Can You Use Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil: What You Need to Know


In the realm of chainsaw maintenance, a peculiar question often emerges: Is it feasible to repurpose old motor oil as chainsaw bar oil? While this inquiry may seem like a nod to the pragmatic mindset of recycling and reusing, it’s crucial to peel back the layers of this seemingly straightforward solution and examine the details closely. Before you pour that used motor oil into your chainsaw, understand what’s at stake for your equipment, your safety, and the environment.

The Idea of Reusing Old Motor Oil

The Idea of Reusing Old Motor Oil

The concept is tempting: repurpose the old, dark oil from your motorcycle or car to keep your chainsaw running smoothly. It sounds eco-friendly and cost-effective, right? However, not all recycling practices are created equal, especially when it involves the intricate mechanics of a chainsaw.

Can You Use Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil

Chainsaw bar oil isn’t just another accessory; it’s a crucial component in the seamless operation of your chainsaw. It primarily serves to:

  1. It lubricates the bar and chain, minimizing the heat generated from the metal-to-metal contact.
  2. Proper lubrication ensures that both the chain and the bar wear down less, extending their operational life.
  3. A well-lubricated chain moves effortlessly, reducing the strain on the motor and conserving energy.

Can You Use Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil? Yes, But Think Twice

Sure, you can use old car oil for your chainsaw. It might help keep the chain from getting too dry and wearing out too fast. But, using old oil isn’t the best idea, and it’s important to know why before you decide to do it.

Why Old Motor or Car Oil Isn’t Great for Your Chainsaw

  1. When you take oil out of your motorcycle or car, it’s because it’s not working well anymore. It gets tiny bits of metal and dirt in it, which can make it kind of rough. It’s still slippery but not the best for protecting your car’s engine or your chainsaw.
  2. Old motor oil is thinner than the new oil made for chainsaws. It runs out fast and can make a big mess. You’ll end up using more oil, and you’ll see it everywhere – on the ground, on your chainsaw, and even on you.
  3. If you bring your chainsaw with old car oil in it to a repair shop, the people there might not be too happy. This oil is known for making stains and being hard to clean. Some think that the mechanics might secretly charge you more for the extra trouble, just like they might if your lawnmower is really dirty.
  4. There’s also the thing about taking care of our planet. Used motor oil should be thrown away or recycled in a special way because it can be bad for the environment. When you use it in your chainsaw, it can get on the ground and that’s not good.

When Might You Consider Using Motor Oil for Your Chainsaw?

There are instances where you might find yourself without the recommended chainsaw bar oil and in immediate need of a substitute to keep your chainsaw running smoothly. In such scenarios, motor oil can be considered as a temporary solution. However, it’s crucial to approach this alternative with caution and understanding. Here’s how you can make a more informed decision if you’re considering using motor oil for your chainsaw:

1. Opt for a Heavier Grade

  • Thicker motor oil, such as SAE 30, tends to stay on the chain longer than thinner oils. Its viscosity provides a better coating and can offer more effective lubrication under the rigorous movements of a chainsaw.
  • The heavier nature of the oil means it’s less likely to sling off the chain during operation, ensuring that the lubrication remains where it’s most needed.

2. Short-Term Use

  • It’s imperative to view the use of motor oil as a stopgap measure, not a permanent fix. Chainsaw bar oils are specifically designed to cater to the unique requirements of chainsaws, something motor oil cannot fully replicate.
  • If you resort to using motor oil, keep a vigilant eye on your chainsaw’s performance. Watch out for signs of increased wear or inadequate lubrication. Unusual noises, excessive heat, or visible wear on the chain and bar can all signal that the substitute oil isn’t performing adequately.
  • As soon as it’s feasible, revert to using the manufacturer-recommended chainsaw bar oil. This switch back will ensure that your chainsaw receives the best possible care and maintenance, aligning with its design and preserving its longevity.

