Chainsaw without Bar Oil. Tips from a Professional


If you are a homeowner or professional woodworker, chances are you have used a chainsaw before. One important aspect to remember about this garden tool is that it needs bar and chain oil to function optimally. From my own experience, I can tell you that the absence of using a bar and chain oil will most likely cause extensive wear on the machine and can create an unsafe situation.

Chainsaw without bar oil.

In general, using a chainsaw without bar oil is full of risks as it affects the chain performance and service life and poses a threat of kickbacks during operation. If bar oil isn’t available, various alternatives such as WD-40, motor oil, or some hydraulic oils can be used as alternatives. However, long-term usage of these alternatives isn’t recommended, and you should consider investing in a good quality bar and chain oil for better performance.

In this blog post, I will explain more about chainsaw lubricants and their alternatives. How often should you add oil, and what types can you use.

What Happens to a Chainsaw without Bar Oil?

A chainsaw that is used without bar oil will soon stop functioning. If you cut a material that builds up dust on the chain, such as drywall. The dust will cake up on the saw and make it harder to cut. It can also lead to dirt sticking in your saw’s teeth and causing damage. In some cases, the damage can lead to kickbacks on the saw.

The primary function of the bar oil is to lubricate the saw chain when it is in use. Without lubrication, your chainsaw can quickly wear down and start malfunctioning. Bar oil also helps cool the saw chain as it’s running, which keeps it from overheating and burning up.

If a chainsaw is overheated, it can cause damage to the piston cylinders. I have seen cases of the engine getting seized up due to the engine running hot. Even if the chainsaw doesn’t fail, the heat alone is enough to cause the scoring of the cylinder wall. Also, inadequate lubrication of the bar oil leads to an increased risk of kickbacks.

Kicking back occurs when a blade gets stuck in one place and kicks up from the material it was cutting. This can cause serious injury if you’re working with your chainsaw at the time.

If you are looking for ways to work around this problem, there are some options:

  • Adequate oil supply: Do not use your saw if it is missing bar oil or if you do not have a enough oil on hand
  • Use alternatives: You can also buy items that mimic bar oil and will allow your saw to function for short periods without actual bar oil, such as WD-40, cooking spray oil, or vegetable oil
  • Engine oil: Vehicles’ engine oil can be used to create a makeshift bar oil if the engine is running and allowed to heat up. However, this should only be used in rare cases and never be applied for long-term use.

What can I Use instead of Chainsaw Bar Oil?

You can use various oils in place of bar oil, such as vegetable oil, WD-40, or motor oil. However, it is important to note that these are not lubricants and will not keep your chainsaw running smoothly. You should use them sparingly, if at all, as they may cause damage over time.

Alternatives for chainsaw bar oil

1. WD-40

WD-40 can be used to lubricate your chainsaw’s chain in a similar way to bar oil. However, it is important to note that WD-40 is not designed for this use and does not have the same properties as bar oil. For example, WD-40 lacks anti-wear chemicals which help protect your chainsaw from burning up.

WD-40 is a product designed for lubricating locks and removing things like adhesives, not for running your chainsaw smoothly. You should also note that WD-40 will cause short-term damage to the rubber components in your engine as it dries them out. That being said, you can use a small amount to lubricate your chainsaw in a pinch, but I do not recommend it.

2. Motor oil

Motor oil can also be used as an alternative for bar oil in a pinch. It is important to note that using motor oil may damage your engine’s rubber components. So I recommend using caution. It is better to use other alternatives if possible.

3. Vegetable oil

A small amount of vegetable oil can be used in place of bar oil. It is important to note that you should only use this method for a short while. If you have better alternatives, avoid using it. This is because using vegetable oil with your chainsaw will damage the rubber components of your engine. Vegetable oil does not keep your chainsaw lubricated or cool the way bar oil does.

Related Questions:

1. Is there a substitute for bar and chain oil?

Yes, there are a few substitutes for bar oil. One of the most popular is vegetable oil. Other alternatives include machine oils and transmission fluids and other types of oils used in power tools like 10-weight motor oil or hydraulic fluid.

However, none of these substitutes will work better than bar and chain oil, and it should be noted that alternative lubricants can break down the pitch on a saw chain causing early failure. Also, let me tell you that these oils do not have anti-rust properties. This is important for proper operation and preventing rusting on metal surfaces where sawdust collects around the guide bar bushings.

