View Full Version : How to start a chainsaw

September 16th, 2006, 02:38 PM
I think this is "Non-Tap Technical" :)

I have had trouble starting chainsaws since we first got one in our Santa Cruz mountain days years ago. I always attributed it to a combination of living in the virtual rather than the physical world, lack of upper arm strength, and terrible karma when it comes to any powered tool. When we moved to New Zealand, our chain saw stayed behind with someone who could better appreciate it.

Yesterday we bought a new chainsaw to use in clearing the gorse from our new rural property. The weekend before we had rented one. As usual the person at the chainsaw place started it right up to demonstrate it, I was able to start it right up at the store (like I always can once it has been warmed up even a little), and once we had it out in the field it took forever and lots of cursing to get it to run. The same procedure I always follow: Turn on the switch. Pull out the choke. Pump the primer or trigger a couple of times to make sure some gas is in there. Pull the cord, feel a rush of anticipation as the motor starts to run this time and the crash of disappointment as the motor dies. The sickening feeling as every pull of the cord after that does nothing. Keep pulling away as fast and hard as possible, try it with and without the choke, check that the on/off switch really is in the on position, rinse, repeat, until after forever the saw finally starts up.

This time, unlike the two chainsaw purchases we had made in Santa Cruz, the sales person took us through the full 30 minute new owner training.

Guess what? The proper way to start a chainsaw when it is not already warmed up is:

1) After checking it over, of course, and ensuring that the chain brake is on, turn the on/off switch on and pull out the choke.

2) Get into proper position and pull the cord. The motor will cough as if it is starting up an die. So far this matches my usual experience.

3) What I didn't know: After the motor has done that (which if it is very cold could take more than one pull), TURN OFF THE CHOKE, and pull again. The saw will start right up!

The sales person demonstrated what to do if the motor is flooded. How did he demonstrate that? First he flooded it by pulling out the choke and pulling the cord 10 times in a row. Yup, he did exactly what I had been doing every time I had tried to start a chainsaw! Then he demonstrated how to clear the flooding by turning off the choke and pulling the cord 10 times rapidly. Exactly what I would end up doing when I got frustrated enough.

Amazingly enough, a Google search for how to start a chainsaw comes up with plenty of hits, none of which mentions the critical step of pulling with the choke on until the motor coughs, then turning off the choke and pulling again.

Now watch everyone here tell me how this is comon knowledge and how could I ever be so confused about something so simple :)

Judy G. Russell
September 16th, 2006, 09:51 PM
Uh... er... Sidney... some of us have never needed a chainsaw. And if we were to use chainsaws where we live, it would be in some murder plot.

September 17th, 2006, 03:11 AM

September 17th, 2006, 05:49 AM
How to get your car out of a snowdrift after you have run onto the shoulder into deep snow with a coal shovel and tire chains without getting a heart attack:

Pray for global warming.


Mike Landi
September 17th, 2006, 05:22 PM
I won't laugh, but I did know that one...out of necessity.

What you learned is standard stuff for small engine (non-fuel injected, which is 99% of them) cold starting.

My father-in-law taught me that step 20 years ago. Basically, the "cough" from the engine tells you that enough fuel is in the intake manifold and adding any more will flood the engine...resulting in a royal PITA to start the thing. Turning off the choke (which reduces the fuel to air ratio) allows the engine to burn the extra fuel in the engine and get it going.

I learned this one when I almost flooded my FIL's chainsaw when we were both trying to cut and split firewood...and the splitter was rented for the weekend. My FIL would have been PO'd if we lost an hour trying to get his 30 year old chainsaw running after I flooded it.

I did not make that mistake again. <g> (and I don't refuse the winter's worth of firewood he gives me for my weekend efforts of cutting, splitting and stacking 10 cords of wood.)