Chainsaw Maintenance

How Do I Know If My Chainsaw is Backwards? [Detailed Guide]

Ever found yourself puzzled, staring at your chainsaw and wondering if the chain is on correctly?

The direction of the saw blades is your best clue—they should be facing forward. If they’re pointing backward, it’s a sure sign you’ve got it on wrong.

Ensuring the sharp edges of the cutting teeth are oriented towards the tip of the bar on the top side is crucial for effective cutting. If they’re aiming towards the body of the chainsaw, then it’s time for a quick fix. 

Let’s dive into the world of chainsaw troubleshooting and get that chain facing the right way for a smooth, efficient cut every time.

Identify Signs Your Chainsaw is Backwards


If you need to become more familiar with chainsaws, it can be challenging to determine if the chainsaw is running backward. Here are some ways to identify if your chainsaw is running backward:

1. Check the Chain Rotation

The first thing you should do is check the chain rotation. A chainsaw chain should rotate clockwise when viewed from the top. If it is rotating counterclockwise, then the chainsaw is running backward. You can check the chain rotation by turning on the chainsaw and holding it over paper or cardboard. When the chain comes into contact with the paper or cardboard, it will leave a mark that shows the direction of rotation.

2. Check the Teeth Orientation


Another way to identify if you are running backward is to check the orientation of the teeth. The teeth on the chainsaw chain should be angled towards the front of the saw. If the teeth are angled towards the back of the saw, then the chainsaw is running backward. You can check the teeth’ orientation by looking at the chain while the saw runs.

3. Listen to the Sound

If you still need to figure out if your chainsaw is running backward, you can listen to its sound. A chainsaw that is running backward will sound different from one that is running in the correct direction. If you need to become more familiar with the sound of a chainsaw, you can watch videos online to compare the sound.

Read: New Chainsaw Chain Keeps Coming Off

What to Do if Your Chainsaw is Backwards


If you’ve determined that your chainsaw is running backward, don’t panic. Here are the steps you should take to fix the problem:

Stop the Chainsaw

The first thing you should do is stop the chainsaw immediately. Running a chainsaw in reverse can cause severe damage to the saw and can be dangerous to the user. Turn off the chainsaw and remove the spark plug to prevent accidental starting.

Reposition the Chain

The next step is to reposition the chain. To do this, you’ll need to remove the guide bar and chain from the saw. Once you have removed the chain, flip it over so the teeth face the correct direction. You can then reattach the chain to the guide bar and reinstall it onto the saw.

Adjust the Tension

After repositioning the chain, you’ll need to adjust the tension. The tension on the chain should be tight enough that it doesn’t sag but not so tight that it’s too difficult to move. To adjust the tension:

  • Use the tensioning screw or knob on the chainsaw’s side.
  • Turn it clockwise to tighten the chain and counterclockwise to loosen it.
  • Check the tension frequently during use and adjust as necessary.

Read: The Chainsaw Chain Won’t Tighten Anymore?

Test the Chainsaw

After you’ve repositioned the chain and adjusted the tension, it’s time to test the chainsaw. Start the chainsaw and check the direction of the chain rotation to ensure it is moving in the correct order. Listen to the sound of the saw and compare it to videos online to ensure that it sounds normal. Finally, make a test cut on wood to ensure the saw cuts cleanly and efficiently.

Preventing Backwards Chainsaw [detailed guide]


Preventing a backward chainsaw is essential for the user’s safety and the saw’s longevity. Here are some tips to avoid a backward chainsaw:

Read the Manual

Before using a chainsaw, read the manual carefully. The manual will provide instructions on using the saw correctly and prevent common issues such as a backward chainsaw.

Check the Chain Orientation

Before starting the chainsaw, check the chain orientation. Ensure that the teeth are angled towards the front of the saw and that the chain is installed correctly.

Regular Maintenance

Regular chainsaw maintenance is essential to prevent issues such as a backward chainsaw. Keep the chain sharpened and adequately tensioned, and replace any worn or damaged parts. If you read more about Chainsaw Maintenance Checklist!

Potential Impacts

A chainsaw running in reverse can seriously impact both the user and the equipment. Here are some potential implications of a chainsaw running in reverse:

step.1 Kickback – A backward chainsaw can cause kickback when the saw suddenly jerks back towards the user. This can be dangerous and can cause severe injury or even death.

step.2 Damage to the chainsaw – Running a chainsaw in reverse can cause damage to the chainsaw, particularly the chain and the bar. The chain can become worn down and may need to be replaced, while the bar can become bent or damaged.

step.3 Reduced efficiency – A chainsaw running in reverse may not cut wood efficiently, leading to a slower and less effective cutting process. This can be frustrating and can reduce productivity.

step.4 Safety hazards – A chainsaw running in reverse can create safety hazards in the work area, particularly if the user loses control of the saw. It can also damage the woodcut, leading to further safety hazards.

Step 5 Reduced lifespan – A chainsaw running in reverse can reduce the lifespan of the equipment, particularly if the user continues to use the saw without addressing the issue. This can lead to costly repairs or a new chainsaw altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if a chainsaw blade is on backwards?

Check the cutting teeth direction; they should face forward when on top of the bar. If they’re pointing toward the back, the blade is on backward.

How to put a chain on a chainsaw?

Place the chain around the bar, ensuring the teeth face forward on the top, and fit it onto the sprocket. Tighten it to allow slight give and secure the bar.

Is there a wrong way to put on a chainsaw blade?

Yes, the blade must be mounted with the cutting edges facing the right direction, or it won’t cut properly.

Does it matter if a chainsaw bar is upside down?

Flipping the bar occasionally can ensure even wear, but it doesn’t affect the cutting direction of the chain.

How do you sharpen a chainsaw that’s been put on backwards?

You’d need to remove the chain and reinstall it correctly before sharpening it with a file or sharpener, following the angle of the teeth.


  • Confirm the chainsaw chain is installed correctly; teeth should face forward on the top.
  • If teeth point backward, the chain is on incorrectly and needs adjustment.
  • Stop the chainsaw and safely reposition the chain as needed.
  • Regular checks and maintenance prevent backward installation.
  • Proper chain orientation ensures safety, and efficiency, and prolongs chainsaw life.