Key Considerations:

  • Environmental Impact: Remember that, like chainsaw bar oil, motor oil can also have environmental repercussions. If possible, choose an environmentally friendly motor oil for this temporary use.
  • Clean After Use: If you use motor oil temporarily, it’s wise to clean your chainsaw thoroughly after use and before refilling it with the standard chainsaw bar oil. This ensures any residue from the motor oil doesn’t mix with the bar oil, maintaining the purity and effectiveness of the lubrication.

Can I Use 10w40 for Chainsaw Bar Oil?

Using 10W40 motor oil for your chainsaw bar oil isn’t ideal, but it can be a temporary solution if you don’t have anything else. Here’s what you should know:

  • 10W40 is designed for vehicles, not chainsaws. Chainsaw bar oil is thicker and sticks to the chain better, ensuring the chain stays lubricated even at high speeds.
  • 10W40 might be too thin for your chainsaw. It can drip off quickly, meaning it won’t protect your chain as well, and you might use it up faster than proper bar oil.
  • Because it’s thinner, 10W40 might splatter more when you’re cutting. This could make a bigger mess on you and around your cutting area.
  • If you have absolutely nothing else and you need to use your chainsaw, 10W40 is better than nothing. But you should get proper chainsaw bar oil as soon as you can.

So, while it’s not the best choice, 10W40 motor oil can be used in a pinch. Just remember it’s a temporary fix and not a long-term solution. Always try to use the right oil for the job to keep your chainsaw working well and to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.

The Smart Choice: Use the Proper Oil

It’s great to think about reusing things, but for your chainsaw, it’s better to use the right oil. Chainsaw bar oil is made just right to keep your chainsaw safe and to work well without making a mess or hurting the environment.

When you have to choose, remember: the right oil might cost a little more, but it’s worth it for keeping your chainsaw in good shape and for peace of mind. Keep it simple and stick with the proper stuff. That’s the way to go!


  1. Can I make my old motor oil cleaner and then use it for my chainsaw?
    While you might be able to filter out the big chunks, the tiny metal particles and contaminants are still there. These can wear out your chainsaw’s parts, so it’s not recommended.
  2. If I’m in a pinch, is it better to use old motor oil or run my chainsaw dry?
    Using old motor oil is not ideal, but it’s better than running your chainsaw dry. Running it dry can cause serious damage quickly. Just remember, this is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution!
  3. How can I tell if using old motor oil has damaged my chainsaw?
    You might notice your chainsaw is running rough, the chain isn’t moving smoothly, or it’s wearing out faster than usual. These can be signs that the old motor oil isn’t doing its job right.
  4. Is there a way to modify used motor oil to make it safer for my chainsaw?
    Not really. The problem is the tiny bits of metal and the breakdown of the oil’s properties. You can’t really reverse that, so it’s best to use the right oil for the job.
  5. Are there any chainsaws that are more tolerant of using old motor oil?
    No chainsaw is designed to work best with used motor oil. While some models might handle it better than others, it’s not recommended for any chainsaw.
  6. If I’ve used motor oil in my chainsaw by mistake, what should I do?
    Clean the oil reservoir and the chain thoroughly. Then, fill it with the proper chainsaw bar oil. Keep an eye on your chainsaw’s performance and consider having a professional check it if you’re worried.
  7. What’s the biggest myth about using motor oil in chainsaws?
    The biggest myth is probably that it’s a savvy recycling hack that saves money without downsides. In reality, it can cause damage to your chainsaw and isn’t eco-friendly.

Join the discussion below by sharing your experiences, tips, or reviews. Your contributions help others make informed decisions and navigate their chainsaw choices with confidence. Let’s build a community of shared knowledge for all wood-cutting enthusiasts!

