Chainsaw maintenance checklist - here's everything you need to know

Chainsaw laid down on a work bench with blade lying next to it.
(Image credit: Getty)

Chainsaws are a really useful tool for the gardener and handyperson. They can make light work of tough cutting tasks, but to keep them in good order and working smoothly and safely it’s essential to keep on top of chainsaw maintenance.

Safety is key when working with this kind of tool - they have a lot of power under the hood and can be dangerous if not handled properly. One of the main issues is that many of us only use our chainsaws intermittently - so if you have just got yours out of the shed or garage after a few months, it’s even more important that you follow this chainsaw maintenance checklist to ensure everything is working as it should before you start. 

Chainsaws with ineffective fuel, blocked filters and other maintenance issues can work erratically and be unsafe. So always follow this checklist to keep safe. Some chainsaw maintenance tasks should be done every day, while others should be carried out weekly and monthly.

If your yard tool has seen better days, the best chainsaws will make light work of outdoor work and will also stand the test of time. 

Chainsaw maintenance checklist

Having a checklist of maintenance tasks will help you keep on top of keeping your chainsaw in good condition.

Peter Drow at NC Cuttingtools suggests the following daily checklist to keep your chainsaw running smoothly, safely and effectively:

1. Check the throttle

Make sure the throttle trigger operates smoothly. Before using the saw again, take it to your dealer if any binding happens or if the engine won't restart. Make sure that the throttle trigger lockout must be depressed before the trigger may be pulled. 

2. Clean the chain brake

According to the instructions, clean the chain brake and assess its performance. 

3. Take a look at the chain catcher

Verify that the chain catcher is in good condition. If not, replace it right away. 

4. Clean the air filter

If necessary, clean or swap out the air filter. Look for any holes or damage. 

5. Inspect the bar

For more even wear, the bar must be rotated every day. Make sure the bar's lubricating hole is not blocked by inspecting it. If the bar does have a sprocket tip, it should be lubricated after cleaning the bar groove. 

He also suggests the following checks are carried out regularly:

Verify the oiler's operation to ensure that the bar and chain are properly lubricated.

Check the chain's tension and condition after sharpening it. Look for wear on the drive sprocket. Replace as required. 

Look for damage or wear on the starter and starter cord. 

On the starter housing, clean all air intake slots. 

Retighten screws and nuts as necessary after checking for any loose ones.

Make sure the stop switch turns the engine off by testing it.

Examine the saw's cooling system if it has a catalytic converter.

Along with following Peter’s checklist, checking the fuel and related parts is also essential:

Clean the outside of the chainsaw’s carburetor and check that there are no fuel leaks.

Ensure the fuel hose is not damaged or crack - if it is, replace it.

If dust has accumulated around the fuel filler, empty the gas tank and clean inside.

If the oil tank has debris or dust inside, clean it out before refilling.

Empty the fuel tank and clean the inside if dust accumulated, especially around the filler area. Clean the filler filter.

Empty the oil tank and if you feel dust or debris inside, clean the inside by flushing it with mineral spirits.

Finally, says Lindsay Hyland, gardening expert and creator or Urban Organic Yield,  “make sure to clean the chainsaw after each use to prevent any build-up of sap or debris.’’

Chainsaw maintenance tools

As with all garden and DIY jobs, having the right tools for chainsaw maintenance is essential.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, says: “Good sharpening maintenance is done with a sharpening file. It's tedious to sharpen every individual tooth, but it's very necessary. Lubrication is done with oil. To test if your blade is oiled enough, hold it near concrete or put a piece of wood in front of it and turn it on. Some droplets of oil should splash onto the surface.’’

Lindsey Hyland, at Urban Organic Yield, adds the following to the tool list: “A screwdriver, and wrench. A screwdriver is used to tighten or loosen screws on the chainsaw. A wrench is used to tighten or loosen bolts on the chainsaw.’’

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Naomi MacKay

Naomi MacKay has been a freelance writer and editor for the past 20 years. She previously made the move from local newspapers and consumer technology magazines into the gardening press as Assistant Editor at Garden Answers magazine, and has also worked for the Royal Horticultural Society, and writes garden columns for a number of publications.

With contributions from