Common Causes of Chainsaw Pull Cord Breaking: A Guide

Common Causes of Chainsaw Pull Cord Breaking: A Guide

As an avid DIYer and weekend warrior, I often rely on my trusty chainsaw to help me tackle projects around the house and property. But nothing is more frustrating than pulling the starter cord only to have it snap or break unexpectedly. When that recoil cord stops rewinding, it can really slow you down and put a wrench in your plans.

In this article, I’ll cover the most common reasons behind chainsaw pull cord failures so you can avoid them. Understanding the root causes and learning proper maintenance is key to keeping your chainsaw’s starter rope in good working order. Read on to get the knowledge you need to diagnose problems, make repairs, and prevent cord breakage in the future.

What are the common causes of chainsaw pull cord breaking?

Common Causes of Chainsaw Pull Cord Breaking: A Guide

A broken or snapped pull cord is usually indicative of larger issues with the chainsaw. Here are some of the most prevalent culprits behind cord failures:

Poor Quality of the Pull Cord

Not all starter ropes are created equal. Cheaper cords made of low-grade materials are naturally more prone to breaking, fraying, and general wear-and-tear. Investing in a high-quality replacement cord from a trusted brand like “Husqvarna” or “Oregon” can go a long way in preventing cord failures down the line. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Damaged or Worn Rope Guides

The rope guide – sometimes called a pulley – is the part that the cord threads through to connect back to the recoil spring and starter mechanism. If this guide becomes damaged, worn, or has any rough or sharp edges, it can start shredding and cutting the cord through abrasion and friction. Checking the condition of the rope guide and replacing it if needed is key to extending the life of your pull cord.

Incorrect Handling

We all know how tempting it is to give that cord a hard, forceful yank when trying to start a stubborn chainsaw. But manhandling the pull cord in this way places an enormous amount of strain on it and can cause it to break over time. Always follow the safety guidelines in your owner’s manual for proper starting procedures. Don’t ever yank or release a tightly-pulled cord.

Sharp Recoil

Sometimes the recoil mechanism itself can damage the pull cord if the recoil action is too intense. Issues with the recoil spring or friction in the starter assembly can make the rope snap back too sharply, progressively weakening the cord through fatigue and stress. If your chainsaw has a habit of “kicking” when pulled, have a technician inspect the recoil components.

How to Prevent Chainsaw Pull Cord Breaking

By understanding what typically causes cord failures, we can take the right maintenance steps to prevent them. Here are some tips:

Regular Maintenance

The best offense is a good defense when it comes to maintaining the pull start system. Make it a habit to periodically check the condition of the cord, pulley, and recoil mechanism. Look for signs of wear and replace components as needed. Keep things clean and lubricated as recommended in the owner’s manual. Well-cared-for cords can last years rather than months.

Proper Handling Techniques

We’ve all been tempted to “jerk” the starter cord to get a saw running. But as discussed earlier, this is incredibly hard on the rope over time. Train yourself to always gently and steadily pull the cord, avoiding any sudden yanking motions. Also be sure to allow the rope to slowly retract instead of letting it snap back. These simple handling habits can significantly extend the cord’s lifespan.

Using High-Quality Replacement Parts

As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” When it does come time to replace a broken or worn out pull cord, shell out a few extra bucks for a high-end OEM replacement rope. Similarly, replace damaged pulleys and guide components with good quality parts. Though it may cost more upfront, quality components can save you money and hassle down the road.

How to Replace a Broken Chainsaw Pull Cord

When your starter cord finally does snap or fray beyond usage, replacing it is thankfully a straightforward process. Here are the basic steps:

Removing the Old Cord

The first order of business is removing what’s left of the old, broken pull cord. Consult your owner’s manual for model-specific details. In most cases, you’ll need to remove the starter assembly cover and the pulley around which the cord threads. Slowly pull the cord out, being cautious not to allow the recoil spring to unwind.

Installing the New Cord

Thread your new high-quality replacement cord through the pulley, knot it securely, and carefully wind it back around the recoil spring following the groove. Refer to the manual for the proper winding pattern and technique. Leave about three feet of extra “pulling” cord exposed. Replace the pulley, cover, and any related screws or parts.

Testing the New Cord

Once installed, test out your new pull cord to make sure it retracts smoothly and fully engages the starter. If any issues are apparent, double check that it’s wound and routed correctly around the recoil spring and pulley guides. With good installation, your new cord should have your chainsaw starting with ease once again.


As we’ve discussed, chainsaw pull cords seem to have a mind of their own, breaking at the worst possible times. But being armed with the knowledge of what typically causes cord failures gives you the power to proactively maintain and handle your chainsaw to prevent stranding yourself cord-less at the job site. Invest in quality replacement parts, follow proper maintenance procedures, and avoid manhandling that starter rope. With this comprehensive guidance, you’ll keep your chainsaw purring for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I replace my chainsaw pull cord?

The ideal frequency for replacing your pull cord depends on several factors like how often you use your saw, operating conditions, and quality of the cord itself. Inspect the cord regularly for any signs of wear and don’t hesitate to replace it as soon as issues become apparent. Well-maintained cords can last years for an average user.

Can I use any type of rope as a replacement for my chainsaw pull cord?

It’s not advisable to use just any household rope or cord as a DIY replacement. For durability and safety, it’s important to use a purpose-made pull start cord designed specifically for chainsaws. Reputable replacement cords from “Husqvarna,” “Oregon,” or “Rotella” will be engineered for optimal performance with your saw.

What are some signs that my chainsaw pull cord is about to break?

Fraying, kinking, stiffness/inflexibility, visible wear, or discoloration are all tells that your pull cord may be on its way out. If the cord starts sticking or binding in the rope guide or pulley, that’s another red flag. Difficulty retracting the rope or inability to fully start your saw can also indicate an impending cord failure.

How can I maintain my chainsaw to prevent pull cord issues?

Regular cleaning and inspection of the pull cord, rope guide, recoil spring, and pulley mechanism are key. Follow all manufacturer guidelines for lubricating these components. Adhere to proper pull cord handling as described in this article, avoiding yanking or dropping the rope. Also replace the cord proactively at the first sign of wear.

What should I do if my chainsaw pull cord breaks while in use?

If the cord breaks mid-job, stop using the chainsaw immediately until the cord can be replaced. Attempting to run it with a partially broken cord can cause further damage. Replace the cord with a quality OEM version before attempting to use the saw again.

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