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chainsaw troubleshooting

Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
I am by no means a chainsaw mechanic, but I have used chainsaws for years with very little down time due to breakage, starting problems or trouble with chains.

First a bit about saw choices. Two brands dominate the market for loggers,tree service companies and rental outfits. They are Stihl and Husquvarna also known as Husky in the U.S. These saws are dominant for good reason. Quality equipment with extensive dealer networks which have skilled technicians who are familiar with their equipment. There may be some other useful saw out there, but none come to mind.

Common starting issues. --- 1. Be sure that your saw contains plenty of properly mixed gas.

2. The saw should have a choke position. Give it up to 5 pulls, until it sparks. Some saws will flood on as little as 2 pulls, so don't do it 20 times.

3. Once the saw gives some hint that it wants to start, move it to the next throttle position. On most saws this will result in a fast idle one starting is achieved.

4. If the saw fails to start, it is probably flooded with fuel. Squeeze the throttle to full on and pull the cord several times. I have started many saws belonging to my customers simply by dealing with flooding.
If it still won't start, clean your spark plug and clean the air filter. Neglect of the air filter has to be the number 1 reason for running problems. A saw sucks air and gas according to how the carb is set up. A clogged air filter causes the saw to draw too much gas as compared to the amount of air. It's like leaving the choke partially on. Clean the air filter regularly !
Don't monkey with your carb. --- Unless you know exactly what you're doing, just leave it alone. The carb setting is seldom the problem.

If it still won't start, check the side of the machine to see if you are amongst the unwashed millions who have foolishly purchased a department store grade saw. The best solution is usually to correct that mistake.

5. Sometimes the problem lies with the spark arresting screen inside the muffler. This can clog with carbon deposits, especially on smaller saws with dirty air filters. The clogged filter causes the saw to run too rich in fuel and unburned fuel contributes to the deposits. Idling a saw constantly can contribute to carbon build up. Give it a good hard run regularly. A giant falling saw that is used for cutting twigs, will never be run full out. Use the appropriate machine for the job.

If all of this fails, take it to a qualified technician who will usually pronounce it dead or show how some little quirk caused the problem.

Photos - 1. This is the run position on my little Stihl 170. When a saw is flooded, put slider in this position and squeeze the throttle completely while pulling the starter cord. It may take a few pulls.

2. The spark arresting screen is behind this muffler face plate.

3. Always be sure to put gas and oil in the right resevoir. The only design flaw evident on my Stihl is that both the gas and oil caps are identical in size and color. It might have cost an extra dime to make one of them red.


This is the best small saw I have ever owned. For softwoods under 14 inches in diameter, there is no need to drag around a big, heavy saw. It cuts slower than my big Husqvarna does, but the light weight allows quicker movement. I deal mostly with smaller trees, brush clearing and milled lumber trimming. This nimble saw is more than adequate. A small saw that is run hard will give less trouble than a big saw that is idled too much.
Writing this with iPhone so have to submit constantly or get logged out. When you see 6 photos, I'm done.


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Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
The chain --- Your chain is designed to cut wood. Keep it out of the dirt and away from rocks, nails etc. Using an appropriately sized saw reduces the chances of chain damage. Most of the trees I deal with are under 12 inches in diameter, so the limbing saw is perfect. It can be used on trees up to 30 inches, but that hasn't happened yet. If a big falling saw with a 40 inch bar were used, the cut time would be slightly less but the chances of chain damage would be far greater. Big chains sustain big damage and take longer to fix.

In my work as a demolition contractor and cutting trees in town, chains are damaged regularly. Nails are my greatest enemy. Sometimes pebbles are lodged in the wood. It's been years since the last time I allowed a saw to cut into gravel.

I always save my best chains for production work where damage is unlikely. Once a chain is sufficiency damaged, I use it for high risk functions such as trimming reclaimed lumber, brush clearing on rocky ground or falling of trees where the stumps are cut to within one inch of soil level. I have cut a few buildings completely in half, in preparation for relocation. Only the old chains are used during this process.

How to restore a badly damaged chain --- Chains for the saw pictured cost about $25. It costs $15 for a professional sharpening which usually involves grinding away half of the chain. So, I sharpen them myself. They may never cut perfectly smooth or straight again, but they will work fine for the jobs that I need done.

1. Taking down the runners. If the runners aren't dealt with, a saw will produce progressively thinner chips with each sharpening. This slows production and increases wear on the cutting edge. I like to produce chunks, not shavings. A flat file works to grind down the runners. I have heard dire warnings about increased kickback risk in doing this but in 30 years, I haven't done anything dumb enough to cause an incident. Well, other than grinding the runners down. A chain sharpened and ground will have lots of bite, and it may stall the saw if you're not careful. When this chain hits a nail in the future, it won't tend to dull every tooth. Instead, it will either come to a dead stop while ruining one tooth or it will pull the nail or both. Sometimes, I use vice grips to break off really bad teeth. A chain can still work with several missing teeth. I never try to cut really fast when dodging nails.

Photos --- 1. I usually wear a leather glove which is held over cutting edges as runners are filed.

2. Without the glove, it would be easy to damage the cutting edge.

3. After the runners (sometimes called rakers) are filed, the chain is sharpened in the usual way.



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Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
1. When cutting firewood with a good new chain, I leave it just loose enough to allow it to work properly.

2. When using a damaged chain, I leave it a little looser so that the teeth can tilt more for an aggressive bite.



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Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
Whenever I work in a dusty environment, I wear this mask. When chainsawing there is always risk of getting poked in the eyes and there's sawdust. This full face mask is great protection. Small branches have smacked me in the face many times while I've worn a mask. Between this and my hard hat, I'm better protected than your average weekend warrior.

