5 Expert Chainsaw Maintenance Tips

Chainsaws are great tools – when they’re working properly. Here are five chainsaw-maintenance tips to keep your chainsaw cutting strong.

Keep the chain sharp

Anyone who has tried forcing a dull chain through wood knows the importance of a sharp chain.

Properly sharpening a chain is an art form, so if you don’t want a collection of useless chains hanging on your garage wall, visit a professional.

It’ll likely cost you less than $10 and save you a ton of grief.

How to sharpen a chainsaw blade

However, if you’re like me and enjoy the challenge of learning a new craft, be sure to…

  • Use the proper file size. The box the chain came in or your owner’s manual are two places to find that information.
  • File at the correct angle. You can purchase a file gauge at most home centers that ensures you hold the file correctly.
  • File each tooth the same number of file strokes (typically 3-6).
  • Be careful with the depth gauges (the protrusions directly in front of each tooth). If you file them too much, the saw can bite too deeply into the wood and stall or, worse, pull you off balance. Again, use a gauge to ensure you sharpen the depth gauges correctly.

Properly tension the chain

A chain that’s too tight can bind and stall the saw. On a non-roller-tip bar, an over-tightened chain can overheat.

When adjusting the chain, hold the tip of the bar up as far as it goes and tighten the tensioning screw until you’ve taken the slack out of the underside of the bar.

Chainsaw maintenance tips
Soak a new chain in bar and chain oil when breaking it in.

Break in a new chain

When it’s time to replace the chain, break it in first by soaking it in bar and chain oil for a couple hours. This ensures all the pivot points are well lubricated.

Then, hang the chain from a nail and let the excess oil drip back into the pan.

Install and tension the chain and run until warm.

The chain will loosen as it heats, so shut the saw down and tension the chain again. 

Then, perform light-duty work, like cutting limbs and small branches for 30 minutes or so. Tension the chain again, and you’re ready to dive into the heavy-duty work.

Find out why Soderlund’s Wood Mill using only AMSOIL.

Clean the air filter

Keeping the air filter clean is one of the most important parts of chainsaw maintenance to extend saw life and increase performance.

It’s the only line of defense against the engine ingesting sawdust and dirt, which can plug the carburetor and cause the saw to start hard and run poorly. Contaminants can also wreck the piston rings, causing the engine to lose compression, reducing power.

Many saws have a screen as opposed to a foam or paper filter. In these cases, use an air compressor to direct air through the filter backward to prevent lodging debris deeper into the media.

If you don’t have an air compressor, tap the filter on the edge of a workbench. If you have a foam or paper filter, replace it often – it’s far less expensive than replacing the entire saw.

Find out why different chainsaws have different oil mix ratios.

Use fresh gasoline for best chainsaw maintenance

Most homeowners’ chainsaws spend far more time sitting in the garage than cutting in the woods.

As gas/oil ages, gasoline can breakdown in as few as 30 days, creating gums and varnish that plug the carburetor and lead to hard starts and rough running.

Mix only enough fuel to last 30 days. Better still, use a two-stoke oil formulated with a gasoline stabilizer, such as AMSOIL SABER® Professional Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil.

AMSOIL SABER

Not only is SABER Professional formulated with stabilizer, it also fights carbon to keep the exhaust port and spark-arrestor screen (if equipped) clean for maximum engine operability and power. Using a premium two-stroke oil is an overlooked, but vital, part of chainsaw maintenance.

You can also treat fuel with an additive designed to stabilize fuel, like AMSOIL Quickshot®. Both products keep gas fresh up to six months.

AMSOIL Quickshot

Originally published Sept. 26, 2016.

Comments

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing, really a helpful article for chainsaw owners. Maintainance is necessary for most of the chainsaws.

    1. Out here in the left coast(CA), we are forced to use an ethanol gas (15%), unless you get 92 octane premixed fuel. The Saber two stroke oil is absolutely the best you can get to keep the fuel from separating, and get the best lubrication and protection available. As a certified Stihl technician, I can’t tell you how many people purchase a power tool with absolutely no experience or knowledge of what should be done for safety or use and storage. I actually had a customer want to return a string trimmer because it ran out of gas! My other suggestion on top of AMSOIL’s recommendations is to run your equipment dry when storing it at the end of the season, particularly lawnmowers. Also, run blowers for at least 30 seconds wide open to clear spark arrestors. They are mandated by USDF here, and the screen sizes have gotten smaller over the years, causing carbon build up when run at low rpm. I have seen many lawnmowers that will not run because of corrosion caused by water in the float bowls. If you use it during the wet season make sure to use AMSOIL fuel stabilizer. It’s actually cheaper to purchase a new carburetor than for me to spend the time to get the channels cleaned, and it’s usually not possible anyway. If it smells like varnish it’s probably done. Propper maintenance saves you money, anguish, and time!

    1. Hi Alfredo,

      I take extreme care to avoid driving my chain into the dirt, so I change mine infrequently. I cut about 5-7 cords of wood a season, and my chains will last a couple years at least. I also sharpen them at the first sign of dullness.

      So, it depends on how well you maintain your chains. They should last quite a while if you’re careful.

      Thanks,

      John

  2. John, awesome post. I want to share a few things on chainsaw maintenance.

    Try to keep it out of the dirt is a big thing. Don’t hit any rocks either.

    The chains that I buy have witness marks on them. Keep both edge of the tooth the same length of these marks and the chain will cut good.

    There is ALOT to running a saw.

    Anyway, Keep up the good work…

    Chris

  3. I never knew that in order to keep a chainsaw running efficiently you have to keep the chain sharp by filing each tooth the same amount. I used a chainsaw for a lot of outdoor projects but I didn’t take good care of it and now it stopped working. I will have to find a local store to buy a quality chainsaw from.

  4. This is some really good information about the chainsaw. It is good to know that it would be smart to maintain the tension in the can. I didn’t realize that slackens chains can really damage something.

  5. Hey John,

    Thanks for the tips. When you own a chainsaw you really need to be on top of the maintenance, as chainsaw malfunctions are something you really don’t want to think about. Where I’m from a lot of the hire shops won’t even hire them as the risk can be quite high.

    Tony K.

  6. great tips. Before I never maintain chainsaw but I wanna apply your tips. I have been using Black & Decker LP1000 Alligator from the 2016 year and still, now I love Black & Decker brand.

  7. Nice and quick expert tips. Besides maintaining the chainsaw properly, the operator should also beware of chainsaw safety…which people overlooks often. Chainsaw safety is a must.

    And for sharpening chainsaw I personally recommend Timberline sharpener, though its a bit pricey…but worthy in the long run.

  8. Thanks for sharing with us.The post is awesome & plenty with great information. You told very clearly about Chainsaw Maintenance Tips. I got some information that really didn’t know. Your 5 Expert Chainsaw Maintenance really helpful for all.

  9. There are many ways to take care and maintain a chainsaw. I always try to keep my chainsaw chain sharp because it will restrain and increase safety for using the chainsaw. Another important part of maintaining my saw, check the bar and chain oil level often. Now I will follow the expert tips to maintain the chainsaw. Thanks for sharing informative article.

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