Chainsaw Use and Maintenance for Beginners

(NOTE: For the benefit of the people led here by Google, this whole thing is prettied up and available for free download on the sidebar. Just click on the dog with the chainsaw.)

Here’s TUAK’s very first (and possibly last) how-to essay. If you already know how to use and maintain a chainsaw, or if you just don’t have one, proceed no further because this is rather long.

If you do own one and are feeling a bit uncertain on some related matters, click away.

BTW, if you do take the time to read this for information and find it inadequate, please leave a comment as to how it could have been improved. When writing a piece like this it’s very easy to make assumptions about what readers do and don’t already know. Y’know?


This is my Chainsaw. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

The thing to remember about a chainsaw, in terms of its maintenance, is that any time you’re using it you’re beating the hell out of it. A good saw will give you years of good, trouble-free service just like any tool. But that’s only if you treat it right. You just can’t ignore maintenance and expect it to keep running, because a little abuse and neglect goes a long way.

Consider the engine, for example.

That tiny little single-cylinder, two-stroke sucker can only do its thing under full-throttle, at which it’s cranking something like 13,000 RPM. The frictional loads it has to deal with are enormous (more on them later.) It has no liquid coolant, no bath of crankcase oil, and it will drag six feet of sharpened chain links through hard, seasoned wood all day long. Or not, depending on whether you do your part.

So let’s go through the parts of the chainsaw, and what care it needs to keep running right.

This is the drive sprocket, which is where the chain meets the saw. Depending on the brand of the saw the sprocket can take different forms, but they all do the same thing. The sprocket links with the drive tabs on the chain and sends it whipping around the bar at lethally high speed.

This is the bar. The chain’s drive tabs run in grooves on the top and bottom of the bar, and run through a sprocket on the front end. All the force exerted on the chain causes wear on the bottom side of the bar, which is why most chainsaw bars are reversible – you can mount it with either side down. By the end of a long winter, you’ll be happy for that.

Some bars use a “hard nose” design, which eliminates the bar sprocket. They’re more expensive, but get rid of a moving part that’s a common failure point. If you keep the sprocket clean and greased, though, it’s rarely a problem.

This is the chain tension adjuster. Again, it looks different on different saws but they all do the same thing. More on chain tension later.

This is the air filter. On your car, you’re probably used to not giving your air filter much thought but that won’t work well on a chainsaw. The saw works in an incredibly dirty environment, and the filter is a simple screen. It gets dirty very fast, and needs cleaning often. The simplest and best way to clean the filter is to spray it out with air pressure.

That complicated-looking black thing in front of the upper handle is the actuator for the chain brake. If the chain hangs up in a piece of work, the saw will kick back toward you and that’s never a good thing.

REMEMBER: IF YOU LOSE CONTROL OF EITHER HANDLE WHILE THE CHAIN IS MOVING, MR. CHAINSAW IS NO LONGER YOUR FRIEND.

The idea is that your hand will slip off the upper handle and bump the brake actuator. If that black actuator gets bumped it will click forward and lock a brake band around a drum, preventing the drive sprocket from rotating. It’s kind of a complicated mechanism, but when it’s working right that will make the chain stop moving right away.

That’s fine, but there are issues. If you ever try to rotate the chain on the bar and it won’t move, check the chain brake actuator first. Just try to move it toward the rear of the saw. If it moves backward with a solid click, you just fixed the problem.

Also, and this is very important: On Husqvarna saws, the brake band is mounted right on the inside of the sprocket cover. If the brake is actuated, it will be impossible to remove the cover without using force. I can’t tell you how many saws I’ve repaired where people went ahead and applied that force. DON’T DO THAT. On a Husky saw, if you can’t get the cover off the very first thing you should check is whether the chain brake is applied. If it is, turn it off and the cover will come right off.

I don’t know if any other brands use this design. The only one I’ve seen is Husqvarna. But if you’re having trouble getting the cover to want to come off, don’t force it. Check the chain brake.

This is the bar oil reservoir. Friction between the chain and the bar produces a lot of heat, and you will tear up both if you don’t keep them lubricated. All modern chainsaws have automatic oilers so you don’t have to give bar lubrication much thought as long as the oiler is working, but you do want to keep sure that it is working. If you’re ever not sure, just aim the end of the bar at an uncluttered patch of ground while the saw is running and hit the throttle. At full speed, the chain should lay a line of oil on the ground. If it doesn’t, stop cutting till you find out the problem.

As you can imagine, all that centrifugal force wants to send oil flying everywhere. That’s why bar oil is specially formulated to be extra sticky compared to motor oil. It’s more expensive, but this isn’t a place to save pennies because bars and chains are even more expensive. Much more. Make sure you keep oil in the reservoir.

