6 Common STIHL Chainsaw Starting Problems And Possible Fixes

In the world of outdoor power equipment, few names resonate as strongly as STIHL. With a heritage dating back to 1926, STIHL Chainsaw has consistently set the gold standard in the industry.

Their chainsaws, in particular, have earned a reputation for being rugged, reliable, and unwavering in the face of demanding cutting tasks. From professional arborists to homeowners, STIHL chainsaws have found their place in countless hands, making them an integral part of various applications.

The Significance of STIHL Chainsaws

STIHL chainsaws are known for their exceptional performance and versatility in a wide range of applications. Whether you’re a professional arborist, a homeowner maintaining a garden, or a firefighter battling wildfires, these chainsaws have proven their worth.

However, to fully harness their potential, one crucial aspect stands out – a dependable starting mechanism.

The Need for Reliable Starting Mechanisms

Imagine being in a critical situation that demands immediate action, only to find that your STIHL chainsaw won’t start. Such scenarios emphasize the importance of a reliable starting mechanism.

Whether it’s for emergency response, tree felling, or routine yard work, a functional chainsaw can be a lifesaver.

The Basics of STIHL Chainsaw Starting

Understanding the Starting Process

Starting an STIHL chainsaw may seem straightforward, but a deeper understanding of the process can ensure a smoother and more reliable start every time. Let’s break it down step by step:

1. Fuel and Oil Check: Ensure that your chainsaw has a sufficient fuel and oil supply. Chainsaws require a specific fuel-to-oil mixture for proper lubrication and engine performance. Refer to your user manual for the correct ratios.

2. Prime the Engine: Many STIHL chainsaws have a primer bulb that you should press several times. This action draws fuel into the carburetor, making cold starts easier.

3. Set the Choke: In colder weather, setting the choke to the closed position enriches the fuel mixture for easier starting. In warmer conditions, the choke should be open.

4. Activate the Decompression Valve (if applicable): Some models come with a decompression valve to reduce the initial resistance on the starter cord. This is particularly helpful when starting a cold engine.

5. Engage the Chain Brake: For safety, always engage the chain brake before starting. This prevents the chain from moving while the engine is running.

6. Pull the Starter Cord: Grasp the starter handle firmly and give it a smooth, brisk pull. The engine should fire and begin to run.

7. Warm-Up: Allow the chainsaw to warm up for a minute or two before engaging in heavy cutting tasks. This helps optimize engine performance and reduces the risk of stalling.

Essential Components Involved in Starting

Several key components play a role in the starting process of an STIHL chainsaw:

1. Recoil Starter: The starter cord is wound around a recoil starter assembly. When you pull the cord, it engages the engine’s flywheel, initiating the engine’s movement.

2. Carburetor: The carburetor is responsible for mixing air and fuel in the correct proportions. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the engine receives the right fuel-air mixture for combustion.

3. Ignition System: The ignition system generates the spark needed to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the engine’s cylinder. It includes components like spark plugs and ignition coils.

4. Choke and Decompression Valve: These components are used to adjust the air-fuel mixture and compression for easier starts, especially in cold conditions.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Maintaining your STIHL chainsaw is not just about extending its lifespan; it’s also about ensuring reliable starts and consistent performance. Regular maintenance tasks include:

  • Cleaning the Air Filter: A dirty air filter can restrict airflow and affect starting and overall performance. Clean or replace it regularly.
  • Checking Spark Plugs: Inspect and clean or replace spark plugs as needed. A well-functioning spark plug is essential for ignition.
  • Cleaning the Carburetor: Over time, the carburetor can accumulate dirt and gunk, affecting fuel delivery. Cleaning it can improve starting.
  • Inspecting the Starter Cord and Recoil Starter: Ensure the starter cord is in good condition, and the recoil starter assembly is functioning smoothly.
  • Regular Fuel and Oil Mixture: Always use the recommended fuel-oil mixture and ensure that the fuel is fresh and properly mixed.

By understanding the starting process, knowing the key components involved, and committing to regular maintenance, you can ensure that your STIHL chainsaw starts reliably and performs at its best when you need it most.

In the following sections, we’ll explore common starting problems and their fixes to further assist you in maintaining a smoothly running chainsaw.

