4 Chainsaw Clutch Removal Methods (No Special Tools)

Gas powered chainsaws have a clutch that transfers power from the engine crankshaft to the chain. Without a clutch, the chain will not engage. A chainsaw clutch also makes it possible for the engine to idle without spinning the chain.

A chainsaw clutch will wear out over time and need to be adjusted or replaced. Signs it needs servicing include chain slipping and/or dragging. This guide describes 4 different methods of removing a chainsaw clutch without using a specialty clutch removal tool.

I’m not saying don’t use a specialty clutch removal tool, by all means if you have one, use it. However, not everyone has this tool and not everyone wants to spend money on one and/or wait for delivery. This guide describes multiple clutch removal methods so that you can use the tools you already have on hand.

Chainsaw with cover removed and clutch visible.

Safety Precautions

A chainsaw clutch is tightly attached to the drive shaft, but when it comes loose, it tends to do so very suddenly. To avoid injuring yourself, or damaging your saw, secure your saw to a workbench, remove any objects you may bump into and wear protective gloves and eyewear.

Gain Access – Cover Removal

You will find your chainsaw clutch under a cover located on the chain side of your saw. To access the clutch, you will first need to remove this cover.

Newer saws may have a simple knob to turn that releases the cover, however, most saws will require the use of a T25 screwdriver or similar sized socket (1/2″ or 9/16″) for removal. You may also need to pry the cover gently with a flat screwdriver to release it after the fasteners are removed.

Tip: you may find it easier to remove and install the clutch cover with the chain brake disengaged (off).

Remove The Spark Plug and Bind The Piston

Because a chainsaw clutch is attached directly to the crankshaft, it is necessary to stop the engine from being able to rotate during removal. To accomplish this, you will need to remove the spark plug to access the piston cylinder behind it.

Once the spark plug is removed, insert a 1-2 foot length of nylon cord, the same material used in the pull cord, into the cylinder through the spark plug hole. Make sure the cord doesn’t extend into the intake or exhaust port by manually turning the clutch until the piston covers these ports. (halfway up a compression stroke)

Binding the piston on a chainsaw

A piston stop tool exists to prevent the engine from turning, however, these are often made of steel and can damage the softer metal of a piston. This is why the “nylon rope trick” above is suggested.

Direction is Reversed for Tightening and Loosening

Regardless of the method you choose to remove a chainsaw clutch, it’s important to remember that the direction for tightening and loosening the clutch is reversed. Normally you tighten a fastener by turning it clockwise, and you loosen it by turning it counter-clockwise, BUT THE DIRECTION IS REVERSED for a chainsaw clutch.

Additionally, avoid using an impact driver when removing or installing a chainsaw clutch because they tend to break the clutch and/or the tool. Any force applied to the clutch should be slow and gradual.

Method #1 – Vice Grips and a Long Clamp

This method involves attaching a pair of vice grips to the center of the clutch itself and then using a long quick-grip type of clamp to turn the vice grips. It works because the clamp provides the leverage needed to apply enough force to the clutch to loosen it.

Method #2 – Small Chisel and a Hammer

This clutch removal method is ideal if your clutch has small notches on each side to place the chisel on. See the video example.

Line up your chisel with one of the clutch cover notches, on a downward angle, and gently but firmly tap it with a hammer. Depending on how tightly the clutch is attached to the shaft, it may take several attempts to begin to loosen the clutch.

Method #3 – 2 Bolts and a Flat Screwdriver

This method of removing a chainsaw clutch takes advantage of the two boltholes in the metal casing of the clutch itself. Not all chainsaw clutches have these two boltholes, check yours to see if it does.

By inserting two longer bolts into the cover of your clutch, you create a good place for a screwdriver to gain the leverage needed for removal. Place the screwdriver sideways between the bolts and, like you would with a pry bar, rotate the cover clockwise until it begins to loosen.

You will be able to spin the clutch off the chainsaw’s crankshaft easily once the initial force is successful.

Method #4 – Large Channel lock Pliers

This is perhaps the easiest method of removing a chainsaw clutch because it can be done in seconds. You will need large channel lock pliers to be able to grasp the entire width of the clutch.

This method works on clutches that have enough clearance for the pliers to fit around the clutch. Some chainsaws have little clearance or have a metallic shield on one side of the clutch that prevents channel locks from fitting.

It is absolutely worth checking if there is enough clearance to use this method because, if there is, removing the clutch is simple. Just grasp it firmly with the pliers and rotate the clutch in a clockwise direction.

Care should be taken not to squeeze the clutch drum too tightly with the pliers, or it may become more oval than round and may cause the chainsaw to vibrate.

Conclusion: A chainsaw clutch removal tool is a specialty single purpose tool that works well, but it isn’t the only tool capable of removing a chainsaw clutch. I hope one of these 4 additional chainsaw clutch removal methods helped you.