How to Start a Stubborn Chainsaw

Try to troubleshoot and repair the chainsaw that won't start easily.

Not so long ago, I was about to do a cleanup after a storm and preparing my chainsaw for such a hefty work. But when I turned on the chainsaw, it wouldn’t budge. I was a bit frustrated because I badly needed my chainsaw. But it was acting stubbornly and wouldn’t start. Of course, I was not the kind of user who, once my chainsaw stopped functioning, would toss it away and buy a new one. I needed to troubleshoot it. 

Hence, I checked the warranty first to see if it still applied to my chainsaw, and it was apparently past its warranty. Fortunately, with my troubleshooting know-how, I got my stubborn chainsaw going and finished in no time the exacting after-storm cleanup. If you were like me back then—a bit frustrated with my stubborn chainsaw—you might benefit from my experience and learn how to troubleshoot a stubborn chainsaw.

Steps to Get Your Stubborn Chainsaw Going?

Your chainsaw doesn’t start, you might fidget and get upset, especially if you badly need your chainsaw. Yet, it won’t help you a bit if you only fidget and get upset. It will be best to follow the following simple steps to get your chainsaw started:

Step 1: Relax and Set Your Chainsaw on a Flat Ground

Before you tinker with your chainsaw, you better find a suitable place to set it down. A flat ground would be the best place. Afterward, you can remove the cover of the bar. 

Step 2: Activate Its Chain Brake

Look for the chain brake above the handle or on the top of the handle. You can activate it by pushing it forward. Activating the chain brake will ensure that the chain will not rotate on the bar. This activating of the chain brake is a safety measure that you should not forget when troubleshooting a stubborn chainsaw. 

Step 3: Push the Decompression Valve to Engage It

There are models of chainsaws that come with a smart-start decompression feature. If your chainsaw comes with this feature, you should engage it. This feature will help in the starting up of the chainsaw. 

Step 4: Press on the Fuel Pump

Some chainsaw models come with a primer bulb or a fuel pump. You can press the fuel pump button if your chainsaw comes with it. After pressing, you can see the fuel and reduce the pulling to start your chainsaw. 

Step 5: Pull or Tag on the Starter Rope

You can position your right foot on the saw’s rear handle as you hold the top handle securely using your left hand. Ensure that the cutting attachment doesn’t hit the ground before you start pulling on the starter. Utilize a quick but smooth motion when pulling the starter. 

Step 6: Push the Throttle Halfway

You can push the throttle halfway through and start pulling on the rope until the chainsaw runs. As the engine begins to power on, you can speed up to keep the motor active. If the engine starts up and dies quickly, you can open the Master Lever to set the choke open. 

Once the chainsaw runs, you can hold the throttle button again while resetting the master control to the standard-setting.

Chainsaw usually starts after it primes its carburetor. So, you need to activate its choke by setting the lever to its full-choke setting and pulling on the starter rope several times up to four times.

Additional Troubleshooting Tips If Your Chainsaw Won’t Start

Aside from the abovementioned steps on how to start a stubborn chainsaw, you can also apply the following troubleshooting tips in case your chainsaw remains stubborn:

Inspect the Pulley System

The pulley system is crucial in the functioning of the chainsaw. It helps in taking back its starter rope. If it is broken, it will not work correctly, and you will find it hard to pull the starter rope. You can check in two places for a malfunctioning or broken pulley. 

Check the pulley by following where the cord goes. The pulley usually is located somewhere at the end of the rope. Check whether the pulley’s spring is working and doesn’t have corrosion. 

It should also show some tension because it kickstarts the spinning up of all systems. If the pulley and spring aren’t working well, the chainsaw will not work well and remain stubborn.

Inspect if the Fuel is New or Fresh

It will be good to note that gasoline deteriorates over time. So, if you haven’t replaced the fuel, ensure that you replace it with fresh fuel. If gasoline sits for more than a month without being consumed, it will deteriorate and evaporate, leaving behind a sticky goo. 

Hence, it will help remove the old fuel, clean the fuel container, and add fresh fuel. Then, try to restart the chainsaw. 

Check for Clogged or Blocked Spark Arrestor

The screen which contains the sparks is called the spark arrestor. This screen can be clogged or blocked over time. So, you need to clean this screen thoroughly and daily. It can also be the cause behind the stubbornness of your chainsaw. 

Inspect the Air Filters

You need to clean the air filter to ensure a smooth operation of your chainsaw. A dirty air filter will have an effect on the air-to-gas ratio that could prevent the firing up of the engine. So, it will be best to clean it. Afterward, you can restart the chainsaw. 

Inspect the Engine

The worst cause of the stubbornness of your chainsaw would be the engine problem. The other systems, such as the starter assembly, might not work well if the engine has a problem. Besides, the engine will fail to start. Moreover, you will find it hard to pull the rope if the engine is problematic. 

Clogged Carburetor

You might overlook and leave some fuel inside the tank for an extended period. This fuel will deteriorate and might clog the carburetor. The lighter elements in the fuel tend to evaporate, leaving behind a gooey that can cause the clogging of the carburetor. So, to solve this issue, it will be best to clean the carburetor well. 

Utilize a carburetor cleaner and install the carburetor once it is clean. Cover the throttle of the carburetor when you clean the chainsaw. After cleaning the carburetor and the chainsaw still doesn’t start, you need to replace the carburetor. 

Check the Ignition Coil

Check the ignition coil after you’ve done the above-mentioned troubleshooting tips, and still, the chainsaw seems to be dead. You can find the ignition coil adjacent to the carburetor. The ignition coil sends voltage that causes a spark to start the engine. 

If the ignition coil fails to send this voltage, the chainsaw will not work. You need to utilize a tester to check if the ignition coil is working well. If the ignition coil is the culprit, you can replace the ignition coil. 

Check if the Starter Housing is Damaged

Another problem that may cause the stubbornness of the chainsaw is damaged starter housing. If it is damaged, you will find it hard to pull the rope. The starter housing is susceptible to breaking and may prevent the rope from sliding. 

Some pieces might lodge into the pulley or starter if the starter housing breaks, making it challenging for the chainsaw to function well. If such is the case, you need to replace the starter housing completely. But if the damage is only minor, you can fix it using tape or epoxy.


If you are constantly using your chainsaw, you need to engage in daily and weekly maintenance of your chainsaw. Daily maintenance includes cleaning the machine, checking the different components like the choke lever, removing the chain, clutch, bar, etc. It will be best if you have a checklist for your daily maintenance tasks. 

Similarly, you should engage in weekly maintenance of your chainsaw like checking the wear and tear on your machine, inspecting the starter cord and other damages, lubricating the clutch drum bearing, and many others. Besides, you should also engage in monthly maintenance to ensure that your chainsaw is in top-notch condition. In this way, you can avoid any issue like the stubbornness of a chainsaw.  

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