How to winterize a chainsaw in 7 steps

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Freeze damage of homesteading tools is a common problem you will encounter during winter. Thus, a question most people ask is how to keep their chainsaws safe from winter frost. Given that winter is not a favorite lumbering season for most people, if not everyone who uses chainsaws to prune branches, keeping them in a safe, warm and cool room until spring, autumn or winter is necessary, if not important. In any case, you are wondering, chainsaws are mostly of metallic construction hence the need to take good care of them during the cold season.

Thus, on answering the question of “how to winterize a chainsaw”, we would say there are many steps that homesteaders can follow to get started. This post will walk you through every step. We will also answer some vital questions homesteaders often ask about winterizing tools; in this case, a chainsaw. But first, let’s explore the basics of winterizing tools.  

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Winterizing chainsaws: What is it?

For a novice homesteader looking to use chainsaws for the first time, the term winterize may be a little strange. Well, let’s start by stating that winterizing tools denotes a process of keeping them from freeze damage. During winter, unused tools are always susceptible to damage caused by cold/frost. Take, for example, water pipes on which cracks would form should you fail to winterize them during cold weather. A burst on water pipes is particularly a common problem during winter because when water freezes inside pipes, it expands. The resulting outward pressure leads to cracks and bursts.

In the case of chainsaws, evidence of freeze damage can manifest as warping or even rust. The latter case would be evident if you don’t oil your chainsaw before heading out to prepare firewood for your winter fireplace. A question then comes to mind, which is, can you lubricate chainsaws to protect them from winter frost? Well, we will provide a comprehensive answer to this question later in this post. Meanwhile, take note that failed starts and thickening oil on your chainsaw is also a sign that you are sawing in chilly conditions.  The bottom line is that winterizing tools is a common practice during cold seasons.

How to use chainsaws in cold conditions

Now, before we walk you through steps to winterizing your chainsaw, a question you would probably want to ask is how to use your tool in cold conditions. First off, let’s admit that you will need extra firewood during winter; chainsaws would be your handiest tools to cut some branches. You can always use tomahawks, machetes or hatchets, but chainsaws will do the job of preparing firewood faster.

Chainsaws are lightweight, easy-to-use and cut wood quickly. However, you will experience a few problems in the process of cutting wood such as thickening oil.  In cold weather, oil becomes less viscous faster than you would imagine. We will explore this too later on in this blog.

On using chainsaws during the cold season, we did some homework and discovered interesting ways of going about it.  Take a look:

Clean the chainsaw and ensure it remains cool

Build up of air when sawing wood during winter will cause overheating even if there is snowfall. You should, therefore, keep your chainsaw cool when sawing in cold conditions. When snow falls, it piles up on a chainsaw, something that eventually restricts the flow of air into and out of the combustion chamber. The result is overheating.

Check and clean fuel system

When ice falls on your chainsaw during winter, some of it may get into the fuel tank. You don’t want this to happen because water is not combustible. It is also noteworthy that water is not a fuel additive. The danger with melted snow getting into the fuel system is that it will cause the engine to splutter or hesitate. And since water is denser than gasoline, things could get worse when it steams. Rusting of inner engine components and fuel lines are the worst you would want to rectify when it comes to using chainsaws during winter.

Put on warm clothing

Sawing timber and cutting branches during winter comes with the challenge of working under extreme freezing conditions given the cold weather. If you don’t dress appropriately when setting out to work, you could end up catching flu or any other diseases associated with cold. Dressing warmly is, therefore, the only way to face the cold outside. Also note that during winter, wood splinters easily when sawing; the more reason you should wear protective warm clothing to guard your eyes against stray wood chips. We recommend putting on a ski mask or face shield as an extra safety measure. Do not forget about your headgear, boots, gloves, and chaps. 

