Bar and Chainsaw Oil Alternatives

It is common knowledge that machines need proper care and maintenance for effective performance. Chainsaws are no different. Whether you are using a gas-powered or battery-powered chainsaw, the bar and the chain needs continuous lubrication to keep the tool running efficiently. This minimizes the friction caused by the chain turning at high speed. Without proper lubrication, the friction can result in heat build-up that can hurt you or damage the tool.

A good indication that your chainsaw needs oil refill is when you notice it running slow, or burning fuel faster than average. If this happens, then you need to add more oil fast to prevent the saw from being severely damaged. All chain saw manufacturers have their own type of chain oil recommendations. However, what do you do if the oil is not available where you are or if it is too expensive for you?

Of course, you cannot continue using the device while hoping for the best. There are other effective chainsaw oil alternatives that you can use. However, you must select the options with care to guarantee that the chain and bar will work as initially intended. Be sure to check your chainsaw warranty to know if using a substitute oil nullifies your warranty.

Features to Look for in Chainsaw Oil Alternatives

When choosing a substitute oil for your bar and chain, they should have the same qualities as the one manufacturer recommends. This is to ensure that your chainsaw components are adequately lubricated, thereby reducing the friction and preventing a heat build-up in the saw. Here are some vital qualities to consider:


A good chainsaw oil should have a certain degree of slipperiness to prevent debris such as sawdust from clinging on the chain. A build-up of debris in the chainsaw bar can cause severe damage to the tool hence shortening its lifespan. Besides, it makes using the saw very dangerous.


As much as it is crucial for a chainsaw oil to be slippery, it should also have the right amount of stickiness. At full speed, a chainsaw operates at about 45 miles/hour. While at this speed, it is easy for the oil to slip off the bar if it is too slippery. And when that happens, the chain and bar are left unprotected, and you might end up working without lubrication. Therefore, when choosing a chainsaw oil alternative, ensure that it has a perfect balance of slipperiness and stickiness.

It is essential to understand that heat affects the thickness or density of oil. So, while some oils may be perfect in warmer conditions, they may be unsuitable for colder temperatures.


Another feature to consider for your substitute chainsaw oil is how friendly it is to the environment. The oil should be biodegradable and not release harmful fumes to the surrounding when the machine is running.


5 Chainsaw Oil Substitutes

Although there are numerous useful bar and chain oil substitutes in the market, you can improvise your own. You will be fine provided that the alternative oil has the three elements we mentioned above for your saws lubrication needs. Here are some oil substitutes for our chainsaw:

Motor oil

This is the most readily available lubricant that you are likely to find. It is also affordable, especially if you are referring to the already used car oil.

You should consider the weight of the oil with the season you want to use it. Experts recommend using the SAE 30 for warm seasons and SAE 10 for cold weather.

However, if you are using the already used oil, ensure that you filter it before using it in a chainsaw. This is to remove any sludge that might clog the saw. It is also essential to harvest the oil while it is still warm for effectiveness.

Although the motor oil is efficient as a chain lube in addition to its ease of availability, it raises concerns due to its non-biodegradable form. Meaning that its effects will be felt in the environment for years to come.

The good news is that motor oil benefits outweighs its shortcomings, thus making it a good chainsaw oil alternative.

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is also another great alternative to use in your chainsaw. Not only is it cheap and environment friendly, but you might also have it already in your home.  Plus, you can find it easily find it in any market or grocery store.

What is more, is that vegetable oil is easy to remove from clothes. Unlike the traditional petroleum-based chain oil, the new vegetable oil does not harm trees if you are pruning. Furthermore, it is perfect for occasions that call for a hygienic environment as when cutting meat.

Another added advantage that makes the vegetable oil a suitable option is its high viscosity. Meaning that it has the right thickness to properly lubricate the bar and chain. However, it might become too thick during cold temperatures that it cannot be used. Therefore, it is better to seek other alternatives during the winter season. Another downside is that it does not last long. Hence you will need to refill it often.

Canola oil

Canola oil is often confused with vegetable oils. While most vegetable oils are extracted from various plants, the canola oil is explicitly removed from rapeseeds. The canola oil is also thinner, which makes it more versatile than vegetable oil.

It has been used as an alternative for different kinds of oil like grease, two-cycle oils, and even engine oils.

This allows it to be a natural substitute bar and chain lubricant. Plus, canola oil is affordable and readily available.

Another feature that sets canola oil apart from vegetable oil is its ability to withstand low temperatures. Furthermore, it has low vapor pressure. This means that it does not release any toxic fumes.

You can also use it to cut the meat without changing the quality. The eco-friendly feature allows it to be used to prune trees without causing any damage.

Drained hydraulic fluid

Just like the motor oil, hydraulic oil can be drained from machinery that uses it, such as trains, or cranes. It allows the machines to perform smoothly despite their big sizes by lubricating them.

The option of recycling makes it a cheap and readily available option. Be sure to filter it to remove any gunk that could end up clogging your chainsaw.

The hydraulic fluid has nearly the same features as the motor oil. However, it is less viscous, which makes it dry faster than other substitutes on this list. You can mix it with the recommended chainsaw oil or other alternatives to improve its efficiency.

The hydraulic fluid is also an environmental pollutant due to its non-biodegradable nature. Despite its downsides, the hydraulic fluid makes a reliable bar and chain oil substitute.

Using diesel in freezing conditions

When you are working in below zero temperatures, diesel is an excellent option for your chainsaw lubrication needs. Not only does it have all the features of motor oil, but it can also withstand freezing conditions. All this makes it an adequate chain oil substitute. However, just like motor oil, it is not safe for the environment.

Tips for Using Alternative Oils

The substitute oils are more appealing due to their affordable prices and the fact that they are readily available. However, you have to ensure that they don’t affect the performance and durability of your chainsaw. Your alternative oils must have as many features as possible with what the manufacturer recommends. Here are a few tips to remember:

When using hydraulic fluid or motor oil, consider mixing it with the recommended bar oil. This move improves its viscosity hence making it useful in lubricating the chainsaw. However, if you don’t have the original oil, ensure to check the oil levels to see if the saw requires more oil. This will prevent you from using a dry bar and chain.

Also, keep tabs on the saw before using it, if you are using vegetable or canola oil as your chain lubricant. These oils may leak, thereby reducing their ability to lubricate the equipment.

Use fresh oil to prevent any risk of damaging the saw. Although you may filter the used oil, there may still be impurities present in the oil.

Do not add oil to the reservoir if the chainsaw is on. It may put you in danger and prevent proper lubrication of the parts.

Final Remarks

Lubricating bar and chain is an essential part of chainsaw maintenance. Not only does it improve the functioning of the tool, but it also extends its lifespan and ensures the safety of the user. Original chain oil is the best option to use on a saw. However, if for one reason or another, you don’t want to use it, there are other chainsaw alternatives to apply. Just ensure that their viscosity matches the original oil as much as possible.

Furthermore, it is best to use fresh oils to eliminate any risk of damaging your tool. Under no circumstance should you use your chainsaw without lubrication. Always check the oil reservoir to see if it needs a refill. A chainsaw is a worthy investment that needs proper care and maintenance.