How to Start a Chainsaw

Starting the chainsaw needs to be learned, and there are a number of things to consider. How to start a chainsaw correctly, and what you should always do when the chainsaw won’t start, read this article.

There are two correct ways how to start a chainsaw: on the ground or sandwiched between the knees. Regardless of which method you choose, remember that the chain brake must always be applied. Many models of chainsaws are started in the so-called half open throttle position. If you start a similar model, not including the chain brake, the chain starts to rotate.

There are a few things to check before starting the chainsaw:

  • enough fuel in the right mix ratio in the chainsaw
  • Chain oil filled up
  • Chain tension
  • Guide rail

Verification (Before You Start the Chainsaw)

The verification of the chainsaw is essential before starting the chainsaw. 

You will therefore have to inspect the general condition of the chainsaw and its various elements:

  • cutting device (guide, chain, sprocket),
  • handles,
  • chain brake,
  • quiet,
  • anti-vibration system.

These items must be in proper working order and intact. Then check the tightness of the tanks (oil and mixture). As well as the different pipes and fittings. 

Do not start your chainsaw if you detect any leaks. Check and adjust the chain oil level if necessary.

Personal Protective Equipment(You Must Wear When Starting a Chainsaw)

Before starting your chainsaw, you must be ready to use it and therefore wear the necessary safety equipment:

  • Protective shoes
  • Gloves
  • Protective glasses + visor
  • Helmet
  • Long sleeved jacket
  • Noise canceling headphones and / or earplugs
  • Protective pants
  • Signaling clothing

There are two ways how to start a chainsaw:

Cold engine start

Warm engine start

How to Start a Chainsaw with Cold Engine

A cold start is when the chainsaw motor is cold or has been off for a long time. In this state, two to three attempts to start are usually necessary. 

It is highly recommended to do a ground start. Place the chainsaw on the floor , the machine should be as straight as possible.

Starting a chainsaw with cold engine:

1) Operate the fuel pump until the carburetor has primed completely (until the mixture appears in the bulb).

2) Move the control lever to the “close” position.

3) Activate the chain brake by pushing the hand guard towards the bar.

4) Position the chainsaw on the ground in a stable manner, carefully checking that the chain and the bar are far from any object or person.

5) Keep it in position holding the front handle firmly.

6) Pull the cord a few times and stop as soon as the first engine bursts are heard.

7) Move the air control lever to the “open” position.

8) Pull the cord repeatedly until the engine starts, without releasing it.

9) With the engine idling, release the chain brake by pulling the hand guard towards the rear handle.

How to Start a Chainsaw with Warm Engine

If the chainsaw was just in operation, restarting it is very easy. The engine is warm and the chainsaw should start again after just one or two attempts. 

With most chain saws, it is sufficient to start the engine from the idle position, starting from the choke position is not necessary.

Starting a chainsaw with a warm engine:

  1. Move the control lever to the “open” position
  2. Position the chainsaw on the ground in a stable manner, carefully checking that the chain and the bar are far from any object or person.
  3. Keep it in position holding the front handle firmly.
  4. Pull the starter handle repeatedly until the engine starts, without releasing it
Helpful tip!
With the engine warm, do not turn off the air.
If necessary, it is possible to close the air with the lever until the first engine bursts are heard and then return it to the “open” position to start the machine.

Now we can take an in depth guide with the starting procedure!

How to Start a Chainsaw Step by Step

Step 1: Preparation and Refueling

All modern chainsaws, with rare exceptions, are equipped with compact two-stroke ICEs operating on high-octane gasoline.

A dosed amount of special engine oil is introduced into the fuel composition in a ratio of 40: 1 or 50: 1.

There are few requirements for the quality of gasoline:

  • minimum storage time;
  • octane number not less than 92;
  • lack of water and impurities.

Step 2: Engine Oil Selection Criteria

A full-fledged alternative to the recommended branded oils can be products of leading manufacturers similar in performance.

As a result of natural selection, unofficial consumer demand ratings have been leading motor and chain oils of the Shtil and Huskvarna brands for many years.

It is strictly forbidden to use cheap oils of unknown origin, as well as motor oils for mopeds and boat engines, to prepare a combustible mixture for a chainsaw.

In order to avoid the risks of acquiring a cheaper, but low-quality counterfeit, it is recommended to buy oil only at licensed trading companies.

The working mixture is prepared in a small amount sufficient to perform one-time work.

For prolonged use, more than one month, the fuel composition is not calculated due to significant performance degradation.

The mixture is poured into a gas tank through a fine-mesh filter, from which it is fed to the carburetor inlet by a gas line.

