Using A Chainsaw Without A Chain Brake – What You Need To Know

Is using a chainsaw without a chain brake OK? Is it safe? Is it legal?

These are all questions I’ll be answering in this post, so let’s get into it!

Should I use a chainsaw without a chain brake?

I would not advise this at all! Using a chainsaw without a chain brake is possible, but very dangerous. 

Using a chainsaw without a chain brake can cause issues in two specific areas:

Starting the chainsaw.

Before you cold start any gas chainsaw you need to engage the chain brake.

Why? Because upon starting, the chainsaw will rev slightly high before it settles and idles. Especially if you have primed or choked it already.

Trained professionals will sometimes start their chainsaws without using the chain break. If you attempt doing this without the proper training, it can be dangerous.

Running the chainsaw.

While you operate your chainsaw it is running at high rpm (revs per minute).

The chain brake is specifically designed to stop the chain from rotating in the event of a “Kickback”. A “Kickback” occurs when the upper quarter on the front of your bar connects with an object and kicks the bar up towards you.

The placement of the chain brake or handguard allows your front hand to engage the chain brake before contact with your body. Therefore reducing the risk of injury dramatically.

Your chainsaw will still function with no chain brake, but will not function safely as intended.

Can you use a chainsaw for ice fishing?
Using a chainsaw indoors
Using a chainsaw on roots

Can I sell a chainsaw without a chain brake?

You may not sell a chainsaw without a chain brake under any circumstances. The chain brake on a chainsaw is the most important safety feature.

Your chainsaw will still work without a chain brake, though, and you can still use it personally. Make sure to use proper precautions if you plan on doing this, no one is immune to accidents.

If your chain brake is faulty or does not work at all, your nearest service agent should be able to assist you by repairing it or fitting a new one.

How does a chain brake work on a chainsaw?

A chain brake consists of mainly three working components. Gas and electric chainsaws share a similar design for their chain brakes.

The handle or handguard engages the chain brake when pushed forward, and disengages it when pulled back.

This feature allows the chain brake to be engaged in the event of a “kickback” when the operator’s hand pushes the handguard forward and engages the brake.

The chain brake spring is a high tension spring that is responsible for increasing or decreasing the tension at which the chain brake functions.

The steel band fits over the clutch drum and physically clamps the clutch drum to stop it from turning when it is engaged.

When the chain brake is disengaged, the steel band becomes slack and allows the clutch to turn the chain sprocket.

There are two different types of chain brakes. 

Side mounted chain brakes:

This is a chain brake that is built into the side cover which covers the clutch and sprocket. It is generally used on Husqvarna chainsaws.

Internal chain brakes:

Internal chain brakes are built into the shell of the chainsaw and are usually more concealed. This type of chain brake can be seen on Stihl chainsaws.

Can you start a chainsaw if the chain brake is broken?

Yes, you can. It is considered best practice to engage your chain brake before starting your chainsaw. However, if the chain brake is not working you need to stay clear of the bar and chain.

Here is how:

If you are starting the chainsaw on the ground, put your right foot into the back handle and keep it there firmly. Then, put your left hand onto the front handle and hold it tight.

With your right hand, pull the starter cord until the engine fires.

Starting the chainsaw between your legs is done similarly. Put the chainsaws rear handle against your left thigh and grip it with your right knee.

Hold the top handle tightly with your left hand, keep your arm straight. Pull the starter cord with your right hand.

When you start your chainsaw, it will idle at low rpm (revs per minute) and won’t turn fast unless you hold in the throttle.

Before starting your chainsaw, you should check that your throttle is not faulty or stuck in the ‘Open’ position. This can lead to a rapid increase in revs immediately upon start. (If your chain brake is not engaged or is not working.)

If your chain brake is engaged and does not want to disengage, then you will not be able to start the chainsaw.

Can I install a chain brake on a chainsaw without a chain brake?

No. If your chainsaw was built before 1972, you can not install one. 

Chainsaws that were built before 1972 did not include chain brakes. Stihl chainsaws were the first to come out with built in chain brakes and anti vibration technology. 

Due to the rapid commercialization of industries such as forestry and agriculture, where chainsaws are used the most, there was a need to make hands on equipment safer.

If your chainsaw has a chain brake that does not work, you can have it repaired. If you know how to repair a chain brake then you can do it yourself.

Check out this video on how to repair a chain brake:


Yes, using a chainsaw without a chain brake is possible but it’s advised against since it’s a critical safety feature. You cannot sell a chainsaw without a chain brake.

Hope you found what you were looking for in this guide.

Happy sawing!

– Adam