Should You Run a Chainsaw Without a Chain? (Tips For Owners)

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Man assembling a chainsaw and holding the balde up to inspect it for defects


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Patio & Yard


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The chain is a crucial part. Without it, your chainsaw won’t be able to cut anything. But running the chainsaw with just the bar will still be possible.

But should you use your chainsaw if you have removed the chain?

A chainsaw can run without the chain. But it should only be run in short bursts, a few minutes at a time. This will help stop the chainsaw from overheating, which can cause significant damage. Plus, observing safety protocols and keeping the bar away from people is vital. 

The effect running a chainsaw without a chain will have will depend on how long you run the chainsaw.

Keep reading to learn more about operating a chainsaw safely without a chain. 

Man assembling a chainsaw and holding the balde up to inspect it for defects

Effects Of Running a Chainsaw Without a Chain?

It’s often recommended that you avoid running the chainsaw without a chain for an extended period.

This is because of the impacts it can have on the machinery; these include: 

  • Higher risk of overheating. Without the chain’s resistance, the bar will spin at higher revs. As this happens, there is a real risk that the engine starts to overheat. 
  • More wear and tear. Chainsaws are designed to be run with a chain. Once the chain is removed, the faster rotations of the bar will place more strain on components, making it harder for the engine to keep up. This is particularly noticeable if you use the throttle to increase the bar speed. Because of this, running the tool without the chain might cause you to void the warranty. 
  • Creating an oil speed. The chain needs to be lubricated to cut properly. An ingenious way of solving this problem is by having the oil come out of small holes in the bar. Without the chain, you can spill this oil onto the floor. The good news is that you can prevent this by draining the oil from the chamber before you begin. 

It should be noted that the severity of these impacts will depend on how long you are using the chainsaw.

In most cases, you can run it for around two to five minutes without doing any significant damage. Any longer than this, though, will increase the chances of overheating and damage.

You should also limit the speed that you are using. 

There are a few signs that your chainsaw is starting to overheat. The most common example of this is a chainsaw starting to smoke. If you see this, you should turn off your chainsaw immediately. 

Is It Safe to Run a Chainsaw Without a Chain? 

Now that we know how running without a chain affects the machine, it’s time to consider how it can impact the user. So, is a chainsaw dangerous without the chain?

Without a chain, you won’t be able to cut anything. However, it would be best if you still exercise caution.

Sometimes, there might be sharp burrs along the side of the bar. These might be enough to cut someone. 

Furthermore, you should consider the type of clothing you are using when working the chainsaw. Loose-fitting gear can still get caught within the bar, causing a significant injury. 

It’s also important to consider how you can safely remove the chain. Even though the chainsaw isn’t moving, the teeth will still be sharp enough to scratch you.

Because of this, it’s recommended that you use gloves when working with the chain. 

Why Would You Want to Run A Chainsaw Without The Chain?

Someone might want to run a chainsaw without the chain attached for a few reasons. 

Halloween Prank

The most common reason is to create a fun Halloween prank. The chainsaw wielder often hides in an area that’s out of sight.

When the intended prank victims are close, they will burst from the shadows carrying a whirring chainsaw. 

There are a few things you can do to make this prank more effective, including: 

  • Creating a fake chain.  You might want to create a false chain, which exaggerates the size of the teeth. While it won’t turn, it can still strike fear into the heart of the prank victim. 
  • Using a fake sound. If you want to safely operate a chainsaw for a prank, you might want to hide a speaker at the base of the chainsaw. This will let you replicate the motor’s sound without turning the chainsaw on. 
  • Use it outdoors and keep your distance. If you use the chainsaw for a Halloween prank, you must use a well-ventilated room. This stops the potentially dangerous fumes from building up. Plus, it would be best to keep your distance, as you don’t want to scratch someone with the spinning bar accidentally. 

Checking The Chainsaw Bar

Running the chainsaw without a chain will give you a better look at the bar. This can allow you to spot any issues, like burrs. It can also let you make sure that it’s straight.

At other times, you will check that an engine component is working before re-attaching the chain. While not complex, attaching the chain can take some time. 

Can Running a Chainsaw Without a Chain Damage a Chain Link Fence?

Running a chainsaw without a chain won’t typically damage a chain link fence. However, to enhance its appearance and maintain privacy, you may consider exploring 12 affordable chain link fence covering ideas. Options like hedge slats, fabric screens, or bamboo panels can offer practical solutions while infusing style into your outdoor space.

Should You Use a Chainsaw Without A Chain Guard?

The chain guard is designed to protect you during a kickback. This is a hazardous situation, with the chainsaw returning toward the user.

Technically, you can remove the chain guard, and the chainsaw will still work. 

You might not need the chain guard if you plan to use the chainsaw as a prop. But if you use it to cut and have a chain attached, you should always use a chain guard. 

When it comes to recycling chain link fence, a chainsaw can certainly be used without a chain. By removing the chain, the chainsaw can still be used to cut through the metal posts and wires of the fence, making it easier to dismantle and recycle the materials.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to scare kids for a Halloween prank or check a mechanical issue, you can run a chainsaw without a chain.

Ensure to avoid running it for too long and overheating the engine, as this can damage the engine.

If you keep this in mind, you shouldn’t have any problems.