Chainsaw Scheduled Preventive Maintenance

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Checklists and preventive maintenance schedule for your saw.

No one likes to start a vacation or a project only to discover that it has to be postponed because the car needs to be service or in this case your chainsaw. For this reason, we have created the following checklist and preventive maintenance schedule for your chainsaw. This is only a suggested schedule. For the required preventive maintenance for your chainsaw, please refer to your owner’s manual.

Check and Adjust Chain Tension (EVERY USE)

When your chainsaw is new, the chain will wear and stretch significantly, this is also true for new chains.

Check and Adjust Chain Tension

Check and Adjust Chain Tension

With new chains, sometimes you will be required to readjust them within five to ten cuts. A loose chain can be hazardous; it can bind in the wood or come off of the guide bar. A chain that is too tight on the other hand will cause the chain and guide bar to wear prematurely. To test your chain’s tension gently pull it with a gloved hand. A well-adjusted chain will not bind or sag and will move easily and smoothly.

Step 1: Using a wrench, loosen the guide bar retaining nuts located on the side of the saw
where the guide bar attaches to the motor.

Step 2: You want to locate the chain tension adjustment screw. This should be on the front of the motor housing near the guide bar. (If it is not there, then check your owner’s manual to for the location of the adjustment screw.)

Step 3: With a screwdriver, turn the screw clockwise to increase the tension. To decrease the tension, turn the screw counterclockwise. Properly correct the chain tension if needed for your chainsaw to work safely and properly. When your chain is properly set, it will be snug, yet able to be moved freely when pulled with a gloved hand.

After you have tightened the saw chain, if the chain is still too loose, then the chain will need to be replaced. Before installing a new chain, soak it in SAE 30 oil overnight.

TIP: Always keep at least one replacement chain on hand.

Step 4: Once the chain tension has been adjusted, while holding the guide bar in its uppermost position, tighten the guide bar retaining nuts.

Check and/or Service the Chain Oiling System (EVERY USE)

All chainsaws will usually have either a manual or automatic chain oiling system. 

Chain Oiling System

Check and/or Service the Chain Oiling System

Oil is needed to reduce friction and prevent heat from building between the chain and guide bar as well as to ensure that the chain operates smoothly at high speeds.

Testing the oiling system is easy. Simply hold your chainsaw approximately 2-3″ above a sheet of the white of the paper and rev the chainsaw a couple of times. For chainsaws with a manual chain oil controls, you want to depress the oil lever while you are revving the chainsaw. If your chainsaw oiling system is function properly, you will see a light mist of oil on the sheet of paper. If oil was not dispensed during testing, then there is a problem with the oiling system and you should not use your chainsaw until the problem has been corrected.

The first thing you need to do is make sure there is sufficient oil in the oil reservoir. If the oil reservoir is full, then remove the chain and inspect the oil passages on the guide bar. It is possible that his has become dirty, and simply need to be cleaned with a shop rag.

Your next step is to check the oil outlets. These should be located near the clutch and sprocket assembly that is behind the guide bar mounts. Many times these become clogged with sawdust and chain oil and need to be cleaned. Usually, a careful and thorough cleaning will remedy any problems with the oiling system’s performance. Refer to your owner’s manual for the precise locations of the oil outlets on your particular chainsaw.

Once you have performed these steps, if the oiling system still doesn’t function properly, you will need to take your chainsaw to an authorized service center.

Tightening screws and inspecting fuel system (EVERY USE)

These may sound like no-brainers but you should check on these every time you use the chainsaw. 

Tightening screws and inspecting fuel system

Tightening screws and inspecting fuel system (EVERY USE)

Tighten All Screws and Fasteners (EVERY USE)

No matter how expensive your chainsaw is, or how well it is made, all chainsaws vibrate. Therefore, you need to carefully check all fasteners and tighten them if needed. You need to pay close attention to the fasteners that are securing the bar, chain and safety guards.

