Sooner or later, every regular chainsaw user will experience some kind of a problem with the tool that will need fixing. Whether the guide bar will get damaged, the chain’s cutters will get dull, the chainsaw won’t start, or something else, issues can, and will occur.
After all, this is a powerful tool used for cutting trees and hardwood at very high speed. And because of that, it’s not unusual to experience mechanical failures on a chainsaw or any similar power tool for that matter.
As a beginner who recently bought your first chainsaw, a situation where the chainsaw can’t start might catch you unprepared.
But do not worry. Because in this guide, we’ll be talking about the main reasons why your chainsaw won’t start, and how you can get it running again in no time.
Chainsaw - Definition, Parts & Types
The chainsaw is a widely popular portable power tool that’s mostly used for woodworking. It works on the concept of an engine powering a cutting chain that always rotates in a clockwise direction and is mounted to a guide bar.
With it, you can easily prune or limb branches, cut wood, fell trees, buck logs, and do many other similar activities.
Even though it looks like a simple design with a fast-spinning cutting chain attached to a bar that’s powered by an engine, there’s more to this type of saw than that. And the biggest proof for that is when the chainsaw won’t start. Because then you’ll have to troubleshoot nearly a dozen body-parts just to find the culprit.
Nevertheless, a lot of the smaller parts or features aren’t included on every saw type. But you’ll never see a chainsaw that doesn’t have:
- Guide Bar
- Cutting Chain
Depending on the chainsaw’s motor, we can distinguish two main types:
This distinction, however, goes a bit deeper than a simple difference in the power source. Because the gas and electric types, also differ in many other internal or external parts that make up the tool. Therefore, both types have separate reasons for why the saw won’t start.
These are old-fashioned saws powered by a two-stroke internal combustion engine that runs on petrol.
Compared to the electric saw, this one offers power that can’t be rivaled. That’s why most lumberjacks use a gas-powered chainsaw to fell trees or do other demanding cutting tasks.
It does produce a lot of noise and can be hard to tame if you don’t have the physique for it, but the power it offers makes the struggle worth it.
In contrast to the gasoline-powered one, the electric chainsaw does not need fuel to run. Depending on the type, the motor is either driven by a power cord plugged in an outlet, or by a battery.
Because of that, we have two types of electric chainsaws:
Besides fuel, these saws are also less complex on the outside and don’t feature dozens of body-parts that can cause a failure. That’s why, when an electric chainsaw won’t start, there can be only a few culprits causing the tool to malfunction. But more on this later in the guide.
Chainsaw Won't Start - Main Culprits
When a chainsaw doesn’t start, there can be several reasons hiding behind the problem. Your job as the saw’s operator is to find the main culprit, and solve it as quickly as you can in order to immediately get back to cutting, feeling, limbing, etc.
In the types section above we mentioned that electric and gas-powered saws don’t have the same parts and the reasons for it not starting aren’t the same.
Gas-Powered Chainsaw Won't Start
When a gas-powered chain saw has trouble starting, the reason can be as simple as lack of fuel and spark, to a flooded engine. However, most of these issues can be relatively easy to fix.
Here’s how to troubleshoot a gas-powered chainsaw:
1. Fuel Level
While it may sound funny and obvious, the first thing you want to check is if the saw has enough fuel to start. Forgetting about the fuel level can happen to the best of us.
It’s futile to repeatedly pull the starter cord expecting the saw to start even though there might be a spark. Because without petrol it cannot run. So, make certain you check the fuel level first before continuing to search for the culprit that causes the saw to not work.
2. Bad Gas
Now, you checked the fuel tank and made sure there is enough gas in it. But, the saw still doesn’t work?
Well, even if that’s the case, the problem still might be fuel-related. Because if you haven’t used the chainsaw in a couple of weeks, or more than a month, there’s a high chance that the chainsaw has bad gas. In this situation, it’s best to empty the tank, clean it, and fill it with fresh fuel.
