There are lots of reasons to keep a chainsaw in the garage or toolshed. Homeowners can do everything from quickly trimming bushes to cutting down entire trees with a chainsaw. To keep the tool operating efficiently and effectively without causing harm to the user, it’s important to look for signs of overheating, such as heavy amounts of smoke. Keep reading to learn why chainsaws smoke and what to do about it.
Why Is My Chainsaw Smoking?
A chainsaw generates quite a bit of heat while in use, but it should never produce a lot of smoke or get too hot to carry or touch without gloves. If it does, this is a huge indicator that it’s overheating, and you should stop using the chainsaw right away. A lack of air is a major culprit for a chainsaw that’s smoking as well as a lack of oil on the chain guide bar or the engine itself.
It’s important to stop using a chainsaw if it smokes so that you can inspect it for damage. The extent of damage caused by the smoking and overheating can help determine whether the tool is worth fixing or replacing. If the engine won’t start on the chainsaw, there’s a good chance that one of the pistons got burned while it was overheating. If this is the case, it’s usually best to just replace the entire chainsaw. You can replace the whole engine block in the chainsaw, but this typically costs more than just replacing the whole unit.
Signs of Chainsaw Overheating
Most of the warning indicators of an overheated chainsaw are quite clear. One of the first signs that you’ll notice is that the chainsaw feels warmer than usual. The sound the chainsaw makes while running is another indicator. Make sure to check that everything is in working condition if it sounds different from how it usually does, especially if it changes to a lower tone when you use it.
A decline in the chainsaw’s performance is another indication that there is a problem. This drop in performance can come on abruptly or progressively, so try your best to always pay attention to how well or poorly the chainsaw is operating.
Lastly, a chainsaw that is emitting smoke is unmistakably overheated. Do keep in mind that most chainsaws emit smoke when in use; this is not a sign of overheating. However, if the smoke is “unnatural” in regard to its color and intensity, you’re likely dealing with an overheated chainsaw.
Chainsaw Troubleshooting Chart
Different possible causes of a smoking chainsaw are outlined below, along with tips for addressing the causes and how you can avoid them.
Lack of Airflow
The best way to see if this is the culprit is to remove the air filter and clean it. If it’s very dirty and clogged, you can simply replace it instead of cleaning it.
Check the manufacturer’s guide to see how to remove the air filter and replace it. To clean it, simply remove it and tap it against a solid object a few times. Then, wash it with some warm and sudsy water. Make sure to let it air dry before reinserting it. Once it’s clean and reinserted, the filter can then facilitate proper airflow, allowing the air to reach the chainsaw’s motor and operate without overheating.
Too Much Oil
Just as there can be a lack of oil causing a chainsaw to smoke, too much oil can result in the same problem. To power a gas-powered chainsaw, you have to first mix the gas with some oil. If you put too much in, this can result in a large amount of smoke.
It can also cause engine problems and damage the chainsaw so badly that it quits working. To ensure you put the right amount of oil in the gas to make the oil-gas mixture, check the owner’s manual. Also, if you think you have already put too much oil in the mixture, simply empty the gas tank and fill it back with a mixture that has the proper amount of gas and oil.
It’s time to change the chainsaw’s engine idle speed when you can clearly see smoke coming from the exhaust while the machine is running. The presence of exhaust smoke suggests that the machine is adjusted to idle too high.
To fix the idle adjustment, locate the low-speed adjustment screw and turn it toward the right (clockwise) until you notice that it starts idling lower. You’ll then need to reverse the screw by 90 degrees, followed by raising the throttle; this helps ensure smooth engine acceleration. If an improper idle adjustment was the source of the problem, you’ll notice the emission of smoke from the exhaust stops.
Chain and Bar Guide Problems
Anytime you notice a lot of smoke or heat being emitted from the guide bar or the chain itself, you’ll need to check the guide bar oil reservoir. It should always have enough oil in it to ensure that it can lubricate the chain and the bar to keep them cool. If the reservoir runs dry, though, it results in poor lubrication and overheating.
To see whether enough oil is making its way to the guide bar and chain, let the chainsaw run at full throttle for 45 seconds. Make sure the chainsaw blade is pointed at a surface that is light in color. After 45 seconds, turn the chainsaw off and look at the surface. If you see small dots forming a light line, this means it is working properly. If you don’t see a light line, then you need to fix the issue with the oil not leaving the guide bar reservoir properly.
You’ll also want to check the chain’s tension on the bar to see whether it is adjusted too tight. You should be able to manually advance the chain forward; if you can’t, you need to loosen the chainsaw chain tension.
Proper Chainsaw Chain Installation Matters
To chop branches and cut through large pieces of wood, a chainsaw makes use of a high-RPM motor. The motor drives a metal chain around a metal chainsaw guide bar, allowing it to cut through wood. This mechanical process has a high potential for overheating.
