Why is My Chainsaw Smoking? Top Reasons + Fixes

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If you are reading this guide, you are probably wondering why your new chainsaw is smoking all of a sudden. In addition to stalling your activities, the saw won’t cut well. 

Trust me, it’s crucial to address this. Using a malfunctioning chainsaw isn’t safe. Having dealt with this issue firsthand, I’ll dive into the root causes and guide you on how to set things right..

Causes of Chainsaw Smoke and Fumes + How to Fix

Find the Part Emitting the Smoke

If you notice smoke coming from your chainsaw, the first step is to identify its source. In many instances, the smoke may originate from either the bar or the engine. Pinpointing the location of the smoke allows you to diagnose the problem accurately and determine the appropriate remedies.

Smoking Chainsaw Chain

#1: Improper Oiling and Friction

Improper oiling and friction are the most common reasons your chainsaw is smoking. In chainsaws, friction happens at two levels.

This is between the metal of the chain and the wood and the level of the metal-to-metal between the metal of the chainsaw bar and the chain.

check oil in chainsaw

If you do not oil the chainsaw properly, the friction will exert a lot of pressure on the chainsaw, thus emitting smoke. To reduce friction, your chainsaw needs proper oiling. 

Ensure you check the bar oil level at all times and ensure that all moving parts have enough lubrication. This a healthy maintenance habit, and you must always cultivate it.

#2: Dull Chains

To really maximize your chainsaw’s potential, sharpening is key. It not only ensures optimal performance but also prolongs its lifespan. Therefore, I’d strongly advise keeping your chainsaw consistently sharp and well-maintained.

If your saw is unsharpened, it is more likely, to cause you several problems. When cutting, you will feel more pressure, or it might generate fine dust of wood. This is a sign: when you notice this, it is time to sharpen your saw.

With a chainsaw sharpener, start with the teeth and the rakers. After, check the bar of the chainsaw. By following these steps, you will not face difficulty cutting wood, and it should also solve the problem of your chainsaw smoking.

sharpening chainsaw with Stihl 2 in 1 Easy File Chain Sharpener

#3: The Chain is Set Too Tight

Another reason for the smoke from your chainsaw is if the chain is tight. Ensure the tension of the chainsaw over the bar is perfect. Otherwise, it will be causing damage to the chainsaw and chain badly.

Also, ensure that the chainsaw chain is not too loose or tight. To check if the chainsaw chain has perfect tension, push the chainsaw upward. 

The tension is okay if it is raised and stays within the drive link out of the bar nose. It’s essential to remember that a well-tightened chainsaw chain isn’t just about efficient operation – it’s a safeguard against damage and that worrisome smoke.

#4: Idle Not Adjusted Properly

If you notice a substantial amount of smoke that’s coming from your chainsaw exhaust when idling, the idle is likely not adjusted well. Also this means that it is also idling at a rapid speed. 

To reduce this, look for the low-speed adjustment screw, which can be found on many models. Then, twist it clockwise until the speed slows down. After, turn the screw backward at an angle of 90 degrees, then rise the throttle for the engine to accelerate at the right pace. 

chainsaw High-Speed, Low-Speed, And Idle Screws

This should remedy the issue of chainsaw smoking or fuming.

Smoking and Overheating Chainsaw Engine

#1: Too Much Oil or Incorrect Oil-to-Fuel Ratio

If your chainsaw smokes, this could also mean that you have added much oil into the fuel mix to the engine. To avoid this, I suggest you check the right proportion of oil to your gasoline mixture according to the user manual [1].

If you add too much oil or the wrong ratio of oil to fuel, you will need to empty the fuel tank of the oil and fuel mixture. Therefore, add new fuel and oil in the right proportion or ratio.

Another reason why chainsaws produce smoke is they’re running on bad oil. Thus, ensure you regularly replace the oil in your machine to avoid harmful smoke or fumes. 

#2: Greasy Air Filter

Chainsaws come with an air filter that helps balance the flow of air in the chainsaw. While working, waste wood can get trapped in the air filter, which shocks it. In this situation, the air cannot pass through the chainsaw, which causes it to heat up instantly.

clogged air filter

Furthermore, the air filter might be greasy if your chainsaw produces smoke. This will damage the engine and lead to more damage. In the case of a battery-operated chainsaw, this will lead to poor performance and damage. 

The sure sign of this is white smoke. To resolve this and ensure enough air gets to the chainsaw, ensure that you clean the filter every 5 hours of use. Alternatively, you can do it 2-3 times after use or replace it. Taking care of the filter will help you prolong the lifespan of the chainsaw and prevent damage.

#3: Leak in the Carburetor Needle

If your carburetor needle is leaking, this will cause your chainsaw saw to make. This can happen if your carburetor is dirty. When this happens, I recommend turning off the power and engage a skilled technician to resolve the problem.

Smoking Electric Chainsaw

If your electric chainsaw smokes, this is a sign that you are going too far. It would be best to stop the machine immediately to cool down. 

If you notice late, the chainsaw has already stopped working, and the motor is smoking, the chainsaw might be gone for good. If you can stop the chainsaw in time, check what may have caused the motor to overheat.

chainsaw smoking

What Should I Do if My Chainsaw Overheats?

Like I pointed out before, several factors can lead your chainsaw to overheat. The usual culprits are a dirty air filter, overly tight chainsaw tension, or not mixing the correct oil-to-gas ratio in the tank.


Why won't my chainsaw cut?

The major reason your chainsaw will not cut it if the chain is dull. The more you use the chainsaw, the dull it is.

What does white smoke mean?

When your chainsaw produces smoke that is white, condensed water is heating in the machine. Also, the chainsaw might be running on bad oil.

Why does my chainsaw smoke during startup?

If your chainsaw emits black smoke at startup, this means that it is not getting enough fuel for the amount of air it is taking in.


There are several reasons why your chainsaw is smoking out of the blue. It is most likely not given enough lubricant, or you did not adjust the idle properly or did not clean the filter regularly. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to find the source of the smoke that’s likely from the engine or bar and chain, before you proceed with the solutions.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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