Does It Matter Which Brand Of Chainsaw Bar I Use?

chainsaw bar in sawdust
Closeup view of a chainsaw bar and cutting chain. Dirty blade of a chainsaw. Blade of a chainsaw in the garden, copy space

Are chainsaw bars interchangeable? Most have other brands they are interchangeable with.

There are several that are designed for aftermarket use on the most popular chainsaws brands.

These universal chainsaw bars appeal to the market by offering replacements for a large number of brands. 

Buying a chainsaw bar can be overwhelming. You walk into your local farm supply and are faced with a hundred questions by a well-meaning employee. (Dang it, man. I just want to cut my firewood!)

In the next 2 minutes, this article is going to make you the expert. 

A good chainsaw bar can be expensive. However, you can use it for years and years. Pro saw shops can also repair these bars by installing new rivets, straightening them, and rebuilding them. Bars can also be reprofiled and recalibrated to the proper gauge. 

If you want to use the same bar on two different chainsaws, this guide will help you get the most versatile blade. 

Excellent Youtube Video on how to change chainsaw bars

Determining Interchangeability of Aftermarket Bars

service technician throwing up hands

It is important that in addition to purchasing a bar of the correct length, that you also get one that has the oiling hole in the correct spot for the oiler nozzle groove. You also need two additional holes properly spaced for the guideposts.

The easiest way to find a compatible bar is by typing in “replacement bars” + your model number online.

For example, the Stihl MS180, MS230, and MS250 all use the smaller 3005 mounts. Any bar that is compatible with a 3005 mount will work on this motor — even if they are made by a different brand. 

You want the correct bar so that the chain does not skip or kickback. 

Bar Sizing

Bar sizing is quite straightforward, but if you are struggling to get the right one, I have a full article on how to measure your bar. 

Generally, you can take your measurements and buy any bar in that size and it will fit your saw. That said, there are some brands (like the Stihl) that have larger mounting studs and need a special bar.  

Once you get the right length, it’s just a matter of making sure it will fit the studs and that the oiler hole is in the right spot.

One of the key things is that when you are searching for a bar that is a specific gauge, length, and drive-length size, you are only going to find a few options that will fit. It is not uncommon to find a brand that is the right bar length but the wrong drive-length. When you find one that is right for all three, just double-check the mounting studs sizing.

Bar Mounts

Bar mounts are where it gets really crazy to sort everything out. Each brand uses a different stud size or stud differences. This is probably the hardest thing to figure out when searching for compatibility. 

The only way around this is to find which mount your model of saw has and specifically check with the blade manufacturer to see if it is compatible. Some manufacturers have a compatibility chart that you can use. 

There isn’t an easy answer to this. You have to measure the mount and measure the new bar. 

Drive Sprocket

I’ve touched on this before, but the spacing of the drive sprocket teeth is specific to the number of drive links that are in a chain. If you mount a chain that is close to the right size, it won’t fit into the drive sprocket. This can cause the sprocket to skip and even grinds down the sprocket, causing added repairs down the road. 

Types of Chainsaw Blades or Bars

As with any tool, the most innovative tools sell the most. You can really get into the details and find the bar that will work the absolute best for your task. In my experience, most of these features are “nice to have” and not “must have”.

For example, Oregon has the Lubritec system for their bars which allows the oil to flow to the tip better. Or on their Intenz bars, you can tension the chain by adjusting a special chain adjustment slot. 

Here is a couple of more important distinctions. 

Solid Vs. Laminated Chainsaw Bars

The solid bars are much heavier, however, they have the upside of being longer-lasting and not needing to be rebuilt or repaired. 

Laminate bars are probably the most popular. They are made of two separate pieces that are riveted together. Over time, those metal pieces tend to spread and allow for chain slop. Eventually, they have to be either repaired or replaced. 

Solid bars are especially handy to have when you are working with a bar that is under 18-inches long. On these shorter-length blades, the weight of the solid steel design doesn’t matter as much. 

Hard Nose vs. Sprocket Nose Bars

Chainsaw nose sprocket

The hard-nose is a better option for dirty, abrasive, work. Something like the Stihl Duromatic is ideal for working in brushy, dirty conditions where you might be hitting the dirt more than you like.

In these conditions, a sprocket nose is going to become jammed. 

However, for most woodcutting, the Sprocket nose bar is a better choice than lets the chain spin easily and provides a reliable cut.

Some of the Oregon brand bars also have an added grease hole on the nose that you can use to pack the nose with grease for extending the lifespan of the guide bar even longer. 

Changing the Bar

The chain bar and chain should both slide on solidly, but not so snugly that you have to force it. For example, a Husqvarna bar isn’t going to slide onto a Stihl unless you force it. Don’t force it. Instead, purchase a more compatible blade. 

