Power tools are great, but they come with their inherent problems that need to be addressed. Chainsaw problems can range from minor to detrimental and can lead to danger if not addressed. Taking care of the typical problems that arise with chainsaws don’t have to be a difficult process, and most of it can be done without the help of a professional if you have any experience with these tools at all. However, sometimes, especially if you aren’t very familiar with how your chainsaw is built or works, you might want to seek help. A number of the normal chainsaw problems experienced by users can be easily avoided through proper care and maintenance, as well as by assuring that you purchase a quality product in the first place. In this article, we’ll help you determined how to choose the right chainsaw to avoid unnecessary trouble, proper care, and maintenance to negate several typical chainsaw problems, and how to address any common issues that arise.
Choosing a Chainsaw
When you first decide to purchase a chainsaw, your decision will heavily impact the possibility of future complications. First, you should think about your own prior experience with chainsaws. Because they are a hefty power tool with a number of safety precautions to keep in mind, you want to be sure the chainsaw you choose fits your level of experience. If you’re new to the use of these machines, consider the smallest possible tool that meets your needs in order to give you greater control so you can work through the learning curve without undue risk. Another consideration to keep in mind when choosing your chainsaw is the main use you have for it. Chainsaws are available in a wide range of sizes and power, ranging from light duty to professional grade heavy duty tools. If you only plan to do light work, such as small tree trimmings and pruning, you shouldn’t purchase a heavy duty machine, as this becomes a hazard. However, you don’t want to buy a light duty tool to take on large jobs like debris cleanup after a storm or wood cutting for winter fires. Accommodating your needs with the smallest machine available can help keep you safer as well as assure that you aren’t misusing the tool and causing extra strain on the machine.
You can find chainsaws that are powered by gas as well as electricity. Gas-powered chainsaws tend to be more powerful but are also heavier and more difficult to maneuver. Electric chainsaws can be corded or cordless. A corded chainsaw comes with several caveats, including limited range depending on the length of the cord and the need to carefully avoid the cord getting in the way of the job. With a cordless electric chainsaw, you have to make sure the battery is charged between uses and you have limited time to use the tool since the charge will drain as you work. Of course, gas-powered chainsaws require the added cost of fuel, as well as additional weight based on adding gas and oil for operation. Not to mention the harmful emissions it creates.
Purchasing a Chainsaw
Take into account user reviews, and stick to well-known brands when you decide to buy a chainsaw. While you might find a great bargain on a little-known brand, you’ll probably also find there’s a reason they aren’t popular compared to brands like Stihl or Black and Decker. When you have trusted brands, you have a long history of successful operation and customer satisfaction to count on, and that also means they hold themselves to higher standards than the general industry to retain customer loyalty.
Practicing safety with a chainsaw is essential not only to avoid risk but also to keep the power tool functioning properly without incurring numerous problems. Start with a safety checklist every time you intend to operate the machine.
- Check the chain brake for proper operation.
- Make sure the throttle control is functioning properly.
- Check the chain catcher as well as chain lubrication.
- Make sure the chain drive wheel is not too worn or broken.
- Check for loose screws, bolts, and nuts, tightening anything that is loose.
- If you have a gas-powered chainsaw, check the fuel level and age.
- If you have a cordless electric model, check the charge on the battery.
A number of important safety practices also come into play during use. Never smoke while operating a chainsaw, especially gas-powered units. Make sure the fuel mix is correct, using the proper portions of gas and oil. If you are worried you won’t mix it properly, purchase a premix from the store. When starting the saw, do so at least 10 feet from the fuel source for gas-powered units, away from the cord if applicable, and always on the ground rather than in midair. [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
Always operate a chainsaw holding the tool firmly with both hands. Make sure anyone watching is at a safe distance to avoid injury from accidents or flying wood chips, and never carry a chainsaw while on. Turn it off when traveling from one area of use to the next. Keep the chain away from metal and stone to avoid danger as well as to protect the blade. Make sure that, during operation, your body is to the side of the bar’s work area rather than directly behind it. Also, never raise the tool higher than chest level.
Don’t race the engine when not cutting, and make sure you use only acceptable cutting techniques. That includes making sure the end of the bar doesn’t bore straight into the wood you intend to cut. This should always be done with the edge of the bar. If possible, stand on the uphill side of your work area, with the chainsaw and cutting area down the incline from you. Make sure that, if you’re cutting down trees, the felling area is clear.