Go for thinner oil and chain bar

When using chainsaws during winter, experts advise using winter grade oil. But what is winter-grade oil? Well, we will look at that shortly. Most importantly, you should find the best one in leading eCommerce stores of homesteading stores nearby. The catch here is that oil thickens fast during winter. The thinner it is, the better it is for your chainsaw. However, take caution not to go for oil that is too thin to serve its purpose effectively.

A thin chain bar is also recommended when sawing during winter. Together with thin oil, a handyman using a chainsaw during winter will find it easy to lubricate the components of this vital homesteading equipment. If you live in regions that restrict the use of petrol oil, don’t worry. There are eco-friendly alternatives such as vegetable oil which is said to make a perfect lubricant. Most importantly, you should always research the best winter-grade oil for your chainsaw. If you cannot order one online from popular eCommerce stores, then ask around for recommendations regarding stores that stock this vital engine add-on.

Winterizing chainsaws-Vital steps to follow

Onto winterizing chainsaws, you should note that the procedure is the same for most homesteading equipment and machines. There are, however, slight variations when it comes to different tools. In this case, we are focusing on chainsaws. If you are not planning to use your chainsaw this winter or the next one, follow the following steps to winterize it:

1. Secure the chainsaw unit

The first step to wintering a chainsaw is securing it for safe storage. You will probably use it after three or four months hence ensure every component of the unit is intact. It is all about the safekeeping of the machine so that next time you want to use it, everything is intact.

2. Clean your chainsaw

After securing the chainsaw, the next phase is ensuring it is very clean. The danger with storing dirty equipment is that dirt degrades their performance, overtime. Think about impurities getting into the fuel tank, you realize cleaning machines like chainsaws is a vital step going into winter. At this stage, you should, therefore, clean your chainsaw thoroughly. Most importantly, we recommend using the right cleaning solutions. Unless it is very necessary, avoid water when washing internal components of a chainsaw.

3. Apply oil to metallic components and moving parts

Oil does not only protect chainsaws from rusting, especially the metallic components but also ensures they remain in great working condition after winter. Thus, at this stage, we advise that you thoroughly oil the chains and metallic surfaces. Take care when oiling the chains. Based on our experience with this equipment, we recommend using a thick piece of cloth to cover the chain bar.

4. Drain fuel from the machine or add a stabilizer

You should not store your chainsaw with fuel in the tank. If you will not be using your machine in the next month or two, drain all the fuel in the tank. It is something that counts as a vital winterizing procedure, if not a necessary step in the whole process. Apart from the fuel tank, drain the carburetor and fuel lines too.

Alternatively, you can add a fuel stabilizer if you don’t want to drain the system. A stabilizer helps guard against gum deposits in the fuel system.

5. Winterize the engine using oil

The next step is winterizing the engine of your chainsaw. To do so, remove the spark plug then pour engine oil in the ratio of 40:1 (1 teaspoon). After adding the oil into the engine, pull the starter at least 8 times. You can do it up to 10 times.  Pulling the starter should help redistribute engine oil in the system. At this point, you can replace the spark plug.

6. Check air filter for damage, replace or clean it

When winterizing your chainsaw, you should also clean the air filter. Check nuts, screws, and bolts. In case of any damaged components, replace them with original spare parts.

7. Keeping your chainsaw during winter

Lastly, if you decide to keep your chainsaw during winter, then do it properly. In this case, we recommend storing it in a room with proper ventilation. The catch with hot rooms is that fuel in the engine system may vaporize resulting in a fire hazard.

Can you lubricate chainsaws using vegetable oil during winter?

First off, let’s reiterate that lubricating machines during winter are part of a crucial winterization procedure. Whether you are planning to use your chainsaw during winter or store it for a month or two, well-lubricated machines deliver optical performance. While petroleum-based oils are the most popular, a question most people have been asking is can they use vegetable oil instead?

The answer is yes. You can lubricate chainsaws using vegetable oil. The advantages of using vegetable oil over petroleum-based variants are notwithstanding many. Because lubricants often end up in the environment, petroleum-based oils tend to be more harmful to human surroundings than plant-based oils. That is not to mention that health hazards associated with handling petroleum products have been a cause of worry for many years now.

