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How to Fix CRAFTSMAN Chainsaw Problems

A collage of different types chainsaw uses.

When you buy a chainsaw, you expect it to last a long time, even more so when you buy a premium brand like CRAFTSMAN. Yet nothing on earth is perfect, and even CRAFTSMAN chainsaws may develop problems over time. Here are the most common problems you may encounter with your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw and how you can solve them.

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The five most common problems you may encounter with your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw:

  1. The chainsaw won’t start
  2. The chainsaw stalls or runs rough
  3. The chain doesn’t turn
  4. The chain won’t stop turning
  5. The chainsaw doesn’t cut

1. The Chainsaw Won’t Start

A man trying to start a chainsaw on the lawn.

Sometimes a chainsaw simply won’t start, no matter how hard you try. This is especially common when the chainsaw is getting a bit old or when it’s been lying around for a while, especially if you left fuel inside. The fuel will start to evaporate and leave a sticky substance that can cause all kinds of damage. Other parts may also deteriorate with age, making it difficult for your chainsaw to start.

Solution 1: Check and Replace the Spark Plug

There are a few problems that can stop your chainsaw from starting. Some are easy to check and fix, and they are also the most common.

The first is the spark plug. Spark plugs are subject to wear and tear both when you’re using the chainsaw and when it’s not in use. Spark plugs can build up a lot of carbon on their contacts. They can also crack or burn; if the chainsaw lies around a lot, it can accumulate rust. These factors all affect how effective the spark plug is.

You can easily access the spark plug on your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw. Remove and inspect it; if you notice any potential problems, it’s time to replace the spark plug.

Solution 2: Clean or Repair the Carburetor

The carburetor is another common cause for your chainsaw not starting, primarily if you haven’t used it for a while but the chainsaw still has some fuel in it. Parts of the fuel will evaporate, leaving a sticky, oily substance inside the carburetor that can clog it.

It’s easy to fix this problem. The carburetor is close to the spark plug, so once you have access to it, you can spray some carburetor cleaner inside it. If this doesn’t work, you may have to rebuild or replace the carburetor entirely.

Solution 3: Replace the Ignition Coil

A third factor to consider, even though it’s less common than the spark plug and carburetor, is that there might be something wrong with the ignition coil. The ignition coil passes voltage to the spark plug while the chainsaw’s engine is running; without it, the spark plug wouldn’t fire. You can get an ignition coil tester to test it, and if it is faulty, replace the ignition coil.

Solution 4: Replace the Starter Pulley

The fourth and final possible cause is a problem with the recoil starter pulley. This is the rope that you pull to start the motor. These pulleys can get worn out over time, or they might stretch out too much, or even get stuck inside the mechanism.

It’s easy to spot a problem with the recoil starter pulley. The pulley must always have flexible resistance since the starter must automatically pull it back. If the pulley feels slack or doesn’t pull back entirely when you release it, it’s a dead giveaway.

Unfortunately, you can’t usually repair the recoil starter or the pulley. You will have to replace it. You can replace the pulley if that’s where the problem is or replace the entire recoil starter assembly.

2. The Chainsaw Stalls Or Runs Rough

A man trying to cut a log using a chainsaw.

Your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw is similar to a car in many ways. It has an internal combustion engine similar to a car in almost every way, just not as powerful. As such, most of the factors that can cause your car to stall will do the same to your chainsaw, and the solutions are similar, with some minor exceptions.

Solution 1: Clean the Spark Arrestor

The spark arrestor is the easiest thing to check (and fix) if your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw stalls. The spark arrestor is a shield that stops the engine from emitting sparks. Since chainsaws are made to do dusty work, the shield arrestor can often get clogged up with dust and carbon, which may cause the engine to build up gases instead of ventilating them properly.

The arrestor is near the front of the chainsaw, under the muffler cover. Loosen the nut that holds the cover in place, then carefully remove it. The spark arrestor is a small mesh object, and you can easily see if it’s dirty. You can clean the spark arrestor using carburetor cleaner and a wire brush. While you’re at it, cleaning the muffler cover is also a good idea.

Solution 2: Clean or Replace the Carburetor

The carburetor could also be a culprit in this case. As mentioned before, you can spray the carburetor with some carburetor cleaner, and if that doesn’t work, rebuild or replace the carburetor.

