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Why Is My Chainsaw Blade Smoking? [How to Fix It Easily]

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Why is my chainsaw blade smoking? There are a few common culprits we should discuss! Because if your chainsaw blade is smoking, you risk ruining your chainsaw chain, bar, and clutch, not to mention starting a brush blaze!

To determine why your chainsaw blade is smoking, we need to look at the properties of friction. A chainsaw is a cutting tool with steel rubbing against steel and wood at high speed, generating tremendous chainsaw blade friction.

And with more chainsaw friction – comes more heat from the cutting tool. And when things overheat to a certain extent, they start smoking!

(We realize that a smoking chainsaw blade may have a certain cinematic appeal – but it’s a sign of trouble! And where there’s smoke, there’s fire, as they say.)

Using a dull chainsaw to cut through downed trees.

But how and why does this happen – exactly? And at what point does the chainsaw blade smoking occur?

Let’s break down the physics of a chainsaw bar and chain to find answers to the smoking blade question.

Why Is My Chainsaw Blade Smoking?

A chainsaw blade will generate smoke due to a lack of bar oil, dulled chains, or a worn-down bar. Excessive friction produces heat build-up in the chainsaw arm and chain, causing the blade to smoke. A dull chain will generate excess heat between the saw blade and the wood, resulting in a smoking blade.   

The importance of having the correct amount of high-quality bar oil in your chainsaw’s bar oil reservoir cannot get overstated. A well-lubricated straight bar and a sharp chain never smoke, no matter the type of wood getting cut. 

  • Bar oil is a lubricant that reduces friction between the steel chain and bar, effectively limiting heat build-up in the bar and chain and preventing premature wear and smoke formation.
  • Premium bar oil on a well-maintained chainsaw bar and chain will also reduce friction and heat build-up between the chain and the wood getting cut, facilitating a smokeless cut.
  • REMEMBER – A dull chainsaw chain creates excessive friction and heat between the blade and the wood, resulting in smoke from both blade and the wood. 
chopping a thick tree using a dulled chain saw blade
Our homesteading friends always ask the same question after cutting many firewood cords, clearing winter tree litter, and working their saws thoroughly in the cold weather. Why is my chainsaw blade smoking? What are the common reasons for lackluster saw performance? Our answer is always the same. Is your chain sharp? Or dull? Worn chainsaw blades are a top culprit for lousy chainsaw performance – especially if you notice that your chainsaw never smokes until you start cutting. (If you see excess wood smoke when sawing? Check your blade!)

Read More – Stihl vs. Husqvarna Chainsaw! Both are Awesome Chainsaws, but This One’s the Best!

Why Is My Chainsaw Bar Overheating?

A chainsaw bar overheats when there is insufficient bar oil in the guide rail to lubricate the chain and bar. The lack of lubrication results in excessive friction between the bar and chain, resulting in the bar overheating. A dull chain will also lead to too much chainsaw blade heat in the bar and chain.

To prevent your chainsaw bar from overheating, conduct regular cleaning and maintenance of your bar and chain:

  • Soak the chain in a solvent (gasoline in a tub) and use a wire brush to remove timber residues.
  • Sharpen the chain teeth and adjust the rakers (depth gauges) using a file or tool to sharpen and adjust the teeth and rakers.
  • Clear the bar guide rails of timber residue.
  • Clear the bar oiler holes of timber residue and clogged oil.
  • Check the bar for any bending and burring on the rail edges. Straighten and file, respectively, if necessary.

Is It Normal for a Chainsaw Blade to Smoke?

A smoking chainsaw blade is not typical and indicates the following.

  1. No lubrication! Not enough oil on the chain and bar.
  2. Blunt teeth on the chain.
  3. Chain teeth may be inadequately or unequally sharp.
  4. Protruding rakers.
  5. A bent chainsaw bar. 

Remember the following about why your chainsaw blade smokes.

  • A well-maintained chainsaw blade does not smoke.
  • Ensure your bar oil reservoir is filled accurately before operation. 
chainsaw in motion cutting wood using a saw with visible sawdust
Sharp chainsaw blades cut like a dream and help keep your sawed wood and chainsaw cool. But – dull chainsaw blades are the opposite. They result in tiny wood debris fragments flying from the chainsaw. The wood fragments flying from the saw may even resemble smoke! And, worse yet, dull blades create way too much friction – and excess heat. (We’re not joking when we say dulled chainsaw blades make excess heat! The Ohio State University Extension website even lists the smell of burnt wood as an indicator of when to sharpen your chainsaw blade. Duly noted!)

Read More – Ultimate Trenching Tool Guide – 10 Best Shovels, Chainsaw Trencher + Handheld!

Why Is My Chainsaw Blade Smoking and Not Cutting?

A chainsaw blade will smoke and fail to cut wood when the teeth on the chain are blunt or worn below the height of the rakers (depth gauges). The excessive friction between the dulled chain and the wood creates a heat build-up, which eventually causes the chain and wood to smoke.

  • Blunted chainsaw chain teeth won’t cut woodchips off the timber you’re trying to cut. 
  • When woodchips are removed from timber by a sharp chainsaw blade, they disperse heat. 
  • When no woodchips dislodge from the timber getting sawed by a blunt blade, the heat generated by the chainsaw blade forced into the wood remains in the timber and saw blade, resulting in overheating and smoking. 

