Log Splitter Troubleshooting: A Guide to Common Problems - Backyard Boss
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Log Splitter Troubleshooting: A Guide to Common Problems

Nothing is worse than setting aside time to get a job done and discovering your machinery isn’t working as it should. It’s especially true if somebody depends on you to provide a service, and you must find a quick and efficient solution to keep working.

Depending on your model, you may have a bit of exploration to do to discover what is causing issues with your log splitter. The simplicity of the design, however, can help you pinpoint your exact concern. Luckily, you can correct many problems on your own, and this guide helps explain some of the most common ones to help narrow down your log splitter troubleshooting. Get out there and you’ll be back up and running sooner than later!

Most Popular Log Splitter Types and Power Source Problems

The most popular log splitters use hydraulics to power the force needed to split various-sized logs. Because of this, common problems are related to the power source provided to the hydraulics or the hydraulic pressure. 


Gas log splitter
Image credits: Ariel Celeste Photography via Shutterstock

Gas splitters are powered by a 4-stroke engine that requires regular maintenance. If you neglect your engine, you may have problems with your log splitter working properly. It is especially true if your splitter won’t start or stay running.

Keep your engine in proper working order by providing the right engine oil and gas levels, and drain these fluids when placed in storage for long periods. Old oil and gas can clog up your carburetor, causing it to stop running. You should also check your spark plug regularly and replace it if a carbon build-up is present. It is often one of the main reasons why the engine won’t start.

Clean or change air filters as well, especially after use, since fine sawdust easily clogs a filter, blocking airflow and bogging down the engine. Luckily, gas engines have simple designs and are easy to maintain. Start pulls, hoses, and other parts are painless to replace as you narrow down the problem.


Electric log splitter
Image credits: poseidone via Canva

The power source is the most common problem with an electric engine not starting. Always check your outlets to ensure they are in working order and ensure you aren’t blowing a fuse. 

Sometimes the extension cord you are using is the problem as well. Over time these can dry out and crack, creating a poor electrical connection or breaking the wires inside. Dispose of any extension cord you feel is not working properly and always use a cord rated for the number of amps you draw for optimal performance.

Unfortunately, electric engines are not something you can work on easily. Often, they require a professional if you feel the problem is located in the engine, and many times the cost of the engine repair is more than what a new splitter might cost.

Manual Hydraulic

Manual wood splitter
Image credits: Pixel-Productions via Canva

You are the power source for a manual hydraulic splitter, and these simple designs are pretty easy to troubleshoot simply because there is not much to the overall design.

If your foot pedal or rods are not moving as they should, give them a good oiling to help break up any rust or dirt that may have gotten stuck in the joints. Also, make sure they are properly attached if you can remove them for storage purposes.

Hydraulic Problems and What to Do

Wood splitter
Image credits: LottaVess via Canva

Hydraulic issues are common and generally easy to pinpoint. Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluid to power a force. In a log splitter, the engine pressurized fluid which powers the driving force behind the wedge to split the wood.

If your splitter is bogging down under pressure or seems weak, chances are there is something wrong with how this system operates about the size of the hydraulic pump and what it is capable of. There are a few things you can do to address these issues correctly.

Know Your Splitter’s Capabilities

First, you need to narrow down the problem through your observations. You also need to look at actions before blaming the hydraulic system. A good knowledge of what your splitter is capable of and how a log splitter works is a great place to start.

If your log is not splitting through, it may be too green or too large and require a greater force than what your machine can handle, and you should check the tonnage. If you know this is not the case, then taking a closer look at the hydraulic system is in need.

Wedge Won’t Cut

If everything seems to be working as it should, but the log isn’t split, make sure the log is loaded properly and isn’t on an angle or too long. If this is in order, take a look at the wedge itself.

With heavy use, wedges can become blunt and stop cutting as they should. It is especially true if you have been using it on green or knotty logs. Wedges are easy to remove and sharpen to get back to working order.

Vibration or Shaking

If you experience vibration or shaking during operation, chances are you have a low hydraulic oil level. Check the level and top it off if needed. If the levels are correct, you may have air in the lines. 

To fix this problem, open the bleed valve and cycle the pressure plate back and forth a few times. Always recheck your oil levels after doing this and re-tighten the bleed valve.

Loss of Driving Force

If you are losing driving force and the pressure plate seems to be moving slowly, you may have air in the lines, which you can fix as described above, or you may have an oil leak. Check your lines and seals for leaks and wear, which can occur over time, and replace them as needed.

Consider your temperature, as oil becomes more viscose in cold weather, causing a sluggish, weak response as the machine warms up. If you have ruled out low oil levels and pressure, it is not cold outside, and you are sure you are not leaking — it may need a piston replacement.

Keep your filters clean as well as part of regular maintenance. Clogged filters will keep the oil from moving through the system as it should, creating a pressure drop.

The Cylinder Rod Won’t Move

If your cylinder rod won’t move and the hydraulics are not engaging, you might have a simple solution if this is the first time you have used your splitter. First, check to see if the shipping plugs are still in place by disconnecting the hydraulic hoses, removing the plugs, and putting them back on.

If this isn’t the first time you have used your splitter, and it just started, something else might be blocking the hoses. You can remove the hoses and flush them or change the hydraulic fluid. You may have a blocked control valve which can also be cleared by flushing the hydraulic system.

The shaft coupling may have come loose. If you think this may be the issue, tighten the engine-pump alignment.

Ram Won’t Return

If the Ram has extended and won’t retract, the nut probably came off the piston, and the pressure may have pushed it forward. With the engine off, hold open the valve and push it back using a narrow rod.

You may need to bring it in to have the nut replaced and the loose nut removed before you use it again to avoid damaging the system.

Time to Split!

As seen, common issues surround engine maintenance and hydraulics. Many problems are simply from regular wear and tear and are uncomplicated to fix with new filters, seals, and hoses. However, if problems persist or seem worse despite your care and attention, you may need to take a closer look at the piston and replace it.

Log splitters are made for heavy, long-term use, and the materials used in their design are durable and efficient. Because of this, most companies also provide excellent customer support to help narrow down any issues you may be experiencing. There are also manuals included to help solve your problems.

Comment below if you have faced any issues related to your log splitter, and, as always, please share!