How to Start a Chainsaw: Easier Than You Think!

starting chainsaw

From felling trees and pruning branches, a chainsaw is a highly versatile tool. However, if you’ve never used a chainsaw before then you’ll likely have a bit of trouble starting it up. Especially a gas-powered one.

Before you begin, you should first consult your manual. Every chainsaw brand is different and will have their own set of nuances. For instance Husqvarna may operate differently than a Stihl would.

You should also use the proper safety gear. Even the most experienced users aren’t immune to the fatal accidents that can occur. Consider investing in chainsaw chaps, eyewear, ear protection, gloves, and footwear.

In this guide we’ll go over how to start a gas-powered saw. If you own an electric chainsaw or battery powered saw, it’s usually as simple as plugging it in and flipping the on switch.

How to Start a Chainsaw

Step 1: Engage the Chain Brake

To start your chainsaw the first thing to do is engage the chain brake. You can do this by simply pushing it forward until you hear an audible click.

The chain brake is used to prevent the chain from spinning in case a kickback occurs. Many chainsaw models can be started in the “half-throttle” position. This means the chain can rotate if the chain brake is not activated.

Step 2: Decompression Valve

Some chainsaw models use a decompression valve. If your chainsaw uses one, simply push it in.

The decompression valve is either manual or automatic. Essentially it releases some of the compression in the combustion chamber of the engine. This makes it easier to turn over when you pull the recoil rope.

Step 3: Pump the Primer

Most gas chainsaws use a primer that purges air from the gas line. If your chainsaw uses a primer, push it four or five times to pump some gas through to the carburetor.

Step 4: The Choke

The choke can vary based on your chainsaw model. Some chainsaws won’t have one at all. If yours does and you’re cold starting the chainsaw, meaning it has had time to cool down since last use, you need to activate the choke.

Step 5: Place On the Ground or Between Your Legs

There are usually two recommended starting positions. The more favorable is on the ground. However, some prefer to hold the saw between their legs.

When starting from the floor, place your right foot on the handle where your right handle usually goes. With your left hand grip the front handle.

When starting between your legs, place the handle between your legs and grip the saw firmly. Use your left hand to hold the front handle. Remember to always face the guide bar away from you, you don’t want the chainsaw chain underneath your groin.

Step 6: Pull the Recoil Rope

With the chainsaw in either starting position, take the recoil rope in your right hand and begin to pull the rope. Pull until you feel a slight resistance. When you feel the resistance, give the recoil rope a sharp pull. You may have to do this several times before the chainsaw starts.

Step 6.1: Engine Turns Over but Doesn’t Start

You may feel the engine turn over but it doesn’t continue running. If this happens, engage the half-choke position and pull your recoil rope again.

Step 7: Squeeze the Throttle

Once you have the chainsaw running you will need to squeeze the throttle to keep it running. Some chainsaws will also require you to set the choke to idle.

What About a Warm Start?

I mentioned cold starting will require you to activate the choke. If you recently used the chainsaw you can do a warm start. In this case you won’t need to activate the choke and you can skip that step.


The process above is quite straightforward and doesn’t take long at all. If you find yourself running into issues or you’ve followed the steps and it still doesn’t fire, you will need to consult your manual. As a recommendation, don’t ever drop start your chainsaw as it’s not safe and can put you at a higher risk of injury.

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