How to Tune a Chainsaw – Ultimate Guide (Dec 2023)

James Lawson
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If you own a gas-powered chainsaw, it is a high priority that you learn how to tune a chainsaw. Unlike electric or battery-powered chainsaws, your chainsaw relies on air mixed with fuel to work. This feature is made possible by the carburetor, which controls fuel distribution. 

However, you should know how to tune a chainsaw for the best performance. You need to properly adjust your carburetor to tune your chainsaw. As crucial as this action is, it can also be destructive. When you tune it correctly, it can help fix many of your chainsaw problems, but when you adjust it incorrectly, the result can be devastating to the tool.

However, it is essential that you know the conditions that may necessitate that you tune your chainsaw. Otherwise, you may tamper with the carburetor when there is no need for that.

How to Tune a Chainsaw the Simple Way

To get started, you need to know that there are three screws you need to manipulate to tune your chainsaw. They are idle-speed, high-speed, and low-speed screws.

The idle speed screw controls the opening of the throttle valve. In other words, you can adjust this screw to close down the valve or open it up. Either action will affect the quantity of fuel available for the engine to burn and convert to energy. 

For combustion engines, the high-speed adjustment screw performs a crucial function. It is responsible for air and fuel mix proportioning. When the adjustment is correct, the chainsaw gains its optimum revolutions per minute (RPM). However, when this adjustment is too high or low, your chainsaw performs poorly and can even suffer some damage.

The low-speed adjustment screw handles the inflow of air into the engine. If you adjust it well, it ensures the correct quantity of air is always available for the air-fuel mixture. Starvation results when it is set too low, and when it is set too high, load-up kills the engine.

Man cutting up logs with a chainsaw

The Steps

Start by fine-tuning the carburetor. The key to a smooth-running chainsaw lies in adjusting these three crucial screws. Begin by tightening them to their optimal positions and then gradually loosen them until they reach their optimal setting. This simple step will ensure your chainsaw is running at peak performance.

Next, power the chainsaw and let it get warmed up. Leave it running for some minutes so that you will know whether it works fine in idle. If it does not idle, you will have to continue manually cranking the throttle.

Adjust the idle speed using a tachometer to get a perfect speed. Set the start speed to 2700 RPM. While the tachometer makes your job easy here, you can do without it. Merely setting the engine to the maximum speed without engaging the clutches will do the magic.

Next, adjust the low speed by screwing and paying attention to how the engine sounds. The moment you observe the engine surge, stop screwing in. Then, gently turn the screw back to find the point at which the engine sounds best. You may keep on with this until you observe engine distress.

After locating the optimum idling point, it is then time to adjust the high-speed screw. Keep turning the screw inwards until the fuel leans out (poor speed arises) and the engine is drowning. Once you notice these signs, know that the correct setting at which the chainsaw has the optimum RPM is around this point. You can also use a tachometer to help.

If you do this procedure correctly, your gas-powered chainsaw should be working at its best now.

How Often Do I Need to Tune My Chainsaw?

It all depends on how you use the tool. Your chainsaw is a machine with interdependent components. Thus, a malfunctioning component may cause your chainsaw to malfunction or stop working altogether. Such malfunction often results from heavy or frequent use.

Therefore, maintain the tool regularly and take it for repairs as often as needed. Similarly, fine-tune your chainsaw after every heavy use.

Tips on Maintaining Your Chainsaw

A large piece of log next to a chainsaw

Aside from tuning, your chainsaw requires other care and maintenance. Remember, this is not a hand-operated saw with just a handle and blade. This is a mechanical device that has somewhat complicated components.

Here are some proven tips on maintaining a chainsaw:

  • Ensure the Spark Plug Is Good

A weak spark plug is a headache for your chainsaw because that is what facilitates combustion. Therefore, you must make sure that the spark plug is good. Removing and cleaning it may be all you need to do. While at that, you need to check and be sure the spark plug gap remains 0.5mm. However, getting a replacement is the best course of action when the spark plug is dead or weak.

  • Clean or Replace the Air Filter 

Owing to the nature of what the chainsaw does, there is a high chance that sawdust gets in the engine. The air filter keeps dirt from the engine. Generally, the air filter is either screen-type or plastic. Using an air compressor to blow out the stuck dirt performs the trick for the screen-type air filter. However, you will need to frequently replace disposable air filters to protect your tool.

  • Care for the Trigger

A sticking throttle trigger will make a mess of your day. It affects the functioning of the engine. Under normal circumstances, the engine is supposed to return to idle after you release the trigger. When this is not happening, the machine needs expert attention. 

  • Give the Chain Lots of Attention 

We call this tool a chainsaw for a reason. The chain does the cutting. If that is the case, you must always keep the chain sharp. When it becomes too worn to sharpen, replace it.

Apart from sharpening, you must also ensure the chain is properly installed. It should not be loose or shaky. 

  • Keep the Starter in Good Shape

It is funny how your tool might be in generally good condition but fail to start because the starter is faulty. Just the starter! Well, that may be a bitter pill.

To save yourself from this headache, always check to see that the recoil spring functions well. If you are not mechanically savvy, this is not a part you want to DIY.

Also, remember to always clean the flywheel fins. The engine needs air to continually keep it cool. Otherwise, it gets overheated and broken.

  • Clean the Bar

You need to be proactive if you want your chainsaw to last long. Thus, you should only store it after you have done proper maintenance. The bar is one of the parts to pay extra attention to.

First, visually inspect the bar after every use. If you notice any crack or sign of breakage, you may need to take it for professional maintenance. If all you see is dirt and debris, get a thin, strong metal and use it to scrape the dirt off.

You should also ensure the bar enjoys lavish lubrication at all times. It is important to keep dirt and debris away from the lubrication hole. Inadequate lubrication can spoil both the bar and the chain. 

  • Always Go for Premium Gas

If possible, use gas with an octane level of not less than 91. Apart from being more machine-friendly, this gas also improves fuel efficiency.

In most cases, your chainsaw sits many months out in the store. If you store it with gas in the tank, chances are that the gas has gone bad after three to five months. You will need fresh gas to run the chainsaw without causing it any harm.


Gas chainsaws will remain the best for some time because they are the easiest to power anywhere. However, they have carburetors, which are a little tricky to understand but fulfilling when understood.

While taking your chainsaw to service centers every week may not be practical, you can do little maintenance frequently if you have the right skills.

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