Maintaining and cleaning a chainsaw is crucial for optimal performance and longevity. A dirty chainsaw with gunk buildup can lead to a host of issues – fouled spark plugs, clogged air filters, stuck chains, and accelerated wear and tear. While regular maintenance is key, having the right cleaning agents helps make the job easier. This brings us to an interesting question – can you use the popular WD-40 spray to clean your chainsaw?
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll dig into whether WD-40 is an effective cleaning solution for chainsaws. You’ll learn the benefits of using WD-40 as well as step-by-step instructions on how to clean a chainsaw with it. I’ll also cover alternative cleaning methods and products, chainsaw maintenance tips, and important safety precautions. By the end, you’ll have all the details on safely using WD-40 to clean your chainsaw and keep it running like new. Let’s get started!
Can You Use WD-40 to Clean Chainsaw?
The short answer is yes, WD-40 can be safely used to clean chainsaws. The light lubricating oil in WD-40 helps loosen and remove built-up gunk, sawdust, dirt, grease, and other debris on a chainsaw’s bar, chain, and exterior components. It also displaces moisture, preventing rust and corrosion. Used properly, WD-40 will clean and protect a chainsaw without damaging any parts.
However, it’s crucial to note that WD-40 should not replace regular chain lubrication and cleaning. It is a temporary water displacer and penetrant, not specifically designed to properly lubricate chainsaw chains during operation. For that, you’ll still need dedicated chain oil or bar lubricants. But as an occasional cleaner, WD-40 works well to remove accumulated grime and refresh a chainsaw’s parts.
Benefits of Using WD-40 for Chainsaw Cleaning
There are a few advantages to using WD-40 as a chainsaw cleaner:
- Removes Built-Up Grime: The light oil cuts through sawdust, dirt, grease, and other grimy buildup on chainsaw parts. The spray application helps penetrate nooks and crannies.
- Prevents Rust: WD-40 displaces moisture, leaving behind a protective coating that shields metal parts from rust and corrosion. This helps maintain smooth operation.
- Reduces Friction: The lubricating agents in WD-40 reduce friction on moving chainsaw parts like the bar, chain, and sprocket. This minimizes wear over time.
So while not a complete chainsaw cleaner on its own, WD-40 excels at tackling some of the most common cleaning challenges. Used periodically, it will complement your regular maintenance routine.
How to Use WD-40 to Clean Chainsaw?
Cleaning your chainsaw with WD-40 is a simple process, but there are some key steps to do it safely and effectively:
Precautions Before Cleaning
- Ensure the chainsaw is unplugged/turned off and give all parts time to cool completely before cleaning.
- Wear protective gloves, eyewear, and a mask/respirator when using chemicals like WD-40. Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Remove the chainsaw chain and bar before cleaning the exterior. This prevents accidental starting.
- Use a small wire brush, rag, or scraper to remove loose debris and the top layer of grime first.
- Liberally spray WD-40 over the bar, chain, sprocket, clutch cover, and other grimy exterior parts. Allow it to penetrate for 2-3 minutes.
- Scrub surfaces with a stiff nylon or brass brush to dissolve built-up gunk. Wipe off with a clean rag.
- For the chain, place it in a pan and soak in WD-40 for 10 minutes. Scrub with a brush then rinse clean.
- Use an air compressor at 30-40 psi to blow out any loosened debris and residual WD-40 from crevices.
- Finally, wipe down all parts with a clean, dry rag before reassembling the saw. Test its operation before use.
Regularly cleaning with WD-40 using these steps will keep your chainsaw running smoothly for years to come.
Chainsaw Cleaning Alternatives
While handy for periodic cleaning, WD-40 alone isn’t enough for thorough chainsaw maintenance. Using dedicated degreasers, lubricants, and homemade solutions will give you better results. Here are some top options:
Degreasers and Lubricants
- WD-40 Specialist Degreaser – Formulated specifically for heavy equipment cleaning. Quickly dissolves grease and oil buildup.
- Simple Green – Biodegradable and nontoxic citrus degreaser safe for most surfaces. Helps remove organic gunk easily.
- Bar and Chain Oil – Keeps the chain lubricated to minimize friction and wear during use. Look for tacky, high viscosity oils that cling well.
- Chain Wax – Wax-based lubricants provide excellent corrosion resistance and chain protection between uses.
Homemade Cleaning Solutions
If you want to avoid harsh chemicals, these DIY cleaners work great:
- Vegetable Oil and Acetone – Mix a 50/50 solution in a spray bottle. Naturally cuts through oil and grease.
- Dish Soap and Water – Great for cleaning chainsaw chains. Let soak then scrub with a brush. Rinse thoroughly.
- Baking Soda and Vinegar – Forms bubbles that lift grime. Rinse and dry well afterwards to prevent corrosion.
Rotating between WD-40 and a few of these alternatives will keep your chainsaw in great shape for reliable use.
Chainsaw Maintenance Tips
In addition to regular cleaning, proper chainsaw maintenance involves:
Cleaning the Chainsaw Bar
The grooved bar that guides the cutting chain needs frequent cleaning to prevent sawdust buildup and rail damage. Here’s how:
- Remove the bar and chain from the saw. Clean the bar groove using a small screwdriver.
