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Gas Chainsaw with Electric Start: Tips from a Professional

Chainsaws are powerful machines used for various purposes, such as felling trees, limbing, carving sculptures, debarking, and milling logs to obtain wood for useful purposes. They are handy tools for both amateurs as well as professional woodworkers.

In this article, I will look at two questions I get a lot: a gas chainsaw with an electric start and the built-in chain tension adjustment that you find on many modern chainsaws.

Gas Chainsaw with Electric Start

Typically, gasoline-powered chainsaws employ a pull chord mechanism to start the engine. The chord rotates the clutch assembly, which drives the crankshaft to ignite the fuel in cylinders. Starting a chainsaw with a pull chord may become tedious, especially when you are less powerful, or the chainsaw has been sitting for a while, or in winter when cold.

Hence, one may wonder if there’s a way to bypass the conventional mechanism and instead use a much easier alternative to start the chainsaw.

Gas chainsaws with an electric start:

All gasoline chainsaws have a pull chord mechanism to start the engine. Although this can be a tedious procedure, at this time, no major manufacturer has developed an electric start mechanism for chainsaws. Some users have retrofitted their chainsaw’s drive sprockets with electric starters. Another alternative is coupling an electric drill with the sprocket and using it to start the engine.

● Is there a chainsaw with an electric start?

As of now, non of the main chainsaw brands have developed a gasoline chainsaw that starts with electric power. However, users have customized their models in various ways to tailor their needs.

Despite various advancements in chainsaws lately, there still doesn’t exist an in-built electric start mechanism on gasoline-powered chainsaws. Chainsaw manufacturers, nevertheless, have made efforts to assist in starting a chainsaw smoothly and easily. These include spring-assisted starting mechanisms and hot spark devices etc.

● Chainsaw Electro Start Retrofit

Some chainsaw engines can be retrofitted to incorporate an electric starting mechanism. A starting motor is coupled to the flywheel externally to rev up the engine.

Retrofitting capability is provided by some manufacturers such as Honda, Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, etc. To check if your chainsaw is capable of being retrofitted, consult its user manual and see if it has instructions on performing the whole procedure.

– Method 1: Electric Starter:

Once it’s confirmed that your engine can be modified, you should begin searching for a suitable electric starter. You can find useful information in your engine’s manual related to the type and rating of electric starters. Typically, most engines use a 120V electric starter. Some starters come with a battery, while some may need a socket. You can find some electric starters here.

These starters are usually coupled to the engine’s flywheel. For this modification, some flywheels are designed as ring gears with teeth along their periphery. The starter’s gear teeth are meshed with the flywheel’s ring gear until they are perfectly aligned axially. Once this is done, turn on the starter and check if the engine revs.

You should note that most flywheels may not have ring gear teeth. In that case, you will need a flywheel built with these teeth. Check if your owner’s manual provides any information. If not, let’s switch to an alternative.

– Method 2: Electric Drill:

If the above method isn’t feasible, you can use an electric drill to help start your engine. All you need is a socket that fits into the flywheel nut and connects to the drill. One of the ways of doing it is using a square bolt with a shank that fits into the drill. The square head can be grinded to fit the socket that connects to the nut.

Once the fitting is complete, make sure you prime the carburetor with fuel and turn on the drill to check if it starts the engine. While performing this procedure, you may need to remove your chainsaw’s outer cover/shroud so that the flywheel assembly is fully exposed.

This method may not look as nice as a real electric starter, but the advantage is that it is a cheaper solution, and the chainsaw itself does not get heavier.

Chainsaw Toolless Chain Tensioning

In chainsaws, the guide bar provides a slot for the drive links to fit and slide along the bar’s length. A chain having the right amount of tension ensures an efficient cutting performance. Most modern chainsaws have a built-in chain tension adjustment, also known as toolless chain tensioning. I will look at this in more detail in this article.

