Do Electric Chainsaws Need Oil? (Everything Explained)

Do electric chainsaws need oil?

Yes, electric chainsaws do need oil to keep the bar and chain lubricated. Without oil, the friction between the bar and chain will generate a ton of heat, which can cause serious damage to the saw. Out of all the available options, “bar & chain oil” is the best option for electric chainsaws.

Btw, I’m Sam, and I have more than two decades of experience in the power tools industry. 

I’ve worked with all kinds of saws, and I love sharing my knowledge & tips with my audience!

In this article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about oiling your electric chainsaw (from choosing the right oil to troubleshooting a saw that’s not oiling!).

So, let’s dive in! 💦

What Happens If You Run Your Electric Chainsaw Without Oil?

Well, here’s what happens: 👇

Poor Cutting Performance

The “one & only” job of the oil you put into your electric chainsaw is to keep the chain moving smoothly along the bar.

But when there’s no oil, the chain won’t glide easily, making it harder for the saw to cut through wood. This results in poor cutting performance (and an awful experience 💢).

Serious Damage to Your Chainsaw

Chainsaws require oil to keep the bar & chain lubricated while in use (and electric ones are NO exception!). This reduces friction and keeps the whole thing smooth.

But if you run your electric chainsaw without lubrication, the increased friction between the bar and chain will generate a ton of heat, which can cause serious damage to your chainsaw.

The chain may get stretched and break, the motor could overheat or seize up, the bar may warp or develop cracks, and the sprocket might wear out.

Basically, all of the moving parts linked to the chain are at RISK!!

Your Chainsaw Starts to Smoke

chainsaw smoking

That’s not all!

If you run your electric chainsaw without oil, you might see a lot of smoke coming out of it. This is a sign that your chainsaw is overheating due to the lack of lubrication.

If this happens, it’s already too late. You should immediately turn off your saw before everything in it gets “fried”!

Read this article, where I’ve covered 7 other reasons why your chainsaw might be smoking!

How to Add Oil to an Electric Chainsaw?

Adding oil to an electric chainsaw is a fairly simple process.

Here’s how you can do it: 👇

  1. Make sure your chainsaw is turned off.
  2. Locate the oil tank on your chainsaw, usually near the bar & chain.
  3. Open the oil cap and fill the tank with quality bar & chain oil. Don’t overfill it!
  4. Close the cap tightly and wipe off any excess oil.

💡 PRO TIP: Use a funnel to avoid spilling oil and making a mess.

Yeah, it’s that easy!

Here’s a video showing you the same: 👇

How Much Oil Should You Add?

This varies depending on the oil tank size and how much oil is left before refilling.

Generally, the oil tank capacity for electric chainsaws is around 5 to 10 oz. (150ml to 300ml). So, you should add the full amount if your tank is empty.

If there’s still oil left in the tank, you can top it off until it reaches the appropriate level!

How Often Do You Need to Oil an Electric Chainsaw?

You should check and refill the oil tank of your electric chainsaw before starting work. Also, during use, if the oil level reaches 1/4 or less, you should top up the oil tank.

I always carry an extra bottle of bar & chain oil while using my electric chainsaw, just in case I need to refill it.

How to Check if Your Electric Chainsaw is Oiling?

Chainsaw not oiling?

Here’s how you can check: 👇

  1. Turn on your chainsaw & point it at a light-colored surface (like a white piece of paper or cardboard).
  2. Rev the saw a few times and observe if there are oil droplets on the surface.
  3. If there’s no oil, check the oil tank level and refill it.
  4. If there’s still no oil after refilling, there’s something wrong with your chainsaw’s oiling system. Most probably, it’s due to clogged oil holes or a faulty oil pump.
how to check if chainsaw is oiling

Also, look out for signs like –

  • overheating bar & chain,
  • burnt smell,
  • a lot of smoke,
  • the chain keeps getting stuck while cutting.

I’ve made an entire guide on how to troubleshoot & fix a chainsaw that’s not oiling; you can check it out!

What Kind of Oil is Best for Electric Chainsaws?

Bar & chain oil” is best for electric chainsaws. This type of oil is specially formulated for lubricating and protecting the bar and chain of your chainsaw. It has dozens of cool features like –

  1. ✅ High viscosity: Bar & chain oil has a high viscosity, making it thick and sticky. This allows it to stay on the chain and bar (even at high speeds), providing non-stop lubrication!
  2. ✅ Tackiness: Also, it’s designed to be “tacky”. It clings to the chain and bar, reducing sling-off. Also, its tackiness prevents it from flinging off the chain during operation.
  3. ✅ Anti-Wear Additives: This type of oil often contains additives that reduce wear and tear on the chain and bar.
  4. ✅ Environmental Friendly: Some bar & chain oils are formulated to be biodegradable.

Best Chainsaw Bar & Chain I've Used

Here are 3 bar & chain oils that I’ve used and recommend: 👇

You can find these at your local retailer or online!

On average, a quart (946 ml or 32 oz.) size bottle of bar & chain oil will cost you between $10-$15. Going for a smaller 8 oz. bottle will cost you around $5-$7.

And to give you an idea, a quart (946 ml) of bar & chain oil will easily last you around 2-3 months (assuming moderate use).

Can You Use Vegetable Oil for Electric Chainsaw?

Yes, you can use vegetable oil as a substitute for bar & chain oil in your electric chainsaw. But it’s not a good option for the long term.

But are vegetable oils better than ban & chain oils?

No chance!

Have a look at the PROS and CONS of using vegetable oil over bar & chain oil for chainsaw: 

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!).

I personally used vegetable oils 3-4 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).

If you’re also planning to give it a try, you can use –

  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soyabean oil
  • Corn oil (summer only plz)

Can You Use Motor Oil for Electric Chainsaw?

If you’ve run out of bar & chain oil, you can use motor oil (like 5W-30 or 10W-30) for lubrication. 

But it’s not recommended to use motor oil as a substitute for bar & chain oil in your electric chainsaw for long periods, especially “used” motor oil that has been drained from a vehicle.

Here’s why: 👇

  • First of all, used motor oil has microscopic metal bits that act as an abrasive and can cause serious wear to your saw’s bar & chain.
  • Plus, used motor oil is already broken down, so it’ll sling off your saw 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 have to clean your boots, pants, and gear more frequently.
  • On top of it, used motor oil has chemical additives that can be harmful to the environment and your health!

So, considering these points, I don’t think using motor oil in your electric chainsaw is worth the risk!

However, If you’re in a pinch and can’t get your hands on bar & chain oil, you can use motor oil (something is better than nothing, right? 🤷‍♂️).

I used Castrol 10W-30 in my saws a couple of times, and it ran pretty well!

But NO comparison with a premium bar & chain oil, of course.

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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