chainsaw cutting firewoodProper lubrication is important regardless of whether you are using a battery chainsaw, electric chainsaw, or gas chainsaw. The chain and bar should be well oiled to protect them from various issues such as corrosion, wear, and tear, and rust. Lubrication also helps the blades to run smoothly. It also helps to avoid heat build-up and tool damage caused by friction if not well oiled.

Refiling or replacing the oil depends on how regular the sawing jobs are done and the oil quality. Some oils require a user to replace the oil every time they refill the fuel tank. Proper lubrication is also important as a safety precaution during sawing.

Types Of Chainsaw Bar Oil

Chainsaw bars and chains require oiling for efficiency and proper functioning. Two types of oils can be used; the standard bar oil/manufacturer’s recommendation and the substitute/alternative bar oils.

Standard Bar Oil

The chainsaw manuals come with a recommended bar oil type or brand for the chainsaw. It is the best way to ensure that the chainsaw remains in a good condition, has no friction, and has no slow-down issues during sawing.

The recommended or standard bar oils are specifically formulated to work on the tool brands. It is always important to ensure that you have gone through the manufacturer’s guide before using any other type of oil other than the recommended ones.

Chainsaw Bar Oil Alternatives

In case you want to use your chainsaw and you lack the recommended bar and chain oil, you can use an alternative. However, you should choose a substitute that works best for your chainsaw.

1. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a safe alternative oil that can be used on chainsaws. It is thin and has low viscosity compared to other alternatives. However, it is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Other than having friendly prices, it can be used to trim trees without endangering the plants or the chainsaw user.

Vegetable oil can be used without diluting given its viscosity. It however wears out quickly needing frequent filling of the oil reservoir to function properly. The disadvantage of vegetable oil is that it is prone to clumping during the cold season, thus, unusable.

2. Canola Oil

Canola oil is made from rapeseeds. It is less sticky compared to vegetable oil. It is an ideal solution when it comes to diluting oils and as a sole alternative bar oil. This type of oil when applied well can handle high heat and protect the chainsaw bar from friction.

Canola oil is the best choice for use during cold months and low-temperature conditions. It does not clump and does a great job at handling lower outdoor temperatures.

3. Motor oil

Even though motor oil makes a decent substitute oil, it should never be used as a replacement for the recommended bar oil. It features a high flash point and high viscosity. The motor oil is however not sticky enough causing it to fling off during sawing. The oil droplets can make quite a mess on the user and the surrounding.

Motor oil is toxic and should not be used near vegetation or live trees. It is also harmful to the use when inhaled regularly. There are types of motor oils that can be used during the hot and cold seasons due to variation in oil viscosity.

4. Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil is an alternative that can be used on its own or added to the standard oil when low to extend the usage. It features super lubrication abilities and a high flash. It is however less viscous and does not stick to the bar and chain properly. It also dries quickly, therefore, a user will have to use a lot of hydraulic oil to keep the bar and chain well lubricated.

Note that hydraulic fluid is dangerous at high pressures. Safety gear should be in place when using it and avoid inhaling or skin contact.

What Weight Is Bar And Chain Oil?

tip of an oiled chainsaw barChainsaw bar and chain oil have a relative weight of 10W in the winter seasons and 30W during the warm seasons. The lightweight oils are most suitable for the winter while the heavier ones are used during the warm/summer seasons. The recommended brand of chain oil is formulated to suit the chainsaws in the varied seasons and increase their lifespan.

Alternatives may be used but the weight feature must be considered for effectiveness. Oils can also be mixed to have a suitable layer as well as extend the lifespan of the chainsaw, especially in extremely harsh conditions.

When in a compromised working environment, it is advisable to go for new and recommended bar and chain oil. This is because the official weight classification of the standard oils used is determined by the weather variations. Having no insights into how the oil works on your chainsaw can lead to adverse effects.

The cold season makes the oil thicker and the warm seasons make them watery, thus the need to use the alternates for each season. Factoring the season’s effect on the oil helps to keep the chainsaw durable and flexible during all seasons.

How Long Does Chainsaw Bar Oil Last?

The shelf life of bar oil is determined by the oil base. Synthetic oils have a long shelf life while plant-based oils have a short shelf life. The biodegradability of the container holding the bar oils plays a role in the bar oil longevity.
Bar Oil Shelf Life

First I’ll give a primer on the need for bar oil. Chainsaws need oil always running along their bar and chain to prevent friction. Chainsaws run at high speeds, and without lubrication, the chain and bar can damage each other.

The regular bar oils have a shelf life of around three to seven years. The oils have different bases which affect how the container degrades. Some of the standard bar oils include:

  • BioPlus– plant-based oil. It has a shelf life of 4 years.
  • SynthPlus– Synthetic / mineral-based. It has a shelf life of 7 years.
  • ForestPlus– mineral based. It has a shelf life of 3 years.


  • Plant-based oils are made from plants and are less stable. They can accelerate the rate at which their container degrades.
  • Mineral-based oils are made from the ground’s oil. It also can accelerate the biodegradable process for their containers.
  • Synthetic oils- Have additives that make the oil more stable and give them a long shelf life.

How Long Do Chainsaw Bar Oil Alternatives Last?

Here are the shelf-lives of various chainsaw bar oil alternatives:

  • Motor Oil Shelf Life – Unopened motor oil has a shelf life of 3-5 years. The petroleum-based oil should be used within three months once opened.
  • Vegetable Oil Shelf Life – Unopened vegetable oil has a shelf life of two years. Once opened, it should be used within a year.
  • Canola Oil Shelf Life – Like vegetable oil, Canola oil lasts for two years while unopened and a year after opening. Unopened, Canola oil has a shelf life of two years, but will still be okay one year after opening.
  • Drained Hydraulic Fluid – Unopened hydraulic fluid has a shelf life of at least five years. The drained and used oil should be used within six months after opening.

Final Thoughts

Chainsaws run at very high speeds. If there is no proper lubrication, the chain and the bar are bound to damage each other. It is ideal to use the recommended or standard chainsaw bar oil for your chainsaw. Using the recommended oil brands ensures that they go hand in hand with the chainsaw. It also optimizes its performance. It also ensures that the chainsaw warranty is still valid.

It does not mean that you cannot use alternatives. They are however best used for a short period and when the regular bar oil is not available. Keeping the chainsaw lubricated regardless of the type of bar and chain oil you will be using is the best way to protect the chainsaw.

Read more about other types of wood saws.