This is where the mixed fuel goes.

Remember that the chainsaw’s engine has no crankcase. It’s lubricated through the fuel. You must not ever run straight gasoline in a chainsaw. So you’ll need a dedicated fuel container and a supply of mix oil. Mix your fuel according to the instructions on the oil bottle. When in doubt, too much oil is better than too little. Too much will cause your engine to run a little smoky and possibly, eventually, clog the spark arrester on the muffler. Too little will cause your engine to seize, and convert your expensive saw into an unusually dirty paper weight.

And of course this is the chain. The chain must be sized correctly for the saw and bar, and the cutting links must be kept sharp. If you find the saw reluctant to cut, or if the chain starts trying to burn its way through wood, the chain is dull and must be sharpened.

We could do a whole article on just this one part: Different sizes and types of chains, how to size them, how to sharpen them. We don’t have space for any of that. When in doubt, consult your dealer. But I will say one thing here about dull chains. When you cut with a dull chain, you’re doing more than burning wood and tearing up cutting links. In order to cut with a dull chain, you need to bear down on the saw, right? When you do that, you’re taking months of life not just off the chain, but also off the bar, the drive sprocket, and the engine. Think of that burning smell you detect as being the smell of burning money, and then stop cutting until you can sharpen the chain. Most serious chainsaw users keep several chains around. They’re easy to swap out.

Okay, let’s get to work!

To mount the chain, orient the chain so the cutting blades on the top of the chain face toward the front of the saw. NOTE: It is possible to mount the chain backward. This doesn’t really hurt anything, but the saw won’t cut. To repeat: the cutting blades on the top of the chain should face the front of the saw.

Now wrap it around the drive sprocket, making sure the drive tabs mate with the slots in the sprocket.

Now put the bar in place on the bar studs. Push it all the way to the rear at first, and don’t worry about connecting it with the tensioner. Drape the chain on the bar so it engages with the upper slot and the bar sprocket. The bottom part of the chain should hang down loose.

Now gently pull the bar forward, and engage it with the stud of the tension adjuster. On some saws, the adjuster is on the sprocket cover so you’ll need to install the cover for this step. If you run out of chain before you can get the stud through the hole in the bar, back off the adjuster by turning it counterclockwise. At this point, the chain should still be quite loose.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and mount the sprocket cover now. Don’t tighten the nuts, because we still need to adjust the chain tension.

Pull up gently on the chain. If the drive tabs come out of the bar groove, the chain is too loose. So rotate the chain tension adjuster clockwise, which will move the bar outward and tighten the chain. Do this gently: You don’t want the chain too tight.

When gently pulling on the chain causes the drive tabs to come up off the bar but not all the way out of the groove, you’re about right. Now rotate the chain on the bar. It should move freely.

If it doesn’t, check the chain brake. If the chain brake is not actuated, you’ve done something wrong. Back up and find the problem. Don’t try to use the saw unless the chain is rotating freely on the bar.

Starting the Saw

All set? Okay! Having checked your fuel, bar oil and chain tension, it’s time to fire this bad boy up. Starting a cold chainsaw engine comes in two stages. Do it right, and we’ll have you going in no time. Screw it up, and you’ll flood the engine. You don’t want to do that.

Step 1:
Make sure the chain brake is OFF.

Push the power switch to the ON position. Pull out the choke lever. Leave the throttle alone. Hold the saw down with one hand, and pull the starter cord sharply with the other. After two or three pulls, the engine should start and immediately die. That’s fine, that’s just what it’s supposed to do. You just properly primed the fuel system.

NOTE: Some chainsaws have primer bulbs to help this process along. I dislike this feature a great deal because they don’t really help things, they make it easy to flood the engine without ever pulling the starter cord, and they’re a common failure point. But if you’ve got one, you’ve got one. Read and follow the directions carefully.

Step 2:
Open the choke. On some models you can do this by flicking the throttle trigger. On others, you need to push the choke lever in. Hold the saw down with one hand, and pull the starter cord sharply with the other. After two or three pulls, the engine should start and keep running.

Individual chainsaws develop personalities. Some saws like a little throttle to get started at this stage, but it should still idle with your finger off the trigger. If you must give the engine some throttle, be mindful of where the bar and chain are. If you goose the throttle, the chain will spin. That can ruin your whole day if you’re not ready for it.

