Learning How to Start a STIHL Chainsaw is fairly easy once you know the correct steps. In this article we tell you everything you need to know about starting a STIHL chainsaw and also what to do when your chainsaw won’t start. So, if you’re having any problems or you’re simply curious, you’ve come to the right place.
How to Start a STIHL Chainsaw
So, you’ve just bought your first Stihl chainsaw and you’re eager to get started. First of all, congratulations. STIHL is one of the best chainsaw brands on the market and you can be proud of your choice. Starting a Stihl chainsaw isn’t too different to starting any other. Most have the same levers and switches – choke, throttle, recoil starter, etc. Some stuff may differ, even from one Stihl model to another. Most will have a priming bulb and, perhaps, a decompression valve.
If you’ve never used a chainsaw before, you may be a little apprehensive about starting it for the first time. There’s no need to worry, this article is going to provide a step by step guide on how to start a Stihl chainsaw. You should find it useful for starting most chainsaws from major brands. One of the things that may differ between a Stihl and other chainsaws is that most have a switch for an on-off-run position. Stihl has simplified the starting procedure by incorporating all this into a single master control lever at the back handle.
VIDEO | How to Start A STIHL Chainsaw
In addition to learning how to start your Stihl chainsaw, I’ll also provide some basic safety tips for beginners and troubleshooting advice. If your chainsaw won’t start, even after following the guidelines, this article will help you with that too.
Before you start your chainsaw, always do the basic checks. Do this every time, without fail.
Chainsaw Checklist when Starting
- Check that your chain is fitted correctly and that the chain is at the correct tension.
- Check the condition of your chain and the cutting teeth.
- Check that the chain brake moves freely and engages.
- Check your chain lubrication. Most Stihl chainsaws have automatic chain lubrication and they will have a reservoir for the oil.
- Fill the gas tank with fuel that is mixed with 2-stroke oil at the correct ratio. You can find this in your instruction manual.
- Check the spark plug, the boot must seat firmly against it.
Having done the basic checks, you know that your chainsaw is safe and ready for use. So let’s get the thing fired up and roaring like a beast.
Starting Your Stihl Chainsaw — Cold Start
Starting a chainsaw when the engine is cold requires using the choke. For a warm start, you can skip this step. So for a warm start, you’ll move the master control directly to the run position. Otherwise, the steps on how to start your Stihl chainsaw remain the same for both hot and cold starting.
Read the steps for starting below the video. It’s always helpful to see exactly how it’s done by watching it first.
VIDEO | How to Start A STIHL Chainsaw
Step-by-Step : Starting Your STIHL Chainsaw :
- Start by removing the bar cover and follow the above-mentioned checklist.
- Engage the chain brake by pushing the chain guard forward until it clicks into position. If you don’t do this the chain will rotate when you pull the recoil starter cord.
- Your Stihl chainsaw most likely has a decompression valve. It will be at the top of the engine cover, somewhere behind the front handle. Push the decompression valve. This relieves engine compression and makes it easier to pull the recoil starter.
- To one side of your Stihl chainsaw, you’ll find a small, translucent plastic bubble. This is the primer bulb and is used to remove air from the fuel pipe, so that it can flow to the carburetor. Press it a few times, it helps the engine start quicker. Don’t press the bulb too many times as this may flood the engine.
- The master control lever sets the idling speed and choke. It is situated just next to the rear handle. You need to set this lever to the Choke (cold start) position. To do this, grab hold of the handle and press down on the throttle trigger lock – it’s on top of the handle and you use your thumb to depress it. With your forefinger, pull the throttle in and pull the master control lever all the way down to the choke position.
- Now place the chainsaw on firm, level ground. Ensure that the bar and chain don’t make contact with the surface.
- Grab the front handle with your left hand and maintain a strong grip to secure the chainsaw. Use the front end of your boot to press the rear handle to the ground. Once you have the chainsaw properly secured, grab hold of the recoil starter rope with your right hand. Left-handed people would most likely want to use the opposite hands to the way I’ve suggested.
- Gently pull upward on the starter rope until you feel some resistance. You always want to pull directly upward, avoiding contact between the rope and the chainsaw casing.
- Once you feel tension on the starter rope, give it a few strong tugs. The engine will fire up and then splutter a little, before shutting off. This is normal and there’s no need for concern.
- Once the engine has died, move the master control lever up to the next position – half throttle.
- Pull the starter rope again, as you did in step 8. It may take a few pulls until the engine starts.
- Once the engine is running, tap the throttle trigger quickly. You should notice the master control lever move to the normal idle position.
- Using the front handle, lift the chainsaw. Avoid accidentally touching the throttle trigger whilst doing so.
- With a firm grip on the rear handle and the thumb of your left hand around the front handle, use the fingers of your left hand to pull the chain brake back toward the handle. This releases the chain brake and allows the chain to rotate on the sprocket.
- Check the chain lubrication by holding the chainsaw upward, against a light background. Squeeze the throttle trigger to until the chain reaches maximum revs. You should see the lubricant glistening on the chain.
