Avoid these common maintenance mistakes to ensure a long and useful life for your chainsaw.
After 20 years at the helm of power equipment sales and service business Minneapolis Saw, Jeff Englar has seen pretty much everything that can go wrong with a chainsaw.
Though Minneapolis Saw also sells and services lawnmowers, tillers, leaf blowers, and other equipment, it is a one-stop shop for both commercial and residential chainsaw owners looking for saws, accessories, service and a heavy dose of knowledge. When it comes to repairs, Englar says much of what he and his mechanics see is avoidable. He walked us through some of the most common chainsaw mistakes he sees customers make. Avoid these maintenance missteps and you should have a reliable chainsaw that runs strong and cuts clean for many years.
Chainsaws that won’t start or start hard often have varnished carburetors or deteriorated fuel lines from old fuel, Englar says.
Making sure the fuel is fresh will go a long way toward making a saw run well consistently. That might mean draining the fuel if a saw is stored for long periods of time. At Sea Foam, we recommend overcoming saw starting issues by adding 2–4 ounces of Sea Foam Motor Treatment to a low tank of fuel, running it for about five minutes, then letting it sit a night or two to soak or clean. Add fresh fuel and proper two-stroke oil before operating and it’ll be good to go.
Improper Oil Use
“I see a lot of oilers that are plugged or not working, either because they ran the saw without oil or they forget to put oil in every time they fill it up with gas,” Englar says. He says it’s important to use the proper two-stroke oil, at the right level, for your machine. Some saw owners have been known to use motor oil from their cars—even used oil—which can cause problems. “Used motor oil, there’s a reason you took it out of your car,” Englar says. “Because it’s not lubricating or lubricating properly. So to stick it in your saw would be a bad move. Plus there are acids from the combustion process in that oil that will actually start eating the magnesium crankcases.”
When you’re cutting, the saw should do the work. “The saw should feed itself,” Englar says. “You shouldn’t have to push on it or use your bucking dogs to really dig it in and make it cut.” If your blades are dull, the saw will have to work harder and it will run hotter. And heat, Englar says, is the enemy of a chainsaw engine and will reduce its life. It can also damage the bar and make you work harder, leading to fatigue and a greater potential for accidents. To keep your blades sharp, keep your saw out of the dirt and check the chain frequently. Also make sure the rakers are taken down when you sharpen it, so the saw feeds properly.
“Chain tension is a big thing,” Englar says. “If you run your chain loose, it will actually deflect as it comes around the nose of the bar and as it comes around the sprocket.” The chain will actually hammer both sides of the bar causing damage. The other issue is when a loose chain comes off, it will burr up the drive links and render the chain useless, Englar says. He also advises customers to rotate the bar on their saws every time they change a chain, to make sure the wear is even.
Neglected Air Filter
Englar says he sees a ton of dirty air filters, which causes chainsaws to run rich and creates the potential for plugged exhaust screens. A filter that is neglected for too long might also allow dirt and debris into the engine.
Don’t let screws go missing. Recoil cover screws, top cover screws—these and others are often absent, Englar says. If a screw loosens up it can vibrate in the threads until they strip. Missing screws also weaken the saw in general, leading to other failures.
“Starting a saw with the brake on is what you’re supposed to do,” Englar says. “But if you don’t take the fast idle off that means the clutch shoes are making contact with the clutch drum and it’s heating up and it will actually melt the crankcases—on the composite crankcases.” This mistake will also take the tension out of the clutch springs and the chain will want to run all the time.