Pitfalls of Using Regular Motor Oil as Chainsaw Bar Oil

Chainsaw cutting tree trunk logs

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

It is tempting to use what you probably already have on hand rather than buy bar and chain oil for your chainsaw. This leads some to use regular motor oil for the task. Should you buy a dedicated product for lubricating your chainsaw?

The debate about chainsaws and using cheaper regular motor oil as the chain/bar lubricant is not completely resolved. Most chainsaw operation manuals insist that you need to use quality bar oil. The reason is that bar and chain oil has a "high-tack" additive that prevents it from slinging off the chain as it travels around the tip. It is formulated specifically for this task, while other types of oil simply are not.

Drawbacks of Using Motor Oil on Chainsaws

Some chainsaw users will tell you that their father and grandfather always used a saw with new 30 weight motor oil with no bar wear. There is some debate about the kind of new oil that is best.

No one recommends using old recycled motor oil. Remember that used motor oil drained from a vehicle has microscopic metal bits that act as an abrasive, which is not good for the chain or bar. Some note that used motor oil could burn up your bar and chain sooner, which will make up for any cost savings.

Used motor oil will sling off your chainsaw faster because it is already broken down. It lacks the sticky additive found in bar oil that keeps the oil in the bar groove and chain. Having to replace oil more frequently will end up eating up any savings. As well, you are likely to find more oil spatters when you use the chainsaw. You'll have to clean your boots, pants, and gear more frequently.

Two Popular Brands of Bar and Chain Oil

Oregon 54-026 Chain Saw Bar And Chain Oil (buy from Amazon): Oregon is the provider of the largest selection of chains in North America. They are regarded as knowing how to manufacture the best bar/chain oil available. Their claims for this oil include:

  • Provides maximum engine power, low friction, and faster cutting time
  • High film strength prevents wear or scuffing of chain links and bars while protecting metal parts against corrosion and rust
  • Resists build-up of deposits such as pitch, sap or gum

Husqvarna 610000023 Bar & Chain Oil (buy from Amazon): Husqvarna is a reputable chainsaw manufacturer with reliable dealers all over North America. Husqvarna has a reputation for quality should translate to their bar oil being of high quality. Their claims for their bar and chain oil include:

  • For all chainsaws
  • Optimizes your saw's cutting performance by reducing heat and friction
  • Premium blend of base stocks and tackifier additives which reduces high-speed throw-off
  • Extends bar, chain, and sprocket life by protecting against wear

It is probably worth the additional expense to buy this dedicated product that is formulated for the task. Save the motor oil to use in your vehicles. Be sure to recycle and dispose of used motor oil correctly to protect the environment.