Don’t work with distractions. Your sole focus should be on the chainsaw and the work you’re doing. Always use protective gear, including eye protection against flying wood chips, earplugs to avoid any hearing damage from loud operating conditions, and gloves for both work and cleaning purposes to keep from cutting yourself or getting blisters. Wear snug fitting clothing rather than baggy outfits, and use cut resistant pants or chaps to avoid dangerous accidents. Finally, wear shoes or boots with steel toes to help protect yourself both from accidents with the chainsaw as well as from falling pieces of wood that could potentially break your toes or otherwise damage your feet.
Most of all, never get overconfident. Remember that you’re working with a piece of heavy machinery that shouldn’t be operated without complete focus or while consuming alcohol or other impairing substances. Never loan your chainsaw to someone else, since you can’t guarantee they’ll properly care for or use the tool. And when you’ve finished your work, clean the tool and place it in a carrying case for safe keeping. This will not only avoid accidentally nicking yourself or someone else with the chain but also preserve the integrity of the tool against the elements and other hazardous environmental factors.
Maintenance and Prevention
A significant part of avoiding most problems that could arise such as chainsaw not cutting, or chainsaw keeps stalling, is to properly care for and maintain your chainsaw. If you’ve kept up with the safety tips that help assure your chainsaw – and you – are in good working order, additional maintenance is a breeze. There are several checkpoints to look at, though, so it might be helpful to post a list of maintenance needs so you don’t forget anything essential.
- Regular cleaning – cleaning your chainsaw involves making sure all the important parts are clear of debris and other potential problems, including the sprocket nose, the oil inlet hole (which could be clogged), the groove bar (oiling after cleaning), and sharpening the chain. All of this should be done at least every time you sharpen or change the chain, as well as at the beginning and end of every season you decide to use your chainsaw.
- Rotate the guide bar and remove burrs as needed after each chain sharpening or replacement.
- Chain tension and lubrication – check the tension on the chain frequently, most importantly when you first purchase the tool for use and again after you’ve broken it in, as well as every time you change or sharpen the chain.
- Keep the chain sharp – it’s impossible to work safely with a dull chain, so you should assure you use the proper file size, file it evenly and at the correct angle, and use caution with depth gauges. If this seems like a daunting task, have a professional take care of it; the cost is minimal and definitely worth avoiding the risk of hurting yourself or ruining your chain. But this can directly help a problem such as a chainsaw kickback.
- Always break in a new chain – as mentioned, you will likely need to check tension after you break in the chain, so you may want to take it on a test spin before digging into a large job first thing.
- Air filter – maintaining a clean air filter will improve operation overall for your chainsaw and avoid some of the more common problems with chainsaws seen by users. Foam and paper filters should be replaced often, and screen filters can be cleaned with forced air from a compressor or by tapping against the edge of a workbench to dislodge debris. This could help avoid problems such as a chainsaw that leaks oil when stored.
- Use fresh gasoline – because your chainsaw will likely have long periods during which they aren’t used, it’s important to remember that the gas-oil mixture can start to break down fairly quickly when not used, leading to gum and sludge that can clog the machine and plug the carburetor. Never mix enough fuel to last more than 30 days, since breakdown begins shortly after this time, and consider using 2-stroke oil that includes a gas stabilizer (or at least treat with a fuel stabilizer after the fact).
Identifying Trouble Spots
When it comes to both maintenance and repair of problems such as chainsaw noise, chainsaw won’t idle, or the more common issue of a chainsaw won’t start, you can benefit from knowing the most of them and how to address the issues yourself. There are about 12 parts of the chainsaw that regularly have issues, most of which are easily avoided or corrected.
PROBLEM AREA: OIL PORTS
Solution: There are typically two oil inlets at the rear of the bar, which are easily clogged. Any time you have the bar dismounted, take a small wire and clean these out before remounting so that you can avoid any issues with a lack of lubrication.
PROBLEM AREA: GUIDE BAR GROOVES
Solution: Where the chain is guided along the bar, sawdust can gather, keeping it from rotating smoothly. You might also experience some nicking from use. To rectify this, you can remove the cover from the drive case, the chain, and the bar. Then, use a small screwdriver to clean the grooves. For smaller areas, a piece of wire may work better. When this is done, look for nicks and use a file to flatten them out, using strokes that are perpendicular to the flanks of the bar.
PROBLEM AREA: CHAIN
Solution: This is probably the most detrimental area with the most numerous issues because it experiences the heaviest use among all parts of the chainsaw. Let’s take a look at the problems and solutions individually.
- Chattering: If you’re getting sawdust as you try to cut as opposed to wood chips, or if the cuts are curved in nature, it’s time to sharpen your chain. Sharpen the teeth with a round file of the appropriate size for your model. Maintain the proper angle (if you have the most common chipper chain, this would be 35 degrees) and do so horizontally. For other chain types, check the manufacturer’s directions.
