How Chainsaw Oil Pumps Work: A Guide

how chainsaw oil pump works

Understanding how a chainsaw oil pump works is crucial for ensuring proper lubrication and long life of your chainsaw. In this comprehensive guide, I will provide an overview of the key components and functioning of chainsaw oil pumps. I will also discuss the evolution of chainsaw oilers from manual to automatic, steps for maintenance and troubleshooting, when to replace your pump, and popular chainsaw oil pump brands and models.

Whether you are new to using a chainsaw or a seasoned pro, this guide will give you valuable insights into the importance of the oil pump and how to keep it working optimally. Proper oiling is essential to reduce friction and overheating, which can lead to premature wear, damage, and failure of chainsaw parts. Let’s get started!

How Chainsaw Oil Pump Works?

how chainsaw oil pump works

The oil pump in a chainsaw draws bar and chain oil from the oil tank and delivers it to the guide bar and chain. This is key for lubrication as the chain rotates around the guide bar. Here are the basic components involved:

Basic Components of a Chainsaw Oil Pump

  • Piston pump – Most modern chainsaws use a small piston pump activated by the crankshaft to move oil. As the crankshaft turns, it moves the piston up and down to suck oil up and push it out.
  • Oil tank with vent and filter – The oil tank stores the bar and chain oil supply. It has a vent to allow air flow and a filter screen to trap debris.
  • Oil outlet hole on the guide bar – This is where the oil pump pushes oil directly onto the guide bar. The chain then picks it up as it rotates around the bar.

The Functioning of a Chainsaw Oil Pump

Here is a simple overview of how the oil pump delivers lubrication:

  • The crankshaft drives the oil pump piston as the chainsaw motor runs.
  • This suction draws bar and chain oil from the tank through a pickup pipe.
  • The piston then pumps the oil through hoses/channels out the oil outlet hole onto the guide bar.
  • As the chain loops around the guide bar, centrifugal force spreads the oil into the chain links and grooves along the bar.

This constant oiling of the moving chain is essential to minimize friction, overheating, and wear & tear.

Types of Oil Flow in Chainsaw Oil Pumps

Chainsaw oil pumps typically use either a fixed flow system or an adjustable flow system:

Fixed flow/automatic oilers

Most modern chainsaws have a fixed rate of oil flow. The pump mechanism delivers a preset amount of oil based on engine speed or chain speed. This provides automatic lubrication whenever the chainsaw is running.

Adjustable oilers

Some chainsaw models allow adjusting oil flow rate manually with a screw or dial. This allows increasing flow for longer bars or when cutting very dry wood. It also conserves oil when less flow is needed.

The Evolution of Chainsaw Oilers

The simplest chainsaws relied solely on manual lubrication. Later models automated the oiling process for convenience and better performance.

Manual Oilers

Early chainsaws required the operator to manually apply oil while cutting to avoid bar and chain damage. This was done via:

  • A thumb plunger next to the rear handle to pump oil periodically.
  • Stopping regularly to oil the bar tip using a separate bar end oiler cap unscrewed.

Having to constantly stop cutting to lubricate was inconvenient and interrupted workflow.

Automatic Oilers

Modern chainsaws deliver auto-lubrication in two main ways:

  • On simpler models, opening the throttle partially engages the oil pump along with the motor. This links oiling to engine speed.
  • More advanced systems use a worm drive gear that is rotated by the crankshaft. This separate pump assembly delivers precise oil flow without throttle manipulation.

Automatic oiling eliminates the need to manually apply oil while operating the chainsaw. This improves safety and efficiency.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting of Chainsaw Oil Pumps

To sustain proper oiling, the oil pump must be maintained just like other chainsaw components. Here are helpful tips:

Inspecting the Oil Pump

  • Regularly remove the side cover, chain, and bar to check the oil pump. Look for any signs of wear, cracking, loosening, or damage.
  • Examine the rubber oil delivery lines and check for leaks, kinks, or deterioration. Firmly reseat any loose fittings.
  • Verify unobstructed oil flow by manually operating the pump and watching for a steady stream of oil.

Common Oil Pump Problems

  • Clogged oil delivery holes or lines due to debris. Routinely clean out all oil passages.
  • Worn out pump worm drive gears. Replace gears if oil flow is too low or pump noise is excessive.

Take prompt action at the first sign of oil pump wear or failure to avoid unnecessary guide bar and chain damage.

Chainsaw Oil Pump Replacement

With regular use, oil pump components eventually require replacement:

When to Replace the Oil Pump

  • If inspection reveals significant wear, cracking, or malfunction of the pump.
  • Oil flow is too low or erratic despite a full tank and clean passages.

Don’t delay oil pump replacement when these warning signs appear. Running a worn pump will quickly ruin the bar and chain.

Steps for Replacing the Oil Pump

  • Remove chain, bar, and side cover to access the pump.
  • Detach oil delivery lines and fasteners to remove damaged pump, gears, or hoses.
  • Install new compatible pump components and reassemble.
  • Test oil flow before resuming regular use.

Refer to your chainsaw manufacturer guide for proper part numbers and procedures.

Chainsaw Oil Pump Brands and Models

Popular saw brands use proprietary oil pump designs optimized for their models. Here are some key examples:

Stihl Chainsaw Oil Pumps

  • Stihl saws are known for advanced piston oil pumps that precisely meter oil flow.
  • Models like the MS 261 feature automatic oiling systems responsive to engine/chain speeds.

Husqvarna Chainsaw Oil Pumps

  • Husqvarna saws often utilize worm drive oil pumps integrated into the crankcase.
  • Many Husqvarna models have automatic, speed-controlled oilers for convenience.

Check that any replacement oil pump matches your saw brand and specifications to ensure compatibility and performance.


Understanding what’s behind the constant lubrication required by your chainsaw is vital for proper maintenance and operation. The oil pump draws oil from the separate tank and deposits it along the guide bar precisely when and where needed. Advances from manual to automatic pumping systems have greatly improved convenience while still delivering pressurized oil flow.

By performing regular inspection of the pump and oil delivery components, you can prevent premature wear of the bar and chain. Timely cleaning and replacement of worn parts avoids costly repairs and keeps your saw running smoothly. Proper lubrication helps minimize dangerous overheating that can lead to failure. Follow the recommendations in this guide, and your chainsaw’s oil pump will provide reliable service for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I check the oil pump on my chainsaw?

You should inspect your chainsaw’s oil pump at least monthly during routine use to check for any signs of wear, clogging, or reduced oil flow. Also examine it before any long cutting session.

What type of oil should I use for my chainsaw oil pump?

Use a good quality bar and chain oil designed specifically for chainsaw lubrication. Never use old motor oil or other substitutes which can damage the oil pump.

Can I adjust the oil flow on my chainsaw oil pump?

Some chainsaw models allow adjusting the oil pump flow as needed. Check your owner’s manual to see if your oil pump has a dial or screw to control oil output. This can help conserve oil or increase flow for demanding tasks.

How do I clean the oil lines and oil holes in my chainsaw oil pump?

Use a small wire or needle to clear any clogged oil delivery holes. Clean out the pickup line and hoses using brake cleaner or blow them out with compressed air. Always flush the system thoroughly after cleaning.

Are chainsaw oil pumps universal, or do I need a specific model for my chainsaw?

Oil pumps are usually specific to the make and model. To ensure optimal fit and performance, consult your owner’s manual for the correct replacement oil pump specified for your chainsaw.


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