Chainsaw Maintenance

This is some information that was provided me by people who run chainsaws everyday for a living.  This list is very inclusive and if you only run your saw for short periods, you may not need to follow this schedule exactly.  But it is good information to have.  Don’t forget to stock up on the necessary supply you need for your saw.  That includes lubricants, air filters, spark plugs and extra chains and a spare bar.

Daily Routines:

Check the throttle trigger for smooth operation.  If any binding occurs, or if engine fails to return to idle, the saw should be repaired before it is used again. Also, be sure that the trigger cannot be pulled until the throttle trigger lockout is depressed.

  • Clean the chain brake and check its function according to the instructions. Make sure that the chain catcher is undamaged.  Otherwise, replace it immediately.
  • Clean or replace the air filter as necessary.  Check for damage or holes.  Keep the muffler, air intake filter clean and the spark arrester in place.
  • The bar should be turned daily for more even wear.  Check the lubrication hole in the bar; to be sure it is not clogged.  Clean the bar groove, if the bar has a sprocket tip, this should be lubricated.
  • Check the function of the oiler to be sure the bar and chain receive proper lubrication.
  • Sharpen the chain and check its tension and condition.  Check the drive sprocket for wear.  Replace if necessary.
  • Check the starter and starter cord for wear or damage.  Clean the air intake slots on the starter housing.
  • Check for any loose nuts and screws and retighten if necessary.
  • Test the stop switch to be sure it shuts off the engine.
  • Check the cooling system of a saw fitted with a catalytic converter.
  • Use the correct fuel (gasoline or a gas/oil mix) recommended by the manufacturer.  For fuel mixtures, mix gasoline and engine oil according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Too much oil will make the saw run “dirty”; too little oil will damage the engine parts.
  • Do not use a saw in need of repair. Remove and replace any damaged parts

Weekly Routines:

  • Lubricate the clutch drum bearing.
  • File off burrs, if any, on the sides of the bar.
  • Clean the spark plug and check the gap.  Know the correct gap for your chain saw.
  • Check the starter and the recoil spring. Clean the fins on the flywheel.
  • Clean the cooling fins on the cylinder.
  • Clean or change the screen in the muffler.
  • Clean the carburetor body and air box.

Monthly Routines:

  • Check the brake band on the chain brake for wear.
  • Check the clutch center, clutch drum and clutch spring for wear.
  • Clean the outside of the carburetor.
  • Check the fuel filter.  Change if necessary.
  • Clean the inside of the fuel tank.
  • Clean the inside of the oil tank.
  • Check all cables and connections.

What should I know about the chain and guide bar?

  • Check the chains for excessive wear, and replace when necessary.
  • Inspect the drive links, sprockets, cutters and track for damage:
  • Repair or replace badly hammered links.
  • If cutters need replacing, file them to the same length as the existing cutters.
  • Replace the bar if nicked or distorted.
  • Replace bar and chain if bar is damaged.
  • Replace worn or damaged drive sprocket before it damages chain.

Use the proper size files to sharpen the chain. Two files are necessary:

  • A flat file for adjusting depth gauge
  • A round file of uniform diameter for sharpening cutters and maintaining drive links
  • Check depth gauges every third of fourth time you sharpen the chain.
  • Adjust the tension of the saw chain after it has been in use for five to ten minutes. The chain stretches as it heats up and requires adjustments at intervals throughout its operation. Do not adjust tension or replace chain while the chain is hot. Damage to the guide bar or crankshaft can occur when an overly tightened chain cools.
  • Keep chain lubricated.

How do I adjust the chain tension?

A loose chain increases wear on drive sprockets, drive links and bar, and endanger the operator if it climbs out of the track. A chain that is too tight will increase wear on components.

When adjusting chain tension follow the manufacturer’s instructions. General tips include:

  • Shut off the saw.
  • Wear gloves to avoid cuts.
  • Loosen bar nuts.
  • Rest tip of bar on small piece of wood to hold tip up.
  • Tighten chain by turning adjustment screws until the chain is snug against the bar but able to be turned freely.
  • Tighten bar nuts for correct chain tension by pulling on bar upwards with gloved hand or supporting it firmly from below.
  • Check tension frequently and adjust as required.
  • Ensure chain rotates smoothly after tensioning.
  • Clean out the chain-oil portal when maintaining the guide bar. Sawdust can block delivery of oil to the cutting chain.

What should I know about chain brakes?

  • Always test the saw and brake before cutting.
  • Apply the chain brake with the saw held firmly in both hands and the engine running at operating power.  If the chain does not stop running immediately, have the saw serviced.
  • Remove the brake housing periodically and clean out any dirt, oil or sawdust.

What should I know about chain lubrication?

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check that the chain is receiving oil.
  • Use the correct grade and type of chain saw oil.
  • Many chain saws are designed such that it will need lubrication at the same time the saw needs fuel. Always check the oil level and refill accordingly.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for refilling, including a sprocket if present.

After reading this list if you are a little mechanically handicapped like me, you may need to get someone to guide you through these steps, especially if you do not use a chain saw regularly. Like anything else using a saw is a skill that gets better with practice.


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