- This now means that you’re ready to get to work with your chainsaw.
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What to do if your chainsaw won’t start
So you’ve followed all the steps on how to start your Stihl chainsaw and it still won’t start or run. Before you throw in the towel and give up, here are some pointers as to what the problem may be. It could be a simple oversight on your part, so may want to go through all the steps again to make sure you’ve done everything correctly.
If you still have no success, here’s what to look for :
The engine needs a spark to ignite the fuel, that’s what the spark plug does. Spark plug failure is not uncommon, particularly with 2-stroke engines – like those used for most chainsaws. Carbon on the spark plug or corrosion can cause a weak spark, or no spark at all.
First make sure that the lead from the coil to the spark plug is properly secured. When you pull the boot off the top of the spark plug, you should hear a popping sound. If not, press it firmly back into position and try start your chainsaw. If it fails to start, you’ll need to check the spark plug.
First remove the spark plug using the wrench that has been supplied with the chainsaw. You can test the spark by connecting the ignition coil lead to the spark plug and touching the metal part of the plug to the engine head. With the plug touching the metal surface of the engine, pull on the recoil starter. If you see a spark between the plug terminals, all is good. If not, you can check the spark plug as follows.
The plug may be blackened and sooty. It may also be corroded and covered in rust. Clean the spark plug with a wire brush. Using a little gas will also help. If you notice any damage, like a crack in the ceramic top, replace the spark plug. Test the spark plug before refitting. If you’re sure the spark plug is good and there is still no spark, you need to move onto the next step.
The ignition coil provides the boosted power needed to create the spark. If it is not functioning, this is likely to be the reason why a spark plug in good condition fails to produce a spark.
Check that all the connections to the ignition coil are secure and that none of the wires are damaged. You may have to replace the coil if there is no sign of an electric fault.
One of the biggest causes for a chainsaw refusing to start is as a result of a flooded engine. This happens when there is too much gas in the combustion chamber and the spark plug gets wet from the excess fuel. The most common cause for engine flooding is when you push repeatedly on the primer bulb, sending through too much fuel.
You will often smell gas when the engine is flooded. You can also check by removing the spark plug and inspecting it. If the spark plug is wet, the engine has been flooded.
If the engine is flooded, you need to remove the spark plug and tilt the chainsaw to allow the excess gas to flow out of the spark plug opening.
If your recoil starter does not return to its normal position after you’ve pulled it, the spring is probably faulty and will need to be replaced.
If you pull on the recoil starter and feel no resistance from the engine, the flywheel key may well be sheared and will need to be replaced.
If your chainsaw has been standing unused for a length of time, the fuel is likely to have gone stale. Old fuel should be drained, and the fuel pipe will need to be cleaned.
Debris may also collect in the gas tank. This will mean that you need to flush the tank and clean the fuel pipe, before adding fresh fuel.
Clogged Air Filter
Chainsaws collect a lot of debris in the air filter. All the sawdust that is churned up quickly collects in the air filter. You should check and clean your air filter regularly.
Fuel that is left in a carburetor for too long will evaporate, leaving behind a sticky, tar-like residue. This can easily clog the jets inside the carburetor. Use carburetor cleaner to remove this residue.
VIDEO | What to Check if Your Chainsaw Won’t Start
✓ For more information read our comprehensive article on what to do when you’re chainsaw won’t start.
There are two factors to using a chainsaw safely in order to prevent a serious injury. The first step is to use the correct PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) gear. You should wear a helmet, along with ear and eye protection. Wear suitable long trousers and a forestry jacket. Steel-tipped or another type of safety boot is also important.
Working correctly is crucial to ensuring your safety. A chainsaw is incredibly powerful and the working environment can be hazardous. Always be aware of your environment, especially if you’re cutting trees in a forest. Branches can crack and snap back at you. Branches and trees can fall unexpectedly. If you’re cutting firewood, make sure the logs that you’re cutting are secure and won’t roll as you work.
Many chainsaw related injuries result from kickback. This is when the bar becomes pinched or jammed and the chainsaw is flung back toward you with immense force. To avoid kickback, you need to always maintain a proper grip on the chainsaw. Always use both hands – one on the rear handle and one on the front. Position your front hand so that you can reach the chain brake easily in an emergency. Maintain a sure footing, by standing with your feet about 12” apart on solid, dry ground. Never cut with the tip of the chainsaw and consider using a low-kickback bar.
If you feel the chainsaw begin to push back at you, lock your front elbow and engage the chain brake immediately.
Another common safety issue is a loose chain. When the chain comes off the bar it moves backward at high speed. Always check your chain to make sure it is in good condition. Regularly check your chain tensioning. If the tension is too high the chain can easily snap. If the tension is too slack, the chain can work loose from the bar.
✓ For more information read the STIHL Chainsaw Safety Manual
STIHL even provides a comprehensive encyclopedia of trees that you might find interesting or useful. Either way, they’ve clearly put a lot of effort into creating it for their customers.