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Whether it's before, during or after you use your chain saw, inspection and maintenance are critical to its mechanical integrity and safety.

Winter Chain Saw Maintenance

 By Randy Scully


Whether it’s before, during or after you use your chain saw, inspection and maintenance are critical to its mechanical integrity and safety.


Review and follow your instruction manual

Chain saw maintenance is crucial at any time of the year, but especially during the winter season. Most instruction manuals feature a chart detailing the maintenance you should regularly perform on your saw. Also, check your instruction manual to see if your saw has a summer/winter shutter, if so, change it to winter. This feature allows warm air from the engine to enter the carburetor box and is designed to prevent the carburetor from icing. Also consider using a “winter blend” of bar and chain oil during cold months.


Beware of snow and ice

Some makes and models have optional filters used for winter operation. These air filters reduce the chance of snow and ice sticking to and plugging up the filter. Be sure to remove snow from around the fuel tank opening before refueling so snow doesn’t fall in the tank. Water and moisture in the fuel can create problems during chain saw operation. Also, keep the anti-vibration system free from snow and ice. Snow and ice can freeze in the various cavities and affect operation of the system, increasing vibration. This can increase operator fatigue and, in certain circumstances, lead to loss of control of the saw. In addition to the anti-vibration system, the cooling air intake should be clean and free from snow, ice, dust and other winter debris to prevent the engine from overheating. When severe weather such as wind, rain or snow takes place, it is important to be aware of these changes and consider delaying your work to avoid these hazardous conditions.


Wear personal protective equipment

Always wear proper protective apparel. This includes hearing protection, cut-retardant chaps, chain saw protective gloves, helmet, sturdy boots and eye protection. Some manufacturers, in addition to chaps, offer winter protective pants made with cut-retardant and water-resistant materials. They should be considered for long periods of extended winter tree work.


Practice proper maintenance

The following tips are reminders to help you operate your chain saw properly no matter what the season.

Always check the fasteners on your chain to make sure they are snug. Re-tighten or replace any that are loose or damaged.
Check the air filter often. If the filter is dirty, follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions or replace the filter.
The saw chain will require sharpening at some point. The frequency of sharpening depends on several factors, including the type of wood you are cutting or if the chain has come in contact with foreign objects.
Check your chain brake to make sure it is functioning properly and that it engages and disengages. The amount of wear will vary depending on usage and conditions in which the saw is used. Have your servicing dealer check it in accordance with the recommendation in your instruction manual.


If you suspect issues with your chain saw and are unable to perform any of these functions, return your chain saw to an authorized dealer to have the inspection and maintenance performed before you use it. Remember, performing proper maintenance of your chain saw and its components prior to using it will result in a safer and more productive cutting experience.


Randy Scully is national service manager for STIHL Inc.


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