Chainsaw Maintenance

22 January 2012 Maintenance
Chainsaw and Safety Gear

Knowing how to operate and maintain a chainsaw is critical for cabin and cottage owners. Wearing the proper safety gear, using the chainsaw correctly and conducting regular maintenance will ensure the chainsaw serves its purpose in a safe and efficient way.

Using the chainsaw to clear dead trees and cut firewood is much easier than using the old fashioned bow saw, but it must be done in a controlled and safe environment.  Always follow proper safety precautions and the recommended service procedures. Remember, one mistake with the chainsaw and the holiday at the lake is over.

Chainsaw Maintenance Tips For Beginners

How do you properly maintain a chainsaw?
As with any power tool, it is important to keep a chainsaw well maintained to ensure that it runs efficiently and safely. The chainsaw bar oil, chain tightness and the sharpness of the chain must be constantly monitored.

Oil and Gas Mixture
Use the correct gas / oil mixture as recommended by the chainsaw manufacturer. Most chainsaws use a 40:1 or a 50:1 gas to oil mixture. The ratio is often shown on the fuel cap.

Chainsaws tend to be a bit finicky when it comes to getting them started and keeping them running smoothly so the more attention to detail the better.

Bar Chain Oil
Ensure the bar and chain lube oil is refilled before every use and check it periodically when cutting a lot of wood because the chainsaw goes through the chain oil quickly. If everything is running smoothly, the fuel and the bar chain oil should get used more or less at the same rate but it is best to be conservative and check it regularly.

Chainsaw Chain Tightness

How tight should the chainsaw chain be?
Efficient operation of the chainsaw requires the chain to be set at the proper tension.

Check the chain tension before every use. As you use the chainsaw the chain will loosen up. If it is a new chainsaw, or if you still have the manual, read the instructions given by the manufacturer before you start.

The chainsaw chain should fit snug against the bar. If you pull on the chain from the top it should lift a bit but the chain links should remain in contact with the chain guides or groove on the guide bar. It should snap back into place once you let it go.

By the way, make sure you are wearing work gloves when you do this.

If the chain is too loose, it is at risk of coming off when you use the saw. If it is too tight, the chain may break when you use it. If the chain is hanging off the bottom of the guide bar it is too loose.

How do you tighten a chainsaw blade?
It is very easy to adjust the tension on the chainsaw chain. Here are the steps you should follow when you need to tighten the chain on the chainsaw.

Always disconnect the spark plug before you begin any maintenance on the chainsaw.
Chainsaw Bar Bolts First, loosen the two nuts that hold the chainsaw guide bar firmly in place. They just have to be loosened enough to remove the pressure from the guide bar.

If you back them out too far the guide bar can shift out of place.

Chain Tightening Screw Next, use a screwdriver to adjust the chain tension bolt. The bolt has a small finger on it that sits in a slot in the chain guide bar. As you turn the bolt the finger moves the bar and adjusts the tightness of the chain. Once you have the proper tension, tighten the the bolts again and you are ready to go.
Remember to reconnect the spark plug.

Sharpening the Chainsaw Chain

How do you sharpen the chain on a chainsaw?
This is best done by a chainsaw service professional. For the few bucks it costs you it is worth having the pros do it. If you want to do it yourself because you have a big job to do, and you need to sharpen the chain on site, you can buy a chain sharpener which is essentially a small round file. Follow the directions that come with the file, or stop by the local chainsaw service shop and ask the guys to show you how to do it.

Chainsaw Storage
Store the chainsaw in a dry location. It is best to run it out of fuel before you store it for the winter. Old fuel and chainsaws don’t usually get along very well.

What is the best chainsaw size for a cottage?
An 18 inch chainsaw is a good size for most recreational situations unless you have a property with a lot of old trees that may need to be cut. A carrying case is a smart idea for winter storage and for keeping the trunk clean when traveling with the chainsaw.

Beginner Tips for Using a Chainsaw

Chainsaw Users Manual
Read the chainsaw operation and service manual before you use your chainsaw. If you don’t have one, go to the nearest dealer or the the manufacturer’s website to get one.

Chainsaw Safety Gear
Always wear steel toe boots, high quality chaps, a helmet, ear protection, safety glasses, and gloves.

Chainsaw Operation
Hold and use the chainsaw exactly as instructed by the manufacturer. Handling the chainsaw in the correct way reduces the risk of an accident and ensures the most efficient operation.

Take Your Time
Using a chainsaw is strenuous physical work. Fatigue causes a loss of concentration and leads to unsafe techniques which may cause an accident. Take frequent breaks and call it a day when you start to feel exhausted.

Stay Hydrated
Wearing the full safety gear and using the chainsaw on a hot day will cause you to lose a lot of water through sweat. Be sure to stop often and drink lots of water when you are operating the chainsaw.

Avoid Alcohol
Never operate a chainsaw when you are drinking alcohol. Wait until the job is finished before you decide to have a beer.


Keep children and pets away from the work area. Falling branches, and flying saw dust are a hazard. Make sure the youngsters are all accounted for and in a safe location before you use the chainsaw.

Hire Professionals
To tackle difficult jobs like clearing large trees around the cottage and near power lines, you should hire a professional instead of attempting to do the job yourself. In the end, it is much cheaper than dealing with a tree that has fallen the wrong way because you made a mistake.

Always follow proper chainsaw maintenance and safety procedures to avoid accidents and ensure the chainsaw lasts longer and operates efficiently.

Go to the Firewood Tips page.
Go to the Wood Stove Tips page.

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