Chainsaw Bar Oil: 7 things you should know


Chainsaws are handy homestead tools that allow you to saw large lumbers of hardwood with considerable ease. Not only are they more productive than a manual saw, but their smooth cutting operation also makes them effective on almost all wood types. To ensure that the cutting operation remains smooth and free of hitches, lubrication of the bar and chain is the key. If you wonder how you should proceed in lubricating your chainsaw with the bar oil, then dive into this blog post to get the answers to all your questions.

Chainsaw bar oil: what is it, and how is it used?

Bar oil is used to lubricate the bar and chain of the chainsaw and ensure that the chain remains attached to the bar during its operation. To lubricate your bar with the chainsaw bar oil, you should follow the steps below:

  • Step 1: Place your chainsaw on a flat surface. Remove its battery If it’s a cordless chainsaw.
  • Step 2: Locate and unscrew the oil reservoir’s cap on the side of the handle.
  • Step 3: Pour the bar oil into the reservoir and close its cap.
  • Step 4: Run your engine for some time to ensure that the oil is fully distributed throughout the bar and chain.

We will now look into more detail at the steps mentioned above.

Why is a Bar and Chain Oil Used?

Chainsaw bar oils are most commonly referred to as bar-and-chain oils due to their dual operation in both bar and chain of the saw. In any machinery, oils serve the purpose the lubricating the moving parts. For a chainsaw, a similar function is performed by a bar-and-chain oil, I.e., to ensure enough lubrication between the bar and the chain. Chainsaws may either be gas-powered or battery-powered. For battery-powered chainsaws, the motor RPMs vary from 6000-10000. Whereas, for gas-powered devices, the RPMs can go up to 14000.

When the chain rotates at such high velocity, it is bound to heat up due to friction. This high temperature contributes to accelerated chain wear. Apart from the wear, friction can make the cutting very difficult and tedious. For this purpose, a bar-and-chain oil is introduced. It serves two primary functions. The first is to provide lubrication between the chain and the bar so that the chain slides easily on the bar, thus ensuring a smooth cutting operation.

While its second function is that it provides adhesion due to its sticky nature and causes the chain to remain attached to the bar while it is rotating. Otherwise, at such high RPMs, there is a high chance that the chain might sling off the edge of the bar. Hence, whenever you witness the chain sagging of the bar despite having enough tension, you should know that it’s high time to lubricate the bar and chain with the right kind of oil.

Grades of a Bar and Chain Oil:

Selecting the right kind of oil, various classifications and alternatives of such oils will be discussed in this section.

● Petroleum-based Oils:

Petroleum-based lubricants are formulated to provide necessary lubrication along with adhesion for chainsaw chains and bars. These oils may have varying grades, and they can be heavier or lighter, depending on if it’s summer or winter. If a petroleum-based oil is unavailable, fresh motor oil can be used as an alternative. You should avoid using the exhausted motor oil from your vehicles as it is not clean and doesn’t supply the required viscosity to the chain.

– Summer or Winter Grade:

Contrary to the motor oils defined by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) grades based on weights, a bar-and-chain oil has a different classification based on summer or winter use. For summers, the oil used is generally thicker as the viscosity tends to decrease at high temperatures. In contrast, winter-grade oils are thinner and have a lower viscosity than summer-grade oils.

● Vegetable Oil:

If a petroleum-based lubricant isn’t available, one of the most widely used alternatives for bar-and-chain oil is the use of vegetable oil. Manufacturers have tested various types of vegetable oil for use in a chain and bar and have found them effective and suitable. Generally, these oils have a lower viscosity than petroleum derivatives and are pretty cheap as well. Moreover, vegetable oils are environmentally friendly and don’t pollute the vegetation or water bodies around them.

– Canola Oil:

Out of many vegetable oils, various manufacturers have tested canola oil and found it optimal for use in a chainsaw. Due to its lubrication and adhesion, it can be an effective replacement for petroleum-based lubricants.

Lubricating a Chainsaw Bar, Step-by-Step:

Once we have the suitable oil type selected, our next step is to lubricate the bar of our chainsaw. We shall do that step-by-step.

● Step 1: Perform initial steps:

Before adding any oil into the chainsaw, make sure that the engine is cooled down if it’s a gas-powered chainsaw. In battery-powered chainsaws, always make sure the battery is removed, so you don’t run the risk of the saw accidentally starting up while we are performing the oil addition.

Also, make sure that the chainsaw is placed on a flat surface. A table would be ideal as we won’t have any difficulty pouring the oil into the container.

