Steps for Crank Starting a Chainsaw

of 03

Make Sure Your Saw Has Proper Maintenance and Gas

Essential Chainsaw Parts

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 is in need of a tune-up. Many times a new chainsaw will 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.

Here is a step by step set of instructions that can make starting a chainsaw less of a chore. It has been developed from tips given to me by loggers who use a saw every day, year after year. The major things to remember are: keeping the saw clean, making sure the saw is full of FRESH non-ethanol gas and mixed with the correct amount of two-stroke oil and avoid flooding. Regular maintenance is a must whether done by you or by a shop. Also, take a little time to learn where ​chainsaw parts are.

of 03

Reboot the Chainsaw and Turn Everything Off

So, for the recent maintenance, tune-up, and fresh gas, all you got was a week or two of good cutting and now it won't run. You just know the saw is a lemon — but you are probably wrong. The reason the saw will not run is because it is flooded.

Relax, all is not lost. Stop and take a deep breath. Go grab a soda and pet your dog. Things are about to get better, and time is on your side.

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 hard to do 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 key word). 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.

of 03

Flooding Is the Problem: Turn Engine On

Flooding is caused by too much gas applied at the wrong time and can prevent a saw from starting. Flooding 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 loggers make is pulling the engine's cord through 8 times with all systems off. I don't know if this actually helps drain the liquid gas or gives a bit more drain time but I am assured it works. Do it 8 times! 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. Actually, I am told 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 setting 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. Please, NO more than one pop with the choke on or you risk another fatal flood.


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."