Chainsaws are powered saws with three main components: the engine, a guide bar, and the chain itself. The engine allows the chain to rotate around the guide bar to cut through materials. Due to this design, many people have questioned whether a chainsaw without a chain can hurt you.


Can A Chainsaw Hurt You Without A Chain? 

A chainsaw without a chain installed can still be dangerous and hurt you. Despite being a critical component responsible for most of the cutting work, chainsaws have powerful engines to rotate the chains. Ultimately, chainsaws without chains still have moving parts that can injure you when the tool isn’t handled correctly.

chainsaw brandisawyer 16 Can A Chainsaw Without A Chain Hurt You

In terms of your safety, the remaining chainsaw components can still harm you with the chain removed. The guide bar is sharp and can cut someone if they touch it while the chainsaw is on.

You can also hurt yourself if the chainsaw’s engine or mechanical parts touch your clothing or skin.

Perhaps the most common situation you’ll find a chainless saw is when you are installing a new chainsaw chain. While it’s not recommended to use a chainsaw without a chain, a chainsaw will still run without one.

Since the saw’s engine will rev higher without a chain, it’s important to follow standard chainsaw safety protocols when operating the tool without a chain installed. Failure to do this can result in injuries.

Is It Safe To Use A Chainsaw Without A Chain? 

With or without a chain installed, chainsaws are always potentially dangerous power tools that can cause major and even fatal injuries when they are incorrectly used. While its still very possible in injure yourself without a chain, a chainsaw with a chain is inherently more dangerous.

When the correct safety procedures are followed, it’s safe to run a chainsaw without a chain for a few minutes. Since chainsaws run at higher RPMs without a chain (you can check the speed with the best chainsaw tachometer), you should only run a chainless chainsaw in short bursts to prevent the chainsaw from overheating or malfunctioning. 

While a chainless chainsaw can still injure you, you won’t be able to cut through any materials without a chain. The chain is the part of the saw with the teeth used for cutting. No blade = no cutting.

What Happens When You Run A Chainsaw Without A Chain For Long Periods? 

There are three main risks associated with running a chainless chainsaw for extended periods of time! These issues can be prevented by only running a chainsaw without a chain for short periods. 

  • Chainsaw Will Overheat: Chains are responsible for creating resistance when running a chainsaw. Without a chain installed, the chainsaw’s guide bar will spin faster, which puts the chainsaw engine at risk of overheating and the chainsaw bar getting really hot
  • Increased Component Wear: The chain is one of the main components of a chainsaw. Using this powerful tool with the chain removed will put more strain on the other components, which strains the motor. 
  • Chainsaw Oil Spills: Bar oil is released from small holes in the chainsaw’s guide bar to lubricate the chain while cutting. Without a chain installed, this oil will spill onto the floor, which can pose both fire and safety hazards.  
  • Possibility Of Voiding Warranties: This practice will likely void your warranty due to the negative effects of running a chainsaw without a chain. If a warranty still covers your saw, you should avoid using it without a chain installed. 

5 Tips To Safely Run A Chainless Chainsaw Without Hurting Yourself

Here are five helpful tips to safely run a chainsaw without a chain installed!

1. Wear The Proper Safety Gear 

You should always use the proper safety gear when using your chainsaw. This safety gear should include head protection, hearing protection, eye protection, suitable clothing, and protective footwear when using a chainsaw – even if it doesn’t have a chain installed! 

2. Drain The Chainsaw’s Bar Oil Tank 

Always drain the bar oil tank before using a chainsaw without a chain. Failure to do this will cause the lubricating oil to spill while using the chainsaw. When you’re ready to use the chainsaw with a chain again, make certain you add a top chainsaw oil back in!

3. Hold Your Chainsaw Correctly 

Much like using a chainsaw with a chain, it’s important to hold your chainless chainsaw correctly to prevent hurting yourself. The following YouTube video highlights the correct way to operate a chainsaw without causing an injury! 

Chainsaw Basics: How to Safely Use a Chainsaw

4. Only Use The Chainsaw In Well-Ventilated Spaces 

Even without a chain, a chainsaw’s engine will still produce exhaust fumes, which is why you should only run a chainless chainsaw in well-ventilated spaces

5. Run The Chainsaw For Short Bursts 

Since running a chainsaw without a chain can cause strain on the other components, you should only run it for short bursts when using it as a prop or checking the guide bar for faults. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do People Run Chainsaws Without A Chain?

There are two main reasons people would run a chainsaw without a chain. Firstly, this is a common practice when using chainsaws for pranks or as film props. Secondly, many chainsaw owners run their power tools without a chain to troubleshoot issues with the guide bar. 

Why Do Chainsaws Need Chains To Work Properly?

The chain is one of a chainsaw’s most critical components because it transfers power from the engine to the blade. When a chain is installed too loose, it causes an ineffective power transfer, which can strain the motor. Without a chain, there are almost no uses for a chainsaw since it cannot cut anything. 

Can You Use A Chainsaw Without A Chain Brake? 

Chainsaws without chain brakes are strictly prohibited, which means all chainsaws must have appropriate chain brakes. The chain brake is a critical safety feature that keeps the chain in place and prevents any movement while the tool is being used. 

Will A Chainsaw Run Without Bar Oil? 

While a chainsaw will run without bar oil to lubricate the chain, the chain is more likely to overheat and break from prolonged use. However, when running a chainsaw without a chain for short bursts, it’s better to run it without bar oil to prevent the oil from spilling on the ground. 


Chainsaws remain potentially dangerous tools even without the signature chain installed on the tool. While it is possible to run a chainless chainsaw for short periods of time, this practice should be avoided to prevent damaging the chainsaw’s critical components.

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