Chainsaw Brake Stuck – How to Fix it [Step-by-Step Guide]

Is your chainsaw brake stuck?

Well, you’ve come to the right place because I’ll be showing you how to fix it in this post.

So let’s get straight into it!

What can go wrong and why is it so important?

Chainsaws are dangerous tools, and the chain brake is a critical piece of safety equipment on the saw. To be able to fix a stuck brake it is important to understand how the brake works. 

The function of the brake is to stop the chain from moving in a kickback situation. So, if you want to keep your rugged good looks it’s best to make sure that the brake is functioning properly.

In the rather frightening situation of a kickback, the saw will rear up with cunningly accurate precision into your face. At times like these, the difference between a bump or two on the head and a lacerated face comes down to the efficient operation of the chain brake. It’s serious.

Where to find the chain brake and how it works.

Chainsaw parts labelled explained

In almost all saws the chain brake consists of a piece of spring steel that surrounds the clutch drum. When the chain brake lever is pushed up towards the handle of the chainsaw, the spring steel tightens on the clutch drum causing the chain to stop moving.

So, if the chain brake is stuck, two situations can arise. Either the chain brake stops the chain from moving or engaging the chain brake does not stop the chain.

Situation 1. The chain brake will not release.

The safer of the two situations but the one that renders the chainsaw useless. Here the almost certain bet is that the system has got bunged up with debris and requires cleaning out.

Once the cover has been removed the areas around the springs and the slides will need to be thoroughly cleaned out. 

The best method for getting rid of the offending dirt and grime is with compressed air but do take care and wear eye protection when doing this.

Once the area has been cleaned a little lubricant on the pivot points is always worthwhile. Be careful not to disturb the seating of the powerful springs in the mechanism while cleaning.

A useful little trick is to refit the bar with the chain and use a couple of washers to replicate the thickness of the cover plate. Disengage the chain brake and check if the chain is running freely.

Engage the brake again and check that the chain does not move. A final couple of engagements and releases should solve the problem and you’re ready to replace the covers and get back into action.

Situation 2. The chain brake has no effect on the chain. 

This is dangerous because the temptation is to complete the cutting and then sort out the problem. A brief reminder of some scenes from the ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ maybe what is required to persuade you to take the safer option and let’s fix the brake.

I’m willing to take a little bet that the cause of the problem is either a part of the brake system has broken, or a connector has disengaged.

The mechanism is simple so follow the trail from the external lever down through the connecting pieces and pivot points and check that all the parts are correctly connected.

If there are no visible broken parts check that all the connections are correct. You can operate the brake lever to make certain that the levers are correctly connected and reconnect any if necessary.  

If any of the parts are broken (and check the plastic handle connection first as this is the most likely part to fail) then replacement parts will have to be sourced to complete the repair.

How to check that the brake is working correctly.

A kickback always results in the chainsaw suddenly shooting up and towards the operator’s face.

Consequently, it’s important to hold the chainsaw correctly with your left hand (and I’m assuming right- handed operation here) on the handle of the chainsaw between the handle and the brake lever.

 It is your hand in this position that will ensure that the brake will engage in the event of a kickback. You can replicate the kickback situation by raising the saw quickly upwards so that your left hand bumps the brake lever forward thereby engaging the brake.

The brake should also engage if the chainsaw is dropped from a foot or two onto the bar. To check this, hold the chainsaw by the trigger handle and allow it to fall freely onto a piece of timber. The impact should engage the brake so make sure that the brake is engaged on impact.

A worthwhile practice.

Get into the habit of starting your chainsaw with the chain brake engaged. It’s a little safety measure that will ensure a safer operation.