Maintaining Your Chainsaw: Air and Fuel Filter Care for Peak Performance

North American Training SolutionsBlog

Chainsaws need air and fuel to run properly. Some very quick and easy basic maintenance can go a long way to keeping your saw running in tip top condition.  

The air filter should be cleaned after every day of work, which is around 4 or more tanks of gas through the saw. The air filter is usually located under the top cover of the saw, between the muffler and gas tank/rear handle. The location may vary slightly on a top handle “arborist” chainsaw. Air filters don’t last forever, and professional users should plan to replace them every 3 months with heavy use (4 or more tanks of gas per day, 5-6 days per week).

Remove and inspect the air filter. We recommend covering or plugging the opening to the carburetor whenever the air filter is removed, just so any contaminants don’t end up in the cylinder by accident. Inspect the air filter for any tears in the fabric or cracks in the plastic. If the air filter is damaged, it must be replaced before the saw can be used again. Many air filters are two pieces, which can be separated using a flathead screwdriver on the tab along the side of the filter.  

There are several types of air filters, but they can all be cleaned the same way. First, they can be gently tapped. Dust and debris can be seen falling out of the air filter. Second, they can be washed in warm, soapy water. Dish detergent works best if you let it soak for a few minutes, swish it in the water, and rinse with warm/hot water. Let the filter air dry overnight.  

Extremely dirty cutting conditions, such as in the aftermath of a wildfire, may require cleaning the air filter more often. It may be necessary to carry a spare air filter, and swap them out part way through the day.

A word of caution- many people use compressed air to clean their air filters. Most shop air compressors are turned up to 60-80 psi, which is just too much for use on an air filter. That compressed air coming out of the nozzle on a blow gun will damage the filter that protects the cylinder from fine foreign debris. If you do use compressed air, plan to replace that filter much more frequently.

The other half of the equation to keep saws running smoothly is the fuel. There is a fuel filter in the gas tank. If it is dirty, there’s no way the saw can get the gas it needs to run properly. Fuel filters should be replaced annually, regardless of how much the saw is used. Replace the fuel filter anytime the tank is obviously contaminated with dirt/sawdust, snow/water, or bar oil. 

The filters are brand specific, so get a few from your local dealer to keep on hand, and keep them in a very clean place. If possible, do not touch them with your bare hands (nitrile gloves are recommended when working on the fuel system). Use a piece of bent wire (bent like a “J” hook) to fish the filter out of the gas tank. There’s plenty of hose for it to hang outside of the gas tank.  Pop the old filter off the end of the hose and plug the new filter on. You’re done! Fuel up the saw and you’re ready to head back to work.

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