How to Maintain Your Chainsaw

If you own a chainsaw, you likely already recognize that chainsaw safety starts with excellent maintenance and upkeep. Neglecting maintenance tasks can lead to malfunctions and accidents, and it can certainly shorten the lifespan of the tool. With proper maintenance, a trusty chainsaw can last a long time. And since you never know when you're going to need it in a pinch, keeping it in good shape requires a regular maintenance schedule.

We're rounding up a chainsaw maintenance checklist that includes 10 things you should do to maintain your chainsaw. Learn how to be a responsible owner, and become more accustomed to identifying issues with the tool.

1. Inspect Chainsaw Components

  • Become accustomed to checking the chain, bar, sprocket, and other parts for rust, cracks, or loose bolts.

  • Check the starter cord for fraying and starter housing for signs of damage.

  • Ignoring changes can lead to decreased performance, safety hazards, and potentially costly repairs if the issues are unaddressed.

2. Check the Chain Tension

  • Maintaining proper tension is essential for safe and efficient tool operation.

  • Check the chain tension every time you go to use it. A loose chain can derail or produce dangerous kickbacks during use, posing a serious risk of injury to the operator. Similarly, an overly tight chain can cause premature wear on the bar and sprocket.

  • Regularly adjusting the chain tension helps improve cutting performance and extends the lifespan of the chain and other components.

A 2-in-1 chainsaw sharpening file.<p>Emily Fazio</p>
A 2-in-1 chainsaw sharpening file.

Emily Fazio

3. Sharpen the Chain

  • A sharp chainsaw is a safe chainsaw. Sharp chains slice through the material like butter. The sawdust produced is more like large flakes.

  • Dull chains struggle to cut through material, increasing the chances of unexpected jerks and kickbacks that put the operator at risk. If you're not sure if it's dull, check the quality of the sawdust. The finer and softer it is, the duller the blades.

  • Also, a dull chain has to work harder to get the job done, leading to increased fuel consumption and a strain on the chainsaw's engine. Sharpening or replacing the chain blades as needed ensures safe and effective cutting performance.

Related: Video: How to Sharpen Your Chainsaw Blade

4. Clean or Replace the Air Filter

  • The air filter prevents dust, debris, and other contaminants from entering the engine and causing damage. A clogged or dirty air filter restricts airflow, leading to reduced engine performance and potential overheating.

  • Regularly cleaning or replacing the air filter helps its overall performance and prolongs its lifespan.

5. Clean or Change the Spark Plug

  • The spark plug ignites the fuel-air mixture in the engine cylinder, powering the chainsaw engine.

  • A damaged spark plug can lead to difficulty starting the engine, misfiring, and reduced power output.

  • If you're having trouble starting your gas-powered chainsaw, consider cleaning or replacing the spark plug to improve ignition and smooth engine operation.

6. Check the Fuel and Oil Systems

  • The fuel system delivers the proper fuel mixture to the engine for combustion. Any leaks or damage in the gas tank, lines, or cap can lead to fuel leakage, which is not only a safety hazard but can also damage the engine and surrounding components.

  • The oil system lubricates the chain and bar during operation, reducing friction and heat buildup. Insufficient lubrication can lead to premature wear on the chain and bar, as well as increased fuel consumption and strain on the engine.

  • Get in the habit of checking both systems. Regularly inspecting the fuel tank and using the correct fresh fuel mixture supports chainsaw engine performance. Keeping an eye on the oil tank, oil inlet hole, and ensuring proper lubrication can prolong the lifespan of the chainsaw and improve cutting performance.

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7. Inspect the Throttle Trigger, Handles, Controls, and Other Safety Features

  • The throttle trigger controls the speed of the engine, while safety features such as the chain brake and chain catcher help prevent accidents and injuries.

  • Other handles and controls allow the operator to safely and effectively maneuver the chainsaw during use. Cracks, wear, or loose fasteners in these components can compromise operator safety and control.

  • If something feels off, take a second look. Make sure the body, triggers, and all safety features are in good working condition before it becomes an issue.

8. Maintain the Exhaust System

  • The exhaust system removes exhaust gases from the engine and helps regulate engine temperature. Carbon buildup or obstructions in the exhaust port or muffler can restrict airflow, leading to reduced engine performance and overheating.

  • Cleaning the exhaust system helps maintain proper engine ventilation which improves chainsaw performance.

Related: Have You Winterized Your Lawn Mower Yet? Learn What You Need to Do

9. Check the Cooling System

  • The cooling system of all gas-powered chainsaws helps regulate the temperature of the engine during operation. Dust, debris, or damage to the air intake slots can impede airflow, leading to overheating and potential engine damage.

  • Use a soft brush to clean off the body and vents as part of your regular maintenance routine.

10. Store the Chainsaw Properly

  • Proper storage of the chainsaw when not in use helps protect it from dust, moisture, and damage. Storing it in a dry, cool environment, using a cover, and securing it properly prevents corrosion and extends its lifespan.

  • Adding fuel stabilizer prevents starting issues when you next need to use the chainsaw.

  • Improper storage can lead to premature wear and damage, including dust and rust which reduce how effectively the tool runs.

<p>Emily Fazio</p>

Emily Fazio

Do electric chainsaws require less maintenance?

Electric chainsaws, including cordless chainsaw models, demand less maintenance than gas-powered alternatives due to their simpler design and lack of gasoline dependency. With fewer moving parts, no spark plug, and no need for fuel mixing or carburetor adjustments, there are many fewer pieces an operator needs to maintain.

Cordless chainsaws further streamline maintenance. Aside from caring for the battery and monitoring for changes in the housing and safety features, periodic chain sharpening and tension adjustments are all you may need to focus on.