Solution 3: Replace the Fuel Filter

There are also two filters that you can check – the fuel filter and the air filter. The fuel filter removes dirt and impurities from the fuel. If it gets clogged, less fuel will pass through to the engine, causing it to stall. If that is the case, replacing the fuel filter is easy enough. It is attached to a fuel line near the front of the chainsaw.

Solution 4: Replace the Air Filter

Internal combustion engines don’t only need fuel; they also need oxygen to work correctly, so your chainsaw’s engine has some air inlet. The air must first pass through an air filter to eliminate impurities that could clog the engine. Once your air filter gets too dirty, insufficient oxygen will pass through it, and your chainsaw will begin to stall.

The air filter is under a cover at the top of your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw. When you open the cover, you should be able to see if the filter is clean or dirty. It is possible to clean a dirty air filter, but it is unadvisable except as a quick test. It’s always best to replace the air filter entirely. They are very affordable, anyway.

3. The Chain Doesn’t Turn

A man trying to start a chainsaw to cut a log.

The entire point of a chainsaw is that the chain must turn. If the chain isn’t turning, there’s no point in having a chainsaw in the first place. If your chainsaw starts and runs but the chain isn’t turning, the cause is usually the clutch or the chain brake.

Solution 1: Force the Brake to Disengage

The easiest thing to check is if the chain brake is released correctly. Most CRAFTSMAN chainsaws have a brake or stop lever, usually at the top of the chainsaw near the handle. You must disengage the brake after starting the chainsaw so the chain can start moving.

Sometimes, the brake can get jammed, especially if the chainsaw is a bit older. You can usually force the chain brake to release by engaging and disengaging the brake lever a few times, especially if you do it with slightly more force than usual.

Solution 2: Replace the Clutch

The chain brake is also related to the clutch, which is a more complex problem to troubleshoot. If engaging and disengaging the brake doesn’t help, it’s time to inspect the clutch.

Similar to how a clutch works in a car, your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw has clutch pads. These pads engage the clutch drum, allowing the chain to rotate. The clutch pads wear out over time and might even accumulate rust or dirt, even when the chainsaw is idle. All of this can affect how well the clutch works.

Sadly, you cannot repair the clutch. You must replace the entire clutch unit. Modern CRAFTSMAN chainsaws come with a wrench specifically to open the clutch cover. The cover is on the front right side of the chainsaw, near the blade. Follow these steps to replace the clutch unit:

  1. Ensure that the chainsaw is switched off and the engine has cooled down.
  2. Disengage the chain brake, releasing the clutch and allowing the chain to move freely.
  3. Use the wrench provided with the CRAFTSMAN chainsaw to open the clutch cover.
  4. Remove the air filter cover, so you have access to the spark plug.
  5. Remove the plug cable and boot from the spark plug.
  6. Use the same wrench to loosen and remove the spark plug.
  7. Push the piston to the down position using a screwdriver while turning the clutch, then insert a piece of string into the piston cylinder so that the piston cannot move.
  8. Insert a flat screwdriver close to the edge of the clutch.
  9. Gently hit the screwdriver with a hammer to loosen the clutch, turning it clockwise.
  10. Unthread the clutch from the crankshaft. You must support the chainsaw’s blade with one hand while you’re doing this since it will start to hang freely.
  11. Now fit the new clutch and turn it counter-clockwise to fasten it.
  12. Tighten the clutch, again using a screwdriver and a hammer, but this time hitting it to spin counter-clockwise.
  13. Now you can remove the string or cord from the cylinder.
  14. Replace the spark plug and the plug cable, then close the air filter cover.
  15. When you replace the clutch cover, you must insert the chain tensioner pin (which is on the clutch cover) into the hole in the chainsaw’s body. To do this, you may need to turn the tension adjustment screw counter-clockwise until the tensioner pin is aligned correctly (you will feel the clutch cover sliding into position when this happens).
  16. Tighten the nuts on the clutch cover.
  17. Now turn the tensioner screw clockwise until there is no more slack in the chain. It must be nice and tight.

Now your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw chain should turn perfectly again.

4. The Chain Won’t Stop Turning

A man having a hard time trying to cut a log.

So now we’ve looked at what to do if the chain won’t turn. But what about the opposite problem? What if your chainsaw’s chain won’t stop turning? This is a far more dangerous and even life-threatening problem; thankfully, it doesn’t happen all too often, but when it does, it’s always the clutch that causes it.