Tip: Consult your chainsaw manual for the specified teeth sharpening angles and raker settings.

Read More – How to Cut Wood Without a Saw! 10 Quick Ways to Cut It Easily!

Why Is My Chainsaw Blade Burning the Wood?

Dull teeth on a chainsaw chain will create a rubbing effect on the wood rather than a cutting action. Rubbing motions do not disperse heat from the wood but heat it to a point where it begins to burn. A precise cutting action will dissipate heat from the wood, preventing the wood from burning.

When chainsaw chain rakers extend higher than the cutting teeth, the teeth aren’t able to bite into the timber, which prevents any cutting action. As a result, the wood starts burning from sheer friction and overheating. 

  • A reliable chain-sharpening tool is crucial to getting a safe, efficient cut from your chainsaw.
  • Here’s a terrific chain sharpener shootout video revealing what’s hot for chainsaw maestros. 
  • Test to see if bar oil is reaching the tip of the bar, start it up and point the blade tip at a tree trunk or a piece of cardboard. If oil sprays onto the target, you’re good to go. 
  • If no oil appears on the target, check the bar oil reservoir. If the oil reservoir seems full? Then you have a defective oil pump, a clogged reservoir outlet, or clogged oiler holes on the bar.
  • A jammed or stuffy bar channel may prevent oil from lubricating the entire bar. Ensure the bar channel is clear of timber residue.
chopping a downed tree or tree branch using a chain saw
Do you want to avoid chainsaw trouble, overheated chainsaw engines, blue smoke, and burnt wood? Then perform regular chainsaw maintenance! Chainsaw maintenance includes monitoring the chain sharpness, tension, and lubrication. But – we also urge caution! Sharpening a chainsaw blade is tricky and risky. Always wear thick protective gloves and gear. And never listen to anyone who says otherwise! We also found an excellent chainsaw blade sharpening technique on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Forestry Extension website with more saw blade sharpening tips. (Also – we urge you to read your chain saw’s owner’s manual first and foremost! Your chainsaw owner’s manual is the best source to learn about blade sharpening, tension, maintenance routine, and the recommended maintenance schedule for your specific chainsaw model.)

Read More – Stihl ms 291 vs Husqvarna 455 Rancher Chainsaw Review!

How Tight Should Your Chainsaw Chain Be?

There is no hard and fast rule on chainsaw chain tension. The tip we follow, however, is to set the chain tension to a point where it is taught but not overly tight, allowing a couple of millimeters of play between the chain and the bar in the middle of the bar.

How Long Should a Chainsaw Chain Last?

A chainsaw chain should last at least five years with proper maintenance, which includes cleaning, sharpening, lubricating, and tensioning. To extend the life of a chainsaw chain, take care not to buckle the bar or run the chain through steel nails and joiners. 

How Do I Know When My Chainsaw Bar Is Worn Out?

Signs of a worn-out chainsaw bar include premature chain wear, smoke rising from the blade, crooked cuts, the chain snagging in the wood getting cut, burrs forming on the bar rails, peeled paint on the bar, a warped bar, a widened bar channel groove, and a jammed or worn bar tip sprocket.

  • To inspect the condition of your chainsaw bar, remove the chain and the bar from the power head. Look for signs of wear and tear on the bar as described above.

Watch this excellent video on how to tell if your chainsaw bar gets worn out.

When A Chainsaw Bar Needs To Be Replaced!
lumberjack cutting pine tree with a chain saw
Is your chainsaw blade still smoking even after double-checking the blade’s sharpness? Then you may also want to consider your chainsaw’s oil pump! It reminds us of an excellent chain saw maintenance guide from the University of Missouri Extension website. They remind chainsaw operators that a lack of chainsaw blade lubrication is also a common reason why chainsaw blades smoke. (They also advise checking the oil port for wood chips or sawdust.) It makes sense to us. Less lubrication creates a ton of friction, heat, and smoke!

Read More – Spade vs. Shovel! Which Is Best for Trenching, Gardens, Dirt, and Snow?

Conclusion – And a Smoke-Free Finish

A smoking chainsaw blade is an early warning signal. Apart from posing a fire risk, a poorly serviced chainsaw blade could result in the chain snapping and causing severe physical harm. 

Follow these guidelines to diagnose the health of your chainsaw bar and chain, and get the best tools and bar oil for keeping that blade in prime condition, cutting better, and lasting longer!

Thanks again for reading.

Please let us know if you have more questions about the smokeless chain saw operation.

Have a great day!

cutting wood with a smoky saw during homemade carpentry project
Want to ensure your chainsaw cuts through logs, trees, and branches without overheating or blue smoke? Practice regular chainsaw maintenance! Chainsaw upkeep is more than double-checking to ensure your chainsaw blade remains sharp. Always clean your saw after use – and ensure proper lubrication! When cleaning, be careful. Even dull saw blades are surprisingly pointy. And before starting your chainsaw for the day, double-check the air filter, sprocket, cooling fins, and engine oil. Look for exhaust port blockages, dirty air filters, and empty oil ports. (Want more chain saw maintenance tips? Virginia Tech published an excellent chain saw maintenance cheat sheet we recommend to fellow homesteaders. Use it on your chainsaw before starting the day!)

Why Do Chainsaws Smoke? References, Guides, and Works Cited:

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