Why Won’t My Stihl Chainsaw Start? A Hilariously Handy Guide!

Published Categorized as Chainsaw Won't Start, Stihl

Alright, folks! You’ve brewed your morning coffee, geared up for a day of wood chopping, and just when you’re ready to conquer that backyard jungle, your trusty Stihl chainsaw decides it wants a day off? The audacity! Before you declare a chainsaw strike, let’s dive deep and troubleshoot the fuss!

Table of Contents

Chainsaw Starting Basics (Or How to Woo Your Chainsaw)

Ever tried serenading your chainsaw? Before you do, remember to wear your fanciest safety gear. Lay your chainsaw down like the royalty it thinks it is, ensure the choke’s on, and pull that start cord with passion! Confidence is key.

Troubleshooting Your Chainsaw: Common Problems With Chainsaws

Is It Hungover from Bad Fuel?

Check the fuel tank. If what’s inside smells older than your grandpa’s stories, it’s time to refresh! Old or contaminated fuel is a no-no. For more on choosing the right oil to mix with your gas, and getting the fuel-oil ratio correct, check out my chainsaw fuel oil ratio guide, If you’re not sure whether you’ve followed a good enough mixing procedure, check out my chainsaw fuel mixing guide here.

Can I Use Any 2 Stroke Oil in My Chainsaw? Fuel Oil Ratio Mix Guide

Spark Plug Shenanigans

Oh, the spark plug! The tiny part that can spark huge problems. If it’s fouled, corroded, or simply playing hard to get, you’re in for a rough time. Remove it, clean it, check the gap, and replace if necessary. Spark plugs are affordable, so don’t hesitate to replace them annually. Dive deeper into The Mysteries of the Spark Plug to enlighten yourself – especially if you’re finding your chainsaw hard to pull with the spark plug in.

For a basic test of the spark plug, turn over the engine (pull on the pull cord) with the spark plug inside the plug cap, but removed from the engine – ground the outside of the spark plug against the chainsaw itself and if you see a spark appear between the electrodes, this is a good indicator that the spark plug is fine.

It may still need a clean or even simply an “airing out” if it’s been coated in stale oily fuel.

Are you more of a visual learner? I’ve got you covered:

Compression Catastrophes

Compression issues are the chainsaw’s way of throwing a temper tantrum. If your saw has low compression, it’s like trying to drink a thick milkshake through a tiny straw – laborious! The piston rings and cylinder might need some love. If you’ve got piston or cylinder damage, take a look at my guide on the causes and repair solutions for piston damage in chainsaws.

Video Guide: Chainsaw Doctor on Call

For those who’d rather watch a chainsaw guru in action, we’ve got you covered. This step-by-step guide will walk you through all the common issues, with our resident expert making chainsaw diagnostics look as easy as pie. Check out the video from Dave over at the Dave’s Small Engines YouTube channel – shout out to Dave, it’s an Amazing channel

The Air Filter Fiasco

Think of the air filter as the chainsaw’s nose. If it’s clogged, your chainsaw can’t breathe, and this can restrict airflow, leading to a poor fuel-air mixture. Remove the air filter and gently tap it to remove debris. For more stubborn dirt, wash it in soapy water, rinse, and dry thoroughly before replacing.

Carburetor Chronicles

The carburetor manages the fuel and air mixture. If it gets dirt or is improperly adjusted, your chainsaw can struggle to start. If you’ve recently refueled, and your chainsaw isn’t starting, it could be due to flooding. Let the chainsaw sit for 10-15 minutes and try again. Regular maintenance can prevent these hiccups. Learn more with our guide Carburetor Tuning and Maintenance.

carburetor, motorcycle carburetor, scooter carburetor

The Starter’s Union Strike

The starter assembly includes a pulley, recoil spring, and pull cord. If any of these components are damaged, starting your chainsaw can become a Herculean task. Regularly inspect the pull cord for wear and the recoil spring for tension.

If the pull cord is easy to pull, you could have a pull cord mechanism issue where there starter mechanism is rotating, but it’s not rotating the crank. Remove the pull cord mechanism and inspect and clean thoroughly, broken parts of the pull cord mechanism tend to make themselves known quickly!

