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Chainsaw Lubricant: Tips from a Professional

If you own a chainsaw, you know lubricating your chain is really important. You can use your chainsaw for a variety of jobs ranging from sawing, pruning, bucking, to even debarking. Like all machines, the maintenance of a chainsaw plays a vital role in ensuring superior cutting performance. Keeping your chainsaw well-oiled is crucial to ensuring its longevity and top-notch performance.

Chainsaw lubricant:

In general, guide bar oil and engine oil are the prime lubricants used to reduce friction between moving parts. Electric chainsaws use only guide bar oil. Petroleum-based oils and vegetable oils are used to grease the guide bar and chain. In contrast, synthetic motor oils are used to lubricate the chainsaw’s engine. The guide bar oil is added to a separate oil reservoir which circulates it thoroughly across the bar and chain. The engine oil is mixed with the fuel in a specific ratio and then poured into the engine.

In this blog post, I will explain why your chainsaw needs a lubricant, what type you need, how you can select the best lubricant for your chainsaw, and how often you need to use it.

Why is lubricant needed in a Chainsaw?

In chainsaws, adequate lubrication must exist between the bar and the chain to reduce friction and overheating. It ensures that the chain runs smoothly and remains attached to the guide bar while rotating.

In machines, metal-to-metal contact has to be avoided at all costs, especially when high speeds are involved. The contact results in friction which generates heat. If the speed is large enough, the friction might be sufficient to melt the guide bar oil and eventually overheat the engine. Due to this reason, a bar and chain oil is introduced between the chain and the guide bar, which forms a thin film of oil between the metallic surfaces and eliminates metal-to-metal contact. It also provides adhesion by keeping the chain attached to the bar.

Most chainsaws operate on two-stroke engines. For these engines, no separate oil reservoir exists as it is present in four-stroke engines. The engine oil has to be mixed with the fuel in an adequate quantity and must be added to the fuel tank. This mix ensures that the engine components like the piston do not brush against the cylinder walls, and instead, an oil film exists between the two surfaces.

How Often should you Lubricate your Chainsaw?

I recommend adding and check the Most chainsaw manufacturers recommend you lubricate the guide bar and chain each time you refuel your device.

In most modern chainsaws, the oil in the reservoir lasts just like the fuel in the tank. This means that one tank of oil is consumed per tank of gas. The oil consumption increases if a longer guide bar is used or the engine runs on WOT.

What kind of Lubricants are used in a Chainsaw?

In chainsaws, petroleum-based oils are used to lubricate the guide bar and the chain. At the same time, synthetic motor oils mixed with fuel perform the engine’s lubrication.

● Bar and Chain Lubes:

Bar and chain oils ensure that the chain slides over the guide bar smoothly. Also, they ensure that the chain doesn’t sling off the bar due to its high velocity. Various alternatives and grades are available for bar and chain lubes.

– Petroleum-based Oils:

Petroleum-based lubricants are designed to provide chainsaw chains and bars with the lubrication and adhesion they require. These oils can come in a variety of grades, depending on whether it’s summer or winter. Fresh motor oil can be used as a substitute if petroleum-based lube is unavailable. Exhausted engine oil from your vehicles should not be used since it is dirty and lacks the viscosity that the chain requires.

Grade: Summer or Winter

In contrast to the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) grades based on weights, a bar-and-chain oil is classified differently depending on whether it is used in the summer or winter. The oil used in the summer is usually thicker since the viscosity of the oil decreases as the temperature rises. Winter-grade oils, on the other hand, are thinner and have a lower viscosity than summer-grade oils.

– Vegetable Oil:

If a petroleum-based lubricant isn’t available, vegetable oil is one of the most widely utilized replacements for bar-and-chain oil. Various types of vegetable oil have been studied and determined to be effective and appropriate for use in a chain and bar by manufacturers. These oils have a lower viscosity than petroleum derivatives and are also quite inexpensive. Vegetable oils are also environmentally benign, as they do not harm the surrounding plants or water bodies.

Canola Oil

Canola oil, also known as rapeseed oil, has been deemed compatible for use in chainsaws. It has a sufficiently lower viscosity and is also bio-friendly and non-toxic.

● Engine Oils:

As explained earlier, the engine oil is mixed with the fuel in a ratio of 50:1. Knowing various oil types is crucial to make the best choice regarding the application. These different types are provided below:

– High Performance (HP) Oils:

The HP two-stroke oil is a new synthetic oil that has been pivotal in the excellent performance of two-stroke engines and garden power tools. It was created to work with low-quality fuels. HP oils maintain the engine clean and avoid ring sticking by preventing coatings buildup on the cylinder walls and crankcase. This oil is designed for use in water-cooled engines that are small to medium in size. The most frequent producers of such oils are Husqvarna and Stihl.

– Low Smoke (LS) Oils:

Low smoke (LS) two-stroke engine oil is a blend of synthetic and mineral oils produced by Husqvarna. The engine produces a small amount of smoke when using this oil type. It also reduces the peak temperature of the engine, extending the component’s service life. In addition, by enhancing the lubrication between the piston and the cylinder walls, the formulation of LS lubricants inhibits piston seizures.