● Step 2: Locate the oil reservoir:

Most chainsaws have a separate oil reservoir that stores the bar and chain oil and lubricates the bar with it. An oil pump is responsible for circulating that oil into the bar’s groove where the chain fits in. The cap of this reservoir is situated right near the handle. So, if you find the cap, make sure you unscrew it and place it at the side.

● Step 3: Pour the oil into the reservoir:

Let us now perform the oil addition into the chainsaw. It would be best to manage a funnel to quickly guide the oil down into the reservoir and prevent it from spilling on the saw. Make sure the oil is filled right up to the top but avoid overfilling at the same time.

● Step 4: Run the chainsaw for a while:

Once the oil addition is complete, secure the oil cap and run your engine for a few minutes. This would cause the oil pump to distribute the oil evenly on the bar and subsequently on the chain.

Related Questions:

● 1. How to fix a chainsaw leaking bar oil?

One of the most common experiences of using a chainsaw is bar oil leaking from the saw. There can be various causes to it. We shall investigate the causes and learn how to fix them.

– Causes of Leaking Bar Oil:

It is relatively common for oil to be formed on your chainsaw, especially after running it for a while. This happened when the oil reservoir was filled to the fullest. As a result, the chain drew a higher portion of the oil from the tank. As the chain rotates, some amount of oil is flung onto the chainsaw’s body, and therefore you see it in the form of oil droplets.

As long as you only see these oil droplets on your saw, it is not an alarming issue. You can easily prevent it by leaving some portion of the oil reservoir empty. However, if your saw is leaking oil higher than usual in the form of small oil puddles, then this points towards a fault in the oil delivery line.

– Fixing Leaking Bar Oil:

To troubleshoot this, you can tilt your chainsaw over and remove its cover to examine the oil line. The oil line transports the oil from the reservoir to the oil pump. If there is a significant oil buildup around the line, then there’s a leak in it, and hence it needs to be replaced with a new one.

Before replacing the oil line, make sure the oil reservoir has been emptied. Next, unscrew the engine mountings bolts and fasteners (if any) to access the line. Use a flat head screwdriver to disconnect it from the holes. Fix a new oil line at its place and reattach everything removed.

● 2. How to check if the chainsaw is oiling the bar and chain?

After filling the oil in your chainsaw, you want to ensure that oil is delivered to the bar and chain to perform lubrication. There are three different ways of checking this that are pretty easy, and you can perform them all by yourself.

– Visual inspection:

To check if your chain is receiving oil, run your chainsaw’s engine for a while and then shut it off. Inspect the chain by touching your finger to it gently. If you feel oil on your fingers, then it means that the oiler is oiling the chain properly. You can also lift the chain and see if there’s an oil film at the interface with the bar.

– Placing cardboard to check the oil spray:

As an adequately lubricated chainsaw runs, some of the oil droplets are sprayed onto the surroundings. To check that, you can place a piece of cardboard on the side of a wall. Bring your chainsaw about a few inches close to the cardboard and run your engine for a few seconds. If you notice a fine oil spray being formed on the cardboard, it means that the bar and chain are getting sufficient oil.

– Inspect the oiler hole:

You should troubleshoot the oiler hole if the first two methods do not give any signs of oil. In this method, you need to remove the side cover of your chainsaw to access the bar and chain. After that, you need to remove the bar and chain from the shaft. To check if the oil goes into the bar and chain, start up the chainsaw. Avoid revving it too high, as this might cause the clutch to come off. If you can see the drops of oil coming out of the hole, it means that the oiler pump is working perfectly. If no oil droplets come out, you may need to check the oil line or examine the oil pump.

● 3. Can you use any oil for chainsaw bar oil?

Chainsaw bar oils are different from the motor oils rated by SAE. These oils are rated based on their viscosity as summer-grade or winter-grade oils. If a bar oil is not available, you can use any vegetable oil or, more preferably, canola oil in its place. If you want to use motor oil, prefer using SAE 30 in summers and SAE 10 in winters to lubricate your bar and chain.

● 4. Is chainsaw bar oil same the same as motor oil?

Compared with motor oil, bar-and-chain oil is stickier, and hence it stays on the chain for a more extended period and prevents the chain from flinging off the bar. On the other hand, motor oils are less sticky and more prone to fall off the chain. Hence, you will need to refill your oil reservoir more quickly if you use motor oil instead of the regular bar-and-chain oil.

Final Remarks

In short, lubrication is the key to ensure the long life of any mechanical equipment. For chainsaws, the chains need to be oiled correctly to guard them against wear and rust formation. While purchasing any lubricant, it is better first to consult the owner’s manual of your device and check the manufacturer’s recommendation about the grade and viscosity of the oil. Using a lubricant with the correct grade reduces friction and saves you from unwanted hitches.

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