Chainsaw toolless tensioning:

A toolless tensioner uses a couple of handles to tighten a loose chainsaw chain manually. The tensioner is present adjacent to the drive sprocket. First, the chain is disengaged from the clutch using a handle. Then the second handle tightens the chain. This procedure doesn’t require any external tool; hence we call it toolless chain tensioning.

The following section provides a detailed explanation of the method along with more chain tensioning techniques.

● What is Tool-less Chain Tensioning?

Most chainsaws have an in-built chain tensioner which allows you to tighten your chain without using any external tool.

Chainsaw chains tend to get loose after a certain time. This occurs partly due to chain wear and tear along with thermal expansion, increasing its length by a few inches. To check if your chain tension is adequate, pick a chain link and pull it towards yourself. If the link pulls up from its original position but sits back when released, you have the right amount of chain tension.

The chain tension must be adjusted if it hangs down and doesn’t fit back in. For such chains, most chainsaws have a toolless chain tensioning system.

● How do you Tighten a Chain using a Tool-less Tensioner?

While dealing with the chain, please ensure that you wear safety gloves to avoid any injury to your fingers. To tighten the chain using a tool-less tensioner, follow the steps mentioned below:

  • Step 1: Turn the handle: The chain tensioner consists of a handle and a thumb wheel, usually located on the right side of your chainsaw near the clutch assembly. An external handle needs to be rotated anticlockwise by half a turn so that the clutch can be disengaged and the tensioner can be activated.
  • Step 2: Turn the thumb wheel: Now, rotate the thumb wheel downwards (or clockwise) till the chain becomes tight enough and doesn’t sag downward. You also need to avoid tightening the chain, so it doesn’t slide along the guide bar.
  • Step 3: Turn the handle back: After the chain is tightened, rotate the handle back by half a turn to engage the clutch. Turn the engine back on and disengage the chain brake to begin the cutting.

Most users who replace their chainsaw chains encounter problems when the tensioner doesn’t adjust the chain much. This happens when the chain is too large for the tensioner to tighten it. In these cases, I recommend detaching the chain and removing a few links so that it develops sufficient tension.

● How Do You Tighten a Chainsaw Chain by Shortening it?

Shortening the chain requires eliminating some links till the tension becomes substantial. To begin this procedure, determine whether your chain has a master link; manufacturers include a master link to make the link removal process easier.

– Chains having a master link:

The master link is noticeably different from the other links in the chain and can be easily recognized. Once found, follow the instructions below:

  • Open the master link: You may need to use pliers to open the master link. To open the master link, remove its rivets with a set of pliers.
  • Remove the link adjacent to it: Once the master link is open, remove the link next to it by breaking/opening its rivets.
  • Reattach the master link: Reconnect the master link to the point where the removed link was previously present. Insert the rivets and close them using a hammer/rivet gun. Because a link was removed, the chain length has been adjusted.

Please be cautious of the sharp drive links on the chain while performing this technique so that you do not hurt yourself. Also, while adjusting the links, make sure that the spacing between the drive links remains constant.

– Chains lacking a master link:

A chain breaker tool is required to open links in chains that do not have a master link. The rivets are broken open with the chain breaker tool. Use a rivet gun to reattach the links. Mentioned below is the step-by-step procedure:

  • Break open the link: The method is the same in this situation because the links must be removed. In this instance, you should place the desired link under a chain-breaking tool and rotate its lever until you hear a popping sound. One of the rivets on one side of the link has been removed. Repeat on the other side of the chain on the same link until the link is detached.
  • Remove the links: Take that link out of the chain. We’ll begin by deleting one link and then see if the chain tension is adequate. If not, you must continue to remove the chain links until the tension becomes sufficient for the chainsaw.
  • Reconnect the Chain: After removing the link/s, reattach the chain from both open ends. Align the drive and chain links and insert rivets into the holes. Using a rivet gun, snap the rivet ends together.