David Murray
David Murray
Forestry Author

I'm David Murry, a forestry equipment specialist with a focus on chainsaw operation. With over 13 years of experience, I've honed my skills in operating and maintaining a wide range of machinery, from chainsaws to log splitters. My passion for the outdoors and commitment to sustainable forestry drive my work, which emphasizes safety, efficiency, and staying updated with industry advancements. Additionally, I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise and promoting environmental awareness within the forestry community.


The question is, "WHY is brand new, unused, bar chain oil filthy?" Is all bar chain oil just dirty, used oil from the outset? Searched all over the internet asking, but the web is blah, blah about leaks! Nothing leaks! The oil is brand new, unused, filthy from the jug! WHY? I only need bar chain oil for my Black & Decker rechargeable pole saw, and bought a gallon of MileMaster 1 year ago. I used an old squeeze oiler until I noticed how absolutely filthy the brand new oil was. Poured it out. Added new. Again the brand new, unused bar oil had very visible DIRT in it, lots of it. I threw away the vintage oiler, thinking it had somehow been contaminated. This week went to use the pole saw, put brand new oil from jug into the clean, new 1 oz. plastic squeeze bottle which came with the saw. MUD! Why did I spend bucks on bar chain oil when IT's just DIRTY, USED OIL?

Daniel Adams
Gutzy C
February 21, 2024 8:19 pm

I buy one new jug of chain oil and cut it into 1/3's witold motor oil.By doing this I get three gallons for the price of one . Chainsaw bar oil is recycled motor already having been filtered . This I found out from an oil representative at a lumber jack show.I have been doing this now for thirty plus years in the same two chainsaws I have and I haven't ever had an issue with lubrication on the bar.

Daniel Adams
Matt pelt from Michigan
January 30, 2024 12:36 am

As a garden equipment repair man this 40+ yrs, my favourite rant is bar and chain oil. Used oil defo no no hate to see them coming in covered in black gunk. Vegetable oil is ok at temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius below that it turns into a white goo clogging the pump needing stripping and cleaning. Bar and chain oil is there to keep the tree huggers happy !! It still uses tank for tank and causes excessive heating of the bar and chain due to its heavy viscosity, (I have done a like for like test to prove my theory). Cheapest engine or hydraulic oil you can buy is the best to prove the point I'm still using the second hand 16 inch bar I put on my Jonsered sp49 back in the late 1980s. Clean engine oil and a sharp chain works wonders if you not cutting cornflakes your chain is blunt simples. A blunt chain only cutting dust only causes heat and unnecessary friction

Daniel Adams
January 29, 2024 3:56 pm

Fill bar oil tank... and 2/3 fill fuel tank... should equal out at refill if using wast engine oil (thinner viscosity)

Daniel Adams
G jones
January 29, 2024 3:10 pm

I’ve used none detergent oil for years no problems

Daniel Adams
January 29, 2024 1:14 am

Has anyone tried water injection from say 5 gallon containers. For cutting in 5' area?

Daniel Adams
January 28, 2024 3:23 pm

All Petroleum oil is toxic to you and the environment. I have used Raw vegetable oil for over 20yrs. It lubricates well and will not clog the pump. It should be illegal to use petroleum oil for bar and chain oil.

Daniel Adams
Matthew Franzen
January 28, 2024 12:17 pm

My uncle was head of the mechanicle branch for the New South Wales forrestry commission for years and he said they used 20 to1 engine oil instead of 25 to 1, 2 stroke in their fuel and in their cutter bar,but i remember hearing from a tree lopper mate that light engine oil on bars is bad for your lungs.

Daniel Adams
Peter O'Rourke
January 28, 2024 10:10 am

I Used a used hydraulic oil as a chainsaw bar lubricant. Works really well and not as dirty as used engine oil.

Daniel Adams
Antonino Soriano
January 28, 2024 6:34 am

I've used old motor oil for years. I've used transmission fluid I've even used hydraulic fluid. They work better than bar oil when it below zero out. Never had any problems with any of them. Happy cutting.

