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. This is especially true if somebody is depending on you to provide a service, and you need to find a quick and efficient solution to keep working. Although log splitters don’t generally have many issues associated with them, depending on the type of model you have you may have a bit of exploration to do in order to discover what is causing your problems. The simplicity of the design, however, can help you pinpoint your exact concern.

If you have a basic knowledge of how your splitter works, then you have the foundation for what you need to narrow down your issues. Luckily, many problems can be corrected in a timely manner on your own, and this guide helps explain some of the most common issues to help you narrow down your log splitter troubleshooting to get you back up and running.

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 the most common log splitter problems deal with either the power source provided to the hydraulics, or the hydraulic pressure. Because of this article is broken down by power source and hydraulic troubleshooting to help you narrow down the source of your issue.


Champion 37 Ton Gas Log Splitter

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

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

Be sure to 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 are a simple design and easy to work on. Start pulls, hoses, and other various parts are very easy to replace as you narrow down the problem.


YARDMAX YS0552 5 Ton Electric Log Splitter isolated in white background

The most common problem with an electric engine not starting is your power source. Always check your outlets to ensure they are in working order, and check to make sure you aren’t blowing a fuse. Sometimes the extension cord you are using is the problem as well. Overtime 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 amount of amps you are drawing for optimal performance.

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

Manual Hydraulic

a man using manual hydraulic log splitter for cutting a big piece of log

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 they can be removed for storage purposes.

Hydraulic Problems and What to Do

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, when released, 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 not right with how this system is operating in reference to the size of the hydraulic pump and what it is capable of.

So what can you do about it?

Know Your Splitter’s Capabilities

Sun Joe LJ10M 10-Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter, Green in white background

First off, you need to narrow down the problem through your observations of what is occuring. You also need to take a look at your own 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 all the way 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 being split, first make sure the log is loaded properly and isn’t on an angle or is too long. If this is in order, take a look at the wedge itself. With heavy use wedges can most definitely become blunt and stop cutting as it should. This 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

Man split the wood using log splitter

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, then 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 can be fixed 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 as needed.

Also 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.

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

Cylinder Rod Won’t Move

a custom small log splitter with cut logs around it on the backyard
Image Source: beckmannag.com

If your cylinder rod won’t move and the hydraulics are not engaging you might have a pretty 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. All you have to do it disconnect the hydraulic hoses and remove the plugs and then put 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: referring to your owner’s manual. You also may have a blocked control valve which can also be cleared by flushing the hydraulic system (notice the pattern?).

The shaft coupling may have come loose. If you think this may be the issue all you need to do is 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 in 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.


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

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 you narrow down any issues you may be experiencing and easy to read manuals to help solve your problems. Always register your machine upon purchase and contact the company if you feel the problem is beyond your capabilities.

Let us know below if you have any questions or comments, and, as always, please share!