The tool’s workhorse — the engine — has to have the right amount of fuel and air along with proper lubrication to work properly; this applies to the bar on the chainsaw as well as the chain. Also, keep in mind that the chain needs to be razor-sharp as this helps prevent it from putting too much work on the motor and overheating.
Because of the way a chainsaw works, all parts have to be installed correctly. If you don’t have experience with putting a chainsaw together or repairing one, it’s best to leave installation and maintenance tasks in the hands of someone who does. Fortunately, you can purchase chainsaws that are already fully assembled.
Ways to Keep a Chainsaw Cool
There are several maintenance and care tips you can follow to keep a chainsaw cool.
Clean the Filter and Spark Arrestor
The chainsaw’s piston rotates quickly to provide the cycles required to perform the task of the chainsaw. The engine on the tool produces heat through two different methods: combustion and friction. This heat that is produced is expelled through the exhaust port, while colder air is drawn in through the intake port.
It’s critical to maintain the cleanliness of the spark arrestor on a chainsaw as well as the air filter, both of which sit over the muffler. It is advised to clean them before each time you use the saw; if you don’t and airflow is blocked, the higher temperatures could lead to pre-ignition, which quickly causes engine overheating.
Check the Fuel
When you use fuel with ethanol, it tends to make the engine operate more quickly and at a higher temperature. You’ll find some manufacturers state in their owner’s manual to limit the amount of ethanol in the fuel to 10% (E10), but 87 octane without ethanol (E0) is the best type of fuel to use in a chainsaw.
Ethanol also lessens the fuel’s capacity to lubricate, raising the amount of heat produced by friction in the chainsaw’s cylinders. A chainsaw engine’s piston cycles at a far faster rate than a vehicle engine, making these impacts more noticeable. Choosing E0 fuel is a crucial step in preventing overheating.
Clean the Bar and Chain
As the chain on a chainsaw revolves around the guide bar, friction is created. The engine constantly sprays a tiny mist of oil onto the chain as it rotates to keep the bar from overheating and warping.
When you add gasoline, refresh this chainsaw bar oil, and occasionally, use the saw while cutting over a clean surface. As you lift the throttle, look for oil. You should see oil on the clean surface, and if you don’t see any, take a needle and use it to clean the oil ports. Also, don’t tighten the chain too much. If you do, it will cause more friction and heat up.
What to Do With a New Chainsaw That Smokes
Due to friction and engine combustion, even a brand-new chainsaw will generate some heat when in use. However, the chainsaw shouldn’t generate enough heat for the oil in the fuel mixture to start smoking.
When a new chainsaw starts to smoke, common smoking causes like blocked air filters or spark arrestors are not to blame because the chainsaw hasn’t even had a chance to break in. Additionally, clogging probably isn’t the culprit because in a new chainsaw, clogging hasn’t had time to set in. In this situation, there’s a good chance that too much oil is getting sprayed over the chainsaw’s clutch and the tool’s drum. This excess oil will be prevented from reaching the clutch and drum by the sawdust on the chainsaw after it has been in use for a while.
Keep the Chainsaw Chain From Going Dull
The more you use a chainsaw, the easier it becomes to tell whether a smoking issue stems from a dull chain. As friction is created while using a chainsaw on a wood-cutting surface, a dull chain will begin to emit smoke.
When using a chainsaw with a sharp chain, it will easily cut through small and large pieces of wood, and the cut will be smooth. When using a chainsaw with a dull chain, the wood will be gummed and snagged through by the chain’s dull teeth, thus, producing fine wood dust.
A blunt chain can produce steam when cutting wet wood in cold weather and smoke when cutting dry wood. To ensure that the chain doesn’t become dull, don’t wait until it’s blunt to sharpen it. Instead, sharpen the chain after you refill the gas each time; this helps keep the chainsaw operating at optimal capacity and reduces fatigue in users.
Electric Chainsaw Smoking
Anytime an electric chainsaw is smoking, this is a major indication that something is wrong. You should stop using the chainsaw right away and let it cool, followed by performing an air filter check as well as inspecting the oil and bar rails. Once you’ve made these inspections, try starting the chainsaw. If it still smokes, you’ll likely need to replace the chainsaw instead of trying to perform a costly and tedious repair.
There are several types of mechanical or electrical issues that can result in a smoking electric chainsaw. As the parts on an electric chainsaw run into resistance, this creates a lot of friction and can result in an overworked motor. The motor itself will eventually start smoking as a result of the increased resistance caused by the increased motor power. In this scenario, the motor brushes have most likely become worn out. There is no easy DIY solution in this situation, so it’s best to take the chainsaw to a certified repairman to see whether it’s better to repair or replace the tool.
We hope our resourceful guide has helped you with your smoking chainsaw problems. Just always remember that chainsaws that smoke while cutting should have their lubrication checked and their blades routinely sharpened rather than only when they’re dull. Following all of the tips outlined in this guide will help you to return to the woods with a chainsaw that doesn’t smoke.