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Top five chainsaw problems and how to avoid them

Keep your chainsaw running smoothly this autumn

Chainsaw in action

Maintain your chainsaw regularly to keep it cutting safely

It’s important that your chainsaw is in top condition so all your cutting jobs can be done quickly and safely. If you’re not confident maintaining your chainsaw yourself then it’s best to have it checked by a dealership. 

If you’re thinking of buying a chainsaw then you’ll want a reliable, safe machine that’s easy to use. Choose the right one for you from our Best Buy chainsaws.

We asked over 6000 Which? Members about the garden tools they have bought in the last 10 years. Around a quarter of members had bought a chainsaw in the same period. 

Here’s a round up of the top five problems they’d encountered when using their chainsaws and our advice on how to avoid them.

1.Chain tensioning does not work

Likely cause
Some chainsaws have a mechanism to prevent over tensioning. If you have followed the right procedure for adjusting the tension, the tensioning screw may be damaged.
How to avoid
Tensioning the chain correctly can be tricky. You should have no visible slack, but the chain should move easily round the guide bar. You should be able to pull the chain slightly away from the bar. Take time to get this right to avoid damaging the chainsaw.

2.Chain does not oil

Likely cause
Chain oil travels from the tank via a tube, then runs into the guide bar and the groove where the chain moves round the guide bar. If the chain does not oil, it may be clogged with wood shavings and dirt, or there may be a blockage in the line from the chain-oil tank to the bar.
How to avoid
Make sure you clean the chainsaw thoroughly after each use. If this does not work, run the saw without the bar to see if the oil is being pumped out of the tank.

3.Engine will not turn over

Likely cause
There are many reasons why a petrol chainsaw will not start, such as a mistuned choke, faulty spark plug, or a blocked fuel line. Even if everything is working well, petrol chainsaws can still be hard to start.
How to avoid
Clean your chainsaw thoroughly after every use, removing all covers to reach every part. Drain your petrol tank regularly, clean the air filters and check your oil filters. Invest in regular servicing to keep it running well.

4.Chain brake failed

Likely cause
The chain brake stops the chain from turning by clamping a band around the drive mechanism that turns the chain. A spring provides the force to hold this in place and it is usually this that stops working.
How to avoid
It is vital that the chain brake works properly and adjusting and fixing this is a specialist job. Have your chainsaw serviced regularly to fix potential problems before they develop.

5.Chainsaw isn’t cutting

Likely cause
If you see smoke as you’re cutting or your chainsaw is powdering the wood, rather than producing small chips, it’s a sign of a dull chain that needs resharpening.
How to avoid
If you accidentally hit metal or dirt with the blade then the teeth will dull very quickly.  It’s a tricky job so follow the instructions carefully and use the correct files to sharpen the chain.

Chainsaws can be dangerous tools if not correctly set up, used, and maintained. Training courses in chainsaw maintenance and cross-cutting are widely available. While expensive, they may save you not just money on servicing, but serious injury too.

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