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How to Adjust Chain Tension on Stihl Chainsaw with Quick Tension System

How to Adjust Chain Tension on Stihl Chainsaw with Quick Tension System
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If you own a Stihl chainsaw, it's important to maintain proper tension on the chain for safe and effective operation. Adjusting the Quick Tensioning System on Stihl chainsaws can sometimes be complicated and frustrating, but with a little guidance, you can easily adjust the tension yourself at home.


Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on how to adjust the tension on your Stihl chainsaw with the Quick Tensioning System. 




Step 1: Safety First


Before starting maintenance of any kind of your Stihl chainsaw, make sure you have the right safety gear and that your Stihl chainsaw is correctly disassembled and ready for maintenance.


First and foremost, always wear gloves and other safety gear when working with equipment like a Stihl Chainsaw in order to protect yourself from injury. Next, we strongly advise taking a few extra precautions to ensure added safety when adjusting the tension. These include removing the battery if you are working with a battery-powered chainsaw and removing the spark plug if you are working with a gas-powered chainsaw. Additionally, always make sure the chain brake is loose and the chain can roll freely before making any adjustments.


Always prioritize safety and wear appropriate protective gear when working with chainsaws or other power tools. Proper maintenance of yourself and your equipment will prolong you both and ensure that you continue to perform effectively.


Step 2: Loosening the Chain Brake


As you can see below, an MSA 160 Stihl chainsaw comes with a Quick Tensioning System whichis what Brent is working on for the purposes of this article. This system features a sprocket hidden underneath its side cover as well as a dial on the top of the cover used to turn the sprocket and adjust the tension of the chain. The cover is removed in the image below to show the different elements of the Quick Tensioning System.



Prior to starting the process of adjusting your chain tension, make sure your chainsaw cover is securely in place, but not tight enough that it will interfere with the chain adjustment. Additionally, you will need to loosen the chain brake so the chain can freely rotate. To do this, simply pull up the top lever on your chainsaw a few times to loosen it. The lever in question is shown below.


Step 3: Preparing the Chain & Blade


Next, turn the small black dial on the cover in the direction of the arrow located just below it. As you turn the dial, you will notice the chain begin to tighten around the blade. Stop turning the dial just before the chain is fully in place along the blade. You should see a small space between the two, a little less than an inch width apart, as seen here.


At this point, the chain should move very slightly from side to side when the blade is lifted and moved. You will want to tighten down the cover a bit more to reduce this movement somewhat before moving on to the next step.



Step 4: Adjusting the Chain Tension


With the Stihl chainsaw prepped for maintenance and all safety precautions taken, the next step is to adjust the tension of the chain.


When tightening the chain tension, always lift up the blade with a gloved hand while turning the dial to allow the chain to freely roll into place along the blade. While holding the blade up, turn the dial in the direction of the arrow until the chain is snug to the bottom of the chainsaw blade. Test the tension with a gloved hand by pulling the chain down slightly to see if it sags or snaps back into place, then roll it along the blade to check if it moves smoothly. If it sags, continue to roll the dial until the chain is suffiently tightened. But, if it snaps back and rolls smoothly, you are good to go. 


Once the chain tension is rightly adjusted, tighten down the cover until it is securely in place and put the cover handle down so it is flat to the surface as seen here.



Pro Tip:


It's important to note that some people have been taught there should be a small gap between the bar and the chain, but this is not accurate. The chain should always snap back into place when pulled, indicating proper tension. Regardless of brand, we recommend always double-checking the tension of the chain before using your chainsaw for the best performance and safety measures.




And that’s it! You have now successfully adjusted the Quick Tensioning System on your Stihl chainsaw! If you have questions about any of the steps outlined above or are just more of a visual learner, head over to our YouTube channel and watch our step-by-step video (also attached below)! Leave a comment or question there and receive a personal reply from Brent, our resident John Deere expert. Be sure to subscribe!