Steps for Crank Starting a Chainsaw

Chainsaw Isolated
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Small engines, including chainsaws, can be frustrating to start. This is especially true when starting a chainsaw just out of lengthy storage, when engine temperatures are extremely cold, or when the saw needs a tune-up. A new chainsaw might give you starting trouble right out of the box if you fuel it with an old gas/oil mixture, especially if it has added ethanol. Always use fresh non-ethanol gas after long storage or when filling a new chainsaw tank.

01
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Proper Maintenance and Gas

These tips were developed by loggers who use a saw every day, year after year. The major things to remember are:

  • Keep the saw clean.
  • Make sure the saw is full of fresh non-ethanol gas, mixed with the correct amount of two-stroke oil, and avoid flooding.
  • Keep up regular maintenance, whether done by you or by a shop.
  • Learn where ​chainsaw parts are.
02
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Reboot Saw and Turn Everything Off

If a flooded chainsaw is your problem, no extra gas is needed—DO NOT be tempted to prime the saw again. The saw has more than enough gas at the right place and too much is the problem.

After a few minutes, you can often simply pull the crank cord again with everything on, including the throttle pressed in along with its interlock. Cranking a depressed chainsaw without a working interlock is difficult without using a drop start (which is dangerous.) Have a second person pull the cord if someone is around.

Still not working? Give the chainsaw a break by turning everything off. Flip off the on/off switch. Turn the throttle off. Push or pull the choke to the "off" position and deal with anything else that might need to be switched off. ("Off" is the keyword.) Some even suggest removing the spark plug, pulling the cord a couple of times, then replacing the plug. By doing all this, you will reset the saw and can start the process of clearing a flooded engine.

03
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Turn Engine Back On

Flooding is caused by too much gas applied at the wrong time and can prevent a saw from starting. It is the major cause of a stalled chainsaw engine. As previously instructed, everything should now be turned off.

The rebooting instructions in Step 2 should improve this condition. Another suggestion from loggers is to pull the engine's cord through 8 times with all systems off. Then, without priming, try restarting with all systems on.

Now, set the on/off switch in the "on" position. The throttle "on" position should be turned on only as a last resort. Some late-model chainsaws specifically instruct you to tweak the throttle—so do it if instructed. Put the choke to the "on" position. Everything should be back on.

Now that you have cleared the engine of too much "liquid" gasoline and set the choke in the "on" position, pull the engine cord several times through until the engine "pops" one time. A pop is a quick audible response and jerk by the engine without cranking. No more than one pop with the choke on or you risk another fatal flood.

At this point: Place the choke in the "off" position.

With the choke in the "off" position, pull the engine's crank cord through again. The engine should start in 1 to 3 pulls. Try it first without using the throttle control—unless recommended by the manufacturer.

Colder weather or a saw just out of storage can complicate these instructions. Here is further advice from a forestry forum poster: "If I haven't gotten a pop in four pulls, I transition to the part throttle, no-choke position and if I haven't gotten a start in maybe 8 pulls I return to the choke position for one or two pulls. I am sure this varies with different chainsaws, but you shouldn't have to pull very many times in the choke position, even in cold weather."