That’s almost it! You’ve got a running chainsaw in your hands, so you really shouldn’t be reading this right this minute. Just a few more words:

First: If you have trouble starting the saw, you’re running the risk of flooding the engine. If you can’t start the engine and you start smelling gasoline, stop immediately. You flooded it. Remove the top cover, remove the spark plug, and note that the electrodes are all covered with liquid fuel. The engine will never start once that happens. Dry the plug electrodes carefully. Then before re-installing the plug, pull the starter several times to run air through the cylinder and try to get any liquid fuel out of there. Re-install the plug and cover and go back to Step 1.

While you’re using the saw, periodically stop the saw to check and adjust the chain tension. Chains stretch. A chain that’s too loose will come right off the bar. It will damage the chain and may damage you.

I have actually met someone who tried to adjust the chain tension while the engine was running. Only the one guy, though, because almost everybody is smarter than that.

A Word About Spark Arresters

At the outlet of the muffler, you will find a little removable screen. That’s the spark arrester, and it does just what the name implies.

Sometimes at the shop we got customers who complained that they could start their saw easily enough but it wouldn’t develop any RPMs or power. Most often, the fix for this was very simple. Remove the small screw(s) holding the arrester screen in place, and pull it out with small pliers. If the screen is clear, that’s not your problem. But often you’ll find that the screen is clogged. This is caused by too much oil in the fuel mix. It doesn’t do any serious harm, but the engine won’t run right until you clean the screen.

That goop is burned on. The best way I’ve found to clean it is to heat it red-hot with a propane torch, then scrape it clean with a wire brush or screwdriver.

A Word About Cleanliness
A chainsaw works in a terribly dirty environment, and it will get terribly dirty. Some parts need to kept reasonably clean or they won’t work right. Most of this is common sense. The air filter, for example: You should clean it after every session. The engine draws a great deal of air through a tiny carburetor inlet, and you’ll be surprised how fast the filter can clog. NEVER EVER RUN THE ENGINE WITHOUT A GOOD FILTER.

On my older Husky 55 the chain tension adjustment point is between the saw and the bar, a dumb design they changed on the newer models. Dirt just packs in there, and I have to scrape it out several times a session. You get used to it.

Obviously, you need to clean all around the bar, chain and drive sprocket inside the sprocket cover. Dirt and sawdust mixes with bar oil at this point and it doesn’t just drift in, it’s apparently packed in under great pressure. Keeping this area completely clean requires a level of OCD your humble writer does not possess. But at a minimum you do need to keep it from packing up so deep that it starts impeding moving parts, okay?

At the point where the bar is pinched against the saw, there’s a little slot where the bar oil comes out to lube the bar and chain. Check this any time you have the bar off, to make sure it isn’t getting clogged with dirt. That’s a common way for the automatic bar oiler to fail.

Make sure dirt and sawdust doesn’t start packing between the heat sink fins on the engine’s cylinder head. It’s an air-cooled engine, which means air has to be able to get in there. Packed crud in there can ruin the engine forever.

Don’t forget the starter mechanism, on the opposite side of the saw from the sprocket cover. From time to time, remove the starter and make sure dirt, sawdust and twigs aren’t getting involved with the starter cord. Most designs have a couple of centrifugally-actuated levers that can become too dirty to do their trick: Make sure they remain free on their springs. Also, from time to time pull out the cord all the way and make sure it isn’t fraying. A frayed cord should be replaced as soon as possible because they do break. When it breaks, there’s no more saw for you.

Storage
Do I really need to tell you that you shouldn’t leave your chainsaw outdoors? Yet people do, and suffer the consequences, and the main reason is that automatic oiler. The big problem with chainsaw storage is that they tend to leak oil at all times, and bar oil is insidious stuff. Like I said earlier, it’s stickier than regular oil and harder to clean out of other materials.

Get your chainsaw its own container. You will thank yourself for this. Regular chainsaw cases, though expensive, are a very good investment in chainsaw longevity. Personally, I use a big Rubbermaid tub in which I store the saw and all its tools, spares and materials like bar oil, mix oil, and fuel. That way, in addition to keeping it out of the weather and ensuring it doesn’t make a mess, I always know where all the other bits are.

Fuel
Leave it in the sun, or just leave it laying around for a few months, and gasoline goes bad. Not being a chemist, I can’t tell you why this is and don’t care. All I know is two things: Bad gas smells really foul, and it’s death to chainsaws.

Chainsaws use diaphragm-type carburetors, which are extremely sensitive to bad gas. Bad gas attacks the diaphragms, turning them stiff and brittle and incapable of doing their thing. It can also do other bad things to your saw, but that’s the most common and it’s a show-stopper. A good shop can get you running again, but it’s really best to prevent the problem.

Two rules, which you break at your peril:

1.Always check your fuel by smell before pouring it into your saw.
2.Never store a saw long-term with fuel in it.