Step 3: Preparation of the ignition system

Then follow the steps below to prepare the chainsaw for start-up:

  1. Apply the chain brake by pushing it forward.
  2. Switch on the ignition using the appropriate switch (position I).
  3. Switch on the choke if:
    1. the engine is cold,
    2. the engine stalls when you accelerate after starting,
    3. you restart after having run out of fuel.
  4. Purge the petrol with the manual priming pump (9x) if:
    1. this is the first launch,
    2. you have run out of fuel.

Step 4: Fuel system setup

The carburetor is factory adjusted according to the averaged parameters; therefore, the necessary adjustments to the fuel system operation are made during the operation of the chainsaw.

The sequence of self-tuning the fuel system by the owner himself is given in the instructions.

In order to bring the engine to the optimum fuel and lubricant consumption in terms of traction and economy, it is advisable to make adjustments using special equipment that is equipped with service and repair services.

The working engine is checked for the absence of interruptions in the ignition system, extraneous noise, overheating of the crankcase and other problems.

A full-fledged grinding of loaded parts and units of a new chainsaw is made in operating mode with moderate loads. With short breaks for cooling the engine, you can cut wood with a diameter of 100-150 mm.

Step 5: Starting the chainsaw

Several methods exist to hold your chainsaw during start-up:

  • On the ground :
    • The machine must be placed on a flat floor and must be in a stable position , as well as the user. The chain should not be in contact with anything.
    • The left hand should hold the front handle firmly and press the chain saw down.
    • The right foot must be passed through the rear handle to also hold the machine on the ground.
  • Between the legs :
    • You have to tighten the rear handle between your thighs or knees.
    • The left hand should hold the front handle firmly .

The first thing to do before starting the chainsaw is to move the adjustment lever with the flap to the lower position (picture below). Note that this lever moves down on the chainsaw all the way, only if the gas button is pressed. 

Therefore, hold down the throttle button and move the lever down. Thus, we close the shutter in the carburetor and fix the gas at the chainsaw in the pressed position.

how to start a chainsaw step 1

After you have done this to start the chainsaw, we begin to jerk the pull cord with an energetic movement, hearing that the chainsaw has tried to start and stalls immediately, move the lever for adjusting the damper position of the chainsaw one step up

how to start a chainsaw step 2

In this position, pull the cord again until the chainsaw starts. But due to the fact that the throttle was locked in the pressed position, the launched chainsaw will immediately work at high speeds.

Then, once we press and release the gas button on the chainsaw – the choke adjustment lever is automatically set to the working position (picture below), and the chainsaw speed is reduced. Now you can get to work.

how to start a chainsaw step 3

If you want to start a heated chainsaw, you just need to put the lever in position, and you can run.

To stop the operation of the chainsaw engine, raise the flap adjustment lever to the upper position

how to start a chainsaw step 4

Step 6 : Preparation for Cutting

Once the chainsaw has started:

  • Pull hand guard towards the front handle to unlock the chain brake.
  • If the temperature is cold , take a few throttles to warm up the machine. Do not accelerate while the chain brake is still engaged.
  • If the idle speed of the chainsaw is irregular , it may be due to a temperature that is too cold. To remedy this, you can adjust the carburetor or run the chain saw slightly for a few minutes.
  • Once the chain saw has started, check the lubrication of the chain by orienting the machine towards the ground and accelerating fully: chain oil must be splashed towards the ground.

I have written a comparison between gas chainsaw and electric chainsaw in which I presented the advantages of both types of chainsaw and which one is better!

How to start the chainsaw after a long downtime?

After prolonged storage, you may encounter some problems when starting the chainsaw.

The first thing to do is to make sure the equipment is in good working order, there is a spark, fuel, and there are no broken wires.

If the chainsaw is in good condition, this is how to start it:

  1. turn the fuel valve to open
  1. press the enrichment button, which will ensure that the carburetor is filled with fuel
  1. turn the lever and completely close the air damper
  1. start the engine with the starter
  1. press the throttle, gently pull without pulling the cord, turning the crankshaft
  1. after a flash of the combustible mixture, open the air damper and continue to start the engine.

How to Start a Flooded Chainsaw

In case your chainsaw is flooded and you can no longer start it, do not worry especially, since you only have to follow a few simple and easy steps to perform, and your chainsaw will recover immediately:

  1. To start repairing your chainsaw, first place it on a flat, dry workspace and then turn off the choke .
  2. Start by removing the spark plug  using a spark plug wrench after removing the cap.
  3. By removing the spark plug, you will immediately notice that it has become damp, so dry it immediately using a clean cloth (you can also dry it by soaking it in gasoline and burning it slightly at using a lighter)
  4. Eliminate now the excess fuel from the engine by pulling twenty times constantly the starting handle.
  5. Once the spark plug dries, replace it in the engine block while tightening with the key  and finish by closing with the spark plug cap.

