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How to Care for your Chainsaw - Before, During, and After Use

How to Care for your Chainsaw – Before, During, and After Use

Imagine what a pioneer or early settler who used an axe to clear land for planting and cut trees to build their log cabin would have given to have a chainsaw. It is a marvelous machine that can drastically reduce the amount of time and energy required to complete wood cutting tasks.

Taking proper care for your chainsaw can extend its life and maximize its performance capacity and efficiency. Chainsaw manufactures provide the purchaser of their product with a recommended maintenance schedule for proper care. Of course, when performing general maintenance and care for your chainsaw, always ensure that the saw is turned off, disconnect the spark plug of a gas-powdered saw and unplug an electric saw from its power source. It is also recommended to use the type of oil by the manufacturer for the engine, saw chain, and guide bar. Below are some important general guidelines to follow to keep your wood cutting machine running in top form.

  1. Before each use:

  • Check the guide bar and chain oil levels. Most models have built in systems that automatically lubricate the guide bar and chain while the machine is in operation assuming the levels of oil are sufficient. Keeping them properly lubricated will reduce friction and the associated wear on the bar and chain components, as well as conserve gas by keeping resistance to a minimum which then takes less gas to power the saw.
To add bar and chain oil, set the chainsaw bar-side down on a stable and level surface. Unscrew the cap to the oil reservoir. With as small funnel, slowly pour in the oil until full (not over filled) and securely replace the cap. Wipe away any excess oil


  • Ensure that the chain has the appropriate tension and does not sag down. Excessive sag can reduce cutting efficiency and stress the chain link system and contribute to early breakdown.
To adjust the guide bar for proper chain tension, loosen the clutch cover nuts, and pull the guide bar to desired tension. While pulling the guide bar up at the tip, turn the chain tension screw clockwise. This will take up slack in the chain to provide the desired tension for optimum cutting efficiency.


  • Ensure that the guide bar groove has proper link clearance.
  • Grease all accessible sprockets, such as exists at the nose of some guide bars. If a sprocket is worn, replace it.
  • Sharpen the chainsaw chain (as or when needed) to ensure effective cutting, to reduce wear and tear on the guide bar, sprocket, and motor, to achieve better gas efficiency, and to reduce the risk of injury from kickback, and overall fatigue of cutting the wood. See other article titled, “Safety Features of the Modern Chainsaw and Personal Protective Equipment
To sharpen your chainsaw blade, begin with safety by wearing thick protective gloves and engage the chain brake. Gather the necessary equipment (wrenches, screwdriver, files, file and depth gauge tools). Note: Some chainsaw manufactures require a specific sharpening device for use with their saw and may even recommend it be sharpened and filed by a professional) Follow these steps:

1.     With the chain brake engaged, place the saw in a vice to secure against movement while filing

2.     Place the file depth gauge on the saw with arrows pointing toward the front of the guide bar tip

3.     Begin sharpening the cutting teeth using a round file and file every other tooth at right angles to the chainsaw rollers. File using a forward one direction smooth and consistent pushing motion and at the same angle as you did the first tooth. Lift the file off the saw during the backward stroke

4.     When you have completed going around the chain, loosen the vice, turn the saw around, and reposition in the saw in the vice facing the opposite direction

5.     Continue sharpening the teeth by filing the other teeth that face the opposite direction

6.     With the teeth filing completed, file the depth gauges with a flat file. Place the guide over the teeth and file until the file contacts the depth guide. Make sure all other depth gauges are filed to the same height

7.     Note: A general rule is to replace the chain if it has been sharpened back to the angled guide line of the teeth


  • Fill the chainsaw with the manufacturer’s directed fuel mix ratio or use a premixed fuel.
  • Perform an operational check of the throttle lockout, the chain brake, the chain catch device, and the oil dispensing mechanism
  1. During your cutting session:

  • Do not strike the ground, rocks, or other hard non-wood objects.
  • Do not saw with the tip or end of your saw and don’t casually toss it around if you want to maintain its cutting precision.
  • Check the chain periodically to ensure that the chain does not excessively sag and that the teeth are sharp.
  • Power down or de-throttle when not cutting
  1. After completion of your cutting session:

  • Turn the saw off and engage the chain brake.
  • Clean all debris from the saw. This includes the chain, guide bar, body, and anywhere that debris has gathered.
  • Loosen the chain on the guide bar so as the chain cools and “shrinks”, it does not tighten on the bar.
  • Place the protective scabbard over the guide bar for storage.

In general, it is recommended that periodically you clean chainsaw. This may include:

  • Check the air filter. If dirty, clean and replace as needed.
  • Clean the chain brake band.
  • Remove the chain from the guide bar and clean inside the track.
  • Clean the air intake and cooling mechanism
  • Tighten any loose screws, bolts, and nuts

As each chainsaw may have some unique maintenance and care guidelines and recommendations from the manufacture, always review your owner’s manual for details specific to your chainsaw.