When you’re getting ready to store your saw, empty the fuel tank. Then start the engine and run it until it dies for lack of fuel. It won’t hurt anything, but leaving the fuel in there might.

For gasoline that’s going to be around for a while, go to an auto parts store and get yourself a bottle of fuel stabilizer. Then use it faithfully. You will look so much smarter if you do this.

Speaking of Spares…
Here’s a list of things I always keep on hand, to make sure I can cut wood any time I want to:

Chains: I like to have at least five on hand, but I heat with shaggy-bark Juniper which is as chainsaw-unfriendly a wood as exists anywhere. You should have at least two or three chains.

Spark plug

Air filter: Not essential, but removes the temptation of continuing work with a damaged or over-clogged filter.

Starter cord: Believe me. Sooner or later you’ll want this.

Mix oil, obviously

Bar oil. If you find yourself completely without bar oil, clean motor oil is better than nothing but it doesn’t work as well. You shouldn’t use substitutes here. Also, I’ve met some people who think this is a good place to recycle dirty used motor oil. They’re wrong.

As for tools, the only tool not associated with chain sharpening you really need is a flat-blade screw driver and two sockets, one for the bar nuts and one for the spark plug. The screwdriver will do double duty for scraping out the worst of the built-up crud. If you buy your saw new it will probably come with a gadget called a “Scrench,” which has all three tools built into one.

That’s all I can think of right now. If you read this and found a question unanswered, please leave your question in the comments because I’m trying to make this as complete as possible without making it 10,000 words long.

Thanks for reading! Let’s be careful out there.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to Chainsaw Use and Maintenance for Beginners

  1. George says:

    And when you finish cutting your wood, you can put the saw to another use:

    http://youtu.be/KZ-slvv_ZT4

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey Joel,

    Excellent article.

    Plus all the maintenance stuff can also apply to other yard warrior tools such as string trimmers / weed eaters, lawn mowers and such. They all need the same attention to continue faithfully.

    As your article points out, maintenance is boring compared to whacking away at the outdoors, but, it is necessary.

    It seems that most of the time when the tool fails it is blamed directly on the tool and not on the operator/maintainer. This article can help with that.

    The old saying “It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tool” applies here. Do the maintenance as your article so clearly states. The tool will thank you.

  3. jon spencer says:

    You might want to use high-test gas as that usually does not have ethanol.
    Ethanol in gas will ruin many engines.
    If you cannot find gas without ethanol use Marine Stabil as that is supposed to prevent the ethanol from harming your engine, it is colored blue instead of regular Stabils red.

  4. LJH says:

    Definition of a bachelor: man who services his chainsaw in the kitchen counter. 😉

    Good stuff, Uncle Joel. Clearer and way more entertaining than my Stil manual.

  5. Jim says:

    I echo your other readers’ compliments. I’ve been using and tinkering with chain saws for more years than I care to think about and stilll learned a thing or two — about clogged spark arresters, for instance.

    And without meaning to start a stupid Colt-vs.- S&W style argument, I’ve settled on Stihl. The smaller models, anyway, seem to have been cheapened in recent years, but my c. 2005 model is still going strong after brutal and sometimes neglectful use. I understand Husqvarnas have a better rep, but I don’t like the price. I’d stay away from the all of the price-point stuff — Remingtons, the new Macs, Homelite, etc.

    Thanks again.

  6. Jim says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. gooch says:

    Well Done Joel.

    I have had a chainsaw in my life for over 40 years and some of the things you mentioned in your excellent article were hard won lessons back in my chainsaw heyday. { blush }

    I made a “scrench” holder out of the finger of an old pair of leather gloves, some heavy duty carpet/upholstery thread and some “elbow grease”. (Needle & Thread brand elbow grease)
    It is absolutely amazing how talented at hiding, in the forest floor litter, the average screw driver (scrench) can be. Do they get lessons at that from the factory I wonder?
    Having a spare in the truck as well as a “sheath” for the one in use will Help alleviate the worry of losing that most necessary tool.

    All in all a good job of explaining the care and feeding of the generic chainsaw Joel.
    Well Done.

    I used to support and feed my family with a saw and learned to Never be too comfortable around a running chainsaw.
    A chain shaped notch in my left, bull hide loggers, boot was my constant reminder.
    A chain has no conscience. It will cut (eat) anything it touches while in motion.

    Stay Safe,

    gooch

  8. Pingback: Chainsaw Use and Maintenance for Beginners

  9. welshexile says:

    My chainsaw will run when the chain is on backwards but when I put it on the right way it will not turn

  10. Joel says:

    You’re either not putting the chain on as right as you think, or you’ve got the chain brake on. Seek expert help.

