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Chainsaw Won’t Start After Sitting: Why and How To Fix It


Chainsaws are commonly used tools, but sometimes they don’t get used for a long time. How do you fix a chainsaw that has been sitting and now won’t start?

If a chainsaw is not starting after it has sat unused for a long time, it may be caused by old gas, clogged carburetor, dirty air filter, old sparkplug, ignition coil, or very cold temperatures. Most of these things can be fixed after they have been identified.

Some issues that cause a chainsaw to not start can easily be fixed if you know how to do it correctly.

Gas Inside Is Old

If the gas inside the chainsaw is old (which happens when you don’t use it for a long time), then your chainsaw will likely not start. Luckily, gas is easy to remove and replenish.

How to Fix It

How to Replace Old Gas:

  1. Take off the gas tank lid
  2. Put a few BBs inside the gas tank
  3. Put on the gas tank lid
  4. Shake chainsaw vigorously
  5. Take off the gas tank lid
  6. Pour out BBs and old gas
  7. Flush out gas tank with cleaner.

It may seem wrong to put BBs inside the gas tank of a machine, but the BBs will knock loose any debris inside the gas tank that may clog it later. You have to make sure that all of the BBs are out of the gas tank before you start the chainsaw. It’s a crazy hack but it works pretty well.

Pro Tip: When replacing that old gas, consider using ethanol-free. It has a longer shelf life and can save you a lot of frustration down the road when you avoid all of the issues that ethanol causes for small engines.

Clogged Carburetor

If your chainsaw won’t start after being unused for a long time, the carburetor may be clogged. As the fuel becomes old, it becomes sticky and can clog the carburetor.

How to Fix It

If the carburetor is only slightly clogged, simply remove it and clean it before putting it back in the chainsaw after it has fully dried. If the carburetor is very clogged, then it will have to be replaced. Luckily, they can be found at any hardware store. Try to take the carburetor with you when you go to purchase a new one so you buy the correct type.

Sparkplug

If the sparkplug is dirty, old, or damaged, then your chainsaw will not start. If the porcelain insulator is cracked, the electrode has burned away, or there is carbon buildup, then the spark plug will not work.

How to Fix It

If the spark plug only has a slight amount of buildup, then you can try to clean it. However, spark plugs are cheap and easy to replace, and it is hard to remove carbon buildup. Where the spark plug is located and the process of removing it varies by chainsaw model.

Clogged Air Filter

If your chainsaw won’t start, the air filter may be dirty. If the air filter is dirty, the air-to-gas ratio may be affected and prevent the chainsaw from starting. Luckily, air filters are easy to replace.

How to Fix It

How to Change an Air Filter:

  1. Open the 3 latches on the cylinder cover of the chainsaw with a flathead screwdriver
  2. Remove cylinder cover
  3. Lift and release the metal latch holding the air filter in place
  4. Put in a new air filter and toss out the old one
  5. Put cylinder cover back on

Cold Temperatures

The climate may affect whether or not your chainsaw starts. If it is really cold outside, then your chainsaw may have trouble starting. Luckily, this is very easy to fix.

How to Fix It

To warm up your chainsaw, simply bring it into a warm area and let it sit for a few hours. After it has warmed up, bring it outside and try to start it again. If it does not start, then it is probably caused by another issue.

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Ignition Coil

The ignition coil is what sends voltage to the sparkplug and causes it to spark, which makes the chainsaw start. If the ignition coil is broken or faulty, then your chainsaw won’t start. However, ignition coils are complicated to replace.

How to Fix It

Ignition coils are expensive and complicated to replace by yourself. We recommend taking it to a chainsaw repair shop and having one of their mechanics replace it. They can also identify whether or not the ignition coil is causing the chainsaw to not start, which may save you money in the long run.

Broken Rewind Spring

The rewind spring may be the cause of your chainsaw not starting. The rewind spring is the spring that rewinds the starter cord after it has been pulled. If the spring is broken, then the starter cord will not rewind and you will not be able to start the chainsaw.

How to Fix It

With many chainsaw models, you have to replace the entire starter assembly after the rewind coil has been broken. If this is the case, then we recommend taking it to a chainsaw mechanic to replace it because they will have all of the necessary parts. If your chainsaw model allows you to only replace the rewind spring, you can find a replacement at most hardware stores.

Blocked or Clogged Spark Arrestor

If the spark arrestor has become clogged or blocked, then your chainsaw will not start because the exhaust is being trapped inside the motor with no exit path. Luckily, they are easy to clean.

How to Fix It

Look at your chainsaw’s user manual to see how to get to the spark arrestor. Then, remove the spark arrestor and gently clean it. If you are unable to properly clean it, replace it. You can find them at most hardware stores.

Paul Brown

Paul has a two-acre yard on red clay soil in Southeast Texas. He knows exactly what the challenges are to nurturing a thriving yard in difficult soil. He takes a practical approach to yard improvement and enjoys putting best practices and “golden rules of lawn care” to the test. Click here for Paul’s author page

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