After spending hours researching the Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch 50cc Gas Powered Chainsaw for this review, I think I’ve finally got the measure of this machine. Opinion is definitely divided over this smart looking saw and users will either love it or hate it.
It has many similarities to the Husqvarna 450, hardly surprising since Husqvarna now own the Poulan brand and you will find many ‘Husky’ parts in the PP5020AV. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and you may need to carry out some fine tuning before you get it working to its full potential. That said, if you know your way around a chainsaw, this may be just the saw you’re looking for to carry out all those medium duty tasks around the home and farm.
Read on to see if you are tempted….
Performance and Handling
Poulan describe the PP5020AV as a medium duty saw ideal for general property management and firewood cutting. This pretty much sums it up – it’s a saw designed for the homeowner and not the professional, despite the ‘Pro’ label. However, let’s dig a little deeper to discover the full range of its capabilities based on user experience so that you can decide if it’s right for you.
In addition to cutting cords of wood for your fire or wood burner, the PP5020AV can be used for felling, bucking and limbing medium sized trees. It will cut through logs with diameters up to 10 inches without breaking sweat. With a little more effort it’s capable of getting through larger pieces of wood and I’ve seen it get through a hickory trunk with a diameter of around 15 inches. As you probably know, hickory is just about the hardest and strongest American wood so that’s a pretty impressive performance. You wouldn’t perhaps want to buck logs of this diameter on a regular basis and some users commented that on larger pieces of wood there was the occasional pinching of the bar in the wood which was then difficult to get free.
In summary, this isn’t a saw you should be using every day but one which will handle most tasks you are likely to need it for including felling trees, getting rid of brush, clearing up storm damage and cutting firewood. The large 20 inch blade means it is less suitable for light pruning.
So, how does it fare in terms of performance? The first issue we need to look at is how easy this saw is to start. The Poulan has a spring assisted starter system and an easy to grip pull cord. Although not as easy as firing up an electric chainsaw, starting the 5020AV is a relatively straightforward process, provided you follow the instructions carefully. There are very specific instructions for starting the saw in different conditions depending on whether the engine is cold or warm. There are also instructions about how to deal with a flooded engine. These different scenarios involve using the choke, primer bulb and throttle trigger in different ways. I should point out that there are quite a few users who have commented that they have experienced difficulties starting up the saw, although for every person who has had difficulty there is another user who has indicated that the saw is easy to start. It may be that improper starting procedures are being used in some cases, however the sheer number of negative comments does suggest that the PP5020 does not start up as well as other saws.
One other point of note, a number of users complained that the saw frequently cut out and didn’t perform as they thought it should out of the box. Only after they had fine-tuned the carburetor did they see a notable improvement in performance. (See ‘Engine’ section).
In terms of handling, for a gas powered saw of this size the 5020AV is fairly easy to operate. One issue is that despite an anti-vibration handle and dampeners there is some high frequency vibration. If you suffer from hand complaints, such as carpal tunnel you will definitely notice this and it may be a good idea to invest in a pair of anti-vibration gloves.
You can use this saw just about anywhere. One user commented that it is good for altitude work. Having checked this out, I’ve discovered that the saw can be used at elevations below 7,000 feet, although some users claimed to have successfully used it at 7,800 feet. Remember, however, that the carburetor may need adjusting to cope with altitude work and if you don’t know your way around an engine the advice of a professional should be sought.
When in use, the 5020 produces a noise level of around 102db. Any rating over 90 decibels is capable of causing hearing damage so ear protection is recommended.
As the name suggests the Poulan comes with a 20 inch bar and chain. The chain has a 3/8” pitch (distance between links) and a 0.05” gauge (link thickness) which is one of the most popular size chains.
Whilst the bar and chain are capable of doing a competent job, a number of users commented that to get optimum performance they found it necessary to sharpen the chain on a regular basis. If you are an experienced chainsaw user and don’t mind dealing with kickback, you may find that the chain isn’t as sharp as you would prefer when it comes out of the box and may wish to spend 20 minutes with a file to get it to your preferred requirements. For this you will need a 7/32 inch diameter round file and file holder, a flat file and a depth tool gauge. Full instructions are provided in the user manual on how to do this but if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself get a professional on the job.
Other users upgraded to better quality chains, such as the Oregon 72LGX070 or Echo Super 70, and noticed an appreciable difference in cutting performance. If you are tempted to do this, you should note that some of these replacement chains are not classified as ‘low-kickback’ so you will need to take particular care when using.
One question that users frequently ask is whether or not the bar can be replaced with one of a different size, such as an 18 inch for example. The simple answer is No. The unit bar is not interchangeable and you should therefore stick to a 20” bar.
As with a lot of chains you need to take care with tension when it is relatively new as you will find that it stretches. The manufacturer advises that you check chain tension after first use, after using for one minute and then each time before starting the saw. You should find that the more you use the saw the less time you will need to spend adjusting the chain tension.