2. How often should you add bar oil to the chainsaw?

It depends on the type of chainsaw. There are two types: solid and oilless. If you have an older-style oilless chainsaw, it will need to have oil added every time you refuel with gas. Newer solid-type chains do not require you to add bar oil after each refueling, but they’re still needs to be some lubrication for the chain to run smoothly and safely.

For this reason, operators should check the guide bar groove daily if they are using a new style solid-type saw chain by removing dust or dirt from the groove and adding one or two drops of bar oil if needed to prevent rusting in the guide bar bushing area. This also applies when using a “dry” type of bar and chain.

The old oil-type chainsaw needs to have the bar and chain oil added after every refueling during the tune-up process (which should be done four times a year). The bar oil reservoir also has to be refilled each time it gets low.

3. Is chainsaw bar oil the same as motor oil?

No, chainsaw bar oil contains additives that are not found in motor oil. It also has lubricating properties for the chain and guide bar bushing area. Oil-type saw chains tend to need more frequent bearing replacement as this is where most of the wear occurs on an oilless chain saw.

If you use a newer solid-type saw chain, add one or two drops of bar oil to keep the moving parts lubricated which will help extend the life of these parts, such as bearings and bushings. I would say that motor oil does provide enough lubrication, but it possesses a higher viscosity which is not ideal for use in a chainsaw. Thicker oils tend to create viscous friction, which causes unnecessary heating up of the chain.

4. Is it okay to add engine oil or transmission fluid?

No, do not use engine oil or transmission fluid to clog up and damage some types of bearings/bushings in modern chainsaws. These types of oils are not meant to be used on a chainsaw.

Being a professional, I would say that engine oil isn’t ideal for long-term usage as a bar oil due to its viscosity. Bar oils should be lighter and less viscous so that they can circulate throughout the chain freely. Engine oils are specially formulated to be used at much higher temperatures inside the engine. Hence, engine oil wouldn’t be suitable at the bar and chain, where the temperature is relatively lower. Also, I have seen that chains that were lubricated with a viscous grade of engine oil readily attracted dirt and other foreign agents, thus eventually affecting its speed and performance.

5. Can I use gear oil for bar oil?

No, as stated previously, chainsaw bar oil is not the same as gear oil. Motor oils are meant for engines, and gear oils are typically used for gears in transmissions or axles of commercial vehicles like semi-trucks. They cannot be used interchangeably.

What lubricants can I use if I am not using bar oil?

An operator can use 10-weight motor oil or transmission fluid in an emergency, but these oils are not meant for saw chains and saws that don’t have the bar oil system.

If you have a newer solid-type chain, it should be lubricated with one or two drops of bar oil after every refueling (after each refueling). “Dry” type chainsaws do not need to add any bar or chain oil between tune-ups as long as there is still a little bit left in the reservoir to disperse water. Some manufacturers recommend using anti-rust spray on older oil-less saws around the guide bar bushing area when adding gas to help prevent rusting, which will help prolong the service life of these components.

6. Can I use engine oil as chain lube?

I do not recommend using engine oil as saw chain lube. Engine oils are designed to lubricate the bearings and piston rings which have much higher pressures than a chainsaw bar and chain system. They are not designed to handle the higher pressures and resistance of a bar/chain system.

Using engine oil as bar oil can cause it to get on the chain guide bar bushing, leading to premature rusting of these components and causing them to fail and need replacement earlier than normal. This is why saw manufacturers recommend using their specific brand of saw bar oil to lubricate the chain and guide bar area. This helps for long-term use with no breakdown or deteriorating effects on metal surfaces.

In a pinch, when you are out in the woods and cannot find bar oil to add to your saw, you can use vehicle transmission fluid or gear oil as a temporary solution which is okay if you need to lubricate the chain more frequently than once every refueling.

This will help prevent rust from forming in this area, leading to early failure of the guide bar bushing and other components such as bearings. However, this should not be considered normal wear for a chainsaw, and its use should only last for one or two days maximum before adding standard bar oil is required.

One downside of using these types of oils for bar oil is that they do not disperse water and standard saw bar oil. So there is a greater likelihood that rust will form on these components sooner. You must wipe all of the oil from these surfaces after every use to prevent any water spots from forming, which can lead to early component wear and failure.

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