Solution 1: Engage the Brake

As mentioned, your chainsaw’s clutch has pads that engage the drum and allows the chain to rotate. But the clutch also has springs that should retract the drum, causing the chain to stop (this is also how the chain brake works). As these springs get worn out, they may be less effective at retracting the drum and stopping the chain from turning.

When this happens, your priority should be to stop the chain at all costs before it causes damage or injury. You can try to engage the chain brake. Sometimes, the force you use to engage the brake will cause the springs to release the drum and stop the chain.

Solution 2: Replace the Clutch

If that fails, turn off the chainsaw’s ignition. If the engine isn’t running, your chain shouldn’t be able to turn, and you can troubleshoot the problem safely.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense only to replace the clutch springs. You cannot usually buy them separately from the clutch; even if you could, failing springs are a sure sign that your clutch will fail soon, so it’s best just to replace the entire clutch unit. You can follow the exact instructions as described under problem number 3.

5. The Chainsaw Doesn’t Cut

A man cutting a log using a chainsaw.

If your CRAFTSMAN chainsaw is running as it should, and the chain is turning, but it doesn’t cut, what could the problem be? There are four contenders for the position of the culprit: a blunt cutting edge, the chain’s tension, the chain bar, and the clutch.

Solution 1: Sharpen the Cutting Edge

The most apparent cause of a chainsaw not cutting is that the cutting edge is blunt. You should notice this happening gradually as your chainsaw will start cutting more and more slowly until it eventually stops cutting entirely.

You have two options to fix a blunt chainsaw. The first option is to sharpen the cutting edge. It is the least expensive option but also the one that requires the most effort.

You can buy a rotary grinder set that fits into a hand drill. These grinders will help grind your chainsaw’s blades back to optimal sharpness. Just be sure to get the right grinder size for your chainsaw’s teeth, and be careful as you grind them since you can just as easily make them even blunter.

Solution 2: Replace the Chain

A man trying to change a chainsaw chain.

The second option is replacing the chain. It is the safest option but also potentially the most expensive. It’s easy to replace the chain if you follow these steps:

  1. Remove the clutch cover using the wrench provided with your chainsaw. This should also release the tension from the chain since the tension pin will pop out of its hole.
  2. Remove the chain, starting at the front of the chain bar. You may have to gently turn the chain to release it from behind the clutch.
  3. Place the new chain around the crankshaft behind the clutch, ensuring that the chain properly fits over the teeth.
  4. Fit the chain around the chain bar, constantly checking that the chain is adequately oriented over the teeth. It’s okay if the chain hangs a bit at the bottom; we will adjust the tension soon.
  5. Replace the clutch cover and hand-tighten the nuts. You will notice that the tension pin doesn’t fit back into its hole.
  6. Turn the tension screw counter-clockwise while applying pressure to the clutch cover until the tension pin slips into its hole.
  7. Tighten the nuts on the clutch cover.
  8. Turn the tension screw clockwise to tighten the chain, careful not to overtighten it.

Solution 3: Adjust the Chain’s Tension

If your chain is okay, but your chainsaw is still not cutting, it might be something as simple as the chain’s tension. A chain that’s too loose won’t make proper contact with the wood, while a chain that’s too tight will turn more slowly than it should, negatively affecting how well it cuts.

You can adjust the chain’s tension by turning the tension screw counter-clockwise to loosen it or clockwise to tighten it.

The next possible problem is the chain bar, and three things could cause it:

  1. The chain bar is bent. You will have to replace the chain bar by removing the clutch, as described earlier.
  2. The chain bar is worn out. If the chain cannot make proper contact with the chain bar, the only option is to replace it.
  3. The chain bar isn’t lubricated enough. Your chainsaw has an oil reservoir to lubricate the chain bar. If the reservoir isn’t full enough, your chain bar won’t get its much-needed lubrication, which means that your chainsaw won’t cut properly and will also cause further wear on the chain and chain bar, so check the oil level frequently.

Solution 4: Replace the Clutch

A clutch of a chainsaw on a white background.

The last possibility is the clutch. Clutch pads approaching the end of their lives won’t exert enough force to keep the chain turning as fast as it should, which means your chainsaw won’t cut properly. You can’t replace only the pads, so you will have to replace the clutch assembly by following the steps mentioned in problem number 3.

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