Chainsaw Maintenance, the Ultimate Guide:


Like all machines, chainsaws require regular maintenance to give you optimal performance and also ensures safety. A blunt or wrongly adjusted chainsaw will not cut fine, forcing you to apply force, which could result in a more dangerous situation. For many users, a device such as a chainsaw can seem to be beyond their technical know-how. But knowing basic maintenance procedures is not that challenging if you know how to do it. And when you are working on a job, it is nice to fix specific problems yourself, instead of stopping and first consult a professional before you can continue. Most maintenance is not too complicated and requires only a little knowledge and experience. Before you start maintenance or servicing, become familiar with the user manual. It will provide you a basic introduction to maintenance and user-serviceable parts and how to work with them. This guide focuses more on gas chainsaws, but some of the maintenance also applies to electric or cordless chainsaws.

Chainsaw Maintenance, the Ultimate Guide:

  • Cleaning: chainsaws rapidly become clogged with oil-soaked dirt and debris, resulting in overheating and other issues. Regularly clean your chainsaw; remove debris build-ups using a cloth or a brush.
  • Chain maintenance: Chain maintenance involves chain sharpening and tension adjusting. You should replace the chain with a new one if it is damaged beyond repair.
  • Sprocket maintenance: inspect the sprockets for damage and regularly lubricate.
  • Air filter maintenance: regularly check and clean the air filter, washing it thoroughly with water and soap.
  • Fuel filter maintenance: clean the fuel filter with a cleaning liquid.
  • Carburetor adjustment: Carburetor adjustment should be performed based on your chainsaw’s behavior. If your chainsaw’s engine stalls under acceleration or stalls at idle etc., you should adjust the carburetor.
  • Starter maintenance: clean the starter housing, check the rope for damage and replace it if needed.
  • Spark plug maintenance: inspect the spark plug for carbon build-up. Clean the build-up and adjust the plug gap.
  • Lubrication: ensure your chainsaw is lubricated. Maintain the right oil level and change oil when necessary.
  • Fresh gas and fuel stabilizer: drain old gas, if any. Always use fresh gas. If you do not use your chainsaw for an extended period, use some fuel stabilizer.

Without further wait, let’s get into the details of these maintenance procedures.

Chainsaw Maintenance, the complete guide:

Chainsaw maintenance involves cleaning your machine and keeping the various parts in perfect condition. Some maintenance needs to be done regularly, like cleaning, adding fresh gas, and checking your chain. Some of the maintenance only needs to be done once per year.

● Cleaning the Chainsaw:

Both gas and electric chainsaws work in a world of dust and wood debris. This is why they frequently become clogged with debris soaked in chain oil that can lead to poor handling of the chainsaw and decreased engine performance. Overheating can reduce the cutting efficiency significantly.

The first rule of chainsaw maintenance is to keep it clean. Don’t just pack your chainsaw after finishing a task. Instead, clean it with a piece of cloth. Ensure no build-up of debris around the engine, fuel tank, fins, air intake, and the chain and bar. It would be best if you also cleaned the area under the bar cover regularly.

The best practice is to keep a cover on the chain when the machine is not used to protect the cutting edges from getting dirty or damaged. And keep yourself or others from hurting yourself.

● Chainsaw Chain Maintenance:

If the chain chatters while running and produces sawdust instead of small chips, makes curved cuts, or fails to cut, it needs to be sharpened.

Remove the chain by removing the bolts at the bar’s base, remove the bar, and remove the chain from the drive sprocket. Thoroughly inspect the chain for damage to the tie straps, rivets, and drive links.

If you think that the chain is serviceable, either remount it on the bar by rotating it over to go back on with the bottom groove on the top to ensure even wear. If it’s been a while since the last chain maintenance, place it in a solvent bath to soften the tar and dirt and scrub it with a brush. Then dry it and put it in a shallow bath of clean 10-weight motor oil for around 12 hours.

Reinstall the cleaned chain on the bar and start sharpening with a file or another method suitable to your chain size. You may consult the user manual for info on the correct file size.

Remount the sharpened chain, with the cutting teeth pointing forward on the top. Adjust the tension on the bar by turning the tensioner screw such that the chain is snug but can still be turned over comfortably. Ensure there is no slack hanging under the bar. First, tighten the bar nut at the back while pulling up on the bar’s front, and recheck the tension before tightening the bar’s front nut.

● Chainsaw Sprocket Maintenance:

There might be one or two sprockets on your chainsaw that will need regular maintenance. The drive sprocket located on the centrifugal clutch at the bar’s base will eventually wear out, but not before several chains have been replaced (usually). Check its teeth for wear and damage and replace them if necessary. You may lubricate the drive sprocket, but you don’t want to overdo it as excess oil on the sprocket can reach the clutch.

If your chainsaw has a nose sprocket, inspect it for wear and damage and lubricate it as well.