As a precaution, never use two-stroke lubricants designed for water-cooled engines in non-water-cooled engines, generally known as outboard engines. Also, keep in mind that oil from a four-stroke engine should not be used.

– Mineral Oils:

Mineral oils, which are produced from petroleum, are the opposite of wholly synthetic oils. They are less expensive than synthetic ones and provide adequate lubrication. However, as compared to synthetic oils, they are less clean since extended use can create sticky deposits in the engine, causing performance to suffer and maintenance costs to rise.

As a result, manufacturers frequently use additives like detergents, stabilizers, and octane enhancers to give a clean burn and improve the combustion qualities of these oils. These lube with additives are known as semi-synthetic oils.

How to Perform your Chainsaw’s Lubrication?

Oiling your chainsaw’s components isn’t a demanding job and a very handy skill for a homeowner. With the right oil type at your disposal, this job can be performed without any trouble. We have listed the step-by-step approach to grease your chainsaw, whether the engine or the guide bar and chain.

● Guide Bar and Chain:

The oil responsible for greasing the bar and chain is poured into the oil reservoir next to the handle. By following the steps mentioned below, you can perform this oil addition quite easily.

– Step 1: Start with the basics:

Before adding any oil to a gas-powered chainsaw, be sure the engine is not hot. Remove the battery from battery-powered chainsaws before pouring oil to avoid the saw starting up accidentally.

As also, please ensure the chainsaw is on a flat surface. If we use a table, we won’t have any trouble pouring the oil into the container.

– Step 2: Locate the oil reservoir:

The oil for the bar and chain is carried in a separate oil reservoir on most chainsaws. The oil is distributed into the bar’s chain-fitting groove by an oil pump. The cap for this reservoir is just next to the handle. So, if you happen to find a cap, make sure to take it off and lay it aside.

– Step 3: Add oil to the reservoir:

It’s now time to lubricate the chainsaw. It’s best to use a funnel to quickly channel the oil into the reservoir and avoid spilling it on the saw. Make sure the oil reaches the top of the container. However, don’t overfill it.

– Step 4: Start the chainsaw and let it run for a few minutes:

Seal the oil cover after adding the oil and running the engine for a few minutes. As a result, the oil pump will circulate the oil evenly on the bar and, eventually, on the chain.

● Engine Oil:

The engine oil, in this case, has to be mixed with the fuel. The step-by-step approach is provided as follows: 

– Step 1: Select the suitable oil and fuel type:

Before proceeding, make sure you’ve selected the suitable oil kind for your chainsaw. The oil types are listed above as low smoke (LS), high performance (HP), etc. Based on your application, choose the oil. Next, choose the appropriate fuel type. The most common fuels types are ethanol-blended (E10) and regular unleaded types. Both these types are deemed fit for use in chainsaw engines.

Expert opinion:

I talked with many experienced chainsaw users, and high-quality two-stroke lubes produced by Stihl, Echo, Mobile 1, and Lawnboy are mostly mentioned. So my recommendation is that you should buy from these brands instead of going for some cheap alternatives. Also, make sure the fuel’s octane number is 89.

– Step 2: Find a clean container:

The container holding the fuel-oil mix should be free of any contamination. Dirty oil cans result in fuel contamination by attracting dirt and debris. These deposits can build up and eventually clog the carburetor jets, making it difficult to start the engine.

– Step 3: Prepare the Fuel-Oil Mix:

The oil and fuel need to be mixed in the right proportion. For the exact mixing ratio, consult the owner’s manual of your chainsaw. For most 75cc engines, the correct mixing ratio is 50:1, meaning that 5L of fuel should be mixed in 100mL of oil. For engines larger than 75cc, the fuel to oil ratio is 33:1, implying that 5L gasoline should be mixed in 152mL of oil.

  • Engine seizures: Based on my experience, using a crude oil mix (that has been kept for 30 days) can negatively affect the chainsaw’s engine. Rich fuel/oil mixtures (greater than 50:1), apart from the stale oil, are a prime cause of engine seizures.
  • Fuel/oil quantity: For old engines, I recommend that you use a higher quantity of oil (a mixing ratio of 16:1). Cylinder walls aren’t that strong, and more oil would protect the engine components, although the engine would smoke more due to higher oil content. For newer engines, though, the mixing ratio can be as rich as 50:1, but going richer than that would starve the engine from oil and could be damaging to its condition. Also, more fuel means more combustible content, which eventually raises the maximum temperature of an engine during a cycle.
  • Lean fuel/oil mixes: Also, ensure that you don’t run your newer saws with a lean mixing ratio of 16:1. This decreases the fuel/air ratio and causes the engine to run lean. This may lead to overheating and eventually seizure.
  • Punch-line: So, the takeaway is; the mixing ratio should be towards a richer side (higher fuel content) for newer engines, while it should be towards a leaner side (high oil content) for older engines.

– Step 4: Add the Mix to the Engine:

Finally, the mixture is ready to be added to your engine. For better convenience, use a funnel to direct the mix into the engine. Once full, seal the oil cap and clean any spills nearby. Your engine is all set to run again.