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5 Most Common Electric Chainsaw Issues (and What To Do)

5 Most Common Electric Chainsaw Issues (and What To Do)

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Paul Brown

Electric chainsaws have over a dozen components, many of which are moving parts. All the essential electrical & mechanical parts of an electric chainsaw can have glitches or wear out in due course. If your electric chainsaw has a problem, there could be more than one causal issue. 

Here are the 5 most common electric chainsaw issues: 

  1. The electric chainsaw won’t start. 
  2. It stops when cutting. 
  3. It’s not cutting properly.
  4. The chainsaw isn’t oiling the chain. 
  5. It’s making a grinding noise. 

Exercise caution when inspecting an electric chainsaw to detect the probable issues causing an evident problem, whether you have a corded or battery-powered model. This guide elaborates on the 5 most common electric chainsaw issues and their respective solutions. 

1. The Electric Chainsaw Won’t Start

Two sets of problems can prevent an electric chainsaw from starting. The first set pertains to the power supply and includes all the components involved. The second set of issues pertains to the internal components of your electric chainsaw. Let’s address and resolve both these sets. 

External Power Issues

An electric chainsaw won’t start if it doesn’t have access to power. Check the power supply for a corded model or battery in a cordless electric chainsaw. Before you inspect everything, check if the throttle trigger is locked because then an electric chainsaw won’t start even if it has power. 

Here are the steps to investigate power issues: 

  1. Check if the wall outlet has power. The GFCI or GFI may be tripped. 
  2. Inspect the extension cord if you use one. Test it with another device. 
  3. Verify whether the circuit breaker is tripped. 
  4. Look for signs of damage in the plug, power cable, and the cord connected to the unit. 

Switch to a live wall outlet and test. Restore the GFCI or GFI and reset the circuit breaker if tripped. Replace a damaged plug, power cable, and cord. In some cases, the electric chainsaw trigger switch could be the problem, and you’ll need a replacement (source).

For a cordless electric chainsaw, check if the battery has sufficient charge. Recharge the battery and test. A fully-charged battery may not discharge. Inspect its terminals and the connectors on the electric chainsaw. Clean these terminals and ports. Test again. 

Electric chainsaw battery problems aren’t uncommon. Use another battery if you have one to see if the unit starts. Then, you will know if the other battery is the culprit. Lithium-ion batteries can develop an internal short. Replace the battery and see if your electric chainsaw starts (source).

Internal Components Failure

The causal problem could be an internal component if you don’t find any external power issues. Electric chainsaws have onboard fuses that can blow. Also, the real culprit could be the motor in the unit. A jammed or failing motor may not start the electric chainsaw. 

Here is a concise checklist: 

  • Refer to the manual to know if your electric chainsaw has an accessible onboard fuse. 
  • Inspect the fuse if you can access it using the instructions in the manual. 
  • You can restore or replace the fuse, subject to the brand & model you own. 
  • If the fuse is alright, you may have a faulty motor. You may have to replace it. 

You may disassemble your electric chainsaw to inspect the internal components. The specific steps vary depending on the brand & model, albeit there are similarities in design and how distinct parts function. Check the owner’s manual for a unit diagram you can use. 

Here is a tool teardown video for electric chainsaws: 

Tool Tear Down: Electric Chainsaw | How to Disassemble Your Chainsaw |

2. Electric Chainsaw Stops When Cutting

An electric chainsaw may stop when cutting due to the following reasons: 

  • Low charge in the battery 
  • Fluctuating power source 
  • The unit is clogged. 
  • The chain brake is on. 
  • Lubrication issues 
  • Motor problems 
  • Other factors 

Cordless electric chainsaws are dependent on the battery, not only the voltage or milliamp-hour but also the discharge capacity. The discharge rate wanes as the battery depletes. However, a low charge should impair the electric chainsaw’s efficiency instead of stopping it completely. 