To adjust the chain you will need to use Poulan’s scrench. This is a cross between a screwdriver and a wrench and comes with the saw. This is used to firstly loosen the bar nuts and then to turn the tensioning screw which is positioned in an easily accessible position on the front of the powerhead unit. Full guidance on how to properly tension the chain is included in the user manual.
The bar itself comes with a nose sprocket, which is designed to help chain rotation. Grease needs to be applied regularly using a grease gun to the sprocket hole on the tip of the bar. This will ensure that the nose socket continues to move freely and doesn’t seize up.
Finally, a number of users have advised that fitting the bar and chain can be a little tricky and takes some practice. Again the manual provides full instructions on how to do this and these need to be followed to the letter. For example, if you try to remove the clutch cover whilst the chain brake is still engaged you risk damaging the saw. As long as you stick to the instructions you should be fine and won’t end up with an unwanted repair bill!
Design and Construction
So, how well is the 5020 put together and how well does it score in terms of design and construction? For starters, it has quite a lot of Husqvarna fittings and parts (hardly surprising since the Poulan brand is now owned by Husqvarna) so you can expect pretty decent quality.
The PoulanPro is a stylish, traditional looking chainsaw. Constructed of hard plastic and metal, it comes ready assembled in black and yellow. There is a large rear handle which is home to the throttle trigger and a throttle lockout switch situated on top of the handle. The lockout switch must be pressed before the trigger can be squeezed. The front handle is the traditional wraparound style, favored on the heavier duty saws. Just in front of this handle is front hand guard which also acts as the chain brake.
On the powerhead unit, next to the rear handle, you will find the ON/OFF switch and choke. The rubber handled starter rope is positioned on the left side of the unit as is the primer bulb. The chain oil reservoir and gas tank fill caps are also on the left hand side of the unit and they both have large grips which makes them easy to screw and unscrew.
There is a clutch cover on the right hand side of the powerhead which needs to be removed to replace the bar and chain. On top of the powerhead is the air filter cover which can be detached by simply unscrewing the large screw on top. Taking this off will reveal an air filter which provides good protection against dirt and sawdust. The filter can be easily removed for regular cleaning.
The gas tank has a capacity of 15 oz. (443 ml). The gas cap is also large and easily accessible allowing the tank to be filled up without problem. One neat feature is that if both the gas and chain oil tanks are filled before use, providing Poulan chain oil is used, the machine will run out of gas before oil. This means that you can be satisfied that as long as the 5020AV is running you will still have chain oil in your reservoir.
In conclusion, although this saw has some plastic parts where more expensive products have metal, it has a solid feel and should be capable of withstanding its share of bumps and bruises.
The PP5020AV is equipped with Poulan’s 50cc DuraLife engine. This model engine has a chrome plated cylinder for longer life. It has 50cc engine displacement capable of providing a maximum engine speed of 9,000 rpm (Revs per minute). This is pretty powerful for a home use saw and you certainly won’t find it lacking power. Indeed, it is more than capable of handling the tasks for which it was designed.
To run the machine, you will need to have a gas/oil ratio of 40:1. For every gallon of fresh gas, 3.2 ounces of synthetic 2 stroke oil should be added to get the right mix. (Poulan WEED EATER brand synthetic oil is recommended). In terms of gas, this needs to be unleaded with a minimum 87 octane (R+M/2 method), with ethanol blended up to 10% by volume (E-10). To maintain fuel freshness, you should only buy sufficient gas to be used within 30 days. A full tank of gas and oil will last around an hour to an hour twenty minutes depending on the intensity of sawing. A gallon of fuel mix should therefore keep you going for around seven to eight hours.
The video below explains more about the gas you should use.
Next, we can’t talk about the 5020’s engine without discussing the ‘elephant in the room’ – its carburetor. Of all the complaints about this chainsaw, the majority of issues relate to the engine.
Although the manufacturer advises that the carburetor settings have been carefully adjusted at the factory, many users have complained that the saw is often difficult to start, the idling speed is too low and that the saw frequently cuts out. Whilst for the majority of users the engine runs without problem, there are too many complaints for these to be isolated incidents. It’s possible that in some cases the carburetor has been set too lean at the factory. This means that too much air and not enough fuel are getting to the engine. In turn, this can lead to sluggish performance, stalling, difficulties starting the saw and worse still the engine running too hot. If this is the case using a higher octane fuel may help. Alternatively, you may need to adjust the carburetor.
Full instructions on how to adjust the carburetor are provided, however you will need to get a carburetor adjustment kit to do this (will cost around $7). If you’re not very practical when it comes to this sort of thing you may need to call upon the services of an authorized service dealer. This is inconvenient to say the least, especially as you would expect your product to work perfectly straight out of the box.
It should be pointed out that once any carburetor issues are resolved and the engine is performing as intended, most users are delighted with the saw’s performance. The user guide provides full instructions for keeping the engine in prime condition. This involves cleaning the filter, occasionally changing spark plugs and cleaning the spark arresting screen. (The spark arrester is just a device which prevents the emission of flammable debris which may cause fires).