Daniel Adams
January 28, 2024 4:40 am

Like everything, there are great ideas and poor rationales to keep good ideas from becoming common ..why should you use chain oil...answer: because They make more money off you

Daniel Adams
Ben nowak
January 28, 2024 12:36 am

Have used engine oil for over 50 years Have had no problems with my chain saws using it as bar oil.

Daniel Adams
Ernie Porter
January 27, 2024 11:07 pm

I know a guy who collects used oil from service stations and makes bar oil. He cleans it, adds something to thicken and make it sticky and i think sulphur.

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 10:19 pm

Motor oil is damaging to the environment and should be avoided. It's nasty. Used vegetable cooking oil if you must or optimally bio-degradable chainsaw oil.

Daniel Adams
Paul Gailey
January 27, 2024 8:50 pm

I've used old vegetable oil for years,works well in my chainsaw.

Kristin Watsons
Derek Mckinney
January 28, 2024 12:16 pm

Worked for lots of different logging companies . They all used old motor oil . Never a problem .

Daniel Adams
Brent roth
January 27, 2024 8:37 pm

Old motor oil is carsinagenic, basically it means it causes cancer. The hidh chain speed flings it around in a vapour. You breathe it in. Think twice. Happy cutting.

Kristin Watsons
Mick s
January 28, 2024 2:37 pm

My chainsaw was apparently not pumping oil on to the chain. Having had the pump mechanism replaced a year previously I returned it to be done again. The report came back saying " nothing wrong with it , try using a thinner chain oil". That seems to contradict the fact that chain oil is thicker than engine oil.

Daniel Adams
Mike Green
January 27, 2024 8:30 pm

You sir, are ignorant. I have used used motor oil in all of the chainsaws that I have owned over the last 40 years without any problem. Environmentally worse that regular bar oil? How ignorant are you?

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 7:27 pm

he might be ignorant but you are just plain wrong motor oil is bad for the environment and is even worse for your health

Kristin Watsons
mark robertson
January 29, 2024 12:58 pm

I run 3 stihl saws from a 260 to a 431. I do not run used motor oil for chain lube. That is disgusting! But I run any good quality fresh motor oil for chain lube. 30w in the summer,20w in the winter! No abnormal wear,and considerably cheaper. Recommend Quaker state! Old guy told me that 30 years ago.

Daniel Adams
Pete foster
January 27, 2024 4:56 pm

Been using old car or boat oil since 82, same as all the lads I cut with, none of us had problems with bar/chain lubing. But everyone to their own, try both oil's and see what suits your saw, not what suits others.

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 4:29 pm

Using old engine oil isn't going to make the chainsaw motor run rough. It never gets in the engine, unless you mix it with the fuel. Thinner oil will penetrate the chain better, and lubricate more thoroughly. Unless you spill it, it shouldn't get on the ground. I wouldn't want to cut wood for my smoker or barbecue with a chainsaw; and oil would not be good. I use a sawz-all for cooking wood.

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 2:44 pm

I have only just run out of genuine bar oil recently but I have a large stock of Duckhams 20w/50 on the shelf. It's quite a heavy viscous oil and not used now in modern cars as their recommended oils are much lighter in viscosity. The 20w/50 is new unused oil but on the shelf for the last 15 to 20 years. Have used it all last week and it works perfectly, doesn't throw it excessively off the chain and doesn't seem to use it any more quickly than the Oregon bar oil I previously used. Also it will be a good way to use up an almost obsolete oil. So if any of you mechanics out there have any old stock unused oil, put it in your chainsaw!

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 2:21 pm

I have been using my old motor oil for my Chain Saw, Door Hangers, Pulleys, Ball Bearings and any item frozen up I will soak it in the used oil in the End I used it to start a fire . Never had any problems.

Daniel Adams
Willie Squaire
January 27, 2024 2:08 pm

I agree with both sides. I've used both. Never run dry, for obvious reasons.