Corded electric chainsaws may stop working if the power supply fluctuates substantially. In many cases, an extension cord is a problem. Manufacturers usually recommend the length and gauge size for outdoor extension cords or cables. Choose an extension cord accordingly. 

Electric chainsaws can clog in various circumstances. Sawdust buildup inside the unit is common. Also, quaint foreign objects may find their way into the unit. If you watch the above video, the unit is extremely clogged due to its use on fabric. Disassemble the unit and unclog it.

Check if the electric chainsaw brake is on, which could happen inadvertently. Undo it and run the unit to test if the chainsaw stops again when cutting. An unclogged electric chainsaw unit experiencing no power or battery problems may have a lubrication issue. 

All corded and cordless electric chainsaws use bar & chain oil for lubrication. Refer to the owner’s manual to find the reservoir and recommended quantity of bar and chain oil. Do not overfill the reservoir and use the suggested quality of lubricant, not ordinary motor oil (source). 

Here’s a video guide to add bar and chain oil to an electric chainsaw: 

How to Add Bar and Chain Oil to Your Electric Chainsaw

The earlier tool teardown video in this guide shows you at ~1:25s the tiny hole that releases the oil to lubricate the chain. Ensure this opening is not clogged when you clean your electric chainsaw. The next step is to check the motor to see if all of these components are working fine. 

Almost all electric chainsaws have an internal switch connected to the external trigger. This internal switch may get jammed or malfunction due to some reason, such as wear & tear. Check this component and replace it, if possible. Otherwise, you may have a faulty or failing motor. 

Other factors could stop your electric chainsaw when cutting. These issues generally tend to be external factors. For instance, an electric chainsaw may stop when cutting an object beyond its capacity to slice through. There could be metal or other sturdy materials in the object (source). 

3. Electric Chainsaw Not Cutting Properly

Here are the common reasons for an electric chainsaw not cutting well: 

  • Dull or blunt cutting chain 
  • Loose or tight cutting chain 
  • Improperly adjusted cutting chain 
  • Misaligned or deformed chainsaw bar 
  • Worn-out, misaligned, or damaged sprocket 
  • Blocked oil hole preventing lubrication 
  • Insufficient pressure or inappropriate handling 

Cutting Chain Issues

All cutting chains will lose their sharpness in due course, irrespective of brand, model, design, and power source type. You may sharpen the cutting chain teeth. However, a cutting chain’s bluntness shouldn’t completely stop an electric chainsaw from cutting, so check for other issues. 

A loosely or tightly fitted chain may not cut properly or at all. An extremely tight chain will not clock the required rotations per minute. A loose chain will be ineffective when cutting and thus may not cut properly. You must tighten or loosen the chain based on the current condition (source). 

Standard electric chainsaw chains have alternating teeth, aka left, and right cutters. A full complement chain has a left cutter, then a drive link, subsequently a right cutter, and a drive link, so on & so forth. If a chain has more left cutters broken or missing than those on the right, or vice versa, you won’t have flawless cuts that the electric chainsaw can deliver. Get a new chain. 

Many electric chainsaw components require regular replacement. For instance, you need a cutting chain once it is beyond the scope of sharpening and routine maintenance. Likewise, you need a new electric chainsaw sprocket for every two or three chain replacements. 

Bar & Sprocket Issues

Check if the chain, bar, and sprocket are misaligned. Fix the misalignment, if possible, and use the adjustment screws or knobs to remedy the problem. However, you may need a new chain, bar, and sprocket if they are worn out or deformed beyond remedy (source). 

Other Factors

Several electric chainsaw issues discussed in this guide may prevent the chain from cutting properly, such as power fluctuation, improper extension cord gauge & length, poor battery discharge, misalignment of internal components, and the chain’s bluntness or missing teeth. 

Look for debris clogging the lubricating hole. Clean it so that the lack of lubrication does not prevent the chainsaw from cutting well. Remove any debris and clean the unit whenever you disassemble it. Also, ensure the parts are correctly aligned, and all components are snugly fit. 

