Man working on chainsaw

How to care for your chainsaw

Published 5th January 2023
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A chainsaw is an essential tool for any gardener, landscaper or homeowner. It can be used for a variety of tasks, from pruning trees and cutting firewood to clearing overgrown brush and felling trees.

But like any other power tool, it needs regular maintenance in order to keep it running safely and efficiently. In this article, we’ll discuss how to maintain a chainsaw so that you can get the most out of your investment. This assumes you already own a chainsaw – if you don't read our chainsaw buying guide to find out how to find the perfect one!

Why is chainsaw maintenance important?

Maintaining your chainsaw is important for several reasons. First, it helps ensure that the saw runs safely and effectively. A well-maintained saw will cut faster and more accurately than one that hasn’t been serviced regularly.

Second, regular maintenance can help extend the life of your saw by preventing wear and tear on its components. Finally, keeping up with maintenance will save you money in the long run by reducing repair costs due to neglected parts or damage caused by improper use or storage.

Safety first

Before performing any maintenance on your chainsaw, it’s important to take safety precautions. Wear protective gear such as gloves, goggles and ear protection when working with a chainsaw. Make sure the area is clear of debris and other obstacles that could be hazardous while using the saw.

Check the trigger

Before performing any serious maintenance, it's a good idea to make sure your chainsaw's trigger is working correctly. With the chainsaw connected to power or fuelled, give the trigger a few quick, smooth pulls while keeping a secure grip on the chainsaw and keeping the blade safely away from anything it could catch on.

If the throttle is sticking, or the engine isn't returning to idle after you release the trigger, something is seriously wrong with your chainsaw and you should take it into a repair shop or service station for an inspection. If the trigger functions fine, you can disconnect the chainsaw from power or empty the fuel tank and move on to the next steps.

Make sure the safety systems are working correctly

Another important step is to check all the safety systems are working correctly. The most important of these are the throttle lock and the chain brake. Ensure the chain brake is clean and check the chain catcher for any damage. If you find some, replace the catcher immediately and don't use the chainsaw again until you do.

Cleaning your chainsaw

Cleaning your chainsaw regularly will help keep it in good condition and reduce wear and tear on its components over time. Start by removing any dirt or debris from the outside of the saw using a soft paintbrush or cloth.

Then use a vacuum cleaner or compressed air to remove dust and dirt from inside the engine compartment and around moving parts such as the chain sprocket cover and clutch drum assembly.

Sharpening the chain

A dull chain will make cutting difficult and dangerous, so it’s important to sharpen your chain regularly. Start by loosening the bar nuts at either end of the bar with either the bar tool that came with your chainsaw or a flat head screwdriver. Remove the bar from the saw body then turn it over so you can access both sides of each cutter tooth on the chain loop (the teeth should point away from you).

Use a round chainsaw file specially designed for this purpose to sharpen each tooth individually. There are different types of chainsaw files – you can find out which kind from the instructions provided with your chainsaw. You may need two files – one for left-hand cutters and one for right-hand cutters.

Start at one end of each tooth then work towards its tip in short strokes until all teeth have been sharpened evenly across their entire length. Once you're finished, replace the bar onto the saw body then tighten up both bar nuts securely with a wrench or pliers before testing out your newly sharpened chain!

Checking chain tension

It’s important to check tension regularly because having too much tension can cause premature wear-and-tear while having too little tension can result in poor performance during cutting tasks - and both are dangerous!

First locate the tightening screw or bolt on the side of the chainsaw, near the bar. If it's a bolt, you'll need a wrench to adjust the chain; if it's a screw you'll need a screwdriver. Often the brand will provide a tool especially for tightening the chain, so use that if you're not sure.

Very carefully grasp the chain and move it forward. If you can move it smoothly and easily the chain isn't too tight. Next (being even more careful), hold a link in the chain along the bottom of the chainsaw between your thumb and forefinger.

Pull downwards so that three links come away from the chainsaw bar. Then let go. The chain should spring back to the bar and fit tightly against it. If it doesn't the chain is too loose. Adjust the chain's tension gradually until both criteria are fulfilled.

Petrol chainsaw only: Clean or replace the spark plug

The spark plugs ignite the petrol that powers your chainsaw. If they're not working correctly, your chainsaw won't run efficiently and could be dangerous, so it's important to keep them clean and replace them when necessary.

To access the spark plugs, use a screwdriver to remove the chainsaw's top cover and pull the rubber spark plug boot from the top of the plug. Then, use a socket wrench to remove the plug itself from its housing. If the spark plug is badly corroded it needs to be replaced. Otherwise, you can use a toothbrush or sandpaper together with some brake cleaning fluid to remove any carbon scoring.

Petrol chainsaw only: Clean or replace the air filter

The air filter keeps dust and other detritus from finding its way into your petrol chainsaw, but it can only do its job if it's not clogged with dust itself. Luckily, cleaning it is simple. You can remove the filter when the chainsaw's top cover is removed and tap it gently over a bin to get rid of small amounts of dust. If it's absolutely filthy or damaged in some way you'll need to replace it with a fresh one.

Follow these steps and you'll make sure your chainsaw works well and cuts cleanly and safely for years to come. If you want some tips on how best to operate your chainsaw, read our blog on how to use your chainsaw.

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