Inspect the Fuel System (EVERY USE) Gas powered chainsaws only

This may sound like a no-brainer, however, you need to check your fuel system before every use for leaks. Look for leaking fuel around the fuel filler cap, near the carburetor and at the base of the engine casing. If you detect a leak, DO NOT USE your chainsaw. You will need to take your chainsaw to a licensed service center for repair.

Inspect the Chain Brake Mechanism (EVERY USE) (*if equipped)

The chain brake mechanism is a very important safety feature of your chainsaw and is designed to stop the chain when kickback occurs.  

Each year over 40,000 individuals are injured due to the mishandling of a chainsaw. Over half of these injuries are a result of kickback. Therefore, before every use, you must ensure the mechanism is working properly. If there is a problem with this mechanism, follow your manufacturer’s procedures or take the chainsaw to an authorized service center for repair. Do not disassemble, remove, or attempt to service the chain brake mechanism yourself.

*Every chainsaw placed into initial service shall be equipped with a chain brake and shall otherwise meet the requirements of the ANSI B175-1.1991 “Safety Requirements for Gasoline-Powered Chainsaws.” Each chainsaw placed into service before February 9, 1995, shall be equipped with a protective device that minimizes chainsaw kickback. No chainsaw kickback device shall be removed or otherwise disabled. **
**Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration Section 6 of the Logging Preamble.For more information please visit their website at:

Inspect the Kickback Guard (EVERY USE)  / Clean or Replace the Air Filter (EVERY 10 HOURS of USE)

Perform these maintenance issues.  

Not all chainsaws are equipped with a kickback guard. This covers the chain at the tip of the guide bar in front of the sprocket wheel. The purpose of this feature is to prevent contact of the tip with stationary objects, thus prevent violent kickbacks. Unfortunately, many operators remove this guard. The guard should never be altered or removed. If the guard is defective, then it should be repaired or replaced. Failure to maintain the kickback guard can result in serious or possibly fatal injury.

Clean or Replace the Air Filter (EVERY 10 HOURS of USE)

By performing regular air filter maintenance, your chainsaw will run cooler and use less fuel.

To do this, simply locate the air filter on your chainsaw. This is generally located behind a vented removable cover near the rear of the motor. You have difficulty locating this, simply refer to your owner’s manual.

Once you have located the air filter, remove the cover, then carefully remove the filter. Next, clean or replace the filter as needed. To clean the foam elements use soapy water, rinse thoroughly, then allow to air dry before replacing it. Replace the paper elements, and replace the filter cover. You never want to operate your chainsaw without an air filter. This will damage your chainsaw.

Lubricate the Sprocket Tip (EVERY 10 HOURS of USE)

Perform these maintenance issues.  

Lubricate The Sprocket

Lubricate The Sprocket

After every 10 hours of use, you should lubricate the sprocket at the end of the guide bar according to your chainsaw’s manufacturer’s guidelines. The majority of chainsaws requires a special tool with a heavy gauge needle, grease reservoir, and a plunger handle in order to lubricate the sprocket. Depending on the make and model of chainsaw this tool may have been included, if not these tools can usually be purchased where parts for your chainsaw are sold. You want to inject the grease into the lubrication hole, which is located near the center of the sprocket shaft. When a small amount of grease begins to ooze around the edges of the guide bar near the sprocket, then you have enough lubrication.

Turn the Guide Bar (EVERY10 HOURS of USE)

To avoid a wear pattern on your guide bar, you need to turn the guide bar after every 10 hours of use.   

To do this, simply remove the guide bar and flip it over, then reinstall it. If your bar shows signs of excessive wear, or is damaged in any way, the guide bar must be replaced with a new guide bar. Do not use your chainsaw until the guide bar has been replaced.