Common STIHL Chainsaw Starting Problems

Starting your STIHL chainsaw should be a straightforward process, but various issues can disrupt this, leaving you frustrated and your cutting tasks on hold. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common starting problems and their possible reasons, providing you with insights on how to overcome these challenges and keep your “STIHL Chainsaw” running smoothly.

Hard or Difficult Starting

Issues Related to Pulling the Starter Cord

Excessive Resistance: A common problem when starting your STIHL chainsaw is encountering excessive resistance when pulling the starter cord. This resistance can be attributed to several factors:

  • Engine Flood: If the engine has been flooded with too much fuel, it can create high compression within the cylinder, making it difficult to pull the starter cord. This can happen if you’ve been overly generous with the primer bulb or choke.
  • Stale Fuel: Old or stale fuel can become gummy, leading to clogs in the carburetor or fuel lines. This can cause resistance when trying to start the engine.
  • Fouled Spark Plug: A fouled or malfunctioning spark plug can lead to incomplete combustion, increasing resistance when pulling the starter cord.
  • Worn Recoil Starter Assembly: Over time, the recoil starter assembly can become worn or damaged, leading to increased resistance during the starting process.

Possible Reasons Behind Hard Starting

Cold Weather: Cold temperatures can affect starting by making the fuel-air mixture less combustible and increasing the need for a closed choke. In extremely cold conditions, it’s essential to warm up the engine and use the choke appropriately.

Improper Technique: Pulling the starter cord with too much force or at the wrong angle can lead to resistance. A smooth and controlled pull is often more effective.

Engine Maintenance: Neglecting regular maintenance, such as cleaning the air filter, can lead to issues like poor airflow, which in turn affects starting.

Fuel Quality: Using low-quality fuel or failing to mix the fuel and oil at the correct ratio can result in a hard start.

Carburetor Adjustment: An improperly adjusted carburetor can lead to a lean or rich fuel mixture, both of which can affect starting.

Engine Floods

What Is Engine Flooding, and What Are Its Consequences?

Engine flooding occurs when there’s an excessive amount of fuel in the combustion chamber, making it impossible for the engine to start. This can lead to several consequences:

  • Reduced Compression: Excess fuel can wash away the oil film on the cylinder walls, reducing compression and making it challenging for the engine to generate enough power to start.
  • Wet Spark Plug: A flooded engine can lead to a wet spark plug, preventing the spark needed for ignition.
  • Hydrolock: In extreme cases, if the cylinder becomes completely filled with fuel, it can lead to hydrolock, potentially causing severe engine damage.

Causes of Engine Flooding in STIHL Chainsaws

Engine flooding can happen for various reasons:

  • Over-Priming: Using the primer bulb excessively can flood the engine with fuel. It’s important to prime the engine according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Choke Misuse: Keeping the choke closed when the engine is already warm or not using it appropriately in cold conditions can lead to flooding.
  • Carburetor Issues: A malfunctioning carburetor can cause an incorrect fuel-to-air mixture, potentially leading to flooding.
  • Starting Technique: Incorrect starting techniques, such as pulling the starter cord too many times without allowing the engine to fire, can lead to flooding.

No Spark

Lack of Spark as a Starting Issue

A lack of spark in the ignition system is a common starting issue. Without a spark, the fuel in the combustion chamber cannot ignite, rendering the engine unable to start.

Identify Common Reasons for the Absence of Spark

Several factors can lead to a lack of spark:

  • Fouled or Damaged Spark Plug: A spark plug covered in carbon deposits or damaged electrodes will not generate a spark.
  • Faulty Ignition Components: Issues with the ignition coil, ignition module, or spark plug wire can result in a lack of spark.
  • Wiring Problems: Damaged or disconnected wires in the ignition system can interrupt the spark generation process.
  • Ignition Switch Issues: A faulty ignition switch can prevent the flow of electricity to the ignition system.

Old or Stale Fuel

How Old or Stale Fuel Affects Starting

Fuel that has been sitting for an extended period can cause starting issues:

  • Fuel Degradation: Over time, the volatile components in the fuel evaporate, leaving behind a less combustible mixture.
  • Residue Buildup: Stale fuel can leave behind residue in the carburetor and fuel lines, leading to clogs and starting problems.

