In today’s article we are going to consider some common chainsaw complaints. When I’ve been researching various products, I come across people who have experienced all manner of issues with their saws. Some of the problems are genuine, others down to a lack of experience and knowledge of chainsaws in general.

Hopefully, this article will answer some of these questions.

Why is my chainsaw not cutting?

This is a common complaint I see all the time. “Just bought this product today and the darn thing won’t even go through a three inch piece of softwood. Chain’s turning at full power but it just WILL NOT cut. Zero stars, I’m sending it back.”

The only purpose a chainsaw has in life is to cut! It’s what it has been designed to do and no manufacturer would ever come up with a product which didn’t do exactly just that. So, when a saw doesn’t cut, there is likely to be a simple explanation.

In this case, the most likely explanation is that the chain has been fitted in the wrong direction. After all, even a dull chain will cut some wood, albeit poorly. Many people don’t realize that you can fit a chain in more than one way and that it must be


fitted correctly so the cutters are able to cut into the wood. Even experienced chainsaw users occasionally put a chain on in the wrong direction. I’ve done it myself once, just after everything was assembled and cleaned!

Your saw’s user manual should provide help in this regards but many modern bars now have small diagrams on them, which helpfully show you the correct chain direction.

If the chain is on in the correct direction but cutting poorly, then there could be a couple of other reasons. Firstly, it may be dull, in which case it either needs sharpening or replacing. Secondly, it may not be properly tensioned. Too loose and the chain won’t make good contact with the wood. Too tight and it won’t turn properly. Lastly, there may be a problem with the bar. If it is worn out then the chain won’t turn efficiently around it, resulting in poor cutting performance.

Read our article: What size file do I need for my chainsaw?

Why does my chainsaw not cut straight?

What happens when your pride and joy no longer makes the smooth and straight cuts it was designed to do?

When it pulls to one side it makes bucking logs very difficult and can be dangerous.

You may think that a bent bar would be the main culprit. Users may find a small bend in the bar, straighten it out or even replace it but still find that the problem persists. This is because more often than not the problem is caused by the chain.

If some of the cutter teeth are worn they can become unequal in size. The cutter teeth are supposed to be all the same size and act as a team but if this is not the case the cut will lean to the side whose teeth take the biggest bites.

The solution therefore is check the chain carefully and ensure that the cutter teeth are sharp and filed at the correct angles. If this isn’t something you are comfortable doing get it done professionally, or alternatively invest in a new chain.

Why does my chainsaw leak oil?


This is something which exercises many people. First time chainsaw users are often taken by surprise by the fact that the saw continues to leak bar oil several days after you have finished using it – often leaving unwelcome oil patches on surfaces and garage floors. Unfortunately, seepage is a bit of an occupational hazard when it comes to chainsaws and something which you just have to get used to dealing with.

So what causes it? Initially, when you are using the saw oil is distributed around the bar from the

reservoir in each drive link of the chain. At any one time there could be up to 0.5 oz. (15ml) of oil on the bar. When the saw stops, gravity pulls the oil down to the bottom of the bar where it then seeps out through the chain.

Most of the time it is just the residual oil on the bar leaking. However, there may be occasions when oil is actually leaking from the reservoir. In this instance there could be a couple of issues:

• The oil tank vent may be blocked, meaning oil continues to be pushed through the system from pressure building in the reservoir.

• Leakage is actually coming from the reservoir, cap or one of the lines.

• The lubrication system is poorly designed.

Most top quality chainsaws will only leak residual oil whereas cheaper saws may continue to leak oil from the reservoir after use simply because of their design. Many manufacturers recommend that the oil tank is drained after use to prevent excessive seepage.

Why does my chainsaw bog down?

If you find that your chainsaw idles perfectly, but then when you step up the revs and attempt to cut it gets bogged down, the likelihood is that there is a problem with your carburetor setting. On a carburetor there will be two screws to adjust the maximum revs (H) and the minimum (L). In this instance you will need to adjust the H screw as the saw isn’t generating sufficient revs.

Reference should be made to the saw’s user manual which will contain information about adjusting the carburetor. Special carburetor adjustment tools are available for a few dollars but you are not technically able, you should get this done by a qualified technician. (Most manufacturers recommend that you don’t adjust the carburetor yourself).

The video below provides some tips:

If the saw continues to bog down after adjustment there may be a problem with the carburetor itself, in which case it may be time to replace the carburetor kit. These can be picked up in many cases for less than $20.