  11. barefoota says:

    Great article, enjoyed reading. Another pearl of wisdom an old timer down here in Australia told me was “Never lend your chainsaw or your wife, others won’t treat them with the same respect you do”

  12. Anonymous says:

    That is as good an article on chainsaws as exists any where on the internet. Thanks.

  13. Anonymous says:

    your post seems to have been writing by a smart ass,,, could do with a little less of that,

  14. Jon says:

    The world could use more smart asses. We help to toughen up all of those overly sensitive folk.

    Thanks for the great article. I just bought a used husky and I’m looking forward to going through it to check all of your recommendations. Thanks again!

  15. Chuck Away says:

    Excellent article, thanks for taking the time, well written and informative. Thank goodness for “smart asses” 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great article, answered the 2 questions I had.
    Thanks.

  17. Seabhac says:

    I wouldn’t agree that the post seems to have been ‘written by a smart ass’, I’d attribute that to the authors ‘style of writing’. A very informative and enjoyable read. I need to get my timber under cover before the weather changes….

  18. Jeb says:

    Why does my chain keep spinning on the bar after I let the trigger off when done cutting and the engine stops running on its own and there is plenty of gas in the tank?

  19. Joel says:

    Sounds like two separate issues. First, the chain will keep spinning for a while, it won’t ever stop instantly when you release the trigger unless you also engage the chain brake. The second issue sounds like a carburetor problem. It may be as simple as an adjustment: All but the cheapest carbs have two adjustment screws which I do not suggest you screw around with if you’re unfamiliar with them. Or it might be something a bit more serious, but all carbs that haven’t been allowed to corrode with a snootful of water or really evil gas can be routinely rebuilt. So for that one, you probably need a repair shop.

  20. Joelle says:

    Joel, you sound like a fun, efficient and genuine person. You can saw my firewood anytime!

  21. Steve says:

    Good article – I’m a believer in chainsaw preparedness as well. Didn’t learn anything earth shaking but it was nice confirmation that I’m on the right track being ‘self taught’ and all. I have a Stihl 026 and MS250, ancient and the new – tough as nails. Unfortunately – not so cheap. I’m looking at the Husky 455 for an additional one. I also have a Echo CS310 w/16″ bar bought cheap – thought it might be a throw away – but really a nice little performer, and decently built at that. But like guns – you can’t have too many of them right?

  22. Andrew says:

    Hi, I’ve just bought a chainsaw (Sterwins) and can not adjust the carb as the screws which are referred to in th manual are intact not screws but hexagonal and I can’t get to them, is this normal? Also, why does my chain keep stopping when cutting?

  23. Joel says:

    Sorry, I’m not at all familiar with Sterwins and the only manual I can find in a quick online search is in French. Some cheaper engines have the carb adjustment screws sealed off and trying to get at them can cause a lot of trouble.

    As to the chain, make sure the drive links are really engaged with the drive sprocket. Sometimes they can lay alongside rather than really be engaged with the slots on the sprocket. That’ll cause the chain to spin up until you put pressure on it, then it’ll stop.

    Hope that helps a little.

  24. Andrew says:

    Hi Joel, thanks. I can see the adjusters for the carb, the heads just don’t have slots in them and the manual says you can adjust, I guess I’ll just need to find the right too for that. As for the chain, it is cutting, I have been able to cut some logs but you have to use very little downward pressure and it took an age. As soon as you use some pressure, the chain stops spinning.

  25. Michael says:

    Hi… I I got a craftsman poulan3700 and it seems that when
    Cutting it takes ages… Is there a problem????

  26. Joel says:

    Is the chain sharp?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Husky 350 here. Ran great last week. Let it sit now it starts but has no power. Will stay running only if I choke it quite a bit. Useless to cut. Pumping the primer brings lots of bubbles in the line with little fuel. Tank is FULL. Did alcohol get my lines again?

  28. Joel says:

    A newish Husky? They have a common problem, easy to fix. Take off the top cover to expose the carb and fuel lines, and see if any of the lines are kinked.

    Also, some of the symptoms you list sound like a clogged spark arrester at the muffler outlet. If it’s clogged, you might want to check how much oil you’re putting in your fuel.

  29. bogman says:

    Been running a little Oleo Mac 931 cutting firewood and clearing bushes. It was working great until a few days ago. First it stopped idling but I got that sorted; then it wouldn’t rev up properly but would get to full power. Now I have it where it idles nicely, revs to what feels like full power but when you put it into the timber it seems to be a little down on power. It doesn’t have a spark arrestor screen, it never had.
    It can be hard to start now. Full choke and pull but you have to get the choke in while it’s running and then it runs fine(ish).
    Had the carb out and noticed fuel on the outside of the diaphragm. Is this normal or have I a small hole in the diaphragm and could this be the cause of the problem?
    It is an old saw that has done its fair share for its size and there is life in it yet.
    Hope you can help.

