How to Tune Up a Chainsaw

Knowing how to tune up a chainsaw can save you costly repair bills down the road. A chainsaw has a lot of moving parts that take a pounding as it does its work. Regular maintenance is the only way to keep a chainsaw's parts working smoothly.

Regular Chainsaw Maintenance

The best way to ensure that your chainsaw is in top working order is to use a regular maintenance schedule and to keep track of how long your chainsaw has been operating. Basically, tasks should be performed in one of three time frames: every time you use your chainsaw, every two or three tanks of fuel and at the beginning of each chainsaw season. Here are the tasks you'll need to perform to keep your chainsaw in top shape:

  • Adjust chain tension. Proper chain tension is important for the safe use of your chainsaw and you should check the tension every time you use your chainsaw. A loose chain will make cutting difficult and produce "chatter," while a chain that is too tight will cause premature wear of your chainsaw's bar, chain and engine. You should be able to pull a properly adjusted chain ¼" away from the bar with moderate tension.
  • Over the bar. The cutting side of the chainsaw bar will wear faster than the opposite side. Regularly flipping your bar will distribute the wear evenly and extend the life of the bar. Consider flipping the chainsaw bar over about every fourth or fifth time you refill the fuel tank.
  • A little air, please. The air filter on your chainsaw can quickly become clogged with dust and dirt. A dirty air filter restricts the flow of air into the engine, limiting its power. Check the air filter every other time you fill the fuel tank. If it's dusty, tap it gently against a solid object to dislodge any debris. The air filter should be replaced once a year or when it becomes too dirty to clean.
  • Striking oil. The chainsaw blade requires constant lubrication to perform correctly. When you reach the end of a tank of fuel, check the oil reserve-if it's nearly empty, the chainsaw is using oil at the proper rate. To see if the oil ports are clogged, run the chainsaw over some sheets of newspaper and then check the paper for a slight mist of oil. If no oil is present, the oil ports probably need to be cleaned.
  • Look sharp. Dull blades are a serious chainsaw safety and performance issue. Your chainsaw will need to be sharpened after roughly and one or two tanks of fuel. Using a round file and a chainsaw sharpening guide, your chainsaw can be sharpened in less than an hour.
  • The spark of life. At the beginning of each chainsaw season, remove and inspect your sparkplug. If the plug is dirty, clean it with a stiff wire brush. If the plug is wet, replace it with a new plug. Otherwise, follow your user's manual for a recommended replacement schedule.
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