Common problems with your chainsaw and how to fix them

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Photo by William Klase

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to working, maintaining, nor repairing chainsaws.  But I have some experience with chainsaws, and have encountered some situations/problems that I believe are common to many users.  And so, I thought I would share some of the knowledge I have gained over the years.

Let me start by saying that many problems can be avoided just by doing some simple, regular maintenance on your saw.  Things like cleaning the air filter, putting fresh gas in the saw, remembering to add bar and chain oil when you fuel up, and running a file over your chain every tankful of gas or two.

Problems with how the chain cuts can usually be associated with the quality of the sharpening.  If the chain cuts crooked or at an angle, then you are filing the cutters at different angles or applying inconsistent pressure on one side over another.  The angle of the top plate and the size of the cutter should be very consistent throughout your chain.

If your chain dulls quickly, then it could be a couple of things.  Check your user’s manual to ensure that you are using the right sized file for your chain.  Alternatively, you could be applying too much pressure when you file.  This will create cutting edges that are too thin and dull quickly.

Your chain will cut too deep or barely cut at all if your rakers or depth gauges are filed down too much or not enough, respectively.   Get yourself a depth gauge appropriate for your saw and use it every time you sharpen your chain.

A saw that won’t start or runs rough can cause you to think the carburetor is out of whack, but it may just be a neglected air filter.  If the filter is clogged, the ratio of air to gasoline in the carburetor will be off.  This can lead to a fouled spark plug and a clogged spark arrester screen inside the muffler.  Some of the best advice I got was to never mess with the carburetor unless you really know what you are doing.

If the engine still won’t start or runs rough after cleaning the air filter, clean the spark arrester screen and the spark plug.  You may need to replace the spark plug if this condition has been going on for a while.

Finally, sometimes your chain will seem like it is not getting enough oil.  When I first learned to use a chainsaw, I was taught to rev the engine a bit before cutting.  If the chain was getting sufficient oil, a bit of the oil will fly off the end when the engine is revved.  Additionally, if you don’t need to completely refill your saw with chain oil when you top off the gas, then your chain is probably not getting enough oil.

The solution to this problem is pretty simple.  After you finish using your saw for the day, take the bar and chain off and clean out all the debris that has accumulated around the oiling mechanism.  You can check to see if you have cleaned the oiling mechanism thoroughly by running your saw without the bar and chain on and watching to see if oil comes out.

If you do the prescribed regularly scheduled maintenance and sharpen your chain correctly, you can avoid the problems I have described here.

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