Lubrication is important. This fact is true across many different areas of existence, but the one we’re focusing on today has to do with your chainsaw. Without any sort of lube, the friction caused by your chain moving across the guide bar will cause a whole lot of adverse effects. This hot, metal-on-metal action damages the chain, the bar, and the engine, which will render the whole chainsaw impotent. So, keeping things nice and lubed up is critical. That’s why your chainsaw oiler is so important. But, how does it work?
How Oiling Has Evolved
In the old days, before modern advancements in chainsaw technology, the “chainsaw oiler” was the new guy on the crew. His job revolved around operating the oil can. Basically, he got to manually drip oil onto the tool while the seasoned lumberjack worked away. This was generally his position until the older guy lopped off a vital body part, at which point, the young guy got promoted to working the saw.
The next iteration of chainsaw oiler was still manual, and because it involved an onboard thumb plunger next to the throttle, it eliminated the need for a “chainsaw caddy.” This advancement in chainsaw oiling technology allowed the operator to manually pump oil onto the bar while cutting. A few of these manual oilers are still in use today.
Eventually, manufacturers worked out how to include automatic oilers on their chainsaws. These have proved to be a pretty reliable and effective solution, as the automatic chainsaw oiler has allowed users to adopt a more “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to keeping their gear lubed up.
The Ins & Outs Of Your Chainsaw Oiler
As more/less all of our modern chainsaw use these automatic oiling systems, let’s look at how they operate. Specially engineered chainsaw bar oil goes into the oil reservoir. You’ll need to keep up with your oil levels as you cut, since running your oil dry will cause your saw to warp or burn out. A lot of manufacturers now include helpful features like transparent windows for easily checking oil levels. Whether you use a gas or electric chainsaw, you’ll find that topping off your oil when refueling or switching out batteries is a good habit to get into.
Your chainsaw oiler, in this day and age, probably works off either a fixed flow oiling system or an adjustable flow oiling system. In a fixed flow system, lubrication is released onto the bar at a constant rate. This system works ok, but it won’t allow for you to adjust the oil release for temperature changes, harder woods, etc. In an adjustable flow system, the flow rate can be adjusted by turning a screw on the oil pump, and it allows you to account for all these variables.
The throttle simultaneously engages the motor and the oil pump. As you throttle up, a worm drive engages the pump to send oil through a port that releases onto the bar. As the chain moves across the bar, it distributes the oil across the surface, reducing the friction and the heat that occurs when cutting.
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Pro Tips For Keeping Your Bar Properly Lubed
Read up on the manufacturer recommendations for bar oil. Chainsaw oils have been specially designed for a specific viscosity, which ensures that it sticks to all the cutting parts. Generally, any bar and chain oil can be used, but to be on the safe side, and to keep your warranty intact, it’s probably best to read up on what the manufacturer of the tool suggests.
Also, the weather will affect viscosity. Colder temperatures will thicken the oil up, while summer heat can thin it out. Oil that has become too thick or too thin can cause all sorts of problems that will shorten the lifespan of your bar, chain, and motor. If a manufacturer fails to specify what oil to use at any given temperature, we recommend that you use a grade SAE 30 in the summer and SAE 10 in the winter.
Before cutting anything, run your chainsaw with the tip pointed at the work surface, but without cutting. If the chain spits small amounts of oil onto the wood, you’ll know that your chainsaw oiler is functioning properly.
When you finish up with the saw, you should double-check the oil port to make sure no sawdust or other gunk has accumulated. If you notice any blockage, use a soft, dry rag to remove any crud.
Tangentially related to all this, your bar probably has rotating sprockets that guide the chain around the nose. “Greasing your nose,” in this case, refers to throwing some grease into the tiny hole at the nose of the bar, which should keep those sprockets moving.
As always, if you’ve got any other pro-tips on how to keep your chainsaw oiler functioning properly, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!