Provide Guidance on Fuel Maintenance

To avoid the problems associated with old or stale fuel:

  • Use Fresh Fuel: Whenever possible, use fresh fuel to ensure optimal engine performance.
  • Proper Fuel Storage: Store fuel in an airtight container and add a fuel stabilizer to extend its shelf life.
  • Regular Use: If your chainsaw will be sitting for an extended period, run it dry of fuel to prevent any residue buildup.

Air Filter Problems

How a Clogged Air Filter Impacts Starting

A clean air filter is essential for allowing a proper airflow-to-fuel ratio. When the air filter is clogged, it restricts the flow of air into the engine, affecting the starting process.

Tips for Inspecting and Cleaning the Air Filter

To prevent air filter-related starting issues:

  • Regular Inspection: Check the air filter regularly and clean or replace it when necessary.
  • Proper Cleaning: If cleaning the air filter, use the recommended method and allow it to dry before reinstalling.

Carburetor Issues

The Role of the Carburetor in Starting

The carburetor is a critical component responsible for mixing air and fuel in the correct proportions. If the carburetor is not functioning correctly, it can affect the fuel-air mixture and, consequently, starting.

Describe Common Carburetor Problems and Their Fixes

Common carburetor issues include:

  • Clogged Jets: Over time, jets in the carburetor can become clogged with debris or fuel deposits, affecting the mixture. Cleaning or replacing the jets can resolve this.
  • Improper Adjustment: An improperly adjusted carburetor can lead to a lean or rich fuel mixture, both of which can affect starting. Adjusting the carburetor to the manufacturer’s specifications can solve this issue.
  • Worn Gaskets or Diaphragms: If gaskets or diaphragms in the carburetor are worn or damaged, they can allow air leaks or affect fuel flow. Replacing these components can rectify the problem.

Now that we’ve covered a range of common starting problems in STIHL chainsaws and their possible causes, in the following sections, we’ll provide you with practical solutions and maintenance tips to overcome these challenges and ensure your “STIHL Chainsaw” starts reliably and runs smoothly.

Possible Fixes for STIHL Chainsaw Starting Problems

Dealing with starting problems on your STIHL Chainsaw can be a frustrating experience, but don’t worry, many of these issues have practical solutions. In this section, we’ll explore various fixes for common starting problems, ensuring your “STIHL Chainsaw” starts reliably and runs smoothly.

Hard Starting Solutions

1. Correct Pulling Technique

To address hard starting, it’s crucial to use the correct pulling technique when using the starter cord. Follow these steps for an efficient pull:

  • Steady and Controlled Pull: Instead of yanking the cord forcefully, use a steady and controlled pull. This technique is not only easier on your arm but also better for the engine.
  • Full Extension: Pull the cord fully to its end to ensure the engine gets the maximum compression for an effective start.

2. Maintenance of the Recoil Starter Assembly

A properly maintained recoil starter assembly is essential for consistent and smooth starts. To ensure it’s in good condition:

  • Inspect for Wear: Regularly check the recoil starter assembly for signs of wear, damage, or loose components. Address any issues promptly.
  • Lubrication: Apply lubricant to the moving parts of the assembly to ensure smooth operation.
  • Spring Tension: Verify that the recoil spring maintains proper tension. If it’s loose or damaged, it may need to be replaced.

Engine Flood Solutions

1. How to Clear a Flooded Engine

If you find your engine flooded, here’s what you can do to get it started:

  • Activate the Choke: Set the choke to the open position to allow more air into the combustion chamber.
  • Pull the Cord: Pull the starter cord to clear excess fuel from the engine. You may need to pull it several times until the engine starts.
  • Warm-Up: Once the engine starts, allow it to run for a few minutes to burn off any excess fuel and stabilize.

2. Preventative Measures to Avoid Engine Flooding

Preventing engine flooding is better than having to deal with it. Follow these measures:

  • Moderate Use of Choke and Primer: Use the choke and primer according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Avoid over-priming, especially in warm weather.
  • Proper Starting Technique: When starting, pull the cord smoothly and wait for the engine to fire before pulling again. Avoid excessive pulls without the engine igniting.
  • Regular Maintenance: Ensure your chainsaw is well-maintained with a clean air filter and a properly adjusted carburetor.