In rare cases, insufficient pressure or inappropriate operation may be an issue, which is unlikely under experienced hands. Electric chainsaws don’t need added pressure or thrust from the user to cut, but the tool requires firm handling for the cutting chain to work through a log effectively. 

4. Electric Chainsaw Isn’t Oiling the Chain

Here are the common reasons why your electric chain is not oiling the chain: 

  • Too little bar & chain oil 
  • Clogged lubricating hole 
  • Compressor system failure 
  • Misaligned or deformed bar 

Check the lubricant reservoir to see if it has sufficient bar & chain oil. Refill according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Inspect the oiler hole as it may be clogged. Remove the unit’s housing to check it visually. You may have to remove the chain and bar to clean the hole. 

Electric chainsaws, whether corded or battery-powered, may have a compressor system to pump the bar & chain oil, but some models use gravity. Any compressor system failure may prevent the electric chainsaw from oiling the chain and bar. Also, you may find misaligned parts. 

A misaligned or deformed bar may block the lubricating hole. Furthermore, other misalignments, excessive tightness or looseness of the chain, and debris buildup inside the unit can prevent the oil’s normal release and efficient circulation. Correct all misalignments and test the unit.

This video is an excellent troubleshooting guide:

Top Reasons Chainsaw Not Cutting — Chainsaw Troubleshooting

5. Electric Chainsaw Making Grinding Noise

Check if your electric chainsaw is making a grinding noise all the time or in specific circumstances when you operate it on a particular type of wood. Also, you need to find the source of the odd noises, whether inside the side cover or the motor housing. 

An internal grinding noise may be due to a broken component or foreign objects creating an interference. You may also have a worn-out chain or deformed bar creating unusual sounds. The typical causes are a broken sprocket, jammed motor, and clogged internal components. 

Remove the unit’s side cover to inspect the drive gear or sprocket, bar, chain, and other accessible parts. Toolless electric chainsaws don’t have bolts screwed into the side cover over the bar and chain. However, you need to unscrew the motor housing for further inspection. 

Inspect the Bar & Cutting Chain

An electric chainsaw cutting chain may make quaint noises if it is not rotating smoothly around the bar. Check the firmness of the chain and tighten or loosen it as necessary. Inspect the shape and alignment of the bar. You may have to replace it if the worn-out bar is the causal problem. 

Inspect the cutting chain thoroughly to see if any tooth is missing or misshapen. You may hear a grinding noise if any deformed teeth cause friction or strike against another internal part as you operate the electric chainsaw. Address all such teething obstructions. Replace faulty parts. 

Check the Sprocket & Gears

An electric chainsaw’s internal gears can cause a grinding noise. A common cause is a sprocket. This driving gear propels the cutting chain to rotate around the bar. Replace a worn-out or damaged sprocket. Some brands recommend routine sprocket replacement. 

You can visually inspect the sprocket and other gears to know if they have missing or broken teeth. Also, you may use the rotation test. Rotate the cutting chain of a turned-off & unplugged electric chainsaw manually. If the rotation isn’t smooth, the sprocket could be the real problem. 

However, you must eliminate the other possibilities before replacing any part. A worn-out or broken sprocket can create a grinding noise and may even stop your electric chainsaw from cutting. Likewise, a deformed or misaligned bar and chain could be the problem, too. 

Test the Electric Chainsaw Motor

Access the motor by removing the housing cover. Check for foreign objects, broken teeth from gears, and other interferences that may obstruct the motor’s functioning. Manually spin the shaft of the turned-off & idle motor to check if there is any obstruction.  

A failing motor is often beyond repair. Generally, a new motor is a more convenient solution than trying to find ways to repair the unit and will probably cost less, too. If you cannot access the motor housing for any reason, contact the manufacturer or consult with a local technician. 

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