge, and number of drive links. Here’s a closer look at what each aspect means:

  • Size: Refers to the length of the chain, measured in inches.
  • Pitch: The distance between any three consecutive rivets, divided by two.
  • Gauge: The thickness of the drive link.
  • Number of Drive Links: The total count of the individual links in the chain.

Matching these elements with the chainsaw’s specifications is essential for optimal performance.

Compatibility Table

Chain TypeSizePitchGaugeSuitable For
Type A16″3/8″0.05″Small to medium tasks
Type A18″0.325″0.05″Medium tasks
Type A20″3/8″0.05″Heavy-duty tasks
Type A22″0.404″0.06″Professional use

Choosing the Right Chainsaw Chain

Selecting the appropriate chain is vital for ensuring both safety and performance. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Tips on How to Choose the Right Chainsaw Chain for Your Needs


Consider the Type of Wood you are Cutting

The first step in choosing the right chainsaw chain is to know the type of wood you are cutting. There are different chainsaw chains for hardwood, softwood, and even frozen wood.

If you are cutting softwood, a standard chain with lower teeth will work correctly. However, hardwood will require a high-performance chain with long teeth capable of maintaining a sharp edge for extended periods.

Look at the Chain’s Gauge and Pitch

The gauge is the thickness of the chain, while the pitch is the distance between the chain’s teeth. The pitch and gauge are essential aspects to consider since they determine how well the chainsaw will cut through a limb or tree.

Some chains are compatible with certain bar lengths, so it’s essential to consult your chainsaw owner’s manual.

Choose the Right Chain’s Teeth Shape

The types of chainsaw chain teeth available in the market are standard, semi-chisel, and full chisel. The standard teeth have rounded edges, are robust, and are suitable for softwood.

The semi-chisel teeth have semi-rounded edges and are durable, making them suitable for hardwood. Full chisel teeth have sharp corners and are excellent for precision cutting through hardwood and frozen wood.

Determine Your Cutting Needs

The type of chainsaw chain you require depends on the size and quantity of wood you are cutting. If you are handling large trees and need to process them quickly, it’s crucial to choose a chain with a higher chain speed.

Consider a chain with a larger chain link when handling thicker wood and one with a smaller pitch for smaller wood.

Choose the Right Brand

So, Choosing the right chainsaw chain brand is also crucial since some chains have a better reputation for durability and longevity than others. Do thorough research and compare reviews and prices by different brands. Some of the leading chainsaw chain brands include Oregon, Stihl, and Husqvarna.

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Chainsaw Chains


Several common myths and misconceptions can lead to poor performance, safety risks, or unnecessary costs. Here’s a closer look at some of these misunderstandings and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: One Size Fits All

The idea that any chain can work with any chainsaw is not only incorrect but potentially dangerous. Chains and bars are designed to fit specific chainsaw models. Using the wrong size can lead to:

  • Poor Performance: The wrong size chain might not fit snugly, leading to inefficient cutting.
  • Safety Risks: A poorly fitting chain might break or slip off, causing accidents.
  • several common myths and misconceptions can lead to poor performance, safety risks, or unnecessary costs. Here’s a closer look at some of these misunderstandings and the truth behind them.
  • Damage to the Chainsaw: Using an incompatible chain might wear out the chainsaw prematurely.

Always refer to the chainsaw’s manual or consult a professional to find the correct size.

Myth 2: Brand Doesn’t Matter

While some aftermarket chains may fit various brands, using a chain specifically designed for your chainsaw’s brand often ensures optimal compatibility. This compatibility is crucial for:

  • Maximizing Efficiency: Specific brand chains are engineered to work seamlessly with their chainsaws.
  • Longevity: Using the correct brand often results in less wear and tear, extending the life of the chainsaw.
  • Warranty Protection: Using non-brand chains might void the warranty in some cases.

Myth 3: More Teeth Equals Better Performance

The number of teeth on a chainsaw chain is an essential factor, but more doesn’t always mean better. The correct number of teeth must align with the chainsaw’s design. Misunderstanding this can lead to:

  • Reduced Cutting Speed: Too many teeth might cause the chain to become bogged down.
  • Increased Wear: Incorrect tooth count might accelerate wear on both the chain and the chainsaw.
  • Safety Concerns: Using a chain with the wrong number of teeth can lead to instability during cutting.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Your Chainsaw Chain


Dull Chain blades

One of the most common issues encountered by chainsaw owners is the problem of dull chain blades. Excessive usage or hitting hard objects are often the culprits behind this issue. Dull blades not only make cutting tougher but also diminish the chain’s lifespan.

To troubleshoot this problem, sharpening the chain is necessary. Use a chainsaw file guide or a Dremel sharpening kit for the task. By revitalizing the sharpness of the blades, you can restore the chainsaw’s efficiency.

Improper Tension

Another prevalent problem is improper tension. The chain should never be too tight or too loose. A loose chain may jump off the bar, while a tight chain can cause excessive wear on the bar and motor, resulting in expensive repairs.

To troubleshoot this issue, loosen the bolts securing the guide bar, adjust the tensioning screw until the chain fits snugly, and then retighten the bolts.

Chain Jumping

Chain jumping occurs when the chain is either dull or too loose. Providing a solution involves tightening the chain or replacing it if it has become dull.

Oil Leaks: Addressing Lubrication Issues

Oil leaks are a common inconvenience for chainsaw owners and can be caused by a damaged oil tank, oil line, or oil pump. A thorough inspection of these components is necessary. If any damage is found, replace the affected parts and refill the oil tank to resolve the problem.

Chain Kickback

Chain kickback is a situation where the chain unexpectedly jumps upward and toward the operator. This issue primarily arises from improper usage of the chainsaw, making it potentially dangerous.

Always prioritize safety by wearing protective clothing and following the manufacturer’s guidelines. To troubleshoot this issue, ensure that the blades are sharp and the chain is properly tensioned.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all 14-inch chainsaw chains the same?

Even if they are 14 inches long, chainsaw chains can differ in pitch, gauge, and drive link count, so they’re not all the same.

Are Husqvarna chainsaw bars universal?

Husqvarna chainsaw bars aren’t universal. They’re made to fit specific Husqvarna models and may not fit chainsaws from other manufacturers or even all Husqvarna models.

Are all 20-inch chainsaw chains the same?

No, 20-inch chainsaw chains vary in pitch, gauge, and drive links. You must find a chain that matches your saw’s specifications.

Are Husqvarna and Stihl chains compatible?

Husqvarna and Stihl chains aren’t necessarily compatible; they often have different design specifications. Always check the compatibility before attempting to interchange them.

Best chainsaw chain for professional use?

Professionals often choose chains with full chisel cutters and low-kickback features for fast cutting and safety.

Are chainsaw chains interchangeable?

Not all chainsaw chains are interchangeable. They vary by length, pitch, gauge, and the number of drive links, so you need to match these to your chainsaw’s specifications.

Key Takeaways

  • Chainsaw chains are not interchangeable; specific matching is essential.
  • Always check the pitch, gauge, and drive link count of your chainsaw.
  • Select a chain that complements the wood you’re cutting and your chainsaw model.
  • Regular maintenance, including sharpening and proper tensioning, prolongs chain life.
  • Consult the chainsaw manual or professionals for accurate chain selection.