What Can I Use For A Chainsaw Bar Oil: The Options To Use And The Ones To Avoid

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Feeling unsure about the type of chainsaw bar oil to use? Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal, this is a common question many chainsaw users have.

The chainsaw bar oil that you can use is the standard bar oil that you’ll get in stores or online. There are many alternatives that you can go for, while there are some oil options that you shouldn’t use. Here, you’ll find the answer to these topics, as well as what can I use for a chainsaw bar oil.

What oil is the best option for chainsaw bar oil?

A chainsaw at full throttle will easily give you a running speed of around 45 miles per hour. A higher speed will help your chainsaw cut through words and help you with cutting and pruning jobs.

However, the friction will put a lot of stress on the guide bar and chain. If you want to keep the chainsaw running smoothly and cutting efficiently, the chainsaw bar will require lubrication. Each manufacturer mentions its best bar and chain lubrication options. There are also alternatives that you can go for.

If you’re looking at the chainsaw manual for help, you’ll likely find specific brands or products for chainsaw bar oil. The standard bar oil options are the best options to go for. Some of them include Oregon 54-049 Chainsaw Bar Oil, Maxpower 337045 Bar and Chain Oil, STIHL 2.6 Ounce High-Performance Bar and Chain Oil, and more. 

The reason a special kind of chainsaw bar oil exists is that chainsaw chains and bars require lubrication. The lubrication needs to have certain qualities to keep these parts running smoothly. As chainsaw chains spin at very high speeds, the bar oil used in these machines should be sticky. Being sticky will help it remain on the chain as it is spinning around the bar. 

In case the oil isn’t sticky, it’ll simply fly off the chain and cause friction to build up. If the friction results in too much heat, it’ll damage the chainsaw components. The standard bar oil comes with a certain level of slickness and stickiness. This helps keep the chain spinning at a fairly fast rate without slowing down due to the friction.

If you’re looking to only use the best type of chainsaw bar oil, then it will definitely be the standard bar oil. As mentioned above, options like the Oregon 54-059 Chainsaw Bar Oil are the ideal choices. 

There are many chainsaw bar oil substitutes that you can go for. A great alternative is canola oil, which is derived from vegetables. It’ll come from rapeseed, and it works wonders because it is biodegradable, thin for cold climates, and low-impact. Canola oil isn’t just a great substitute for chainsaw bars. People all over the world use canola oil full-time for grease, two-cycle oils, lubricants, and engine oil.

Best chainsaw bar oil alternatives to go for

When asking yourself what can I use for a chainsaw bar oil, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to standard bar oil. There are multiple alternatives that work almost as well as standard bar oil. You can consider these options if you want something other than the standard bar oil.

Motor oil

If you ever find yourself looking for alternatives for standard motor oil, then your easiest option should be motor oil. The advantage of using motor oil is that you will likely always have it, especially if you own a car.

The downside is that it is petroleum-based, which means it isn’t environmentally friendly. As the chain is spinning, microscopic droplets of oil will fly off the chain As you’re using the chainsaw, all the oil you’re using in the reservoir will end up in the environment.

Another potential disadvantage is that when you’re pruning trees, as the oil is non-organic, it may harm the trees.

chainsaw bar oil

A smart option if you’re stuck for lubrication is to take used motor oil from your car and filter it. If you’re doing this, it would be better to harvest the oil when it is warm from the engine. This will help with the filtration process.

Keep in mind that regardless of how well you’re filtering the oil, it’ll contain microscopic metal particles. These particles can damage the bar and chain components.

If possible, you should go for summer oils like SAE30 in warm conditions and SAE10 winter oils in cold conditions. These oils have variations in oil viscosity because of the temperature.

Drained hydraulic fluid

Hydraulic fluid is very similar to motor oil and can be pressed into service as chainsaw lubricants. 

If you’re able to access machinery with hydraulic pumps, it’ll be readily available and very easy to harvest. But do keep in mind that it is a pollutant, and it’ll have a negative effect on the environment.

Another potential downside is that it’ll dry up quicker than any other chainsaw bar oil alternative. This means you will need to use more and frequently re-oil to keep the chainsaw lubricated.

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is an excellent alternative as it is useful in numerous situations, and it has many advantages. First of all, it is very cheap, and you will probably already have some at home. Moreover, it is environmentally friendly. It is also very easy to remove from clothes in case some of it gets split on your clothes.

Vegetable oil is suitable if you’re pruning trees as it won’t injure the trees as opposed to petroleum-based oils.

Another factor that makes vegetable oil a great alternative is its high viscosity. However, the viscosity is also a potential downside as in colder weather, the oil becomes too viscous and unusable.

Canola oil

Canola oil comes from rapeseed and has several advantages of vegetable oil, which makes it a great substitute.

It is very environmentally friendly and can be used for cutting or pruning trees. Moreover, this oil is inexpensive and readily available.

It is comparatively thinner than vegetable oils. This means they’ll fly off the chainsaw much more quickly. However, they have the ideal viscosity at lower temperatures, making them a great vegetable oil substitute for winters.

Tips to select the best chainsaw bar oil alternative

For working effectively, chainsaw bar oil will require specific qualities different from the qualities of other bars. This applies to all kinds of chainsaws, be it electric chainsaws or gas-powered chainsaws.

  • As chainsaw chains spin at very high speeds, the oil must be sticky enough such that it stays on the chain as it is moving. If oil isn’t sufficiently sticky, it can be quickly thrown off the chain, and it will dry up. The oil will also have to function properly as a lubricant, so it should have the quality of slipperiness to do the job. This means a chainsaw bar oil needs to have the right combination of slipperiness and stickiness.
  • Remember that temperature will change the viscosity of the oil, and some oils that have perfect slipperiness and stickiness at warm temperatures might be unsuitable at cold temperatures. 
  • Chainsaw oils need to be environmentally friendly. Most of them will come off the chain once you start working and will end up in the environment.

Chainsaws are designed in a way that the fuel in the tank and oil in the reservoir both run out at the same time. It means you will always have to top them together. It minimizes the risk of accidentally using the chainsaw without any lubrication oil. But for that to work, you’ll have to use the right type of chainsaw bar oil. If you’re using an alternative, make sure that the oil isn’t used quicker than the fuel. If it does end up drying, you’ll be using an unlubricated chainsaw without even realizing it. 

For preventing this from happening, the first time you’re using an alternate oil, fill up both the fuel tank and oil reservoir. Then, keep an eye on both of them as you’re working. This way, you’ll be able to see how fast the oil gets used up. Further, you’ll have a better idea of how quickly you’ll need to top it up. 

Sometimes, when working with a chainsaw, you will notice that it is consuming more fuel than normal. This might be due to the friction caused between the guide bar and the chain. This is a hint that your chainsaw isn’t lubricated properly. So, you must check if you still have oil in the reservoir and then consider trying a different alternative oil. Trying a different oil might do the trick for you.

What type of chainsaw bar oil should you not use?

Whether you’re using standard bar oil, traditional motor oil, or vegetable oil, remember to use fresh oil. You should avoid using any waste oil that you’ve previously drained out from your boat or car. Further, you should never fill your chainsaw’s bar oil reservoir when the chain is still running. Avoid running the chainsaw if the bar oil reservoir is dry.

Why Bar Oil? Save your equipment, and save money!


Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know all what can I use for a chainsaw bar oil, alternatives, and what you shouldn’t use.

Chainsaws and chainsaw guide bars are made using tough material. However, lubrication is still essential. Most manufacturers recommend specific branded oils as they’ll optimize your chainsaw’s performance. An alternative chainsaw bar oil will also do the deed.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.