- Rough Operation: This could be due to a loose chain or lack of proper lubrication. It can also involve a dirty chain that needs to be cleaned and freshly oiled. First, remove the chain from the bar and wash it in a shallow pan filled with a solvent to remove caked on dirt and debris. Then, create ‘bath for it using warm 10-weight oil. You should let it soak for about 12 hours and then replace on the bar.
- Looseness or Vibration: You may need to adjust the tension on the chain, and chainsaws tend to loosen over time. Most models now have an easy external means for adjusting the tension, and you want to tighten it until the chain fits snugly on the bar but can still be turned by hand without resistance.
- Won’t Stop Turning: This could be a problem with the clutch or the return springs that help the clutch engage or return. If they aren’t engaging, the chain won’t stop turning. By the same standard, if they don’t release, the chain won’t move. The clutch pads may also have grown sticky. If any of these symptoms occur, you should replace the entire clutch assembly.
PROBLEM AREA: POWER SPROCKET
Solution: By the time you’ve made it through several chains, you’ll find that the sprocket on the clutch is just plain worn out. To see the state it’s in, check the teeth for uneven wear or other damage. You should replace a damaged sprocket, and if there’s a clutch bearing, you should carefully but lightly lubricate it at this time. [/et_pb_toggle]
PROBLEM AREAS: IGNITION
Solution: Because gas-powered chainsaws use a 2-stroke engine with a gas-oil mix, spark plugs are easily fouled. Start by removing the spark plug and checking the tip of the plug to assure it’s dark gray or brown in color. If it’s not, you might have an air leak or a wrong fuel mix. Brush the spark plug clean (using a wire brush) and reset the gap appropriately. Tighten it back in the socket but not too much, or purchase a new plug, making sure it’s the right type for your model. For the ignition, newer models are maintenance free, but older models may have breaker points that should be addressed by a repair professional.
PROBLEM AREA: EXHAUST SYSTEM
Solution: Clogging from residue that comes from the engine exhaust is fairly common in the muffler, exhaust port can, and spark screen. You can remove the screen and the muffler, both of which can be cleaned with a brush and solvent. The exhaust port is a little more complex, with a need to move the piston to the top of the stroke. Then, you’ll have to scrape the buildup within the port, using solvent. Do it with a wooden stick rather than a metal one.
PROBLEM AREA: FILTERS
Solution: Both the air and fuel filters need to be cleaned frequently or replaced, depending on the type of filter your chainsaw uses. Plastic air filters can be washed with soap and water, while other materials need a solvent. While you’re cleaning the air filter, you may want to consider cleaning the carburetor and checking the throttle at the same time. The screen on the fuel filter can also be cleaned with solvent, though removing it to do so requires a little more work since you have to ‘fish’ it out.
PROBLEM AREA: CARBURETOR
Solution: Aside from getting clogged or filthy, the carburetor could cause the engine to idle too slowly or stall due to adjustments needed to the idle-speed screw (one of three you’ll find on the body of the carburetor. The other two are for low-speed and high-speed, and these may also need adjustment based on the operation of the machine. If you are unsure of how to do this properly, you may want to address the issue with a professional, who can do it quickly and inexpensively.
PROBLEM AREA: CARBURETOR
Solution: Using a chainsaw in the summer can cause it to quickly overheat. This can easily be avoided by cleaning the parts as described on a regular basis, at least every couple of uses. Make sure the air intake especially is clear, and follow any instructions in your manual to make sure you don’t make a mistake. Flooding may also happen when gas hits the engine prior to turning it on. You can drain this excess fuel by repeatedly yanking the pull start until the fuel is cleared and the chainsaw starts. However, make sure that the starter is disengaged, as this will allow more fuel to drain faster.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to chainsaw problems, most of the fairly common issues are easily resolved, and most of them can be prevented. If you assure you choose a proven brand name with great reviews – and a great warranty – you’ll start with fewer issues. Proper care and maintenance, as well as adhering to safety requirements and needs, can really help avoid the worst of the problems that can occur. Of course, you’ll still run into the average wear and tear, but you can put it off longer, keeping parts in better working order so you have to replace them less frequently. If you’re prepared for the inevitable by knowing the most common chainsaw problems that will eventually arise, it’s not difficult to quickly repair any problems or replace any worn out or faulty parts. If it’s not something you’re comfortable handling your experience, many chainsaw repairs are simple and quick and don’t cost much, so you can consult a professional.