Want to learn how to start a flooded chainsaw or maybe to get the best tips and tricks? I have a complete tutorial with step by step instruction on how to start a flooded chainsaw!

What does flooded chainsaw mean?

To start the chainsaw engine, you will have to pull on its cord to cause the rotation of the engine shaft , which in turn will move the  piston thus allowing fuel to enter the cylinder.

 And to induce the combustion of fuel and to run the engine, we will need a little air and a spark which will be created by the spark plug. 

But in case the chainsaw engine is flooded, there will be too much fuel in the cylinder, the spark plugs will be soaked with petrol and air circulation will not be possible, which will prevent the combustion of fuel and cause the problem. not starting the engine. 

This problem is not something complicated and can be resolved by following a few simple and easy steps. 

How to start a chainsaw that won’t start?

As we saw in the introduction, the main elements that come into play when starting a thermal chainsaw are:

  • the pull cord,
  • the ignition system (including the spark plug ),
  • the fuel system (mixture, carburetor, filters).[/su_list]

The most common failures therefore come mostly from one of these three elements. If this is not the case, the engine can be the cause of the chainsaw not starting. 

In this case, it is a more serious breakdown and the skills to repair it will not be within everyone’s reach.

Chainsaw Pull Cord Issues

If it turns out that the startup problem comes from the pull cord : handle or rope broke, spring relaxed.

The best solution is to replace it. You can easily find them on the Internet or in specialized stores for less than $ 15 all inclusive.

How to Start a Chainsaw Without a Pull Cord

However, two methods exist for starting a chainsaw without a pull cord:

  • Use a rope and wrap it around the starter shaft and pull it as with a conventional starter. This technique is more difficult than with a conventional pull cord because no starting aid is present (spring) and if the starting fails, it will be necessary to rewind the rope on the tree to redo the manipulation
  • You can also use a screwdriver with a mandrel of the appropriate size that you will place on the flywheel tightening nut. By switching on the screwdriver, you will rotate the motor shaft (pay attention to the direction) and thus start your machine.

Please note : the screwdriver must have sufficient power to withstand the compression of the motor.

This second method can be dangerous (for you and the chainsaw) and should not be tested. We advise you to buy a new pull cord instead.

Do you know other types of saws? I have complied a list of 32 types of saws and their uses!

How to Start a Chainsaw with Fuel Problems

chainsaw fuel system

My chainsaw starts and stalls

If your chainsaw turns on and then stalls after a few moments, it is probably a fuel problem. Petrol does not (or not in sufficient quantity) reach the engine:

  • It is therefore advisable to check the carburetor by dismantling it and inspecting the hoses to see if they are not blocked.
  • You can also check the fuel filter which may be clogged and not allowing enough mixture to pass through.
  • Finally, if your chainsaw does not idle, it can be a bad adjustment of the carburetor to adjust with the screws L and H .

Chainsaw Spark plug problems (dry / wet)

chainsaw spark plug

My chainsaw won’t start, dry spark plug

A simple principle for diagnosing a starting problem on a chainsaw is to look at the condition of the spark plug after having actuated the launcher several times.

 If the spark plug is dry , this means that the mixture does not reach the engine and the problem is probably in the fuel:

  • It is therefore advisable to check the fuel filter : to be cleaned or replaced.
  • The carburetor: to be cleaned and / or adjusted.
  • And the mixture inlet pipes (between the tank and the carburetor): to be cleaned .

My chainsaw won’t start, wet spark plug

If the spark plug is wet , the mixture arrives correctly to the engine and the problem therefore lies rather in the ignition:

  • Test the spark plug by removing it from the engine (but leaving it on the cause)
  • Apply its base against the crankcase.
  • Pull the starter: a spark should form at the spark plug. If this is not the case, it is necessary to change the spark plug.


In this article I presented a few ways how to start a chainsaw and also a few ways to fix your chainsaw.

Check the sharpness of the chain before starting the chain saw. Clean your chainsaw after every use, so many starting problems can be completely ruled out because the chainsaw is in perfect condition. 

Please do not forget your personal protective equipment, only this can provide adequate protection against the risks of a chainsaw accident.

Adrian Tapu

Adrian is a seasoned woodworking with over 15 years of experience. He helps both beginners and professionals expand their skills in areas like furniture making, cabinetry, wood joints, tools and techniques. Through his popular blog, Adrian shares woodworking tips, tutorials and plans related to topics such as wood identification, hand tools, power tools and finishing.

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