Have you ever looked at your chainsaw and wondered what the numbers on the chainsaw chain mean? They may look like nonsense, but these numbers are actually very important. Because chainsaws come in a large variety of different sizes, each size intended for a different application, chainsaws are pretty diverse, and the numbers tell you a lot about them.
You can easily identify exactly what kind of chainsaw you have by the numbers on the chain. You can even identify what type of cutters you have on the chain by simply reading the numbers. These numbers will either appear on the packaging of your chainsaw, on the base of the chainsaw’s guide bar, or on the chain itself.
These numbers are really important because whenever you need to replace your chainsaw chain, you must know the measurements. And rather than going through the tedious process of measuring the chain yourself, you can simply read the numbers that have been stamped onto it.
If you go to purchase a replacement chain without knowing the proper measurements, you could get the wrong chain. This could be a huge problem because the chain could be too loose, it probably won’t work properly, and it could even fly off the guide bar and cause you serious injury.
The three main numbers you will find stamped on your chainsaw are the pitch, the number of drive links, and the gauge. These numbers tell you the different aspects of your chain, ensuring that it is fully compatible with your chainsaw so that it can run safely and effectively.
The main chainsaw pitch sizes are 1/4”, .325”, 3/8”, and .404”. The most popular chainsaw pitch is 3/8”. There are two types of 3/8” pitch, either low profile or regular. These chainsaws the most popular because they are the safest, they work extremely efficiently without too much power, and they cut clean Lines.
If you have a chainsaw that is less than 18” and is designed mostly for using at home or for light commercial applications, the pitch size is probably 3/8”. Most residential chainsaws all come with an 18” pitch size.
Different to how a 3/8” pitch is very thin and narrow to cut little bits of wood at a time, a chainsaw chain with a .404” pitch has a larger space between its links and is better for cutting quickly and aggressively. These chainsaws are typically more dangerous, and they are only used by serious professional cutters, like fire departments and first responding units.
Read More: Chainsaw Chain Types – A Thorough Guide
Here is where things get a little complicated. To understand the gauge of your chainsaw, you must first understand how the chain works. Every chain is secured onto the guide bar using drive links. These are small fins of metal that fit into the guide bar’s groove so that the chain can spin properly around the bar.
Drive links are positioned opposite the cutting teeth, and they are used to ensure a proper fit with your chain and your bar. The gauge of your chain is determined by how thick the drive links are. To measure them, you would need to use a caliper. Alternatively, you can read the writing on the chainsaw!
If you choose the wrong gauge for your replacement chain, you will know pretty quickly because the chain won’t fit on the guide bar. The drive links literally won’t fit into the groove, and so you will never get the chain on the tool.
The most common measurements for the gauge are .043”, .050”, .058”, and .063” – with the most common being .050”. This number will typically be stamped next to the pitch number, usually on the lower end of the guide bar. You may need to remove the chainsaw cover to see the numbers.
If for whatever reason you can’t find the gauge number on the chainsaw itself, like if it is smudged or just not there, you can always look inside your instruction manual and it will state plainly all of the measurements of your chainsaw.
We already talked about the drive links before. These are the metal fins, some say they look like waves, which fit into the groove of the guide bar to keep your chainsaw spinning correctly. You measure their width to determine the gauge of your chainsaw, but the actual amount of drive links on your chainsaw determines its approximate length.
If you know the exact number of drive links, then you can easily purchase a replacement chain and a replacement bar. This number is usually printed alongside the other two numbers. It also won’t be a fraction. It will be a solid number, like 56 or 72.
You can definitely count the drive links yourself, but this is a boring and tedious process that most people would rather not do. If you can find the other numbers on your chainsaw bar, the number of drive links will be there with it.
What Do The Numbers On A Chainsaw Chain Mean: Final Thoughts
Now that you know what all three numbers on your chain mean, you can go out and purchase a replacement bar and chain. You should always replace the chain of your chainsaw if it has been heavily damaged, if it has become warped, and if sharpening is no longer useful. Having a sharp chain is critical for staying safe and cutting effectively.
You might also want to consider replacing the guide bar at the same time you replace the chain. Guide bars can be damaged after endless hours of abuse, getting hit with rocks, getting smashed off trees, and more. If the guide bar is damaged, it won’t be safe to use the chainsaw.
As a final note, always remember to put your chainsaw chain on the right way. You want the sharp edges of the teeth to point at the tip of the bar, away from the body of the chainsaw. They should always be pointed outwards when on the top length of the bar – pointing inwards when on the bottom of the bar, moving clockwise.
Read More: Parts Of A Chainsaw – Understand Your Tool