- Use WD-40 or a dedicated degreaser along with a wire brush to remove grime from the rails and lubrication holes.
- Lubricate the bar and nose sprocket before reinstalling the chain and adjusting tension.
Lubricating the Chain
Proper chain lubrication is vital during operation to reduce friction on the cutting links. Here are some tips:
- Use a lubricant specifically designed for chainsaw chains rather than WD-40 for regular use. These oils cling better and resist sling-off.
- Check the chain tension frequently. Loosen chains need more frequent lubrication.
- Ensure the chain oil reservoir is full and all lubrication passages are clear before each use.
- In a pinch, WD-40 can provide some temporary lubrication if normal chain oil runs out during a cutting session. Reapply liberally.
Sharpening the Chain
As chains naturally dull through use, periodic sharpening is required to maintain smooth cutting:
- Use a round file of the proper size and file guide to sharpen chain teeth based on the manufacturer’s specifications.
- File down all cutters uniformly, taking care to maintain the top plate angle.
- Touch up depth gauges as needed to ensure proper sizing relative to cutters.
- Inspect for damaged rivets or bent bars and replace if found. A damaged chain can be dangerous.
Take care of your chain and bar, and they’ll optimally feed wood through the saw.
Chainsaw Safety Tips
While cleaning and maintenance are important, safe chainsaw operation is paramount. Follow these precautions:
Personal Protective Equipment
Chainsaws can quickly injure exposed skin and eyes or damage hearing. Always wear:
- Close-fitting gloves that allow dexterity but prevent cuts. Look for special chainsaw gloves.
- Eye protection like wraparound glasses or a full face shield.
- Hearing protection – either earmuffs or plugs which block noise adequately.
- Chainsaw chaps over your pants to protect thighs and knees from cuts.
- Sturdy boots for ankle support and non-slip soles to prevent falls.
Chainsaw Handling and Operation
Beyond protective gear, using proper handling and cutting techniques minimizes injury risks:
- Hold the saw firmly with both hands, keeping your stance solid and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Let the saw reach full speed before contacting wood to prevent kickback.
- Employ smooth, even pressure when pushing the saw through cuts. Don’t force it.
- Keep the tree between you and the saw bar/chain as much as possible during limbing.
- Operate at waist height whenever feasible – this gives you the best control.
- Shut off the saw before setting it down. Don’t let it run unattended.
With the right safety gear and proper usage habits, chainsaw operation can be relatively hazard-free. But complacency leads to accidents. Stay alert!
Regular cleaning and maintenance is crucial for any chainsaw to deliver reliable, optimal performance. While not a complete maintenance solution in itself, WD-40 can be an effective cleaner when used properly to remove built-up gunk periodically. Just take care not to let it replace regular chain lubrication.
Combine WD-40 cleaning sessions with using dedicated degreasers and lubricants for the best results. And most importantly, abide by all chainsaw safety precautions – protective gear, proper handling, and care go a long way in preventing injuries. Keep these best practices in mind, and your chainsaw will run cleanly and smoothly for years of productive use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use WD-40 as a chainsaw bar oil substitute?
No, WD-40 should not be used as a substitute for dedicated chainsaw bar and chain oils. While WD-40 can provide some temporary lubrication in a pinch, it is not formulated to withstand the heat and friction chainsaws generate during prolonged use. For proper lubrication, use a quality bar and chain oil specifically designed for chainsaw applications.
How often should I clean my chainsaw?
Clean your chainsaw after every use, especially the bar, chain, and exterior components. This prevents buildup of resin, sap, and debris that can impede performance. For occasional users, clean at least once a month to preserve your saw. Heavy-duty users should clean more frequently.
What other products can I use to clean my chainsaw?
You can use biodegradable degreasers, dish soap mixed with warm water, or a 50/50 solution of vegetable oil and acetone as cleaner alternatives. Avoid using gasoline or flammable solvents. Stay away from aggressive chemicals that could damage plastic or magnesium components.
Can I use motor oil to clean my chainsaw?
While motor oil can dissolve grease and gunk, it’s not recommended for cleaning chainsaws. Used motor oil contains particulates and contaminants that can cause premature wear. New motor oil leaves oily residue that attracts more dirt over time. Stick to purpose-made degreasers and cleaning agents instead.
How do I sharpen my chainsaw chain?
Start by securing the bar in a vise or clamp. Use a round chainsaw file of the proper diameter for your chain and follow the existing angles. Apply even pressure with smooth strokes into the cutters. Sharpen all teeth uniformly until the file easily cuts each tooth corner. Then use a flat file to lower depth gauges so they sit 0.02 inches below the cutter tops.
What safety gear should I wear while using a chainsaw?
Always wear certified chainsaw chaps, steel-toed boots, heavy gloves, eye protection like safety glasses or a face shield, along with hearing protection like earmuffs or plugs. Safety gear protects your hands, arms, legs, feet, eyes, face, and ears from flying debris and cutting injuries.
How do I store my chainsaw when not in use?
Before storage, drain the fuel and chain oil tanks completely to prevent gumming. Use WD-40 to coat metal surfaces and prevent rust. Store the saw away from moisture, dust, and dirt in a dry, room temperature location. Avoid setting directly on concrete, which can cause corrosion.
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.