I'm cutting cedar slabs with a chain that was damaged by imbedded pebbles that are common at this mill. The rakers have been filed down. Notice the good sized chips. Before I filed it, the chain produced thin shavings and dust.

If I'm cutting wood that has sand, muck or pebbles like much of the wood at this mill does, I give the surface a brisk sweep with a gloved hand before cutting. The dirtiest surface is faced toward the saw. This allows much of the crap to vibrate away harmlessly or to be blown away by the stream of saw dust. Any dirt that does contact the chain will only be struck by one tooth. If the dirty side were faced away from the operator, dirt would be drawn through the cut and each tooth strike would do more harm since the wood provides backing for the pebble. Facing the worst surface also let's you watch for hidden pebbles that may become evident as dirt is vibrated off the wood.









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kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
Dale, jjust a note: I needed to replace my old saw this year and bought a Jonsered and I am very pleased with it. I have cut about 5 cords with it and it starts easy and runs great.
kent


Kent
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
kent smith wrote:Dale, jjust a note: I needed to replace my old saw this year and bought a Jonsered and I am very pleased with it. I have cut about 5 cords with it and it starts easy and runs great.
kent


So far as I know, Jonsered is a subsidiary of Husqvarna. Like Ford- Mercury or GMC- Chevrolet. Parts are interchangable and both originate in Sweden. I believe Jonsered was one of the better companies absorbed and thus the good name was kept. Jonsered produced some of the first saws that could be eisily managed by one person.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6517
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Having maintained a 'fleet' of outboard motors for several years, I will say that the key to reliable operations boils down to two things.

CLEAN FUEL, and CLEAN SPARK PLUGS.

Do not mix more fuel than you can use within a couple of weeks. I have seen a friend buy a new chainsaw, take it home, and fill it with last years gasoline. When it wouldn't run right, he took it back to the dealer (the next day) and was charged for a carburetor rebuild. The warranty does not cover misuse, and old gas is a misuse - not the manufacturer's fault.

Recoil starters are a common failure on many small engines. Using good practice here will more than double their life expectancy.
Before cold starting, s-l-o-w-l-y pull the cord through several compression strokes. This will 'prime' the cylinder with gasoline.
Release the cord, and gently pull it until you feel the motor is at full compression. Release the cord, and then pull any slack out of it. NOW you are ready to pull it and start the engine. On a properly tuned engine, it should start on the first, or second pull. Never "jerk" the cord, but gently pull all slack out of it before you give it a full pull.

If you live where ice gets in the gasoline, they sell a de-icer, but don't waste your money on it. The ice forms in whatever water (condensation) gets in the gas. Water is not soluble in gas or oil, but is soluble in alcohol (that is the primary ingredient in 'de-icer'). A 99¢ bottle of drugstore alcohol will do the same job as that $3-4 can of 'de-icer'.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3880
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  55
Good practice with the rip cord also saves the hands, since sometimes the cord will pull back. I've had bad cord snap while starting outboards and large lawnmowers. Ouch!

I'm always careful to avoid getting sawdust in the gas. If I see bad floaters, I slightly overflow the fuel onto absorbent fire starter to rid the tank of debris.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 736
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  87
John Polk wrote:Having maintained a 'fleet' of outboard motors for several years, I will say that the key to reliable operations boils down to two things.

CLEAN FUEL, and CLEAN SPARK PLUGS.

Do not mix more fuel than you can use within a couple of weeks. I have seen a friend buy a new chainsaw, take it home, and fill it with last years gasoline. When it wouldn't run right, he took it back to the dealer (the next day) and was charged for a carburetor rebuild. The warranty does not cover misuse, and old gas is a misuse - not the manufacturer's fault.

Recoil starters are a common failure on many small engines. Using good practice here will more than double their life expectancy.
Before cold starting, s-l-o-w-l-y pull the cord through several compression strokes. This will 'prime' the cylinder with gasoline.
Release the cord, and gently pull it until you feel the motor is at full compression. Release the cord, and then pull any slack out of it. NOW you are ready to pull it and start the engine. On a properly tuned engine, it should start on the first, or second pull. Never "jerk" the cord, but gently pull all slack out of it before you give it a full pull.

If you live where ice gets in the gasoline, they sell a de-icer, but don't waste your money on it. The ice forms in whatever water (condensation) gets in the gas. Water is not soluble in gas or oil, but is soluble in alcohol (that is the primary ingredient in 'de-icer'). A 99¢ bottle of drugstore alcohol will do the same job as that $3-4 can of 'de-icer'.


All sound advice. Thanks, Dale, for getting this thread going.

The de-icer thing struck me funny, though.
If your fuel has water in it, and the water is icing up, wouldn't it be better to filter it (thus removing the water, as well as the ice)? Same principle as ice-distillation of hard cider - fresh water freezes before the alcohol or other stuff, so by removing the ice you remove the water and concentrate the 'good stuff.'
Alcohol doesn't help my car engine run better, and it seems like it would be even worse for a small engine like a chainsaw. Why dissolve the water back into the fuel, if it eventually ends up in the carburetor or slowing down the engine?
Or are you talking about needing to treat a small engine which has moisture iced up inside its workings, not just in the tank?

I do pay good money for antifreeze-grade alcohol, but not for engines. Because 'Liquid Heet' doesn't have salt contamination, I can use it for fun, colorful chemistry tricks where any tiny amount of sodium would discolor the reaction.

-Erica
Lloyd George


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 159
if your fuel is going to be around a month or two..use STA-Bil MArine...keeps the water out of the ethanol, and helps to keep the fuel from oxidizing.

Seafoam is also a good bet for keeping ethanol damage to your seals to a minimum.

That little MS170 is about the best saw made today.

Echo makes a decent little saw too..but I will stick with Stihl.
 
 
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