Chainsaw Maintenance

Can I Put a Smaller Bar on My Chainsaw? Is It Right for You

Chainsaw bars come in a range of lengths, typically from 10 to 25 inches, and the size of the bar determines the maximum width of cut you can make. So could switching to a smaller bar offer benefits like easier maneuverability and less fatigue for you?

Yeah, you can put a smaller bar on your chainsaw as long as you pick the right size. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the minimum and maximum bar lengths that are compatible with your chainsaw’s engine power and specifications.

Going too short can overwork the motor and damage components. And make sure to get a chain that’s the right pitch and gauge for the new bar’s groove width. Install it correctly, keep the chain lubricated, and tension it properly.

With the right setup, a shorter bar can make your saw easier to handle for tasks like pruning branches or cutting in tight spaces. But it’ll reduce your maximum cutting width per pass.

As long as you get the right parts and adjust them right, downsizing the bar some is fine and can help with control and fatigue. Just don’t expect to fell huge trees efficiently anymore!

Let’s look at the ins and outs of changing your chainsaw bar length so you can decide if going shorter might be the right move for your needs.

Some Key Facts About Chainsaw Bar Lengths

  • The wider the bar, the more powerful a chainsaw needs to be to drive it efficiently. Longer bars put more force and friction on the motor.
  • Weight increases significantly with bar size as well. A 25-inch bar is obviously much heavier than a 14-inch one.
  • Shorter bars are easier to control and maneuver in tight spaces. The reduced length makes them feel more balanced and nimble.
  • Reach is sacrificed when going shorter. You’ll need to make more cuts to fell large trees or make wide cuts when cross-cutting logs.

So in summary, shorter bars lighten the saw, improve handling, and allow for increased precision, at the cost of decreased maximum cutting capacity per pass.

Bar LengthWeightControlCutting Reach
LongerHeavierMore DifficultImproved

Checking Chainsaw Specifications Before Changing Bar Size

You can’t just slap any old bar onto your chainsaw and expect it to work properly. The engine power needs to match the bar length, and you need a compatible chain as well. So some research is required before you swap in a shorter bar.

Consult your chainsaw’s owner’s manual or look up the manufacturer’s website to find the recommended bar size range. Most models can accommodate 2-3 different lengths. Going with a bar on the shorter end of that range is safest.

Smaller engines around 30-40cc are designed to drive bars in the 12-16 inch range. Don’t put a 20-inch bar on a 35cc saw or it will be underpowered and struggle. Match the lengths appropriately.

You’ll also need a chain with the correct pitch and gauge to fit the new bar. Chains are specific to bar groove width and sprocket size.

The basic steps are:

  1. Verify the shorter bar is compatible with your chainsaw model.
  2. Obtain the properly sized replacement chain for the new bar.
  3. Remove the old bar and chain, and clean the saw.
  4. Install a new shorter bar and matched chain. Adjust tension.
  5. Test saw and adjust as needed before use.

If you have any doubts, it’s best to have a professional handle the parts swap to ensure proper fit and function. But with the right pieces, you can definitely downsize your chainsaw bar length at home if you’re mechanically handy.

How to Installing a Shorter Bar on Chainsaw

Switching out the bar is a straightforward process as long as you have the right replacement parts on hand. Here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Remove the Existing Bar and Chain
First, remove the existing bar and chain from your saw. The bar mounts to the saw body at the front, retained by nuts or screws on the bar clamp. Loosen these to slide the old bar off.


Step 2: Clean the Bar Mount Area
Clean the bar mount area thoroughly before proceeding, removing any debris, oil, or dirt so the new bar will fit cleanly. Inspect the clutch drum sprocket as well for any wear or damage. Lubricate the bar mount area according to your manual.


Step 3: Install the New Shorter Bar
Now insert the new shorter bar into the saw body, sliding it into position in the bar mount area. Hand-tighten the retaining nuts/bolts to hold them in place. Leave them just loose enough that the bar has some play side-to-side. If you read about: How to Measure Chainsaw Chain for Replacement?


Lay out the matching new chain around the bar with the cutters facing the right direction. Pull the chain around so it forms a loop, then slip it over the clutch drum sprocket at the rear.


Step 5: Tighten the Bar nuts
Fit the chain into the bar groove all along the top. You may need to manipulate the tensioner wheel and move the bar back and forth slightly to get it fully seated.


Once the chain is mounted, tighten the bar retaining nuts evenly to adjust the tension. Tug the chain around the bar by hand. It should have just a little bit of play vertically. Tighten the nuts more to increase tension or loosen to reduce as needed.

Step 7: Make Final Adjustments and Test the Installation
Make any other adjustments recommended in your owner’s manual, then do some test cuts with the saw to make sure the chain has good tension and oil flow. Monitor it closely at first to ensure proper function.


