Top Tips for Maintaining a Chainsaw

Protect yourself from injury—and ensure that your tool has a long and productive life—with proper chain saw maintenance.

By Donna Boyle Schwartz | Updated May 29, 2014 2:17 PM

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Chainsaw Maintenance


To safely and productively operate a chain saw, you must commit to maintaining it. Keep your chain saw in tip-top shape, not only to protect yourself but also to promote the tool’s longevity. Follow these guidelines:

• First things first, read the owner’s manual; it’s the only way to be certain you’re establishing the right maintenance routine. Though most are very similar, some important differences exist between machines. Learn the best practices recommended by the manufacturer of your specific make and model.

How to Maintain a Chainsaw - Sharpening


• Problems with chain saws are usually caused by a chain that has become either dull or improperly tensioned. If it seems like your chain saw is laboring, switch to a new chain. (Meanwhile, sharpen the old chain with a chain saw file or a rotary grinder; alternatively, hire a pro.) Before each use of your chain saw, check the tension on the chain. If it’s correctly adjusted, the chain will fit snugly against the bar—but not so tightly that a gloved hand would be unable to move it around.

• The chain should be clean and lubricated. Before each use, make sure the oil reservoir is full. And if wood chips and sawdust accumulate, stop and clean the chain before continuing.

• Before each use, check and tighten all screws, bolts, and nuts. These components have a tendency to loosen on account of the tool’s vibration.

• Inspect the chain brake mechanism for tightness and positioning in order to protect yourself from kickback during operation.

• Clean or replace the air filter whenever it becomes clogged. Likewise, optimal performance depends on the air intake and cooling fins being free of dirt and debris.

• Use the correct blend of oil and gas to power the engine. When fueling, make sure the fuel filler cap fits tightly and is neither cracked nor worn-down.

• Clean or replace the fuel filter and spark plugs regularly, and whenever the engine is running roughly or misfiring, clean and adjust the carburetor.

• If heavily worn, replace the hoses and/or the pull-start rope.

• Remove the clutch cover and clean the chain brake band.

• Check the idle speed and if necessary, make an adjustment. When a chain saw is idling, the chain should not move. If you notice it moving, turn down the idle speed so that the chain remains stationary.

• If you are not going to be using the chain saw for several months, drain all fuel from the tank and exhaust that which remains in the lines or carburetor by running the saw until it stops. Remove the chain and store it in oil within a tightly covered container.

A chain saw is a valuable investment that can withstand years of punishing service. Following a set of simple maintenance steps will ensure that your tool continues to work properly and most importantly, safely.

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