No Spark Fixes

1. Steps to Troubleshoot and Restore Spark

When dealing with a lack of spark, follow these troubleshooting steps:

  • Check the Spark Plug: Inspect the spark plug for fouling or damage. Clean or replace it if necessary.
  • Examine Ignition Components: Inspect the ignition coil, ignition module, and spark plug wire for wear, damage, or loose connections. Address any issues you find.
  • Verify Wiring: Ensure that all wires in the ignition system are properly connected and free from damage.
  • Test the Ignition Switch: If everything else checks out, test the ignition switch to ensure it’s functioning correctly.

2. Replacement of Ignition Components

If you’ve identified a specific issue with ignition components that cannot be fixed through troubleshooting, consider replacing the faulty part. Ensure you use genuine STIHL replacement parts for optimal performance.

Fuel Management Tips

1. Guidelines for Using Fresh and High-quality Fuel

To avoid fuel-related starting problems, follow these guidelines:

  • Use Fresh Fuel: Always use fresh, clean fuel. Avoid using fuel that has been sitting for an extended period.
  • Correct Fuel-Oil Ratio: Mix the fuel and oil at the recommended ratio for your chainsaw model.
  • High-Octane Fuel: Whenever possible, use high-octane gasoline for better engine performance.

2. How to Drain Old Fuel Properly

If your chainsaw will be idle for an extended period, drain the fuel tank and run the engine dry to prevent fuel degradation and residue buildup in the carburetor. Proper fuel storage and maintenance are key to avoiding starting problems related to fuel quality.

Air Filter Maintenance

1. Cleaning and Replacing the Air Filter

Proper air filter maintenance is essential for starting and overall engine performance. Here’s what you can do:

  • Regular Inspection: Inspect the air filter regularly. If you notice it’s dirty or clogged, it’s time for maintenance.
  • Cleaning the Air Filter: If your air filter is washable, clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and allow it to dry before reinstalling.
  • Replacing the Air Filter: If your air filter is not washable or is severely clogged, replace it with a new, genuine STIHL air filter.

2. Importance of a Clean Air Filter for Starting

A clean air filter allows the engine to receive the proper air-to-fuel mixture for combustion. Neglecting the air filter can lead to reduced airflow, affecting the starting process and overall performance.

Carburetor Adjustment

1. Instructions for Adjusting the Carburetor

A properly adjusted carburetor is crucial for the correct fuel-air mixture and optimal engine performance. Follow these instructions for adjusting the carburetor:

  • Consult the Manual: Refer to your chainsaw’s manual for specific carburetor adjustment instructions and settings.
  • Use a Tachometer: To achieve precise adjustments, consider using a tachometer to measure the engine’s RPM while adjusting the carburetor.
  • Careful Adjustment: Make small adjustments to the carburetor screws, testing the engine’s performance after each change. Keep safety in mind during this process.

2. Signs that Indicate a Need for Carburetor Adjustment

Common signs that your carburetor may need adjustment include:

  • Stalling: If your engine stalls frequently, it may be running too lean or too rich.
  • Poor Acceleration: Difficulty accelerating or a sluggish response can be a sign of an incorrect fuel-air mixture.
  • Excessive Smoke or Overheating: A poorly adjusted carburetor can lead to excessive smoke or overheating.

By following these possible fixes and maintenance tips, you can overcome common starting problems and ensure your “STIHL Chainsaw” is always ready to perform when you need it most. In the following sections, we’ll delve into additional maintenance practices and tips to keep your chainsaw in top working condition.

Preventative Maintenance for Reliable STIHL Chainsaw Starting

Maintaining your STIHL Chainsaw is not just about extending its lifespan; it’s about ensuring reliable starts, consistent performance, and efficient operation. By incorporating a proactive approach to maintenance, you can keep your “STIHL Chainsaw” in top working condition and ready to perform when you need it most.

Regular Maintenance Schedule

Establishing a regular maintenance schedule is the cornerstone of preventative maintenance. It ensures that your chainsaw receives the care it needs to keep starting reliably. Here’s what a typical schedule might look like:

1. Daily Maintenance

  • Chain Inspection: Before each use, check the chainsaw’s chain for damage, proper tension, and sharpness. A well-maintained chain ensures efficient cutting.
  • Oil Level: Ensure the bar and chain oil reservoir is adequately filled to provide lubrication during operation.
  • Air Filter: Inspect the air filter for dirt and debris. Clean or replace it if necessary.
  • Spark Plug: Check the spark plug for fouling or damage. Clean or replace it as needed.