To turn the guide bar refer to your owner’s manual or follow the instructions listed below:

  • Remove the shroud covering, clutch, and chain drive sprocket by losing then removing the two bar retaining nuts.
  • Release the tension on the saw chain by turning the adjustment screw counterclockwise. (The adjustment screw should be located on the front of the motor housing near the guide bar.)
  • Remove the saw chain.
  • Remove the bar protector plate. (Make note of its placement so that it can be replaced correctly when reassembling.)
  • Remove the guide bar, flip over the bar, then reinstall the bar.
  • Replace bar protector plate.
  • Replace saw chin.
  • Properly tighten the tension on saw chain by turning the adjustment screw clockwise.
  • Replace clutch, chain drive sprocket, and the shroud covering then reattaches the two bar retaining nuts and tighten them.

Inspect and Clean or Replace the Spark Plug (EVERY 10 HOURS of USE)

To guarantee that your chainsaw will give you its maximum performance it is necessary to clean or replace you spark plugs after every 10 hours of use.

Many people will frown at this frequency, but remember this piece of equipment is used to cut through wood, which will cause your spark plug to become dirty or worn. Not only will a dirty or worn spark plug cause erratic performance but it will also make your chainsaw harder to start.

It is easy to recognize worn spark plugs, for they will have a slightly rounded electrode. First, you want to remove the spark plug connector by pulling and slightly turning the rubber boot. NEVER remove the connector by gasping the wire. Next, using a spark plug wrench, you want to remove the spark plug, then examine the electrode tip. You want to also make sure that the plug is clean and free of any large deposits of carbon.

To clean the spark plug, carefully use carburetor cleaner and fine-grit sandpaper or an emery board. (I prefer to use the emery board) Once you have removed all dirt and carbon deposits, then use a gapping tool, gap the spark plug to the manufacturer’s specification, and then reinstall the spark plug. If the plug is worn, replace it with a new plug, which is gapped to your chainsaw’s manufacturer’s specification.

Inspect and Clean or Replace the Spark Arrester Screen (EVERY 10 HOURS of USE)

Because chainsaws do dirty work, it is necessary to make sure that certain parts are clean and working properly.

One such feature is the spark arrester screen. This is located inside the chainsaw’s muffler. Its function is to prevent any sparks from exiting the exhaust port, causing injury to the operator or falling on flammable materials, such as dried leaves. Over time, oily deposits will clog the screen and decrease the chainsaw’s ability.

To inspect, clean, or replace the spark arrester screen, first you need to locate the chainsaw’s muffler. Next, remove the heat shield. This is usually a vented plastic or metal guard. Next, disassemble the muffler, then remove the spark arrester screen. Inspect the screen if it is damaged, then replace it with a new screen, if not then clean the screen. To clean the spark arrester screen, carefully use carburetor cleaner. Finally, replace the screen, reassemble the muffler, and replace the muffler guard.

Replace the Fuel Filter (AFTER 20 HOURS of USE) (Gas powered chainsaws)

Most gas-powered chainsaws use an in-tank fuel filter. When this filter becomes clogged with debris, it will cause decreases your chainsaw’s performance.


Replace the Fuel Filter

Remove the fuel filter from the end of the fuel line and install the new one

Make sure that you have the proper replacement fuel filter on hand before removing the old fuel filter.

  • To replace the fuel you will have to drain the gas tank. The fuel filter is usually mounted on the end of the fuel pickup hose inside the gas tank.
  • Carefully pull the end of the fuel pickup hose to the gas tank opening. DO NOT DISCONNECT THE HOSE FROM THE CHAINSAW. If you accidentally disconnect the hose for the chainsaw, you will have to take your chainsaw to an authorized repair center
  • Carefully and gently, pull and twist the filter casing while holding the end of the hose steady to remove the old filter from the hose.
  • Replace the old filter with a new filter, which is correct for the make and model of your chainsaw in the same manner as you removed the old filter.
  • Refill the fuel tank with fresh oil/ fuel mixture.

Dispose of the old fuel in according to your state and local ordinances regarding petroleum waste.

Additional Maintenance Procedures as suggested by your owner’s manual or as needed

Depending on how often a chainsaw is used, some makes and models of chainsaws require special maintenance procedures. These procedures are located in your owner’s manual. Please ensure that you following your chainsaw’s manufacture’s procedures to guarantee the maximum life and performance of your chainsaw as well as safe operations.

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