  30. Joel says:

    Had the carb out and noticed fuel on the outside of the diaphragm. Is this normal or have I a small hole in the diaphragm and could this be the cause of the problem?

    That is not normal and may well be causing your problem. You need a carb rebuild with a new diaphragm kit. A common and easily-fixed issue.

  31. bogman says:

    Thanks, I’ll order one straight away and see if that sorts it

  32. Denelle says:

    Very entertaining. Thank you for making our day. I use a small paint brush and toothbrush, and clean gasoline to clean with. My problem is the pull rope. It will not pull. This has happened twice to my Craftsman. Why?

  33. rich says:

    good stuff thanks you

  34. Hurley says:

    Can chain oil go bad over time? I have oil in an unopened container over ten years.

  35. Joel says:

    That’s a situation I never encountered. I’m guessing no, it should be fine. Just play around and ensure yourself of the viscosity. On the other hand it’s not that expensive to replace.

  36. mike says:

    hey ive got an older model homelite saw with a thunb pum oiler. i can usally get it running within a few pulls but laley ive been doing alo of stop and go cutting. i can get it to start the second time but by the time i get around to starting it a third time its cooled off and i start it as i would a first time.. itll rumble and quit (expected as you mentioned) but it seems to instantly flood insead of start. ive taken it apart, replaced the spark plug, cleaned it and everything i can think of.. its got a bit of build up in the exhaust and on the piston head but i dont believe thats the issue.. any help would be appreciated as i only have the 1 saw and dont have the money to get a better one. plus its a good lil pos for its age lol

  37. Joel says:

    Mike,

    I had a similar problem with my Husky once, but something you said confused me. Are you sure the saw is cooling off, or getting too hot? Because when you stop and start an engine repeatedly you get a thing called hot soak, when the engine stops running and so stops getting cooled and the iron can get really hot. That can cause running issues. I finally had to spring for a carb rebuild.

  38. sykes says:

    hi there, i have a ms 250 stihl saw, which i have no prbblem
    starting, but when i try to stop it ,it wont switch off,can you tell me what the fault could be thanks

  39. Joel says:

    Take off the top cover and look behind the power switch. It’s possible those leads might have been shorted, though usually it’s the opposite problem and they get unplugged.

  40. Hila Dipman says:

    How to clean exhaust port, as my manual for Echo CS370 says to do? (And is it necessary?)

  41. A very detailed post, from describing parts of a chainsaw to guiding step by step to use it. I realize one thing that when we want to use and maintenance a tool in a right way, we should have a full look and certain knowledge of the forming, the parts as well as the way they operate when working. Thank you so much!

  42. Jack says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  43. Chelsea says:

    Hey all! We have a husky 445 purchased earlier this year, we were cutting wood earlier today and everything was going fine then half way through a log it stopped cutting. When the saw was started the chain would go just fine but when pressure was applied to a log to cut it jut wouldn’t cut. Any ideas?

  44. Joel says:

    Take the side cover off and check the chain’s engagement with the drive sprocket. If it seems engaged, take off the chain and examine the sprocket itself. Sometimes poor engagement or a damaged/defective sprocket will apparently spin just fine until you apply pressure to the chain.

  45. Kenlee says:

    I have an Echo 702 EVL that has never failed me in 34 years. Many of thosee cutting and blocking 4 to 5 cord a year, Always starts within 4 or 5 pulls. But I have to choke and give it full throttle. I also have Still that is about 6 years old and has less than 20 hours on it. It will start and I can use it but if I let it sit for a few hours it won’t start again for weeks, then one day I think I will try it and it fires on the first pull. It makes no sense to me.

  46. Kenlee says:

    Oh yeah, I thought this to be a good article. Thanks.

  47. Josh says:

    Husqvarna chain brake design, also used in other brands they bought in the last 30+ years…. Pioneer, Partner, Jonesred, Poulan, and possibly others.

  48. Pingback: Chainsaw Maintenance |

  49. Hey I really appreciate the thorough and plentiful amount of information on chainsaw care and maintenance. Do you have maybe a video, or maybe even a link to one for this sort of maintenance? Thanks again for the helpful post and I’ll implement these tips a lot more as I care for my tools.

  50. Phil says:

    Have a Husqvarna 455. Has been a great performer. No complaints. Pulled it out today after letting it sit too long (several months…bad, I know). Added new fuel/oil. Topped up bar oil. Cranked up fine. Idles fine. But, was smoking a little, and started leaking some black liquid out the front 3 holes of the thing. Not sure if I should go much further with it. What could be the problem?