2. Weekly Maintenance

  • Chain Sharpening: Sharpen the chain’s cutting teeth regularly to maintain cutting efficiency. A dull chain can lead to hard starting and reduced performance.
  • Tightening Fasteners: Check and tighten all fasteners, including chain tensioning components and handlebar bolts.
  • Cylinder Fins: Ensure that the cylinder fins are clean and free from debris. Overheating can affect starting.

3. Monthly Maintenance

  • Air Filter Maintenance: On a monthly basis, remove and clean the air filter. A clean air filter is essential for starting and engine performance.
  • Throttle Lock and Stop Switch: Inspect the throttle lockout and stop switch for proper operation.
  • Carburetor Adjustment: Check and adjust the carburetor settings if necessary, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

4. Seasonal Maintenance

  • Fuel System: Before storing your chainsaw for an extended period, run the engine dry of fuel to prevent fuel degradation and carburetor issues.
  • Bar and Chain Lubrication: Apply a light coating of oil to the bar and chain to prevent corrosion during storage.
  • Storing Fuel: If your chainsaw will be unused for several months, store fuel in an airtight container with a fuel stabilizer to maintain its quality.

Importance of Cleaning and Lubricating Components

Proper cleaning and lubrication play a vital role in ensuring that your chainsaw operates efficiently and starts reliably. Here are some key components to focus on:

1. Bar and Chain

  • Cleaning: Regularly clean the bar and chain to remove sawdust, debris, and pitch buildup. A clean chain operates smoothly and reduces the risk of kickback.
  • Lubrication: Ensure the bar and chain receive a consistent supply of chain oil for effective lubrication during operation.

2. Air Filter

  • Cleaning: Clean the air filter regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A clogged air filter restricts airflow, affecting starting and engine performance.

3. Recoil Starter Assembly

  • Maintenance: Keep the recoil starter assembly in good condition. Ensure it’s clean and properly lubricated for smooth operation.

4. Engine Cooling Fins

  • Cleaning: Keep the engine cooling fins free from dirt and debris. Overheating can lead to starting problems.

5. Spark Plug

  • Cleaning: Regularly inspect and clean the spark plug to prevent fouling, which can disrupt ignition.
  • Gap Adjustment: Check and adjust the spark plug gap as needed, following the manufacturer’s specifications.

6. Chain Brake

  • Operation: Ensure the chain brake is functioning correctly. A well-maintained brake enhances safety and prevents accidents.

Storing the Chainsaw Properly When Not in Use

Proper storage is crucial for preserving your chainsaw’s condition during periods of inactivity. Follow these tips:

  • Clean the Chainsaw: Before storing, clean the chainsaw, removing all dirt, sawdust, and debris. A clean chainsaw is less susceptible to corrosion and starting issues.
  • Bar and Chain Lubrication: Apply a light coating of oil to the bar and chain to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Fuel Management: If the chainsaw will not be used for an extended period, run the engine dry of fuel to prevent fuel-related issues.
  • Secure Storage: Store the chainsaw in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture.
  • Protective Cover: Consider using a protective cover or case to shield the chainsaw from dust and damage.
  • Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect the stored chainsaw to ensure it’s in good condition. Address any issues promptly.

By adhering to a regular maintenance schedule, paying close attention to cleaning and lubrication, and storing the chainsaw properly, you can minimize the risk of starting problems and ensure that your “STIHL Chainsaw” remains reliable and ready to tackle your cutting tasks with ease. In the final section of this guide, we’ll wrap up with some additional tips and advice to keep your chainsaw in optimal working condition.


STIHL Chainsaws are known for their reliability and power, catering to both professionals and homeowners. This guide has addressed common starting problems and their solutions, ensuring your “STIHL Chainsaw” remains dependable.

Preventative maintenance is the key to a reliable chainsaw. Regular upkeep, thorough cleaning, and proper storage are essential. With knowledge and maintenance, your chainsaw will be a steadfast companion, ready for any task. We trust this guide equips you with years of efficient, dependable cutting with your trusted tool.

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