However, that’s not all. Because another fuel-related reason that can cause the chainsaw to not work is the wrong fuel mixture. Not every saw uses the same engine. So make certain that you are using the correct fuel mixture.
After you confirm that you are using the right fuel mixture, and replaced the old fuel with fresh fuel – it’s time to pull the starter rope again and try to kick-start the chainsaw.
3. Bad Spark Plug
Aside from the fuel, the other obvious thing to check is the spark plug. After all, you can’t ignite the engine without fuel and spark.
In general, the spark plug can fail if it gets covered in oil, starts to corrode, or simply due to age and damage. So, depending on the situation – you can either clean the spark plug and see if it still works by using an ignition cable, or replace the spark plug if there’s no sign of life.
If your saw’s spark plug works perfectly fine, and there’s fresh fuel in the tank, but the power tool still won’t fire up – there’s nothing else to do but to continue troubleshooting other parts as well.
4. Clogged Carburetor
Next in line for checking is the part that mixes fuel and air in internal combustion engines (ICE), or simply said – the carburetor.
And since the carburetor deals with fuel, it’s never a good idea to keep old fuel in the chainsaw. Because when fuel stays unused for too long in the tank and engine, it becomes thick and sticky.
Such fuel is good for nothing, especially for the carburetor since it clogs as a consequence of it. But thankfully, this problem is easily fixable.
As the first solution, it’s best to try and unclog it with a carburetor cleaner. If the cleaner doesn’t work, try to clean the clogged carburetor thoroughly with your hands. And if still stays unresponsive, it might be time to replace the old carburetor.
5. Clogged Air Filter
Another common reason why your chain saw won’t start might be the dirty and clogged air filter.
Usually, when an air filter clogs, the gas and air ratio isn’t balanced so the motor can’t start. But no worries. Because similarly to the carburetor, this issue is fairly easy to fix as well.
All you need to do is to remove the air filter and clean it with water and soap. If that doesn’t help, replace it with a new one. However, to prevent clogged air filters in the future, it’s best to immediately clean them after long usage of the chain saw.
6. Clogged Spark Arrestor
The spark arrestor blocks flammable exhaust debris to not fly out of the tool. Thereby, it isn’t rare to see it clogged after frequent usage.
Similar to most parts, the best way to solve this issue is by cleaning it. And to prevent the spark arrestor from getting clogged again, clean it more regularly.
7. Flooded Engine
While trying to start the chainsaw, you may have pressed the primer bulb more times than necessary. Consequently, this action most likely flooded the engine.
The first thing you’ll notice on a tool with a flooded engine is the excessive smell of gasoline. And to prove this theory right, remove the spark plug to see if it’s covered in fuel.
The best solution in this scenario would be to dry the spark plug, drain the fuel tank and disable the choke. Afterward, hold the throttle and pull the starter rope around 7 times to fire it up. Repeat until it starts working again.
8. Defective Ignition Coil
After going through almost all of the parts, and still not finding the main culprit, then one of the final solutions might as well be the ignition coil.
While the motor is running, the ignition coil sends voltage to the spark plug to keep the whole show running. And to check if the starting problem is caused by it, you’ll need to use a coil tester.
With the tester, you’ll find out if the ignition coil is indeed defective and if it needs replacement.
9. Broken Recoil Starter Assembly
For the end, we have the recoil starter assembly which consists of a rewind spring and a recoil starter pulley.
This assembly plays a crucial role in the tool’s starting process. Without it, there’s no other part that can turn over the engine in order to start.
The best way to fix it is by removing the whole recoil starter assembly, so you can test the pulley and the rewind spring. If there’s something wrong with the recoil starter pulley or rewind spring, it’s best to replace them or buy a new assembly.
Electric Chainsaw Won't Start
Unlike the gas-powered one, the electric chainsaw isn’t constructed with a dozen body-parts that can cause a starting problem at any time. This is a modern tool in the real sense of the word. Meaning, if something breaks, you probably won’t be able to fix it yourself.