Chain Oil System
To ensure that your bar and chain is properly lubricated, there is an automatic oiler system which releases oil when the reservoir is kept filled. As with all saws, it’s critical that you don’t forget this. Not only will an unoiled chain perform poorly but it is the guaranteed to cause damage to your saw. If you notice smoke coming from the chain or discoloration of the bar, these are signs that not enough oil is getting through. Also, the oil has to be free flowing to be effective and you may notice that in very cold conditions the oil will thicken preventing this. You can sort this problem by adding a small amount of kerosene or #1 Diesel (5-10%) to thin it.
The PoulanPro has an oil reservoir with a capacity of 10.4 oz. (307ml). Unfortunately, there is no window on the reservoir to indicate oil levels and as a result of this it is difficult to fill without some overspill. The reservoir cap is quite large and oil can easily be added straight from the bottle but you should pour slowly to avoid getting too much oil on your saw.
Unlike some other saws there is no adjustment mechanism to change the amount of oil which is released to the chain. This means the same amount is released regardless of whether you are engaged in light or heavy cutting tasks.
Poulan have developed their own formulated oils to prevent the oil thinning at high temperatures. PoulanPro bar and chain oil is recommended but if you can’t get this any good grade SAE 30 oil can be used.
After use, there will be some residual oil on the chain which will drip off during storage. This is normal but you should think carefully about where your chainsaw is stored.
As you would expect, there is a variety of safety features designed to keep both you and your saw protected as far as possible. Whilst kickback can never be completely eliminated, and proper use of the saw at all times is critical, some protection is provided by the reduced kick-back guide bar. This has a small radius tip that has been proven to significantly reduce the frequency and seriousness of kickbacks. The chain is also an ANSI (American Standards Institute) designated low-kickback chain meaning it has met all the Institute’s kickback requirements during testing.
You should remember that if you sharpen the chain, it will lose some of its low kickback qualities. The bar and chain have a CKA (Computed Kickback Angle) of 17°. The lower this number the better and to give you an idea the ISO standard requires chainsaws to have a kickback angle of less than 45°. The PP5020AV more than meets this criteria.
Another feature is the chain brake which will engage and stop the chain if kickback occurs. The brake can also be manually activated by pushing the front handguard forward. Despite these safety features, don’t assume that you will be fully protected against kickback, which is a lightning fast action. The only proper way to prevent it is with the correct use of the saw.
As well as protection against kickback, the saw incorporates an anti-vibration handle and anti-vibration dampeners to help reduce the effects of vibration. These does not completely eliminate issues which may result as a consequence of using vibrating power tools, such as possible nerve damage in the hands, so wearing anti-vibration gloves is recommended.
Protection of the hands is offered by a chain catcher (in case the chain snaps or comes loose) and the front hand guard. Bumper spikes are also fitted for extra stability whilst cutting.
A spark arresting screen and temperature limiting muffler are fitted to prevent fire. These are requirements for internal combustion engines in many states including California, Maine, Oregon, Idaho, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington.
Finally, the saw has a throttle lock-out lever which must be pressed before the throttle trigger can be squeezed. This prevents the accidental squeezing of the throttle which would set the chain in motion.
The saw measures 42 inches Long x 15.8 inches wide x 14.9 inches high with the bar attached.
It weighs around 15.5lbs, which isn’t too heavy for a saw of this size.
The saw comes with the following accessories:
• Solid carry case for storage and transportation.
• Small container of synthetic oil to mix with gas.
• User manual
• Excellent power for homeowner saw
• Much cheaper than similar alternative brand products
• Some issues reported with poor engine performance requiring adjustment of the carburetor.
• Bar and chain are difficult to change
Poulan Pro PP5020AV Consumer Ratings
There are hundreds of reviews online for this product and whilst the majority of reviews are positive, there is not the overwhelming product endorsement I have seen for other chainsaws.
Positive reviews center on the saw’s power, its excellent cutting capabilities and the great low price.
On the negative side, reviewers commented on how difficult the machine was to start up (even a lot of the positive reviews mentioned this), the constant need to tighten the chain and the fact that the engine stalls on a regular basis.
You should buy this chainsaw if:
• You want a large, high powered chainsaw for under $200
• You are prepared for the possibility that you may need to make some minor tweaks or get an expert to do this for you.
• You want a saw which is lighter than similar gas powered machines.
You should not buy this chainsaw if:
• This is your first chainsaw
• You are not prepared or able to make some adjustments to the chain and engine if needed.
• You want guaranteed reliability and are prepared to pay a little extra for it.
• You want a lightweight saw for occasional use.
Price of the Poulan Pro PP5020AV
This saw comes with a price tag under $200, which is very competitive when compared to similar Husqvarna, Echo and Stihl brand saws. Whilst these chainsaws have some additional features, you will also have to pay two or three times the price for the privilege of owning one. Based on the overall package, the PP5020AV is fairly priced.