Chainsaw Care and Maintenance Tips

A chainsaw is one of the toughest tools ever created. It’s a powerful and essential tool for anyone who works with trees, whether for logging or pruning. If you buy a good one and treat it well, it will serve you for many years – decades, even. But like with any machine, a chainsaw requires regular maintenance to perform at its best and ensure your safety. Neglecting your chainsaw can lead to accidents, poor performance, and even costly repairs.

Here are some tips on how to care for and maintain your chainsaw:

Keep it clean

cleaning-of-the-small-chainsaw image

Cleaning your chainsaw is the first and most basic step in maintenance. The more you use your chainsaw, the more likely you will see debris stuck to it. Dirt, debris, and sawdust can clog the air filter, spark arrestor, and carburetor, affecting the engine’s performance and shortening its lifespan. Even if your chainsaw is designed to keep chainsaw out of the mechanism, it’s still essential to clean it as some inevitably creep in around the chain.

Loosen or remove the nuts holding the clutch or chain cover, then pull the cover off. Chances are you’ll find lots of sawdust mixed with chain all inside, around the bar, chain, and inside the face of the cover. Carefully scrape out the debris until all nooks and crannies are clear.

If the chain is dirty, take it off and soak it in a mix of water and ammonia for about half an hour. Then, use a soft brush to scrub the chain until it’s clean. Then, rinse it with water and dry it thoroughly before returning it to its original place.

Clean the air filter after each use or every 10 hours of operation, whichever comes first. Wipe the saw with a dry cloth to remove sawdust and debris. Check the spark plug for any damage or corrosion, and replace it if necessary.

Also, check the carburetor if there’s some residue that clogs it up. These can block fuel flow to the engine, causing it to have trouble starting. Clean this part of the chainsaw by spraying compressed air or using a fuel additive onto the carburetor. Remove the diaphragm, needle valves, and cover plate from the saw and put them all into the cleaning mixture you used for the chain. Then, clean the air filter with soapy water or replace it if you can’t remove the debris.

All these steps for cleaning the chainsaw are essential to keep your chainsaw functioning properly.

Keep the chain sharp

The sharpness of the chain greatly affects the inner workings of your chainsaw. A dull or damaged chain not only slows down your work but also increases the risk of kickback, which is a sudden, violent reaction that can cause injury or even death. Avoid accidents and make your work efficient by sharpening the chain regularly, using a sharpening file. Here’s how to sharpen a chain:

  • Clamp the chainsaw to vice and keep it in place with a hard guard.
  • Take a sharpening file and push it horizontally across the blade.
  • Once you reach the end of the blade, lift the file and repeat the same motion. Make sure to sharpen in only one direction.

The file size depends on the chain’s pitch and gauge, so refer to the owner’s manual for the correct size. Check the depth gauges to ensure they are not too high, as this can also cause kickback.

If you’re unsure when to sharpen the blades, pay attention to how your chainsaw works. If it tends to discharge sawdust rather than saw chips, it’s a sign. And if it feels like it jumps whenever you use it, the blades are probably too blunt.

Replace the chain if it is worn, damaged, or stretched.

Make sure the chainsaw is lubricated before every use

Lubrication is essential to reduce friction between the chain and the bar and prevent overheating and wear. Always use bar and chain oil, which is specially formulated for chainsaws and resists high temperatures. Check the oil level before each use and top it up if necessary. Avoid using engine oil or vegetable oil, as they are not designed for this purpose and can damage the chainsaw.

To make sure there’s enough oil in the chainsaw, place a piece of cardboard or paper over it and then rev the engine. There should be oil sprays on the surface. If it’s not the case, there probably isn’t enough oil, and you should add some more. Check the owner’s manual on how to properly add more oil since the lubrication process depends on the type of chainsaw you have.

Use new gas

The fuel you use can affect the chainsaw’s performance and longevity. Unless you use your chainsaw regularly, there’s a chance that the gas inside has been breaking down. Even if the last time you used it was only a month ago, the gas in it might be breaking down, and this can lead to a residue plugging the carburetor, so it won’t work right. Always use fresh gasoline with a minimum octane rating of 89, as lower-octane gas can cause engine damage.

Use a high-quality two-stroke oil mixed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store the fuel in a cool, dry, and ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and ignition sources. Replace the fuel filter and the lines if damaged or clogged.

If you don’t plan to use the chainsaw for a few weeks, drain the fuel before putting it away. Otherwise, you run the risk of your old fuel gumming up the engine on the chainsaw.

Check the chain brake

A chain brake is one of the main features of a chainsaw. In the event of a kickback, the brake kicks in to stop the chain from rotating around the guide bar. It is crucial to ensure the functioning of the chain brake. You can test the working of the chainsaw brake by placing the saw on a stable surface and trying to engage the brake. If it is slow to engage or does not engage at all, you must get it repaired or completely replaced. A faulty brake can result in dangerous hazards, so it must be checked every single time before using the chainsaw.

Check the chain tension

For a chainsaw to run smoothly, the chain tension around the guide bar needs to be tightly fit and clear of all debris. Unfortunately, chains tend to loosen up over time, so it’s a good idea to check it pretty often. If it is loose or sagging, the chances of mishaps increase dramatically. Always check the chain tension to determine the optimum condition of the chainsaw.

A properly tensioned chain must have a bit of slack on the bottom, but not so much that you can pull the drive links away from the guide bar. The drive links must always be engaged with the bar.

Regular cleaning and maintenance of a chainsaw’s chain give it a longer life. However, always ensure that the chainsaw is turned off before inspecting the chain to avoid any injury.

Always bring a chain sharpener or extra chain

It’s common to nick a rock or soil as you cut, causing a sharp chain to become really dull. As your chainsaw runs short on fuel, it’s tempting to keep cutting, especially if you don’t carry a spare chain. But this is a bad idea – cutting with a dull chain can make the chainsaw work harder than it should (and it will make you work harder, too). This causes premature wear on the engine, so it’s best to invest in a good electric chain sharpener and a spare chain to lengthen the lifespan of your chainsaw.

If you use your chainsaw often, keep an eye on both chains every time you sharpen them. Eventually, chains can get too worn down to cut properly and need to be replaced. If you’re a regular chainsaw user, you will need to do this sooner.

Examine its safety features

A chainsaw has several safety features, namely stop control, chain catcher, kickback guard, right-hand guard, throttle lock, and chain brake. From accidental throttle advances to protecting the user’s hand, these safety features perform various functions to prevent any hazardous event. Read the user manual thoroughly all over again before using a chainsaw during the seasons. Apart from the safety features, it is necessary to take certain precautions of your own to avoid unfortunate accidents.

Ensure proper storage

Proper storage can extend the chainsaw’s lifespan and prevent moisture, rust, and corrosion damage. Clean the saw thoroughly and remove the chain and bar. Store the chainsaw in a dry, clean, and well-ventilated area, away from heat sources and flammable materials. Use a cover or a case to protect the saw from dust and debris.


Chainsaw maintenance is crucial for safety, performance, and longevity. Always remember that the more time you spend cleaning and maintaining your chainsaw, the longer and more efficiently you’ll be able to use it.

An important thing to keep in mind is that some maintenance requires the chainsaw to be turned on, and some require it to be turned off. Be careful no matter what because the sharp edges can inflict deep cuts or even sever a body part. You can take protective measures by wearing safety equipment like gloves and a helmet.

Always refer to the owner’s manual for specific instructions and recommendations, and never attempt any maintenance or repair beyond your expertise or experience. If the task of maintenance seems doable, then good. Otherwise, you can always take help from professionals. Happy sawing!