Can I Use 10W-30 for Chainsaw Bar Oil? (Spoiler: YES!)

Yes, you can use 10W-30 motor oils for your chainsaw bar oil, but it’s not recommended. Because 10W-30 oils are thinner and don’t have the proper additives to provide adequate lubrication for your chainsaw bar and chain. This may result in increased wear and tear on your chainsaw.

I’m Sam and I’ve been using chainsaws for more than two decades now.

In this article, I’m going to share my POV on using 10W-30 motor oil for chainsaw bar & chain oil, and whether it’s worth it or not.

Are you ready??

Let’s get started!

What Does "10W-30" Really Mean?

what does 10W-30 mean for a motor oil

The term “10W-30” on a motor oil bottle means that the oil acts like 10W when the engine is cold and 30W when the engine is hot.

If I break it down even further – 👇

  1. The “10” represents the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures, specifically at 0°C (32°F). Lower numbers mean the oil flows more easily in cold weather. In this case, a 10W oil has a lower viscosity & will flow better than a 15W or 20W oil when the engine is cold.
  2. The “30” represents the oil’s viscosity at high temperatures, typically at 100°C (212°F). A 30-weight oil will maintain its thickness better than a 10W or 5W oil when the engine is hot!

And lastly, the “W” stands for “winter,” indicating the low-temperature viscosity. So, in the case of 10W-30 oil:

  • It flows well in cold weather because of the “10W” rating.
  • As the engine gets hot, it starts to act like a “30W” oil (maintaining its thickness & providing adequate protection to the engine).

These types of oils are called multigrade oils!

Are There Multigrade Chainsaw Bar Oils?

No, chainsaw bar oils are only available in single grades like 10W, 20W, or 30W.


Multigrade oils, like 10W-30 we talked about earlier, change their “thickness” with temperature. They’re more fluid when cold & thicker when hot!

That’s perfect for engines where you need the oil to flow well at startup but also provide GOOD protection when the engine heats up.

But chainsaw bar oils are designed to provide constant lubrication to the bar and chain, regardless of the amount of heat being generated during operation.

However, depending on the weather conditions of where you live, you can choose a thicker or thinner single-grade bar oil. For example:

  • ✅ Use 10W bar oil in winter.
  • ✅ Use 20W bar oil in spring (brands also label these as “all-season” oils).
  • ✅ Use 30W bar oil for summer.

Differences Between 10W-30 and Regular Chainsaw Bar Oils

Here are the main differences between chainsaw bar & chain oil and 10W-30 motor oil: 👇

Bar & Chain Oil10W-30 Oil
Lubricating the chainsaw’s bar and chain during operation.Lubricating internal engine parts.
Bar & chain oils are usually thicker and more viscous.Typically thinner, with a wider range of operating temperatures.
Regular bar & chain oils are formulated with tackifiers, which give them a "tacky" consistency and prevent them from flinging off at high speeds.10W-30 motor oils don't have any tackifiers, which causes them to sling off the chain and bar easily.
Provides effective protection against wear, extending the lifespan of chains and bars.Insufficient protection, may lead to premature wear and damage.
Some bar & chain oils are designed to be more environmentally friendly and biodegradable.Not designed for biodegradability or eco-friendliness.

Are Chainsaw Bar Oils More Expensive than 10W-30 Motor Oils?

YES, there were times when bar & chain oils were more expensive than motor oils. But, the scenario has changed drastically!

And if you’re someone like me, who regularly visits Walmart or Home Depot, you might have noticed that both bar & chain oils and 10W-30 motor oils have almost the same price tag now.

On average, a quart of bar and chain oil is between $7-$10. If you pick a gallon (1 US gallon = 4 quarts), it’ll cost you between $20-$30.

chainsaw bar oil price

On the other hand, a quart of 10W-30 motor oil is usually between $6-$12 (MAX $14 if it’s synthetic). If you pick a 5-quart jug, it’ll cost you between $20-$35.

So, it’s clear that 10W-30 motor oil and bar & chain oils are similar in terms of price! (In fact, sometimes, you might even find bar & chain oils to be cheaper than 10W-30 motor oils!)

My POV on Using 10W-30 Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil

YES, you can use 10W-30 motor oil as a substitute for chainsaw bar & chain oil, but is it worth it? 🤔


Let me explain:

Bar & chain oils are formulated specially for lubricating the bar and chain of your chainsaw.

They have additives that make them “stickier” (which means they cling to the bar & chain better, providing prolonged lubrication and reducing wear).

On the other hand, 10W-30 motor oils aren’t designed for this. Sure, they’re great at lubricating engine parts, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to do the job for your chainsaw!

They’re not “thick” enough to provide adequate lubrication for your chainsaw bar and chain. They’ll sling off easily, leaving your chainsaw vulnerable to wear and tear.

On top of it, 10W-30 motor oils and chainsaw bar oils cost almost the same!

So, the bottom line??

I literally see NO reason to use 10W-30 motor oil instead of bar & chain oil for your chainsaw.

The only situation I can think of is an emergency where you ran out of bar & chain oil and had to use motor oil as a “temporary” solution. (Something is better than nothing!)

But, my advice?

Stick with the right oil for the job. It’ll save you the trouble of potential damages and costly repairs in the long run!

Chainsaw Bar & Chain Oils that I Use

Here are 3 bar & chain oils that I use and recommend: 👇

You can find these at your local retailer or online!

Can I Use "Used" 10W-30 Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil?

It's not recommended to use used or drained motor oil for chainsaw bar oil.

No, it’s not recommended to use “used” 10W-30 motor oil as a substitute for your chainsaw bar oil. 

Used motor oil drained from an engine contains microscopic metal bits that act as an abrasive and can cause serious wear to your saw’s bar and chain.

Plus used motor oil has already lost its viscosity and lubrication properties, so it’ll sling off faster and affect the performance of your saw!

And since the viscosity is so LOW, you’ll find more oil spatter while using your saw. This means you’ll need to clean your boots, pants, and gear more frequently.

That’s not all!

Used motor oil can also be harmful to the environment and your health.

What Else Can I Use Instead of Chainsaw Bar Oil?

If you’re in a pinch and don’t have chainsaw bar oil, you can also use vegetable oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, soyabean oil, olive oil, etc.

Before you go and fill up your chainsaw with vegetable oil, have a look at the PROS & CONS: 👇

It's environmentally friendly.It has a lower viscosity compared to bar & chain oil, meaning it's not as sticky and might get flung off the chain easily (and you may notice some leaking!).
It's way cheaper than bar & chain oil.It smells like you're frying chicken!
NO need to worry about any harmful chemicals.It doesn't contain any anti-wear additives.
It's readily available. (You probably already have it in your kitchen!)If you leave your saw unused for 3-6 months, the oil may gum up and seize up your saw (which requires a great deal of effort in cleaning, btw!).

But are vegetable oils better than bar & chain oils?

No way!

I used vegetable oil in my chainsaw many times.

And tbh, I didn’t notice any significant difference in performance (except for the “fried chicken” smell and dripping oil from the bar & chain).

Samuel Anali

Hey there! My name is Sam, and I'm the NERD behind this site. I'm an avid chainsaw enthusiast, and I've been tinkering with them since I was 17 (it's almost 20 years now!).

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