Horticulture Magazine

How To Maintain A Chainsaw In 7 Simple Steps

chainsaw being unscrewed

A chainsaw is a vital piece of kit for tree felling and cutting logs. But without the right maintenance you can soon find that it can lose its effectiveness – and sometimes even fail to operate properly.

Rigorous ongoing maintenance of your chainsaw will dramatically increase its lifespan and effectiveness. Remember that this is a predominantly metal object that is subject to rust and other forms of wear-and-tear caused by its heavy-duty uses.

We’d usually recommend that for proper maintenance you’ll need the following tools in your kit: wrenches, screwdrivers, a round file and gauge, a flat file and gauge, and cloths for cleaning. You can buy specially-made chainsaw maintenance kits with these tools included. It’s also useful to have the documents that came with your chainsaw if you still have them to hand.

1. Clean Your Chainsaw

The first thing you should do is ensure that your chainsaw is always properly cleaned after use. Tractor Supply Co offer their own cleaning tips:

  • Remove the clutch cover and clean the chain brake band.
  • Clean the chainsaw bar. Use a thin piece of wood to remove any debris from inside the track.
  • Locate and remove the cylinder cover.
  • Wash out the air filter and any air intake slots (see below for more information)
  • Check the flywheel pins to remove any blockages that might restrict cooling air being pulled into the engine.

It’s important to carry out these steps after use and before any prolonged use.

2. Check the Air Filter

The chainsaw needs to be able to ‘breathe’ in air in order to work efficiently, something which a blocked or dirty filter can prohibit.

This is something that you should look to do before every use. Check the air filter for dirt and clean it off, allowing time for it to dry before using. If it’s damaged beyond repair, replace the filter with a new one.

3. Ensure You Have Ideal Chain Tensioning

If you remove the chain during maintenance, or after heavy use, you will need to ensure the correct tightening is applied once the chain has been re-attached.

A properly tensioned chain will have no slack between the chain and bar but should still be loose enough that it can be pulled away roughly 30mm by your thumb and forefinger. It should snap back in place when released.

4. Properly Lubricate the Chain

The chain should always be clean and well-lubricated. Failure to do so is one of the biggest causes of premature wear-and-tear.

This can be achieved by ensuring before each use that you check and replenish the oil reservoir as required. By holding the saw over a piece of wood and revving the engine, you can see that the chain lubrication is working if you’re able to leave an impression of oil on the wood using the end of the chain.

5. Maintain the Chainsaw Bar

This is the area of your chainsaw that is often exposed to the most wear – especially the underside of the bar where a lot of the cutting happens.

By switching the guide bar around each time you change or maintain the chain, you’re able to ensure that both sides wear down evenly over time. You should also look to file away any raised edges that might have worn into the bar over time.

If the chainsaw bar groove is no longer deep enough to hold the chain link, you will need to replace the chainsaw bar.

6. Sharpen Your Chain

If you’ve noticed that your chainsaw doesn’t quite have the same bite that it used to, chances are high that the chain has dulled. Don’t just keep using it. You’ll only do damage to the machine and it’s not going to be a very effective tool for cutting.

Similarly, don’t just replace the chain with a new one, unless you’re sure it’s spent. It’s just as easy to sharpen the chain and save yourself some cash! You’ll need to invest in some protective gloves and a chainsaw sharpening kit, but it’ll be worth the investment in the long run.

  1. Apply the chain brake and clamp the bar of the chainsaw in a vice.
  2. Place the gauge with arrows towards the bar nose.
  3. Use a round file, sharpening every other tooth with a pushing stroke. This should be at right angles to the rollers. File from the inside of every tooth to the outside, ensuring that you file in one direction, away from you only.
  4. File each cutter between 5-10 times then check for sharpness. The face of the cutter should be shiny silver once sharpened.
  5. The second roller guide sits on the links of the chain, which hold it in the correct position and angle. The round file should pass over this and sharpen the cutter.
  6. Work through all of the cutters on one side, then flip the chainsaw over and work through those on the other, pulling the chain along as you go.
  7. Check the height of the depth gauge as you sharpen. If they stick out over the guide, file them down with a flat file.

As a general rule of thumbs, we’d recommend sharpening your chain each time you replace the fuel in your chainsaw. This should keep it in tip top condition at all times.

How To Replace The Chainsaw Chain

If your chainsaw chain has dulled beyond repair, you’ll need to replace it:

  1. Remove the clutch cover, pushing the bar of the chainsaw in.
  2. This will allow you to remove the chain and slide the bar off the chainsaw.
  3. Flip over or change the chain bar.
  4. Move the new chain into the correct position, hooking it over the sprocket and feeding the bar links into the grooved edge of the bar.
  5. Tighten the screw at the side of the bar to adjust the tension of the chain. Again this should pull away from the bar no more than 30mm and snap back in place with a twang.
  6. Spread lubricant across the chain and bar; re-fill the oil reservoir.

Your chainsaw should now work efficiently again – good as new!

7. Store Your Chainsaw Properly

If you’re not going to be using the chainsaw for a few months, drain all the fuel from the tank and exhaust any left in the lines by using it until it cuts out. It’s best to remove the chain and keep it stored in a covered container with plenty of oil to prevent rusting.

Store the machine in a cool, dry place – ideally with a cover to repel any moisture.

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