How to Oil a Chainsaw: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Oil a Chainsaw: A Comprehensive Guide

Oiling a chainsaw is one of the most important maintenance tasks to keep your saw running smoothly. Proper lubrication prevents friction, overheating, and wear and tear on the chain, bar, and engine. As an avid chainsaw user, I’ve learned the ins and outs of chainsaw maintenance over the years. In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know to keep your chainsaw oiled and running optimally.

First, let’s look at why oil is so crucial for your chainsaw. The fast-moving chain creates intense friction against the guide bar, which can quickly lead to overheating. Oil helps lubricate this contact point and prevents the metal surfaces from grinding. It also prevents rust, corrosion, and residue build-up. Without oil, the chain would grind against metal, losing its sharpness and eventually causing the engine to seize up.

You’ll need to use quality bar and chain oil designed specifically for chainsaws. Regular motor oils are too thin and will not properly coat the chain. The oil needs to have tackiness to stick to the chain as it travels around the bar. Look for oils rated “Tacky Adhesive” for best performance.

In this guide, I’ll walk through the full process to keep your chainsaw oiled:

  • Checking oil levels
  • Selecting the right oil
  • Adding oil
  • Troubleshooting oil flow issues
  • Comparing automatic vs adjustable oilers
  • Proper oiler maintenance

I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about chainsaw oiling at the end. Let’s get started!

How to Oil a Chainsaw?

How to Oil a Chainsaw: A Comprehensive Guide

Oiling a chainsaw takes just a few simple steps. Here is the process from start to finish:

Checking the Oil Reservoir

The first step is checking the oil level in the reservoir to make sure there is sufficient oil. It is crucial to maintain the right oil level for proper lubrication. Running your chainsaw too low on oil can cause damage.

Most chainsaws have a clear window so you can quickly inspect the oil level. I recommend checking before each use. If the tank is less than half full, refill it. Having ample oil in reserve helps ensure continuous lubrication.

Some key signs your chainsaw is low on oil:

  • The chain looks dry with no visible oil coating
  • You see smoke coming from the chain and bar
  • You hear a grinding or rattling sound from the chain
  • Sawdust looks unusually coarse and powdery

Replenishing the oil before any of these warning signs occur is ideal to avoid damage.

Choosing the Right Oil

You’ll want to use a high-quality bar and chain oil designed for chainsaw lubrication. The oil clings to the chain as it travels around the bar. Look for an oil with “tackiness” or “adhesive” qualities. The oil viscosity should be around SAE 30.

Some common options:

  • Stihl Bar and Chain Oil
  • Husqvarna Bar and Chain Oil
  • Oregon Bar and Chain Oil
  • Echo Bar and Chain Oil

I recommend using the oil type recommended in your owner’s manual. Stick to the oil intended for your particular chainsaw make and model.

Never use old motor oil, cooking oils, or other improvised oils. They lack the tackiness to properly lubricate and can quickly damage your chainsaw. Diesel and kerosene are also poor substitutes that can harm o-rings and gaskets.

Adding Oil to the Chainsaw

Once you’ve confirmed your oil level and selected the right oil, follow these steps to add oil:

  1. Locate the oil tank cap. It is typically identified with an “oil” icon or the word “OIL”.
  2. Clean the area around the cap to avoid getting debris in the tank.
  3. Unscrew the oil cap.
  4. Using a funnel, slowly pour the bar and chain oil into the tank. Leave room at the top for expansion.
  5. Replace the cap tightly and wipe up any spilled oil.
  6. Check that the cap is secure before starting the saw. Loose caps can leak oil.
  7. Start the chainsaw and let it idle for a minute as the oil circulation begins.
  8. Check that oil is reaching the chain. You should see a thin coating.
  9. Top off the tank if needed to reach the full mark.

The whole process takes just a few minutes. Refill the oil tank every time you refuel your chainsaw to stay ahead of lubrication needs. Also inspect the chain each time for proper oiling. A little oil maintenance goes a long way!

Common Issues and Solutions

If you notice your chainsaw is not properly lubricating the bar and chain, several issues could be the culprit. Here are some of the most common problems and solutions:

Clogged Oil Hole

It’s common for the oil outlet hole under the bar to become clogged with sawdust and residue over time. This restricts oil flow to the bar.

Signs of a clogged hole:

  • Visibly missing or reduced oil on bar
  • Rattling or grinding sounds
  • Smoke coming from chain and bar
  • Oil dripping from the chainsaw

To fix, remove the bar and use a small wire or pin to clear any blockages in the oil hole. Make sure no debris remains. You can also try using compressed air. Replace the bar and run the saw to verify smooth oil flow.

Faulty Oil Pump

With heavy use over time, the oil pump can wear out and fail to distribute oil properly. If low oil issues persist after checking the tank and cleaning the channels, the pump itself may need repair.

Signs of a faulty oil pump:

  • Oil in tank but none reaches bar
  • Intermittent oiling rather than continuous
  • Oil leaks from the pump housing

Replace the defective oil pump and hoses. Be sure to clean out any oil residues first. Test the new pump by running the saw and watching for restored oil flow.