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 1:02 pm

how about the health effects of breathing that used oil, much more toxic than unused oil

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 12:58 pm

My old man was a faller. Used oil was all he put in his saws. Never had to do a pump before the saw was completely worn out. Used oil has no detergent left in it. Better for environment.

Daniel Adams
Quent Cowan
January 27, 2024 7:18 am

My Dad was a timber faller for 45 years, he used, used oil for most of his career, never a problem! I ran used oil for most of my 14 years as a faller, no problems! It was just dirtier when packing the saw on your shoulder. I guess we were just thrifty!

Kristin Watsons
Kenneth Ellison
January 27, 2024 8:41 pm

you know dam right!

Kristin Watsons
January 27, 2024 4:06 pm

The part of this article that made me laugh was your chainsaw might run ruff. lol. The motor is 2 cycle and the bar oil reservoir is completely isolated to the chain and bar. Ive run used oil in all of my saws for 40 years and it works just fine.

Kristin Watsons
January 27, 2024 12:38 pm

Where do you think bar oil comes from? All it is is recycled auto oil with a tackifier added. There's no reason you can't do that yourself. There's nothing special about bar oil. Any viscosity oil with a tackifier correct for the temperature you're operating in will perform the same.

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 5:19 am

wet and slippery? Itl work just fine. I like tranny fluid

Kristin Watsons
January 27, 2024 4:01 pm

I have been using old oil as bar lube for decades. The crucial thing to understand is length of running time.

Daniel Adams
James Shepherd
January 27, 2024 3:40 am

I've used cooking oil but it did clog the pump.

Kristin Watsons
Mark Russell
January 28, 2024 2:27 am

I own numerous chainsaws. All the owners manuals strongly forbid using used motor oil as a bar/chain lubricant! Failure to comply will cause failure of the Saw's lubrication system in short order. Some chainsaw repair shops will refuse to repair a saw with used motor oil in the oil tank. Read your owners manual!

Daniel Adams
January 27, 2024 3:31 am

I filter my used truck oil and use it for my chainsaw for over 16yr never had issue .the money hungry chainsaw saw companies don’t want you to save a penny.look how much the name brand 2cycle cost or their name brand bar oil cost .i will continue to recycle my old oil that you

Kristin Watsons
Corey L Ross
January 27, 2024 11:17 am

Old engine may be carcinogenic so care should be taken

Daniel Adams
Bill Strachan
January 26, 2024 7:27 pm

As long as you use at least a thirty weight oil, you can use it in your chainsaw. Also, remember that the oil that you are using for bar oil is recycled engine oil

Daniel Adams
January 26, 2024 6:12 pm

Have you noticed that motor oil is thinner now than twenty years ago. It pours like syrup. Not the heavier kayro syrup or molasses but maple syrup.

Daniel Adams
Michael James
January 26, 2024 5:02 pm

Motor oils are thinner today because of both better engine parts/building tolerances and due to higher fuel economy demands. I've seen the 5W20 oil modern vehicles have bren using for the last couple of decades and even the 0W20 oil now being implemented. Far cries from the 10W40 and 20W50 from engines of years ago...

Kristin Watsons
January 28, 2024 5:15 am

very good article, i always have used real bar oil cause i did think of the problem it might bring, thanks for confirming.

Daniel Adams
rob c
January 26, 2024 4:58 pm

I'm certainly glad that this topic was brought up to clear up any doubts one might have about their power equipment ( chainsaw ) performance and safety. Thanks for the " heads up ". I've always been a firm believer in sticking to the manufacturers recommendations with any equipment which relies on various types of lubricants in order to perform properly. Good article !

Daniel Adams
Michael Scott Presley
January 26, 2024 4:25 pm

I do this all the time and it's fine. Motor oil certainly is not the right thing compared to bar oil but in a pinch or just want to use the free oil, it's fine.

Daniel Adams
January 26, 2024 4:00 pm

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