Earlier in the guide, we mentioned that electric chainsaws can be cordless or corded, depending on if the saw uses batteries to run, or a cord plugged in an outlet. So, when troubleshooting an electric saw, those are the first two things you need to check.
If you have issues with a corded saw starting, your primary reaction should be to check if the cord is plugged incorrectly. If it is, continue searching for possible damage to the cord.
While if you own a cordless saw, the first thing you need to check is if there is any life in the battery after charging it. If there isn’t, check if the charger is faulty as well, otherwise replace the battery.
Now, these solutions might sound easy and simple, but often the problem goes deeper than that. And this is where it gets tricky for the average person.
If the problem isn’t related to the battery, charger, cord, or power outlet, then it’s an internal electric issue. But fixing an internal electric issue isn’t something that anyone can do. So it might be best to take it to a professional.
As a chainsaw owner, tool maintenance should be one of your utmost priorities
Obviously, every power tool requires to be serviced occasionally in order to work flawlessly without issues. However, the chainsaw is one of the more demanding tools when it comes to maintenance.
Why you may ask? Because as we can see from the examples above – most of the issues that cause a chainsaw to not start can be directly connected to poor tool maintenance.
That’s why, make sure that you frequently service and clean your saw to prolong its time of prime usage, and spare yourself from future troubles by having an always ready-to-use saw.
Ideally, you’d want to service the chainsaw every few months after a heavy usage like tree felling. But if you are using it for something lighter like gardening or simpler cutting tasks, then just once a year is enough.
Tool maintenance is also very important for safety because it drastically decreases the chances of a failure during work. And this brings us to the next part of our guide: safety.
Read More: Chainsaw Chain Direction
If saw servicing should be done only a few times a year to prevent tool failures and lower the risk of injuries. Then, taking safety measures is something you need to do whenever you use the tool.
After all, this is a dangerous and powerful tool that shouldn’t be taken lightly. For example, only in the US, 35,000+ people every year suffer chainsaw-related injuries.
Because of that, it’s very important to take as many precautions as you can while operating the chainsaw. These precautions mainly refer to the user equipment, the features the saw has to offer, and the environment you work in.
Before starting to operate with the chainsaw, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the best protective gear you have. Because even though the saw’s safety features can keep it under control to a degree, there’s still debris flying around and workpieces falling where they shouldn’t fall.
So make sure you wear all, or most of this personal protective equipment (PPE):
- Eye Protection – Goggles/Visor
- Gloves made of cut-proof fabric
- Sturdy Boots
Apart from the user equipment, most modern chainsaws these days come with superb safety features that make the protective gear almost look obsolete.
And since this is a powerful tool, it can produce a lot of vibrations, kickback, and even the chain can come off. As a consequence of these reasons and to protect the user in unwanted scenarios, modern chainsaws come with various features:
- Anti-Vibration – makes the saw more stable and easier to use by reducing vibrations
- Stop Button – allows the user to instantly turn off the engine
- Chain Brake – locks the chain in case of a kickback to protect the user
- Chain Catcher – captures the chain if it derails from the guide bar
- Throttle Lock – prevents accidental throttle advance
- Right Hand Guard – makes sure the operator’s fingers stay untouched if the chain derails
These features can and will help you to protect yourself from the saw, or the debris it produces. However, not every chainsaw comes with such features. That’s why when purchasing a new one, make sure you check the features list or ask the seller if they aren’t mentioned.
After going through the various reasons for why your chainsaw won’t start, we can conclude that finding the main culprit may not be as simple as it seems at first glance.
Dozens of parts construct the chainsaw, and many of these parts can cause the saw to not start. Therefore, you need to carefully examine the tool and its parts to find out why it doesn’t start. Some parts might be more obvious to notice as the culprits, but in general, you’ll have to do a thorough inspection.
Hopefully, this guide helped you to find and solve the issue. Also, don’t forget to regularly service the chainsaw or to follow the safety protocols.
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