Take Care of Your Chain Saw Advises LSU AgCenter Engineer

Richard L. Parish  |  8/21/2006 8:11:34 PM

News You Can Use For December 2003

Chain saws tend to require more maintenance than most other lawn and garden equipment. Proper maintenance will not only prolong the life of the saw and make it easier to start but also make your work easier, says Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station.

"Chainsaws are used in dirty environments and tend to get a lot of abuse," the LSU AgCenter engineer notes, adding, "And maintenance problems are exacerbated by intermittent use after long storage."

Cutting with a smooth-running saw with a sharp chain is much easier than fighting a poorly running saw that’s not sharp enough to cut.

"Nothing is more important to the proper operation of a chain saw than a sharp chain," Parish says. "A dull chain will just sit there and burn the wood rather than cutting."

Parish says any contact with soil, rocks, metal or other materials will quickly dull a chain. You can have your chain professionally sharpened or follow the manufacturer’s directions and do it yourself.

"If you do your own sharpening, you need to file down the depth gauges as well as sharpen the teeth," he says. "Wear gloves or place a rag over the chain to protect your hands. When filing, be sure to take an equal number of strokes on each tooth."

Saw chains stretch with use – especially if they’ve been pinched. If the chain is too loose, it can come off in use.

Parish says to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when tightening a chain. Most manufacturers provide a tool for the job. "Recheck tension often during use – with the saw turned off, of course," he says.

Most saws now have automatic oiling. If yours doesn’t, follow the manufacturer’s directions for oiling. Parish recommends purchasing bar-and-chain oil. This special oil is readily available, and the cost is minimal for a homeowner.

"Typically, you need to add bar oil whenever you add fuel," he says.

Parish suggests checking the oiling function whenever you start your saw by holding the saw tip above a light-colored surface and accelerating the engine. Oil should spatter on the surface if the oiler is working correctly. Lack of oil can quickly damage a bar and chain.

Parish recommends occasionally checking the operation of your chain brake according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

"Your chain should stop when the engine is idled down," he says. "If it doesn’t, you need to adjust the idle speed and/or service the centrifugal clutch."

Parish says it’s important to mix oil and fuel at the correct ratio. "Straight gasoline will rapidly ruin a two-stroke engine," he says.

He says to be sure to wipe off the filler cap and surrounding area as well as the fuel container so that no dirt gets into the fuel tank.

He recommends adding a fuel stabilizer to the gasoline if you won’t use it up within a month or so. "If the engine is to be unused for longer periods, it’s best to drain the fuel tank and then run it to use up any remaining gasoline," he says.

The engineer says primary engine maintenance includes changing the spark plug, cleaning or replacing the air filter, cleaning the engine cooling fins and cleaning or replacing the spark arrestor. Carburetor adjustment may be needed occasionally. All of these operations should be described in your operator’s manual.

"If you want your chain saw to start easily and cut easily, you need to maintain it properly," Parish says. "Yes, a chain saw is a high-maintenance tool, but if you neglect that maintenance, you’ll regret it when the next hurricane comes through."

For related information on landscape topics, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/

On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org.

Source: Dick Parish at (985) 543-4125 or dparish@agcenter.lsu.edu

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