Chainsaw Won’t Cut Straight – Causes & Solutions

Published Categorized as Chainsaw Troubleshooting

Chainsaws are designed to cut straight, and they should, so if the chainsaw cuts to the left or the chainsaw cuts at an angle, it’s a clear sign that there is a problem.

A chainsaw not cutting straight is a pretty common problem for chainsaw users, so do not sweat, we have you covered. If you’re wondering if the problem could be because of a bend or bump on your chainsaw bar, think again.

You can’t cut a log in a curved moon shape, and if there was a significant bend it would more than likely throw the chain. There are two common reasons that this article will provide, along with all the relevant information on why your chainsaw doesn’t cut straight, and what to do.

Table of Contents

Chainsaw Won't Cut Straight - Causes & Solutions

Why Does My Chainsaw Cut Crooked?

Your chainsaw cuts at an angle most likely due to either of these two reasons:

  • Your chain is uneven (dull on one side)
  • The edges of your bar are uneven

There are several reasons why these two possibilities could happen. So let’s take a look at each of them in more detail.

Your Chain Is Uneven (Dull on One Side)

Your chain being uneven and dull on one side is probably the most common reason that your chainsaw won’t cut straight. Both new and experienced chainsaw users will encounter this problem at some point throughout their lifetime.

What Causes Your Chain to Become Uneven?

If you’re chunking up a fallen tree, and when you get through the log you hit a patch of dirt. When you hit this patch of dirt, or even grind into a rock, this can have a significant impact on your chain.

Sure, hitting a rock is pretty obvious that you’re going to cause damage. But, you may not have thought that hitting a rock will wear down one side of your chain more than the other side.

One side will take the bulk of the damage, and as a result, your chain will become uneven. If you’re trying to diagnose why your chainsaw won’t cut straight, ask yourself if you’ve recently ground into anything.

Another reason you might have an uneven chain is from poor, lopsided sharpening. If you’re inexperienced at sharpening and have been trying your best with a manual file, it’s likely that you’ve ground one side harder than the other, resulting in a crooked-like cut.

Therefore, emphasizing the importance of either mastering how to sharpen your chain correctly or getting it done professionally.

So, if you have an uneven chain then it is more than likely caused by either:

  1. Hitting dirt, a rock, or anything similar
  2. Uneven sharpening of your chain

How to fix an Uneven Chain

If the chain is uneven only slightly, then you may be able to fix it by sharpening the uneven chain with a file until it’s even. If you aren’t so confident, seek professional help.

Chainsaw chains have links on both sides of the chain, and each guide link and each cutter link will have a small line on them. These lines depict the point where a link can no longer be sharpened.

It’s basically an indication of the maximum amount of metal that can be removed, before needing a replacement chain.

The line can also be helpful as a comparison tool as it provides a consistent benchmark, that you can use to compare how far links on each side have been ground down, and whether they’re uneven or equal.

If there are huge differences between parts or sides of the chain, then you should want to have your chain professionally sharpened at a local chainsaw shop.

If there are any chips or breaks in the chain, then the chainsaw chain will need to be replaced.

How to Prevent an Uneven Chain

Once your chain is fixed, sharpened, or replaced, you’re going to want to keep it that way. The best way to do that is by simply avoiding the causes of chain damage outlined above.

In other words, take precautionary measures to not hit dirt or rocks with your chain. Of course, it may still happen from time to time, but most of us could be a little bit more cautious in order to prevent such events from happening.

A preventative tip that will help you if you’re cutting wood on the ground, is to try to stop around 6 inches above the ground, before rolling the log over to finish the cut from the other side.

If that’s not feasible, and the log can’t be moved so easily, you should try to keep your chainsaw level with the ground in order to prevent contact with the ground.

To prevent uneven sharpening, you should use a file with a guide. Using a file with a guide like this example of a sharpening kit available on Amazon can help keep your chains even.

You should also practice applying an equal amount of pressure when you sharpen from each end. This is a skill, and it may take some time to get good at it but there is certainly no harm in practicing!

The Edges of Your Bar Are Uneven

The chain is the most likely root cause of your problem, but if you find no issues with it, then it could also be your chainsaw bar that is the problem.

What Causes Your Bar to Become Uneven?

It’s pretty much inevitable that the edges of a chainsaw bar are going to wear unevenly. The metal-to-metal friction between the bar and chain will gradually rub off the metal.

The side of the bar that loses material quickest will depend on your dominant hand, the direction a tree is leaning, and many other factors.

A trick used by experienced chainsaw users is to flip the bar regularly, to balance the wearing of the bar out. If you’re not already doing this technique, then it’s likely that one edge of your bar is on its way to getting shorter than the other – on either side of the chain groove.

How to Fix an Uneven Bar?

You can simply fix an uneven bar, by filing the edges until they are level. What you will need to do is scrape the edges of your bar with the file, while holding it as evenly as you can. You should do this each time you perform maintenance on your chainsaw.

Using a suitable filing tool is better for your bar, and will undoubtedly be cheaper in the long run, compared to having someone grind the edge off at a chainsaw shop.

However, you may not always be able to sufficiently file the chainsaw bar, and in some cases, you will be better off visiting a chainsaw shop for professional help.

How to Prevent an Uneven Bar

In order to prevent an uneven bar from happening, as already mentioned, a good rule of thumb, is to flip your chainsaw bar every time you fill up with fuel.

On most chainsaws, you can do this by following these simple steps:

  1. Remove the front panel on the chainsaw
  2. Lift the bar off the chainsaw
  3. Then, you need to remove the chain
  4. Inspect the chain for any kinks or dents
  5. Finally, flip the bar over, and put everything back together (basically reverse these steps)

Additional Tips

Keeping your chainsaw bar clean is ever so important. The chainsaw bar groove gets oil, sawdust, dirt, and other particulates caught in it. As I’m sure you can imagine, the chainsaw will run far more effectively without all that junk in there.

My advice is to use a gauge tool and slide it along the bar groove in order to clean it out. In addition to this, don’t forget to do the same with the oil hole.

Use your gauge tool to clean the oil hole on both sides of the bar, to keep your chain running smoothly. This may also prevent your chainsaw smoking when cutting and overheating.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why does my chainsaw curve when cut?

Your chainsaw may curve when cutting due to an uneven chainsaw chain or bar. It’s likely you will need to file down either the chainsaw chain or bar – whichever is the problem – to make sure that each side matches the other. If one side is shorter than the other, file the longer ones down to match. Keep the same angle on the chain or bar as you file – angles that don’t match also can cause curved cutting.

How do you fix a crooked chainsaw?

If the chain is crooked, then you may be able to fix it by sharpening the uneven chain with a file until it’s even. If you have a crooked bar, you can simply fix this by filing the edges until they are level. What you will need to do is scrape the edges of your bar with the file, while holding it as evenly as you can. If you aren’t so confident then it’s advised to seek professional help.

How do you keep a chainsaw straight?

To keep your chainsaw straight you will need to use it with greater precaution. If you’re cutting wood on the ground, try to stop around 6 inches above the ground, before rolling the log over to finish the cut from the other side, or try to keep your chainsaw level with the ground in order to prevent contact with the ground. It’s important to also prevent uneven sharpening.

By Dave Cross

Hi, I'm Dave. I’ve been sawing for more than 40 years. I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by nature and my saws, but occasionally, I’ll share some of my know-how and experience on Cross Saw Mill.

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