Chainsaws are incredibly versatile tools that also happen to be wildly fun to use! Like most things in life, though, they’re prone to failure. While a well-loved chainsaw will last you at least ten years, some proper attention could have it outliving the family dog! This makes troubleshooting and maintenance vital to its continued (safe) use.
You might have noticed that your chainsaw stopping cutting halfway through. To fix this, turn the bar upside down and try using it. If it starts working, it means you’ll need a new bar soon. If it still doesn’t cut, you’re going to need to replace the bar and chain.
First things first – turn off the chainsaw. You might think this is common sense, but it’s simply not worth losing body parts to a vengeful chainsaw to save a few seconds. (On that note, use thick leather gloves to do all of this work to prevent cuts and burns.) Now ask yourself a few questions.
- Did you see smoke coming from the chain or engine?
- Is the chain lubricated?
- Have I maintained this chainsaw recently?
Now that you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to figure out the problem. The first and most obvious sign that something is wrong is a smoking chainsaw. Believe it or not, they’re not meant to do that! This likely places your problem at the point of smoke – so replace it and don’t use the tool until you do.
This will usually be an issue with the engine or chain assembly. If, however, the engine was running perfectly and you saw no smoke – it’s time to look at the bar and chain assembly.
If your chain isn’t properly lubricated, that can cause issues all on its own. The chain is designed to lubricate its path as it runs, but if it’s not oiled, it can’t do that. That leads to burnt bars and spent chains – which are no fun.
Regular maintenance is supposed to be preventative rather than reactive. This means replacing parts that are old or wearing and performing basic upkeep (like oiling the chain).
Assuming your chain is oiled and you’ve replaced any obviously faulty parts, it’s time to examine the bar. The bar for your chainsaw can wear out, so try flipping the saw upside down and using it. If your problem seems to be fixed, this is a sign of an unevenly worn bar in need of changing.
Also while the chainsaw is off, be sure to inspect it for extraneous gunk. If there’s dirt, sawdust, or other grossness in the assembly, that can easily gum up the works. While this isn’t likely the sole cause, it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes gently cleaning it out. As with all things, take care of what you love and it will return the favor.
If both your engine and chain are coming to a halt when cutting, that’s a sign of more serious problems. Dirty air filters, damaged or old spark arresters, or even carburetor settings could be the cause of this. And if you’re consistently overheating your favorite chainsaw, it’s likely more cost-effective to replace the thing than try to fix it.
Less Likely Possibilities
Is your chainsaw still stopping the cut halfway through? Look at what you’re cutting! If you’re trying to slice a particularly thick hardwood (one Redditor had this issue caused by a particularly dense Acacia piece) that may be the problem. The shape of what you’re trying to cut may not be suitable for a chainsaw, either.
If you’re struggling to gain purchase on your target, and you’re sure your chain is healthy – it might be time to use a different tool. I know, I know, “chainsaws are the best!” But they can’t do everything safely and it’s often just not worth the risk. Some shapes are just too difficult for the teeth of the chain to get a grip.
Another potential cause of your chainsaw stopping a cut halfway through is your chain being too tight. It should move smoothly in place and snap back if lifted. If you can’t do one or both of these things, you may need to tighten your chain.
Safety (And Money) First
If you’ve gone through all of the aforementioned steps and you’re still unable to get through your target, it’s time to consider moving on. Not only are chainsaws dangerous, but they get more so with age and neglect. If you are concerned that something may be wrong and you just can’t seem to diagnose it, consider purchasing a new one.
Chains can snap and you can be seriously hurt – and equally importantly, you’re likely to sink a lot of money guessing on the problem. If you’ve tried all of the above steps, it’s likely there’s a more serious (and expensive) problem at work. These are the most common causes of a chainsaw stopping cutting halfway through, and the less common ones tend to be costly to fix.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Long Do Chainsaw Chains Last?
There’s really no hard-and-fast rule on this, just like with chainsaws themselves. There are a few clear signs that it’s time to replace your chain, though:
- The chain is rusted
- The chain is missing teeth
- It’s chipped or heavily scratched
- It smokes on use
- It becomes dull after heavy usage
How Long Do Chainsaws Last?
This is truly subjective to both the brand and owner. If you buy a reputable brand like Stihl, you can expect to get around 10 years of life out of the chainsaw as a whole. With proper preventative maintenance, you could have that bad boy for upwards of 20 years. My dad has had his Stihl chainsaw longer than I’ve been alive – and he got it from his dad.
Can I Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain?
Yes – but only so much. Just like with knives, over sharpening can actually damage your chain. After all, when you sharpen a blade, you’re physically removing material and straightening it out. Generally, you can sharpen a chain around 2, maybe 3 times before it’s time to replace it. And always do this in line with the teeth, rather than against them to prevent injury.