Finally, and most importantly, when lining up the bar, make sure the oiler hole is clear and that it lines up with the oiling slot on the chainsaw. If the bar doesn’t get oiled, it will overheat, burn up, and can lead to a sudden stop and the need to buy a new bar sooner. 

Changing The Chain

When you change the bar, you should also change the chainsaw chain. It is important to get the correctly-sized chain.

A too-small chain will seize and a too-large chain will fall off constantly.  Your new chain should be scored based on the number of drive links. 

The same thing goes with the chain. The chain should have a little bit of slack in it and you’ll tighten it down using the tensioner to have less slack. However, even one drive link extra is too much. Make sure that the number of drive links in the chain matches the bar that you are mounting it to. 

The pitch and gauge of the chain are important and are printed on both the chain and the bar. If you can’t find those, use our guide to finding your chainsaw’s measurements. 

Should You Go With A Longer Bar?

different bar lengths in store

I just saw your eyes light up: “Does this mean I could put a long bar on my saw?”

Longer bars aren’t necessarily all they are cracked up to be. They are nose heavy and require more motor power to run.  They can also bog down more easily if mounted on too small of a motor. 

That said, yes, it is common to put a 20-inch bar length on a chainsaw that was sold stock with a 16-inch bar. Generally, the manufacturer will have made it clear what the compatible options are. 

If you are stepping up to a significantly larger bar, you need to have an adjustable oiler that can rise to the demands and will ensure that your chain stays well-oiled in any position. 

In my experience here in the midwest, a 16-18 inch bar is great for clearing land and cutting firewood. Those of you felling trees and in a more professional role will want to splurge for the bigger chainsaws. 

Frequently Asked Brand-Specific Questions

Oregon, the Universal Donor?

clean chainsaw sitting on log

Oregon has a massive plant up north where they churn out thousands of tiny chainsaw links and new bars that are compatible with virtually every manufacturer of chainsaw on the market. 

It doesn’t matter where you live, you are going to find one that will fit your saw. It’s pretty common to find a chainsaw bar and chain set that costs less than just the Bar in some other brands. 

So is an Oregon bar lower quality? You’ll have your brand loyalty for any of these brands. 

As long as you are keeping an eye on the oiler and making sure that your chain has the correct tension and stays well-lubed, their longevity is on par with any of the other brands out there. 

The biggest risk with any bar replacement is that the oiler is not lined up, and you don’t get enough lubricant onto the chain. Keep an eye on the groove to make sure the oil is flowing. 

One of the cool things is that they make some super lightweight bars that are designed to make the saw lighter and easier for professionals to get their work done with less fatigue. 

Can a Stihl Bar Be Used On A Husqvarna?

The Stihl saw has larger studs than the Husqvarna, so an adapter plate needs to be used. 

That said, with the adapter plate, a Stihl bar can be installed onto a Husqvarna and it works pretty well. For those of you who want the German engineering of a Stihl bar, this can be a fun little upgrade (or who live near a Stihl dealer.). 

That said, a Husqvarna bar doesn’t go onto a Stihl saw well since the Stihl has larger studs. 

Can A Stihl Bar Be Used On an Oregon?

While Stihl recommends that you only use their brand of chainsaws, I have used other chainsaw brands on my Stihl saw. 

Some folks feel that Stihl keeps the sharpest edge on the chain compared to the other brands. That said, I know a lot of folks who prefer the Oregon brand bars and blades for their saws. The 105671 fits most of the Stihl models. However, they have other options. 

Where Oregon tends to win is with their lower costs and their reduced weight bars that have some of the middle steel removed to make the bar lighter. This makes their nose less heavy. 

Additionally, their Lubritec lubrication system seems to work really well. 

Can A Stihl Bar Be Used On A Poulan?

The Poulan model is pretty common since it was made for the Craftsman brand. A lot of homeowners use Poulan chainsaws. 

You can run Stihl bars on the Poulan. Simply use the stamped information on the side of the bar to get the correct one. For example, if it reads: 20 .325-78 it is going to be a 20-inch bar with a .325 chain gauge and 78 drive links. 

Grab a Stihl bar in that size and you should be good to go. The advantage with Stihl is that they have those 14mm studs and so it means their bars will fit just about any model, but other models may not fit the Stihl. 

What Can You Use For An Echo?

The Echo bar tends to use a shorter chain length than the others. So you are unlikely to find the right size in a Stihl or Husky. They have a more narrow bar that just doesn’t offer a lot of interchangeability. You probably need to go to Home Depot and buy a brand name bar. 

ProTip: Flip Your Bar For Longer Life

Most bars can be flipped and can be installed with either edge on the “up” side. This lets you spread the wear out on the bar to help it last longer. 

Generally, the cutting edge gets worn more quickly. Every time you sharpen the chain you should flip the bar so that each side will wear evenly.

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