Types of Oil for a Chainsaw: What to Use For Electric, Gas Chainsaws

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Like your car’s engine, a gas-powered chainsaw’s oil needs to be changed regularly to keep it running smoothly. While the right type of oil for your chainsaw can keep your engine running smoothly, using the wrong one can cause problems. 

As your guide, our engineers explain the right oil for electric, gas, and other types of chainsaws. Let’s start!

Importance of Using Chainsaw Oil

Basically, oil keeps the parts of a gas-powered engine working properly. If you don’t have oil, there’s a high chance of ruining your saw. Also, if there’s no oil in the engine’s piston or cylinder, it can be prone to overheating, scoring such parts, which destroys the saw’s function.

The absence of oil in your saw could lead to permanent damage, which is not noticeable at first. The damage could take a long time to appear, and you can see signs around six months if you’re constantly ignoring the use of chainsaw oil. 

What Happens if the Chainsaw Oil Has Gone Bad?

If your chainsaw engine oil goes bad, it can affect the performance of your engine. Two-cycle oils can provide you with up to five years of life, but once opened, they will only have a shelf life of two.

leaking chainsaw

We suggest keeping a record of the date when you opened the oil container to ensure that you can throw it away if it’s not been used in two years. Doing so will help prevent it from going bad, which can definitely affect your saw’s performance. 

Here’s what happens if the chainsaw oil has gone bad:

What Kind of Oil to Use on Your Chainsaw

#1: 2-Stroke Oil

You can opt for th 2-stroke oil mix. Here you must mix oil and gas in a specific ratio for two-cycle engines. But, it is important to mix the right oil ratio to avoid insufficient lubrication, performance issues, smoky exhaust, leaking, and power loss.  

BEST 2 Stroke OIL for use in a chainsaw,

Gas to Oil Ratio

As mentioned, you need to know the right gas-to-oil ratio. So, if you have a pre-1998 model, you should use a 32:1 ratio. On newer models, you should use a 40:1 or 50:1 ratio. 

Alternatively, we suggest checking the engine housing to make sure that it clearly states the appropriate ratio.

#2: 4-Stroke Oil

When running four-cycle engines, both gas and oil are put into separate reservoirs. Four-cycle engines use four-stroke oil, which contains special additives. 

These are used to support the various stages of the engine, such as the intake, exhaust, power, and compression.

#3: Motor Oil

Motor oil is another type of chainsaw oil you can use. Although you can use it to replace lubricant, it is not good for your chainsaw engine. It is not advisable to use motor oil on your chainsaws.

Always use the oil that the manufacturer recommends for your chainsaw. Before you start using it, read the user manual to learn more about its properties.

motor oil for chainsaw

To protect yourself while cutting trees, remember that you should use a good quality glove and a perfect mixture of gasoline and oil. Knowing the right ratio of both fuels is also important to ensure that your engine runs smoothly.

#4: Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a good choice for those looking for a lighter and thinner oil for their chainsaw. However, for the engine, you should always use the oil recommended by the chainsaw manufacturer. This can also help prevent the saw from sticking while cutting.

#5: 10W30 Oil

Although 10W30 oil is not ideal as a chainsaw bar oil, you can use it as a substitution. Its multi-weight properties make it ideal for use in both winter and summer.

When 10W30 oil gets heated up, it becomes thicker, which makes it ideal for winter use. However, it can also become thick and hard to handle if the chainsaw gets dropped.

This issue is caused by the oil’s unsuitable properties for the bar. Remember, when you use alternative products, some problems may arise. So, if you’re considering the 10W30 oil, expect issues to arise along the process, like chainsaw overheating, shutting down, etc. 


#6: 10W40 Oil

While you can use the 10W40 oil as an alternative to chainsaw bar oil, it is not a good option. This type of oil is almost similar to the 10W30 oil, also considered a type of motor oil. 

We don’t really recommend both oils, but if you have no choice, you can only use these oil as alternatives. You shouldn’t rely on this type of oil unless stated by your chainsaw manufacturer.

There are cons to using alternative products. The 10W40 oil, in particular, is only for the bar and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for the engine or as a mixer oil. 

What Oil Should I Use for an Electric Chainsaw?

Regarding electric chainsaws, you only need to use the type of oil recommended by the manufacturer. Alternatives are not an option here.  

While you can use substitution oils for gas-powered saws, this is not the case with electric saws, even with their bar. But why? 

Cavigillo Electric Chainsaw

Using just any type of oil that is not recommended by the manufacturer can potentially damage the chainsaw and the engine. Check with your chainsaw manufacturer for the oil type you need to use. You shouldn’t use vegetable oil and motor oil. 

Checking Your Chainsaw Engine's Oil

If you have a two-cycle engine and have properly mixed the oil and gas, it’s easy to check the oil level in your tank.

Some models of chainsaws feature a translucent tank, which allows you to see the gas mixture in the tank easily. But for those chainsaws with no apparent tank, you can add fuel [1] and check the tank opening to see the oil’s level. 

For small jobs, a half tank of fuel will be enough. But, if you have a big job ahead of you, you may want to fill up the tank right at the top.

On the other hand, if your chainsaw features a four-cycle engine, you’ll need to use a dipstick to check the engine’s oil level. Here’s how: 

check oil in chainsaw

Changing Your Chainsaw Engine's Oil

Although the exact steps to changing your chainsaw oil and fuel will vary depending on the model, these are the general steps that will help you get started:

You can also use a gas can to store the old oil and fuel mixture. Keep in mind that the mixture must be stored in a gas-approved container. You can dispose of it at a hazardous waste facility.

However, another method must be used when using a four-cycle engine. You’ll need to change the fuel as it’s separated from the gas. Here’s how: 

checking chainsaw oil level

Pro-Tip: It’s important to have your owner’s manual handy when it comes to your chainsaw. This will give you the necessary details and directions to make the most of your equipment.

Checking Your Chainsaw's Bar and Chain Oil

In addition to the oil for your engine, you also need to provide your chainsaw with bar-and-chain oil. This will help keep the chain in good condition and make it easier to cut.

When running a chainsaw, it uses bar-and-chain oil to maintain its performance. You’ll need to add around one tank of this to your tank every time you fill up. 

It’s easy to keep up with this by filling the reservoir with oil every time you fill up. Some models have a level gauge that shows how much oil is in the tank.

checking chainsaw bar and oil

Reminder: Due to the harmful effects of petroleum-based products, biobased and biodegradable oils have gained popularity for both engine and bar-and-chain oils. When buying oil for your chainsaw, we suggest using these products instead of petroleum-based ones.

Types of Bar and Chain Oil

Bar and chain oil has two different types: winter and summer, and each has distinct viscosity. Summer oils are heavier and thicker, formulated for hot working conditions. 

On the other hand, winter oils are lighter and thinner, allowing chainsaws to run smoothly in cold working conditions.


Although we have mentioned the various types of oils for a chainsaw, it is important to remember that there is no good substitute for engine oil. Depending on your chainsaw brand or type, you must check the configurations first. 

Note that the manufacturer usually recommends the ideal oil for your chainsaw. But vegetable oil is a good alternative among others. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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