Blocked Oil Channels

It’s also possible for sludge, sediment and gunk to build up inside the oil channels. This prevents proper flow, even with a working pump.

Signs of blocked channels:

  • Slow, intermittent or asymmetrical oil distribution
  • One side of bar gets oil but not other areas
  • Pump is working but flow is constrained

Use a wire to probe for any obstructions. Flush the channels with solvents or compressed air to clear out any debris. Once cleared, the oil should flow freely again.

Automatic vs. Adjustable Chainsaw Oilers

Another important decision is whether to use an automatic oiler or adjustable oiler system on your chainsaw. Here are the key differences:

Automatic Chainsaw Oilers

Many chainsaw models today come with automatic oilers that require no adjustment. They provide a pre-set volume of oil flow based on engine speed.


  • Maintains optimal oil rate at all times
  • Consistent oil delivery without user input
  • No risk of incorrect oiler adjustments


  • Unable to adjust flow for different bar lengths
  • Prone to internal wear over time
  • Malfunctions can’t be overridden

Adjustable Chainsaw Oilers

Adjustable oilers allow you to manually control the oil rate as needed. A screw or dial sets the output.


  • Customizable for different bar sizes
  • Can increase oil for heavy cutting
  • Users can manually override malfunctions


  • Requires diligent monitoring and adjustment
  • Risk of incorrect settings leading to damage
  • Requires experience to dial in proper flow

Consider your chainsaw model, usage, and preference before deciding on automatic vs adjustable oiling. Both can work well with proper maintenance.

Chainsaw Oiler Maintenance Tips

To keep your chainsaw’s oiler working flawlessly, make sure to perform regular maintenance:

Regular Cleaning

Over time, oil residues, sawdust and debris can build up in the oiler. This gradually reduces performance.

To clean:

  • Remove bar and chain
  • Use compressed air to blow out oil passages
  • Flush with solvents and pipe cleaners if needed
  • Clear any obstructions around the oil pump
  • Replace worn or damaged oil lines

Proper cleaning is the best way to maintain peak oiler function.

Checking for Damages

Inspect the oiler system periodically for any cracks, leaks or worn parts. Fix issues promptly to prevent bigger problems.

Some areas to inspect closely:

  • Oil lines and hoses
  • Gaskets and seals
  • Fittings and fasteners
  • Pump mounting and hardware
  • Tank caps and vents

Replace any suspect components right away. It’s much easier to swap a small part than rebuild the entire oiler.

Proper Storage

How you store your chainsaw also impacts the oiler system. Follow these tips:

  • Completely drain the oil tank to prevent gumming
  • Seal the tank vent to keep out debris
  • Store upright to avoid oil leaks
  • Allow the bar and chain to dry before storage
  • Clean the saw thoroughly before off-season storage

Taking care to store your chainsaw properly will help keep the oiler trouble-free over the long haul.


I hope this guide provided a helpful overview of chainsaw oiling best practices. Proper lubrication is truly crucial for safe operation and extending the life of your saw. Keep the oil tank full with quality bar and chain oil, learn to troubleshoot lubrication issues, and maintain the oiler system diligently. Your chainsaw will thank you with years of smooth reliable service. Let me know in the comments if you have any other chainsaw oiling tips!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of oil should I use for my chainsaw?

Use a quality bar and chain oil made specifically for chainsaw lubrication. Look for an oil with “tacky” or “adhesive” properties to properly stick and lubricate the chain as it rotates. Never use old motor oil, cooking oils, or other improvised lubricants.

How often should I oil my chainsaw?

Check the oil tank before each use and top it off as needed. Let the saw idle briefly to circulate oil before cutting. Also inspect the chain for visible lubrication. When refueling your saw, make it a habit to refill the oil tank too.

Can I use motor oil for my chainsaw?

Avoid using regular motor oil in place of proper bar and chain oil. Motor oils lack tackiness and will sling off the chain rather than sticking and lubricating effectively. This can lead to rapid wear and overheating.

How do I know if my chainsaw is properly oiled?

Signs of proper oiling include:

  • Visibly clean, lubricated chain
  • No smoking, rattling, grinding
  • Smooth quiet running
  • Oil reaching the tip of the bar
  • Sawdust has a light color rather than burnt or excessively powdery

What are the consequences of not oiling my chainsaw?

Running a chainsaw without proper oil will lead to overheating, accelerated wear, chain and bar damage, increased friction, burnt residues, and eventual breakdown. Lack of oil is one of the quickest ways to ruin a chainsaw through metal-on-metal contact.

Can I fix a broken oil pump myself?

With some mechanical skill, you can replace a faulty oil pump yourself. Make sure to clean all oil passages thoroughly. Getting the proper replacement pump for your model is crucial. If unsure, it may be safer to have a professional service the oiler system.

How do I clean the oiler system on my chainsaw?

Use compressed air and wire brushes to remove built-up debris from the oil channels. Flush with solvents as needed. Examine the pump, hoses, seals for damage. Replace any visibly worn or defective parts. Proper cleaning should restore full oil flow.

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