Parts of the starter mechanism may not be broken, they could simply be “shy” or stuck in place – get a good splash of WD40 in there and pull the cord a few times to free everything up.

If the cord is REALLY hard to pull, to the point it feels like the pull cord is jammed, see my guide on diagnosing issues where your chainsaw is really hard to turnover with the spark plug in.

Chain and Bar – The Power Couple

A dull or rusty chain and a damaged bar can hinder the chainsaw’s performance. Regularly sharpen the chain, ensure it’s properly tensioned, and inspect the bar for signs of wear or damage. Flip the bar at regular intervals to ensure even wear. Read our guide Maintaining the Power Couple: Chain and Bar Care to keep this duo in prime condition.

saw, chainring, chainsaw

Electrical System Ghosting You?

Electrical issues can be the silent culprits. Check the ignition coil, stop switch, and all connections. If you’re savvy with a multimeter, testing the continuity of these components can pinpoint faults. Spark Plug leads and ignition coils can take a beating in the elements, and regularly succumb to lumberjack life!

If you find you’ve got a problem with the plug leads, plug boots or ignition coil, here’s a great guide to help you through the process:

Chainsaw Spa Days: Maintenance and Mani-Pedis

Preventive care is better than reactive fixing. Periodically inspect, clean, and replace parts as needed. Use the right mix of fuel and oil, and store your chainsaw in a dry place. Seasonal maintenance can elongate the chainsaw’s lifespan. Discover rejuvenating tips in our article on Chainsaw Maintenance Checklist and Tips.

Clutch Conundrums

Ever heard of a chainsaw clutch? Think of it as the diva of your chainsaw ensemble. If it’s worn out or damaged, it can flat out refuse to let the chain rotate, even if the engine’s belting out its tune. It might be time for a backstage clutch replacement. Get all the gossip on the diva’s whims and fancies in our Drama of the Chainsaw Clutch article.

Fuel System Follies

Fuel lines and the carburetor are like the backstage crew of a play: out of sight but oh-so-crucial. Cracked or clogged fuel lines? It’s like someone tripped over the stage cables. Clean or replace them, and make sure the carburetor isn’t gummed up. If your chainsaw is acting more temperamental than a lead actor missing their coffee, our Fuel System Follies and Fixes guide is your backstage pass to smooth operations.

Chainsaw Choir: The Community Chimes In

When in doubt, turn to your fellow chainsaw enthusiasts. Sometimes the quirkiest problems have been faced and conquered by another member of the chainsaw choir. Join the conversation, share your woes, and celebrate those small victories that make all the difference. Share a comment on our Chainsaw Troubleshooting page!

Safety: Because No One Likes an “Oops!” Moment

Never compromise on safety. Always wear protective gear, including safety goggles, gloves, and protective footwear. Keep the chainsaw well-maintained, operate in well-lit areas, and always ensure you have a clear working space. Accidents can happen in a blink, so always be prepared and informed. Refresh your safety knowledge at Safety First!


Chainsaws are quirky, but with a bit of love (and troubleshooting), they’ll be back in action. So, keep calm, read on, and saw on!

What would cause a Stihl chainsaw not to start?

A variety of culprits can be behind a Stihl chainsaw’s refusal to start, ranging from the obvious, like an empty gas tank, to the tricky, such as compression issues or spark plug shenanigans. Dive into our detailed guide on Why Your STIHL Chainsaw Just Won’t Start to identify and address the specific misbehaving part.

Is there a trick to starting a Stihl chainsaw?

While there’s no “magic trick,” ensuring your chainsaw has fresh fuel, a clean spark plug, proper compression, and a fully functioning ignition system can work wonders. It’s essential to regularly maintain and troubleshoot your chainsaw.

Why won’t my Stihl chainsaw start if I have a spark?

Having a spark is great, but it’s only part of the chainsaw’s ensemble. Other issues might be playing spoilsport, such as stale fuel, a clogged carburetor, or even a diva-like clutch that refuses to engage. Dive into the details with our article, and remember, even if one part is in tip-top shape, other backstage crew members (like the fuel system) need to be in sync for a flawless performance.

By Dave Cross

Hi, I'm Dave. I’ve been sawing for more than 40 years. I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by nature and my saws, but occasionally, I’ll share some of my know-how and experience on Cross Saw Mill.

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