● Chainsaw Air Filter Maintenance:

The air filter from a gas chainsaw rapidly becomes dirty because of all the dirt and debris flying around. Check and clean the air filter regularly. Air filter maintenance is quite simple. Remove the air filter and clean it by washing it with soap and water. While you’re working on the filter, clean the outside of the carburetor with the choke closed. If the filter is dirty but not in bad condition, carefully knock it against a clean surface to force out as many dirt particles as possible. Then use a brush to clean it thoroughly. If it is hard to clean, or it is damaged, replace it.

● Chainsaw Fuel Filter Maintenance:

There is a fuel filter located in the fuel tank or at the end of the fuel line. Remove it using a piece of bent wire and clean it with a suitable solvent. If it is beyond repair, replace it with a new one.

Check the fuel cap gasket and the air vent as well. Drain and dispose of any fuel older than 1 to 2 months. Replace it with fresh fuel recommended by your manufacturer. If you do not use your chainsaw for an extended time, remove the gas or use a fuel stabilizer to keep the gas from turning bad.

● Chainsaw Carburetor Adjustment:

Most gas chainsaws have three carburetor adjustment screws:

  • Low-speed adjustment: a low-speed mix which is marked L
  • High-speed adjustment: a high-speed mix which is marked H
  • Idle adjustment: an idle speed adjustment which is marked I or T.

Most users need to deal with the idle speed mix only if the engine idles so slowly that it stalls at idle or so fast that it turns the chain at idle. Adjustments are required because the engine should idle comfortably without the chain moving. Suppose the engine stalls under acceleration; you should open the low-speed adjustment screw L slightly. If it races at idle, you should open the high-speed adjustment screw.

If your chainsaw has a smoky exhaust, it is a sign of a too-rich fuel mix, and the screw(s) should be closed slightly. Please keep a record of how much you adjust the screws and open or close in small increments at a time. If you lose count, please start again by screwing the low and high-speed screws all the way in and backing off one full turn, and then starting over.

To open a screw, turn it counterclockwise and vice versa.

● Chainsaw Starter Maintenance:

After a long period of use, the starter rope can get damaged. Besides the rope, the starter housing and spring can become damaged or faulty, and they need to be adjusted. For the rope maintenance, pull out the starter rope to its full length and inspect for damage, and test the recoil by releasing the rope to draw back in. If the cord is damaged or any hindrance occurs during rewind, remove the starter housing using a screwdriver. Inside the housing, remove any dirt build-up. Then lubricate the recoil spring with light oil. Replace the rope if it has lost its integrity but be careful not to unleash the wound spring under the pulley. Wear safety goggles for this step and release the spring carefully and slowly by removing the rope.

● Chainsaw Spark Plug Maintenance:

With its fuel mix of petrol and oil, your chainsaw’s two-stroke engine can quickly develop a build-up of black sooty carbon around the electrodes of its spark plug. For spark plug adjustment, use a plug socket to remove the plug and a wire brush to clean it. Use a feeler gauge to measure the gap between the electrodes (usually 0.020 to 0.025in). You can adjust the gap by tapping on the outer electrode to close the gap or levering it open with a flat-bladed screwdriver to widen the gap until it matches the standard plug gap.

A build-up of lumpy material on the electrodes or electrodes that are lighter in color than a dark grey to light brown indicates an air-fuel mix problem. If you are unsure how to fix this, consult a professional. After performing the required adjustments, replace the plug with the socket wrench. Avoid overtightening.

If you buy a new spark plug, make sure it matches the one being replaced.

● Chainsaw Lubrication:

A chainsaw needs to be properly oiled to prevent excessive friction between the guide bar and the chain. If there’s not enough oil, the chain will experience excessive wear and tear and can quickly overheat.

If you’re not sure if there is enough oil in the chainsaw, put a piece of cardboard over it and rev the engine. You should see oil spray onto the surface. If this does not happen, there isn’t enough oil in your chainsaw, and you need to add more. Consult your user manual to find out how to add oil since the process varies for different chainsaws. In case there is enough oil, but it does not reach the chain, check the system that distributes it. Maybe it is clogged.

● Fresh Gas and Stabilizer:

If you haven’t used your chainsaw for an extended time, there’s a good chance that the gas sitting in the tank has been breaking down since the last time you operated it. The gas in a tank can start breaking down in as little as a month, and this can lead to the build-up of a gummy residue inside the carburetor, which can be harmful. It will make the chainsaw challenging to start.

For this reason, the best practice is to use fresh gas every time you use your machine. After using it and storing it for a prolonged time, drain the gas tank. The second option is to use a fuel stabilizer which keeps the gas fresh for a much longer time.

Final Remarks:

If you pay proper attention to your chainsaw’s maintenance, you will surely increase your chainsaw’s life expectancy. It will also improve its performance, will be easier to start and safer to use. Maintaining a chainsaw is not difficult, and all users can learn how to perform the essential tasks. The guidelines provided in this blog post will help you regularly maintain your machine and enhancing its life and performance.

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