Chainsaw Maintenance

Keeping a chainsaw running smoothly can be imperative if a situation arises where one’s only heat is wood, or if a tree falls on one’s property. Chainsaws are useful for trimming branches, cutting firewood, and even artistic pursuits.

Knowing what to do to promote the best use of a chainsaw without having it too dull or malfunctioning is helpful. Chainsaws that become sluggish or that have failures can not only be a problem for completing a project, but they can also be very dangerous to life and limb.

No matter what the brand or type of the chainsaw, some maintenance tasks are universal. Still, there are some specialized tasks for certain machines, so do compare the suggestions with those in the manual to be sure it works for the chainsaw. If further work is needed, an authorized shop should handle it.

The maintenance that applies to all chainsaws includes four main tasks: keep it clean, keep it sharp, keep it lubricated, and keep it properly fueled.

Keep it Clean

One of the most important things to do to maintain a chainsaw is to clean it regularly. If it is used often, it will tend to have bits of wood and debris as well as bits of sap and whatever else it might contact left over in the chain and other parts. Each part should be cleaned separately, as each one has its own cleaning method.

The chain is easy to clean by removing it and soaking it in diluted ammonia for about 30 minutes. Use a brush like an old toothbrush to clean the debris out of the chain, then rinse and dry completely.

The carburetor could get clogged after some time running. Clean it with the use of compressed air (either using a compressor or by purchasing canned air) or by using a fuel additive.

Other pieces, such as the cover plate, diaphragm, and needle valves can be removed and cleaned with the same liquid used on the chain.

If the air filter is contaminated, cleaning it will depend on its material. If it is a screen, use soapy water or compressed air blown opposite to its normal flow to clean it. If it is paper or foam, replace it.

Keep it Sharp

It is difficult to cut anything with a dull chainsaw. To keep a chainsaw in good working order, it is necessary to sharpen it regularly. This is done by securing the chainsaw into a vice so it will not move. Run a sharpening file along its entire length on each tooth, using three to six full strokes each time. Many chainsaw companies offer a file gauge to more easily sharpen at the right angle. Make sure all the teeth are equal in length when the job is completed. Be careful to check and adjust the depth gauge when sharpening to keep it at the proper level.

The chain should be replaced if any of the teeth reach less than 4mm on the longest part of the cutting tooth, or if there are cracks anywhere in the chain.

Keep it Tensioned Correctly

The chain must not be loose, or it may come off the guide and cause injury to a person or damage to the chainsaw. The chain must also not be too tight, or it may corrode the guide bar. It should touch the guide bar’s bottom while still being easy to pull by hand. Be sure to only adjust the chain when it is cool, as it expands when it heats up during use.

Keep it Lubricated

The chain needs to be sufficiently oiled in order to move smoothly through the wood, and at the appropriate speed. A proper amount of oil also keeps the chain from overheating while in use.

To verify a reasonable amount of oil, hold a sheet of paper over it while revving the engine. If oil sprays onto the paper, there is enough oil. If not, oil should be added. The owner’s manual for the chainsaw should show how to add it and where.

Keep the Bar Maintained

The underside of the bar is where it wears most quickly, due to the chain coming in contact with it. To help it wear more evenly, turn the guide bar when changing the chain. Clean the groove regularly and keep the inlet oiled. If the rails develop burrs, file them off.

When the bar is no longer able to hold the drive link, or if the chain no longer sits straight in it, install a new guide bar.

Keep it Properly Fueled

Gasoline breaks down over time, and this process begins fairly quickly – as little as a month. If the chainsaw has not been used regularly, the gas has probably begun breaking down, which will result in a clogged carburetor and an inefficient cutting machine.

For best results, add only as much fuel as is needed to last about 30 days. Alternately, add stabilizer to the gas, which will keep it fresh longer. Avoid ethanol gasoline, because it separates and the ethanol-water part of the gasoline will corrode the metal and cause clogs in the carburetor. If it is not possible to find gasoline without ethanol, be sure to add a stabilizer.

In the video game Dead Island, chainsaw repair is as simple as going to a workbench to refuel, but in real life, it is necessary to follow the more ordinary methods.


1. Homeowner’s Compete Guide to the Chainsaw

This book helps to know how to use and how to maintain a chainsaw. It covers trimming branches, cutting down trees, splitting wood, and care and maintenance.

2. The Comprehensive Chainsaw Maintenance Guidebook

Everything you need to know about using a chainsaw is included in this book, along with tips and tricks and how-to advice. If you need peak performance out of your chainsaw, this book will help you achieve that.

3. Oregon Chainsaw Sharpening Kit

Packaged neatly in a hard case, this kit includes the files needed, along with a stump vise and depth gauge, to keep a chainsaw chain properly sharpened while out in the field.

4. Forester Chainsaw Maintenance Kit

18 pieces including files and other tools are included in this kit to maintain a chainsaw.

5. Katzco Chainsaw Sharpener Kit

All the field tools needed to keep your chainsaw in excellent cutting condition are included in this nice tool pouch. Easy to carry and full of the needed files and handles plus a depth gauge, this kit can go along on any cutting expedition.