Can you Run a Chainsaw in the Water?


The chainsaw has a reputation for being a tough power tool. Chainsaws get this reputation because they are used in various environments, including forests, wetlands, and even during rain. Considering the versatility of a chainsaw as a power tool, one might think that chainsaws are waterproof and can cut vegetation and trees that have fallen in the water.

Can you run a chainsaw in the water?

No, you can not run a chainsaw in the water. You can work in the rain and wetlands, but you cannot submerge a regular chainsaw underwater to cut anything under the water surface. If you submerge a gas-powered chainsaw underwater, the water will get into the engine and ruin your chainsaw. Similarly, electric chainsaws can also get damaged underwater, not to mention a huge risk of electrocution. The only way you can run a chainsaw underwater is by using specially designed chainsaws called hydraulic chainsaws or a pneumatic chainsaw.

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While a regular chainsaw cannot be submerged underwater, you may still be able to cut objects underwater using a gas-powered chainsaw. And in this article, we will explain in detail what type of chainsaws you can and cannot use in water.

Using a Gas Chainsaw in Water

While submerging any part of an electric or battery-powered chainsaw is not safe and should always be avoided, there are ways you can cut objects under the surface of the water using a gasoline chainsaw without submerging the engine itself. If you have a gasoline chainsaw with a long enough bar, you should be able to submerge the bar in shallow water to cut an object with the engine above the surface of the water. This method can only work if the water is 1 or 2 feet deep, and you can keep the engine out of the water while it is running. While this method can work, you will have to deal with a lot of water splashing because of the spinning chainsaw blades. But when it comes to being completely submerged underwater, a gasoline engine is just not cut out to run underwater.

Using an Electric Chainsaw in Water

If you own an electric chainsaw, forget about using it to cut items submerged underwater. In fact, you can’t even use an electric chainsaw during rain. Just like any other electronic appliance, an electric chainsaw should always be kept dry at all times and should never be used in wet conditions.

 Not only will using an electric chainsaw in wet conditions damage the machine, but it is also going to pose a serious risk of electrocution. When water gets into an electric chainsaw’s casing, it can cause a short circuit, and if that happens, it can mean the end for your electric chainsaw.

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Chainsaws aren’t waterproof, and when it comes to electric chainsaws, you can never trust them around water, whether it is a battery-powered chainsaw or a corded one. So if you have an electric chainsaw, it is best to delay using it when it is raining or with a lot of water around the working area.

Chainsaws that can be Used Underwater:

In general, there are two types of chainsaws you can use underwater namely:

  1. Hydraulic chainsaws
  2. Pneumatic chainsaws

Both types of chainsaws don’t require gas or electricity to run, which means they don’t have a motor or engine which can get damaged due to water, and therefore they can be submerged underwater. But there are some slight differences between these two kinds of underwater chainsaws, as explained below:

Hydraulic chainsaw:

As the name suggests, this type of chainsaw works using high-pressure liquid hence the name hydraulic chainsaw. What makes this chainsaw special is that there is no motor or engine in it. This allows the chainsaw to be waterproof, and in fact, there are very few moving parts in a hydraulic chainsaw, including the chain and gear to rotate the chain around the bar of the hydraulic chainsaw. But the main reason a hydraulic chainsaw can be submerged underwater is that the hydraulic fluid is being circulated through the chainsaw using a pump above the surface of the water. The pump can be stored on a boat and can be used to run the hydraulic chainsaw to cut fallen trees, logs, or vegetation underwater. The lack of motor and other parts makes a hydraulic chainsaw very light, making it easier to use it underwater.

Pneumatic chainsaw:

A pneumatic chainsaw is also designed to work underwater and doesn’t have a motor or engine similar to the hydraulic chainsaw. But the main difference between the two lies in the power source. A pneumatic chainsaw requires compressed air or gas circulating through it to make the chain rotate. The air or gas is pumped into the pneumatic chainsaw through a pump connected to the chainsaw using hoses similar to hydraulic chainsaws. Apart from being used underwater, pneumatic chainsaws are used in tunnels where you can’t use a regular gasoline chainsaw due to the presence of methane or other explosive gases that can cause an explosion. A pneumatic chainsaw can cut steel, wood, and even concrete, making them a powerful tool to be used underwater.

In most underwater chainsaws, a built-in function rotates the chain in the opposite direction to a regular chainsaw. This means the chain at the bottom of the chainsaw rotates away from the chainsaw. This allows the debris during cutting to move away from the chainsaw to prevent the debris from getting clogged in the gaps and jam the chain.

How to clean a chainsaw after using it in wet conditions?

A chainsaw can handle moisture and even rain pretty well. But like all metals, the chain and the bar of a chainsaw are also susceptible to rust when the chainsaw has been running in the rain or cutting wet wood. If a chainsaw is not cleaned properly after it gets wet every time, rust will start to build upon the bar and the chain as well, resulting in premature wear of these important chainsaw components. You can clean a wet chainsaw using the following method.

  • Dry the chain and bar: Use a cloth to dry up the entire chainsaw, especially the chain and the bar, and make sure there are no dirt and other particles stuck inside the chain.
  • Lubricate the chain and bar: After drying the chainsaw blade and bar, the next step is preserving them from the effect of rust. The best way to keep the chain and bar rust-free is to coat them in a thin layer of oil, and all chainsaws come with a built-in lubricant reservoir. All you have to do is fill in the lubricant reservoir with clean lubricant and run the chainsaw to thoroughly lubricate the chain and bar.

If you accidentally get water inside your chainsaw make sure to dry the chainsaw up properly before using it again. And if the water gets into the fuel tank of a gas chainsaw make sure to drain the fuel tank completely and add fresh fuel to the tank.  

Safety Precautions When Using a Chainsaw in a Wet Environment:

Chainsaws should be used with extreme care especially when the ground and the wood you are cutting are wet. Ideally, you should avoid using a chainsaw when the conditions are wet because the ground can be too slippery to provide any real grip when using the chainsaw. But if you have to use the chainsaw in wet conditions here are a few precautions you can take:

  • Wear proper shoes: Use shoes that can provide maximum grip in the mud and slippery ground.
  • Use a wet wood chain: Use a specially designed chain to be used for cutting wet wood because using a regular chain for cutting wet wood can cause it to be dull extremely fast. The wet wood chain usually doesn’t have very pointy blades, and it is easy to spot the difference between a regular chain and a wet wood chain.
  • Secure the fuel cap: Make sure that the water doesn’t get into the fuel tank. Also, double-check to make sure the fuel tank lid is properly closed.
  • Use protective legwear: Always wear protective pants designed to prevent the chainsaw blade from cutting your leg if slippage occurs.

Final Remarks

A regular chainsaw is not meant to be used underwater, and trying to submerge a gas or electric chainsaw will ruin the machine. If you have to cut an object underwater, your best bet is to invest in an underwater chainsaw or rent one. And besides, you can also use hydraulic and pneumatic chainsaws on land, so it is not like you will have to keep an underwater chainsaw specifically for cutting submerged wood. Not to mention hydraulic and pneumatic chainsaws can cut wood, plastic, and even steel, so you will have a powerful tool that you can use both on land and underwater.  

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