  51. Orville says:

    Too many people experience accidents in using chainsaws because they do not have ideas on how to use it well. For beginners like me, this is a great help. I am into cordless chainsaws and I can use them for daily activities.

  52. Joseph silva says:

    Have a 445 husqvana saw, now when I cut a tree it stays reved up, can you help me to what is causing this

  53. williamgrimm1977 says:

    thanks for great guide.

  54. William says:

    Oh yeah, I thought this to be a good article. Thanks

  55. Bill says:

    I’m a beginner, and found this very helpful. Thanks. I was looking for tips on chain tightness, since mine pops off now and then. Your explanation and pics were good.
    —-A suggestion, maybe an alert about safety, and a link to a good chainsaw safety site (s)? I think beginners need an alert/advice.

  56. rick sims says:

    making chainsaw sawmill how do i control the gas 25 feet from the saw {all most a beginner }

  57. Hi Joel,

    This is a great article and covers so much information. Could I please have your permission to link to this piece from my site? It’s http://thechainsawshack.com

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

  58. Joel says:

    Sure, go ahead.

  59. Anonymous says:

    I just bought a new blade and i put it on and it started working fine and now it takes to much pressure to cut it wont cut straight through i have to force it how do i fix it

  60. Anonymous says:

    Hi Joel, Thanks for a great article. I’ve bought a second hand saw and was in need of some tips, your article has helped greatly. My current dilemma is too much chain lube. Might check if correct lube has been used and try to find some adjusting point. The saw is an Oleo Mac 935 DX (never heard of one before) but then it will never get much use. I live in tropical Australia so don’t need firewood but it will be used for pruning trees. Cheers mate, Brian

  61. mediainnewst says:

    I had a chainsaw , when there was an explosion in kanlpot stater , and until now I can not fix

  62. bikenny says:

    Excellent post. It’s detail information .Thanks for your sharing!

  63. Ajmain Azraf says:

    One of the best article I ever saw on Chainsaw Use and Maintenance, I wonder if you have any article on how to use chainsaw for wood curving?

  64. Joel says:

    Thanks for the compliment. No, I’ve never even seen chainsaw carving done.

  65. Really, excellent post.! That is a great article, informative and helpful as well! Thank you very much for sharing.

  66. Steve says:

    What’s you opinion of store-bought pre-mix gas (Lowes, Home Depot)?.

  67. Joel says:

    Like pre-mixed antifreeze, it’s a waste of money but might serve for specific circumstances.

  68. Mickey says:

    Very good article, especially for us newbies. Just got a new Stihl S170. Starts fine. After disengaging brake, the chain seems to turn just fine as well. But it won’t cut. Barely makes a mark in the wood (poplar, about 8″ diameter). Stopped and restarted a few times. Each time seemed to be running fine, chain rotating, but just wouldn’t cut. Didn’t try to long, as didn’t want to damage the chain. Chain is new. Any suggestions? Thanks

  69. Joel says:

    Is the chain facing the right way? At the top of the bar, the sharp part of the cutting links should face front.

  70. Anonymous says:

    Yes – it’s original chain, came on the saw from the shop. First time use, so can’t see how it could be dull to start with. I will certainly take it back to shop to have them take a look. But thought I’d see if there might be other possible explanations out there that I might try, before making the trip into town. Thanks

  71. Joel says:

    Okay, but just because it came that way from the shop doesn’t guarantee it’s right. I’ve unpacked many a Stihl from the factory; the shop guy has to assemble the bar and chain. If he’s half asleep, the chain could be installed backward.

  72. Mickey says:

    (Just noticed forgot to put my name on last post) Yes – it’s original chain, came on the saw from the shop. First time use, so can’t see how it could be dull to start with. I will certainly take it back to shop to have them take a look. But thought I’d see if there might be other possible explanations out there that I might try, before making the trip into town. Thanks

  73. Mickey says:

    Ok, I’ve confirmed that the sharp part of the links are pointing forward at the top of the bar. Any other thoughts about what the problem might be are greatly appreciated. Otherwise I’ll just bring it back in and let them sort it out. Thanks very much

  74. Joel says:

    Sorry, without looking at it I’ve got nothing.

  75. Jeff says:

    When you were talking about starting the chainsaw you stated that the brake should be off. When starting Husqvarna Chainsaws the brake needs to be on so you can idle it down, by giveing it gas, and then you disengage the brake.

