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How to ready your chainsaw for winter use

As winter approaches, chainsaws should be ready to start clearing fallen trees.

As winter approaches, chainsaws should be ready to start clearing fallen trees.

Winter weather brings frigid temperatures that make outdoor work all the more tiresome. But it also brings ice and snow storms that make those chores all the more necessary. As heavy branches hang precariously over power lines and homes, timely and effective removal is of the utmost importance.

Chainsaws are industrial, precise power tools that require an experienced and careful user. Not only that, they contain plenty of moving parts that must be maintained in order to optimize performance. As winter approaches, the need to clear wood grows – a task for which a chainsaw is ideally suited. As contractors and private companies are called upon to get rid of overhanging branches and fallen trees, there are a few things for them to keep in mind when preparing a chainsaw for winter use.

Come into the season prepared
Before winter rears its ugly head – so right around mid-October, if not sooner – chainsaws should be ready to go, according to Popular Mechanics. That means cleaning, replacing the fuel, running and troubleshooting before it becomes necessary to clear fallen trees.

The owner's manual will have the right recommendations, so give it a read. It will likely suggest a thinner lubricant for the bar and chain oil. Frozen wood is difficult to cut and chains will wear out quickly, so be sure to have a few new or sharpened spares available.

Additionally, make every effort to eliminate condensation from diluting the fuel.

"Try as best you can to keep the fuel mix at a constant temperature," Randy Scully, national service manager for Stihl, told Popular Mechanics. "If you can, avoid bringing the fuel container into a warm shop and then back outside into the cold, which will cause the moisture to condense in it."

To keep the fuel fresh, only mix small batches, and replace it as needed.

Use extra caution when facing the elements
Ice and snow cause additional safety hazards on top of the ones already present when using a chainsaw. Early snow storms, while leaves are still on the trees, can cause branches to suddenly break, ice can cause the operator to slip and snow can gum up the chainsaw's components. So it's important to use every safety measure possible.

With the right precautions, one can safely remove any debris before it becomes a hazard. As with all power tool-related jobs, safety equipment is a must, including helmet, eye and hearing protection, and gloves. As previously mentioned, frozen wood is tougher than warm summer wood, so it splinters easily, making the use of safety goggles especially important.

According to Stihl, chainsaws require extra care in freezing temperatures. Some saws have a winter setting, which activates a pre-heater to keep the carburetor from freezing. Operators should take extra care to keep the sprocket cover, anti-vibration mechanism, fuel tank and other important area free of debris like ice and snow. If buildup occurs anywhere around the chainsaw, the result could be reduced functionality, operator fatigue or engine failure. Additionally, make sure bulky winter clothing does not block the cool air intake valve so the motor does not overheat.

The surrounding area could also prove hazardous. Slick ice on the ground, branch or chainsaw itself could result in a dangerous situation. Make sure to clear the space of debris so that there is a firm and solid foundation. Stihl also recommends reducing the chain's filing angle by five degrees to extend the guide bar and chain life.

With the proper maintenance for cutting tools and chainsaws, winter work should not be a problem. And by taking care of equipment during inactivity, it will be ready ago when the seasons change again.