Chainsaws are probably the most dangerous power tools a home owner is ever likely to use and as such need to be kept in excellent condition at all times. A properly maintained saw is dangerous enough, but one which has not been looked after can be an accident waiting to happen.
In this article we’ll look at:
• How different saws require different levels of maintenance and how this may influence the type you buy.
• The ongoing costs of running different types of chainsaw.
• Some tips about how you can extend the life of your saw.
Types of maintenance
The type and frequency of maintenance required will depend on both the type of saw and how often it is used. For example, a saw which is used once a year doesn’t need the same attention as one which is put through its paces on a weekly basis.
If you are looking to purchase a chainsaw, you may wish to take into consideration the level of maintenance required. This type of upkeep may be something you enjoy and are happy to do, in which case a saw which requires a good deal of care and attention won’t phase you. Outlined below are just some of the tasks you will need to perform on different types of saw to ensure they are kept in a safe working condition and performing at their best.
Gas Powered Saws
Gas saws require a good deal of maintenance to ensure they remain in prime working condition. The information below assumes that the saw is used on a regular basis. The list isn’t exhaustive and depends on the make and model of your saw. As always, the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed.
Each time before use you should:
• Check that there are no fuel leaks from the engine, gas tank or any of the fuel lines.
• Ensure that all nuts and screws are tight
• Check that the kill switch is operating properly.
• Clean the starter unit’s air-intake.
• Make sure that the throttle trigger and throttle lock-out switch are in good working order.
• Ensure that the chain brake is in working order.
• Look for any damage to the chain catcher and replace if necessary.
• Examine the bar. Look for signs of wear and make sure the lubrication hole is not clogged. Grease the tip of the bar if it has a socket. Clean the bar’s groove.
• Inspect the chain for visible signs of wear and cracks. Keep it sharp and ensure that it is properly tensioned.
On a weekly basis, there are a number of other tasks which you should undertake and these include:
• Check the starter, starter cord and return spring.
• Clean the carburetor compartment.
• Check the air-filter. Clean or replace as necessary.
• File any burrs off the guide bar.
• Inspect the muffler’s spark arrestor screen. Clean or replace as necessary.
• Check the saw’s power head and ensure that there is no damage to the anti-vibration springs.
Further tasks to be completed on a monthly basis include:
• Check the brake band on the chain brake for wear and replace if necessary.
• Clean the outside of the carburetor.
• Examine the spark plug electrode gap and clean the spark plug.
• Empty both the oil and fuel tanks and clean inside.
• Check the fuel hose for signs of damage and replace if necessary.
• Check the clutch system (i.e. drum and spring) for signs of wear
You may find the video below useful showing how you should check out your guide bar.
When it comes to electric saws, it is still important that these are properly maintained. All the advice mentioned above in relation to the following still applies:
• Examining the saw for damage.
• Ensuring all nuts and bolts are properly tightened.
• Maintaining both the guide bar and chain in excellent working condition.
• Making sure safety features, such as the chain brake are in good working order.
There isn’t as much maintenance required with an electric saw as you don’t have to worry about the engine and fuel components. Tasks exclusive to this type of saw, however, include checking any power cords and if the saw is battery operated, making sure that the battery is in good working order and not damaged.
If you decide to purchase a saw which requires a lot of ongoing maintenance, and this is not something you are comfortable doing yourself, I would recommend getting it serviced by a professional. This will pay off in the long run by extending the life of your saw.
When you buy a chainsaw, you shouldn’t just consider the upfront purchase cost but both the running and maintenance costs. Here are a few examples of the additional costs you may expect to incur:
|Chain Oil||Yes||Yes||$10+ per quart|
|Fuel Pre-Mix||Yes||No||$15+ per quart|
|Extension Cord (100 feet)||No||Yes||$25+|
|Chain Sharpening Kit||Yes||Yes||$25+|
As I mentioned earlier, the costs of running and maintaining your saw will depend on how much use it gets. There are also other things which you can do to ensure that you can keep your running costs down.
7 Tips on looking after your saw
• Look after the chain. One of the best ways to take care of the chain is to make sure you never run it into the ground. Coming into contact with either dirt or sand is one of the fastest ways to dull the chain.
• Use the saw for its intended purpose and don’t push it beyond its capabilities. Cutting large hardwood trees with a small saw will put undue pressure on the engine and motor which in turn will result in more wear and tear and possibly damage.
• Learn correct cutting techniques. If you do not cut a tree properly you run the risk of binding the chain bar. If the wood being cut falls back into a space already cut by the saw, the bar could get trapped. As well as being quite hazardous, you will likely suffer damage to the bar and chain.
• Ensure the chain is kept properly tensioned and lubricated during use. The will reduce the risk of the chain derailing and potentially snapping. Using the correct chain oil is important. If the saw is used regularly, it is worthwhile replacing the chain at least once a year. Even chains sharpened on a regular basis eventually become ineffective.
• If using a gas saw, always use the specified gas/oil mix ratio. The user manual will provide advice on this.
• Clean the saw after use to remove any sawdust and grease on the unit.
• If you don’t plan to use your chainsaw for a while, prepare it for long term storage. This involves things such as cleaning it and emptying the fuel tank and oil reservoir.
I hope this article has been useful in helping you to decide the right type chainsaw for you.