Easy Spring Chainsaw Maintenance

Welcome to the Koopman Powershop Blog, our monthly installment designed to help you maintain and get the best performance from your equipment. This month we’ll be taking a look at chainsaws. We’ve talked to our experts and they have some tips for you and your chainsaw.

Make sure you don’t miss our very own Randy Koopman giving a tour of our Uxbridge Chainsaw Museum – CLICK HERE to check it out!

Let’s cut in!

Difficulty: Easy
Total time: 2 hours
Tools: Safety goggles, chain sharpener, oil, T-wrench, screwdriver, air gun, bar file, flat file

stihl homeowner chain saw

Chainsaws. There’s just something about them that is undeniably awesome.  But as with every power tool it needs to be respected and maintained. A dull chain can substantially lower efficiency and increase the risk of your chainsaw kicking back.  A dirty chainsaw can lead to sub-optimal running speeds and overall inefficiency. Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your chainsaw up to par.



Start by checking the condition of your spark plugs and replace if necessary. Inspect your chainsaw for broken or damaged parts.  If you have an electric chainsaw, check its power cord for damage and wear.

The next thing you will want to get prepared is your fuel.  First make sure that you have a separate gas can for 2 cycle gas and make sure that anyone who could potentially use the chainsaw knows which gas can it is in.  Before you make your 2 cycle mix, make sure that any gasoline used is fresh (stored for less than 2 months) and that you have an adequate supply of both 2-cycle engine oil and bar and chain oil.  To ensure great performance, you can always use Stihl’s MotoMix® Premixed Fuel, which is a highly stable blend and carried by our Koopman Lumber locations. While you’re at it, verify that you have all of the protective apparel you’ll need for the upcoming season; including gloves, eye/ear/head protection and chaps.  If you are in short supply of any of these items, visit your nearest Koopman and we’ll make sure you have the right supplies and ingredients to keep your chainsaw running like a champ.

Step One: Spring Cleaning

There’s one thing that chainsaw owners get used to very quickly: cleaning their chainsaw. Chainsaws produce an astounding amount of dust and wood shavings and they do it quickly (shocking, we know). The best way to clean the debris from your chainsaw is with a soft brush. Start by cleaning the entire chassis of the machine, making sure to get into every nook and cranny.

nuts chainsaw bar

Next, use either a T-wrench or a ratchet (usually 1/2″) and remove the two nuts on the side of your chainsaw’s bar (as shown in the picture). Remove the face plate and you should see where the bar meets the chassis. Lift and slide the bar back (giving the chain slack) and remove the chain, then the bar. Set them aside for later.  Use the soft brush to clear away any newly revealed dust or shavings that are hanging around underneath the face plate. Using a screwdriver, continue to remove any face-plates you can and brush out the inside of the chainsaw. You will be impressed by the sheer volume of dust that has collects and how well your chainsaw will run after everything gets cleaned out.

Step Two: The Bar

stihl pro chainsawThe bar on your chainsaw is the real work horse of your machine. It constantly has a chain whipping around it at 50 mph, gets shoved into tight places which pick, twist, and scratch it, and bears the torque of most of the action your chainsaw sees. It is important to see such a vital part of your machine in good working order.  Always wear gloves when handling the barA worn barn can have tiny sharp edges which will leave nasty lacerations on any hands that get too close.

Begin by making sure that the bar is actually fit for use. Start by laying the bar on a flat surface. If it is bent at all, replace it. Then check for cracks or unusual wear. If you see either of these, then chances are the bar will need to be replaced (as a rule: if you’re concerned about the state of the bar, replace it).

stihl guide barsNext, place a squaring tool on the rail and drag it along the outside, which will show you if your rails are uneven. If they are, it can be fixed. Start by placing your rail in a vice and then take a filing tool to the top. Once you’ve filed the rails down, check again with your squaring tool and then take a flat file to the sides of the rails to grind down any burrs on the edges.

Now its time to grease the bar. If you have a sprocket nose bar tip, you will need to grease the tip. Start by cleaning out the grease hole with a thin, flat screwdriver and then pump grease into the hole until it is coming out. Flip and repeat for the other side.

Then clean out the rails. Start by running the same thin screwdriver down the rail away from your body. This will get out a good amount of buildup. Then use your brush to sweep the same direction and your bar will be clean as a whistle! Also take the time to clean out the oil holes at the body end of the bar.  This will allow for better oil flow and therefore better performance and longer chain life.

Step Three: The Chain

Unless your profession involves juggling chainsaws (which we do NOT recommend) you’re going to want to sharpen your chain often. Start by inspecting the teeth on your chainsaw to see if they need to be sharpened or replaced. If you see cracks or chips on the edge of the teeth then it’s time to sharpen. If any one of the teeth has worn down past the line grooved into the tooth (seen right) then it’s time to replace the chain.

Chainsaw sharpening

Find the tooth on the chain that has been worn down the most, and file it down until it has a nice sharp edge. File following the direction of the tooth until the edge of the blade is sharp and free from cracks or chips. You will see a depth guide right next to the teeth on the chain. Those depth guides will allow you to keep track of and measure your teeth (note, they are usually .025 inches below your teeth). These help determine how much of the tooth is cutting into the wood and will need to be filed down once every 3-4 times you sharpen the chain.

It can take time and practice to get down the science of filing a chain but it will always be worth it to get that perfect edge.

Note: you may want to get a set of professional hands in there to show you how to do this the first time. At the Koopman Powershop we have several sets of hands waiting to help you get your chainsaw into tip top shape!

Wrap up

stihl farm and ranch chainsawOnce you’re all set with the chain then go ahead and reassemble the chainsaw and add a little oil to the bar.  Don’t put your chainsaw to work immediately after a season of storage.  Let it warm up for a few minutes before use.

If you follow these easy maintenance practices, your chainsaw will work a lot harder and a lot better than it did before. For those of you who have never taken on chainsaw maintenance before, we recommend taking it into the Koopman Powershop, where our hands-on experts will show you how to get your chainsaw working better than ever, and get you the tools you need to do the job right the next time.

Thanks for checking out this months Koopman Powershop Blog. Tune in next month where we will discuss that ol’ workshop staple: The Band Saw!

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