Proponents of plant-based lubricants such as vegetable oil, therefore, advocate for a change in environmental laws. Engineering experts, however, advise using vegetable oil on chainsaws only if it is biodegradable and nontoxic. If you are looking to use these oils for the first time on your bar and chain, we recommend canola oil. It is both environmentally-friendly and compatible with most, if not all machine components.  

What happens if you don’t winterize your chainsaw?

Now, with tips on how to winterize a chainsaw at your fingertips, let’s look at a question of what if you don’t do it. What would happen to your chainsaw? The truth is that failing to winterize chainsaws means it will not work properly at the end of the winter season. But that is not the only disadvantage that comes with not oiling the machine or failing to wipe it clean. We did some homework on what happens if you don’t winterize a chainsaw and here is what we found:

The engine will stall

Engines in homesteading tools don’t just stall because of wear and tear. When the snow melts and finds its way into the engine system of your chainsaw, chances are high that the machine will have problems with starting. You could say, the engine will splutter if that happens. Water and fuel don’t mix, worse even if it happens inside a motor of a machine like chainsaws. You don’t want to start having problems with your chainsaw at the end of the winter because that will only push the cost of maintenance higher.

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Rusting

When rust forms on the metallic components of your chainsaw, you should get ready for big trouble. The catch here is that rust degrades machines faster than anything else. If it does not damage your chainsaw completely, then rust will render the most useful parts useless. Think about it this way. If rusting takes place in the fuel tank, what would be the result?

Rust in fuel tank means that fuel going into carburetor will be riddled with impurities. And given that rust are small metallic pieces; their effect on the engine system of your chainsaw will be catastrophic. Even with a good fuel filter, you should anticipate its faster degradation than most parts if rust becomes part of impurities in the fuel tank. Now, you should understand why oiling your machine is part and parcel of a winterizing routine. It is to save it from rusting, a phenomenon that degrades metals.

Warping

While warping may not be common aftermath of freeze damage in chainsaws, there is a possibility it could happen. Warping refers to the bending of metals. In water pipe, warping is arguably the most prevalent consequence of freeze damage. When water freezes inside pipes, it expands, causing them to bend awkwardly.

In chainsaws, warping could be evident in parts such as the chain bar, especially if you fail to lubricate the metallic components of your machine. Other parts can be affected too. Think about it this way. Cold temperatures cause metallic elements to contract. During summer, a slight expansion of metal bars is a common occurrence.

While both phenomena may not affect the performance of your chainsaw, exposure to extreme conditions is unhealthy to both a machine and the person operating it. Machines, therefore, need a little bit of cool temperature and a little bit of warm weather to function optimally.

Final Thoughts

Now, to summarize our discussion, let’s begin by stating that freeze damage is real. Whether you are a proud owner of a brand new chainsaw or any other machine, cold temperatures are unhealthy to machines. From warping, rusting to complete degradation of essential components, you should not risk leaving your chainsaw out in the cold during winter. With tips on how to winterize your equipment explored in this post, we can only encourage you to do the right thing when winter sets in.

When it comes to understanding how freeze-damage takes place, the catch is simple. When snow falls on the blade or other components of your chainsaw, it melts to become water. It is because chainsaws are typically hot when in use. The resulting water then runs into the engine or other essential parts. Water in fuel is the worst experience you want to experience with machines because it would mean you open up the whole system for rigorous cleaning. But that is only one possibility.

Leaving your chainsaws out in the cold during winter begets even more serious problems. Think about a situation where you will not be using the tool. If falling snow doesn’t cover it (which is a high possibility), then expect a huge pileup on the bar and other parts. It means, before using your chainsaw again, cleaning becomes necessary. In the worst cases, you will have no choice but to replace most parts.  Taking note of all the above, we would conclude by you must winterize your tools to ensure their longevity. You fail to do it, get ready for higher maintenance costs. You do it, you can always using your machine in the next season with little or no maintenance.