With the right size components and proper installation, your chainsaw will run just fine with a shorter guide bar for better control and ease of handling.

Potential Issues with Smaller Bars


While dropping down in bar length has some benefits, there are a few potential drawbacks to also consider:

  • Reduced maximum cutting reach per pass – You’ll need to make more cuts on large-diameter trees and when crosscutting long logs. Plan on taking more time for big jobs.
  • The balance and feel will change – Shorter bars handle differently. Get used to the lighter weight and increased maneuverability.
  • Chain tension may need more adjustment – The reduced length sometimes requires more tweaking of tension for good running.
  • Lower kerf size – Shorter bars have narrower chain grooves so the kerf width is smaller. Not optimal for big wood chips.
  • Decreased cutting capacity – Trying to push a short bar beyond its limits risks binding and kickback. Stick to reasonable cut widths.

The main thing is recognizing the loss of reach and not overworking the saw beyond what a short bar is designed for. With the right expectations set, a shorter bar can be a great upgrade.

Benefits of Using a Shorter Bar


Installing a shorter replacement bar offers several helpful benefits:

  • Increased control and maneuverability – With less bar length sticking out, the saw feels more balanced and nimble for easier handling, especially in tight spots.
  • Lighter weight reduces fatigue – Taking pounds of weight off the front of the saw prevents your arms from tiring as quickly during use.
  • Better for precision cutting tasks – The shorter length allows for more precise control on delicate trimming or carving tasks.
  • Suitable for users with smaller stature – People with shorter arms and less strength can find a shorter bar easier to operate safely and effectively.
  • More power for the length – When you size down the bar, the same engine can drive it with improved efficiency compared to a longer size.

For anyone who struggles with holding heavy saws steady for long periods or needs to work in cramped conditions frequently, going down to a 10-14-inch bar can really improve the experience.

The improved handling and lighter weight often make up for the slightly reduced cutting capacity. It’s easier to make a few extra cuts rather than fighting a heavy or unbalanced chainsaw all day.

Best Uses for Shorter Bars

Here are some of the best applications for shorter 10-16-inch chainsaw bars:

  • Trimming and pruning smaller branches – Short bars allow clean, close cuts on brush, saplings, and overhanging limbs.
  • Cutting in tight spaces – The reduced nose length lets you make cuts close to fences, buildings, and other obstacles.
  • Cutting at odd angles – The lighter weight makes angled cuts much easier by letting you position the saw more freely.
  • Chainsaw carving and sculpture – Detailed artistic work requires the nimbleness that shorter bars provide.
  • Homeowners doing occasional cutting – For only periodic use, a short bar is easier for amateurs to handle safely.

Professional tree services will still need longer bars for felling really large trees efficiently. But around the typical homestead, a shorter bar can handle most tasks very well.

The added control and reduced fatigue often make up for the slightly slower cutting process. Give one a try if your current saw is difficult to handle safely and comfortably.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big of a bar can I put on my chainsaw?

The size of the bar you can put on your chainsaw depends on the saw’s power and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Generally, larger engines can handle bigger bars.

Can you put a longer bar on a chainsaw?

Yes, you can put a longer bar on a chainsaw if the engine has enough power to handle the extra length. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines first.

Can I run a smaller bar on a chainsaw?

Yes, you can use a smaller bar on a chainsaw. It’s often easier on the engine and can make the saw more manageable.

Can you put any size bar on a chainsaw?

No, you can’t put just any size bar on a chainsaw. The chainsaw’s engine size and the manufacturer’s specifications determine the appropriate bar sizes.

Can you put a 20-inch bar on an 18-inch Poulan Pro chainsaw?

Whether you can put a 20-inch bar on an 18-inch Poulan Pro chainsaw depends on the model’s specifications and engine power. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Can you put a 16-inch bar on a 14-inch chainsaw?

Yes, you might be able to put a 16-inch bar on a 14-inch chainsaw, but it depends on the chainsaw’s engine capacity and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Can you put a 20-inch bar on a 16-inch chainsaw?

Putting a 20-inch bar on a 16-inch chainsaw could be possible but it depends on the chainsaw’s power and manufacturer’s specifications. It’s important to check these before making changes.


Switching to a smaller bar on your chainsaw, typically between 10 to 16 inches, offers improved control and less fatigue, making it ideal for precision tasks and tight spaces. However, it reduces your cutting reach, demanding more cuts for larger tasks. Always check your chainsaw’s specifications before making a switch to ensure compatibility.

In summary, a smaller bar can significantly enhance your chainsaw’s maneuverability, provided you respect its limitations for larger cutting jobs.

Read more about Chainsaw Bar