If you’ve never bought or used a chainsaw before you may not be aware that you need to constantly lubricate the chain during use. Furthermore, when you are trying to decide which saw to purchase you may come across certain terms, such as fixed flow oiler, which you don’t fully understand. In this article I’m going to explain why it’s important to keep the chain lubricated and how chainsaw oilers work.
Why you need to lubricate the bar
When in use, there is a fair amount of friction between the chain and guide bar which can produce lots of heat. Without adequate lubrication there could be several consequences, such as:
• Improperly maintained and poorly lubricated chains can increase the risk of kickback. As you may know this is when the saw moves violently back towards the operator and if not controlled can have some serious consequences.
• You will damage the cutting equipment. Think about it. If your chain speed is 15 meters per second (some are higher/some lower), then over the course of an hour’s cutting, 54,000 meters (or 33.5 miles) of chain will travel over one spot on the bar. Imagine being able to saw a piece of wood with a manual saw for an hour at those speeds and think about the heat this would generate.
• If performance is impaired due to poor lubrication, this can ultimately lead to damage to the engine or motor.
Lubricating the bar and chain will therefore reduce friction, maintain cutting performance as well as prolonging the life of your equipment.
Types of chainsaw oiling systems
So now that we know why oiling the bar and chain is important, let’s consider some of the oiling systems used in chainsaws. Basically, there are three types as follows.
With manual oilers you need to release oil onto the chain, usually by pressing a pump button. The advantages of this are that you can control the amount of lubricant released depending on the cutting conditions, type and thickness of wood etc. The downside is that you need to remember to release the oil or risk damaging the bar and chain.
These types of oiling systems are now quite rare and most modern chainsaws have automatic oilers.
Automatic oiler – Fixed flow
With this type of oiler, lubricant is released at a constant rate from the oil reservoir on to the bar and chain when the chainsaw is operated. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to remember to push a button to release the oil, so a properly operating system will keep the bar lubricated at all times. You do, however, need to remember to add oil to the reservoir!
The main disadvantage is that you cannot control the amount of oil being released, which can be useful depending upon the circumstances in which the saw is being operated. For instance, the amount of lubricant you may need to release could be reduced or increased depending on the temperatures you are working in, the type of woods being cut and so on.
Automatic oiler – Adjustable Flow
Some chainsaws come with automatic oilers which allow you to adjust the flow rate of the bar oil. This is usually done by turning a screw on the oil pump. This type of oiler provides the best of both worlds in that the lubricant is released automatically when cutting but can be adjusted to match the conditions.
Features and Issues
Having looked at the different types of oilers, here are some other things which you should bear in mind when buying a new chainsaw.
• As mentioned above, oil needs to be added to the saw’s reservoir. The frequency with which you need to keep refilling this will depend on the reservoir’s size and the rate of flow. Some people find it an irritation to constantly have to refill the reservoir, whilst others don’t mind. Our reviews will provide you with as much information as is available in relation to this.
• Some gas saws have systems designed to ensure that the gas powering the saw runs out before the chain oil. This relies on the recommended fuel and chain lubricant being used but is particularly useful as you don’t need to worry about the reservoir running dry whilst the saw is in use.
• The reservoirs in chainsaws vary widely. Some have transparent windows which enable the user to see how much lubricant is remaining and when top-up is required. Those without windows can be a bit of a nuisance as it is often difficult to tell the amount of oil remaining and in these circumstances you need to keep a close eye on the chain to ensure it is still being oiled. One way to check is to run the saw at full power and aim the nose down toward a piece of paper. You should find that the chain will lay a line of oil on the ground.
• Like everything there are some excellent oiling systems as well as some poor ones. Whilst some work perfectly well, others can be beset with problems, such as leakage and poor performance. Our reviews will tell you about the good, the bad and the downright terrible.
• When reading on-line reviews you may come across many comments about leaking during storage. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence with pretty well most saws and something which you may need to accept. There are certain ways of reducing the leakage, for example draining the reservoir after use, but it is something that most users have to get used to. Giving some thought to where your saw will be stored is therefore recommended.
What type of oil should be used?
Unfortunately, you can’t throw any old oil into your reservoir!
Bar and chain oil is specifically designed with the correct viscosity, ensuring it sticks to the cutting equipment. Each manufacturer recommends a specific type of lubricant so you should check the user manual but generally a good quality bar and chain lubricant can be used.
These types of lubricant come with a couple of variations for use in either winter or summer. Operating in high temperatures tends to thin oil and cold temperatures makes it thicker. Neither of these scenarios is good and can lead to the chain drying up and causing damage. You therefore need to ensure that you use the correct type at all times. If the product you are buying doesn’t specify if it is suitable for summer use, it is recommended that you use a grade SAE 30 in summer and SAE 10 in winter. (This is the Society of Automotive Engineer’s classification system).
One final point, if you are pruning, it is recommended that you use a vegetable based lubricant to prevent harm to your trees and shrubs. Indeed, as most of the oil ends up in the environment you may wish to use this type of oil regardless of the job.
And one last thing………
Many modern day bars come with nose sprockets. These sprockets, positioned at the tip of the bar, allow the chain to move more freely without a loss of power. If your bar has a sprocket you will need to lubricate it (also known as greasing the tip). This is a simple process and involves squeezing grease into the socket hole on the bar with the aid of a grease gun. These are basically just bottles with a small nozzle and can be picked up for less than $10.
So there you have it. I hope you found this article informative when it comes to choosing the right chainsaw. Just remember, keep those bars oiled!