Other reasons a saw may get bogged down is a dirty air-filter or a primer bulb which is not getting fuel to the carburetor. As well as this the spark arrester may be dirty. This sits just behind the muffler. The filter and arrester should be cleaned before any adjustments are made to the carburetor as it may just have been a case that air was not circulating properly.

Why does my chainsaw idle fast?

A chainsaw which idles too fast can, in certain circumstances, be a dangerous proposition as the chain may continue to turn after you have finished your cut and released the trigger. This is because too much fuel is being released to the combustion chamber. This will usually require a simple adjustment to the idle switch on the carburetor. This is usually marked with an ‘I’ and is likely to be found near to the air filter.

The user manual will tell you how to make the correct adjustment but this usually involves turning the screw clockwise until the chain stops turning (Obviously the saw will need to be running to do this.) If the engine starts to stall, the screw can be turned counter-clockwise.

Why does my chainsaw keep stalling?

If your chainsaw keeps stalling, there is in all probability likely to be some kind of problem interfering with the fuel system. Here are some of the most common causes:

• The spark plug is misfiring. Try replacing the spark plug to see if this makes a difference.

• Poor air circulation. This could be as a result of dirty air filters. Check the filter positioned near the spark arrester (just behind the muffler) and clean as required. Then check the filter under the cover on the powerhead unit and again clean if necessary.

• The carburetor may be set incorrectly. To check this you can examine the spark plug. If the fuel in the combustion chamber is too rich then you may find carbon deposits coating the spark plug. This can be sorted by making an appropriate adjustment to the carburetor settings.

• Fuel problems. If the wrong type of fuel is used, not only will it cause the saw to run poorly but it may also damage the engine. Using the wrong octane gasoline or fuel high in ethanol can cause issues. Ethanol can mix with water from the fuel and clog the fuel system. Regular cleaning of the fuel lines can help in this regard. The manufacturer’s instructions relating to the types of fuel should always be followed.

• If cleaning and carburetor adjustment doesn’t work, you may need to replace the carburetor itself. As indicated earlier, these are relatively inexpensive.

• If you are using an electric saw with a cord, it may be that the cord gauge is incorrect meaning not enough power can reach the saw.

Why does my chainsaw keep throwing the chain?

When you’re getting stuck into a job, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal which a chain which has jumped from its bar.

If you’re having problems with a chain which does this persistently then there are several possible causes.

Number one is that the tension is incorrectly set. Too much slack on the chain and you will soon see it thrown from the bar. If you pull the chain about 1/8 inch from the bar and it immediately snaps back into place when released, you know the tension is correct. There should be no sag between the chain and the underside of the guide bar. If you can’t move it round the guide bar by hand you know you will have over-tensioned it. When you get a new saw you should check tension regularly (after every few cuts if necessary) as new chains have a tendency to stretch. This is normal but means you just have to keep a close eye on things.

The second potential issue may be that the bar’s heel (this is the part furthest from the nose and nearest to the drive sprocket) is worn. You may be able to remedy the situation by removing a link from the chain. Alternatively, it’s time for a new bar.

The third issue may be that the bar’s rails are damaged, meaning that the chain can’t slide smoothly around the bar. Damage can be caused to the rails by things like cutting into the ground or just throwing the saw into the back of the pickup. Whatever the reason, a damaged rail can cause the chain to jump.

Finally, the drive sprocket itself might be damaged. The sprocket propels the chain around the bar and if this gets too worn then proper tension can’t be maintained.

Why does my chainsaw overheat?

Chainsaw engines generate heat through friction and combustion. Air is drawn into the engine through an intake port and hot air is thrown out through the exhaust port. A poorly maintained engine can result in the disruption of this air-flow process and cause the saw to overheat.

It is essential, therefore, that both the air filter and spark arrester (which sits just behind the muffler) are kept clean and ideally these should be cleaned before each use.


Using the wrong sort of fuel can also lead to overheating. High levels of ethanol in the fuel mixture can lead to the engine running faster and hotter. Ethanol also reduces the fuels lubricating ability, causing more heat to be generated by friction in the cylinders. Ideally, fuels without ethanol should be used and most manufacturers state that levels should not exceed 10%.

If you have an electric saw and are finding that the motor is overheating, it is possible that you are using an extension cord with an incorrect gauge. You need to ensure that the gauge is suitable for the motor's amp rating.

As well as the engine, the chainsaw bar can overheat. This is usually caused by inadequate lubrication, with not enough bar oil getting to the cutting components. This may be because the oil reservoir has not been filled or the oil port is blocked. To rectify, ensure that the oil tank is filled and clean the oil port with a needle.

Finally, the saw will overheat if it is worked too hard. This is often as a result of a dull chain.

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