  76. Fabulous article, Joel! I have a new saw and I would be the one they`d write “Chainsaws for Dummies” for. I tried reading the manual and failed miserably. Your article helped get a clear picture of it all–and now I CAN understand the manual. I still have a lot to learn, but now I don’t want to just give up. For that I cannot thank you enough. Btw.. I also love your smart-ass lines!t

  77. Nate says:

    I have a brand new sthil I have only used it twice. Today I go to cutt some wood I start it with the chain break on. I let it idle with the chain break on after about 2 min. It starts smoking so I take the chain break off and hit the throttle. It dies and now seems to be locked up answer smells burnt. oh and the chain now will not spin freely with the chain break disengaged. Did I burn up the clutch?oh

  78. Scot says:

    Was trying to show my kid, how to work the saw, and wasn’t paying attn, and I inadvertantly put in gas, where the bar oil goes…emptied it right out, but now it doesn’t go as fast as it used to….any ideas what I could do, to get it back to its original form ?

  79. Joel says:

    Scot, as long as you emptied it out and replaced it with bar oil that shouldn’t have harmed anything. Not certain what you mean by “doesn’t go as fast” – you mean the engine doesn’t? The bar oil reservoir has nothing to do with the engine, so I don’t know what would cause that.

  80. Reuven Spero says:

    hey joel – nice site. thanks for the wisdom of experience.
    got a problem with my husky 350, that’s been working like a dream til just now. changed the chain, tightened it up to short of where i wanted, finger tightened the nuts on the cover, adjusted chain tension, lifted the nose of the bar, tightened the nuts firm. all good, right? chain tension right what i wanted. chain will not move. check that brake is off. chain won’t move. loosen nuts, chain will move but i am not about to operate a chain saw with loose nuts (ahem). take the bar and chain off. sprocket seems tight, but i can turn it and it loosens up to what it should be. reassemble. chain doesn’t move.

    any ideas?

  81. Joel says:

    Not off the top of my head, no. Sorry. You made sure the drive sprocket is able to rotate, and I assume you made sure the drive tabs on the chain are making good contact with the drive and bar sprockets. If they’re in place and the chain isn’t too tight and the chain brake isn’t on, the chain should definitely rotate. But you knew that. Maybe you need a pro to take a look at it.

  82. tim says:

    Hey all – Very good read for someone who grew up around chainsaws but only recently started being an operator. I’ve had 3 husky’s in the last 5 years. I definitely think it is more of a maintenance issue than quality as you can tell I keep going back. One of em didn’t like clear gas either so that was entirely operator error to the extreme.
    Anyways, reason I found your sight. Was cutting earlier today and the saw stopped working correctly. When I engage the trigger, the chain doesn’t spin. I took off the cover and checked everything I could think of and discovered that part of the drive socket seems to be turning while another part of it isn’t. I wish I had better terminology for you and can answer any questions but hoping to have a fix or at least know what I am dealing with before running down the road and reminding Dad he’s still the better man. Thanks for the help and suggestions all – much appreciated

  83. Joel says:

    Tim, a Husky-style drive sprocket can break in half down the center. If that happens it must be replaced. On some saws, Stihls for example, it’s an easy job but on Huskys it isn’t because of the position of the chain brake drum. I fear you’re going to need a shop with the specialized tools, if that turns out to be the problem.

    Hope this helps a little.

  84. Anonymous says:

    Excellent information I’m a newbie and five gentleman tried to fix my little chainsaw and could not and I finally got done few hours worth of work and it runs unbelievable I love it period but my question is you never showed how to sharpen the chain

  85. Sean Anderson says:

    Admitted chainsaw noob. Bought a husqvarna 141 for $50 at a yard sale. Replaced carb and fuel line and it fired right up (thanks Amazon $15 carb). Left the chain brake on and went wide open until the darn thing burst into flames. In my defense I thought that the brake disengaged the clutch somehow….totally wrong!

  86. Keith Rutledge says:

    How many times can you tighten a chain before it’s too stretched?krutledgek

  87. Daniel L Holler says:

    I have the same issue as Sean Anderson. STILH MS 180:: During one of my stupid moments, I started the saw with the brake on but did not flick the trigger to reduce the revs to idle. After a few seconds I saw white smoke from everywhere. The clutch appears to have gotten very hot, it is a bluish color. Now the chain does not stop at idle and it has little power. What parts may I have distorted or melted?

  88. Joel says:

    You tore up the clutch and probably broke the drive sprocket.

  89. I am totally inspired by your work and got some great ideas. Thanks and keep sharing.Great work

  90. You did a great guide for chainsaw maintenance! My first time was a big mistake. I couldn’t start my chainsaw after cleaning it. So I bring it to a workshop to repair. I think this job take time, if we don’t have time, we can hire someone to maintain our chainsaw right way

To the stake with the heretic!