What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil

Most people don’t know or understand that owning a chainsaw requires as much work as owning other motorized machines. Without proper care, they stop running smoothly, therefore reducing the lifespan of the machine.

With every chainsaw, the manufacturers usually recommend a particular oil for the chainsaw bar. But, unfortunately, what happens in most cases is, people forget to get that recommend one. Other than that, if you don’t use your chainsaw that often, you might not have the actual chainsaw bar oil available at your house.

To save you from the hassle of running to the store again, there are some pretty good alternatives out there, and their performance is no less than the original bar oil. So, in this article, we will talk about a few alternatives to chainsaw bar oil used for both electric and gas-operated chainsaws.

Importance of Lubricating the Chainsaw Bar

The decreased chain friction is the primary reason you need to lubricate the chainsaw bar in the first place. After you use your chainsaw for weeks, the chain loses its lubrication, and the chain’s friction against the bar becomes so intense that it starts to wear off, gets discolored, and finally loses its sharpness.

Another thing that also happens is that the unlubricated chainsaw bar also obstructs the motor from running smoothly. Because of that, you don’t get to use the full potential power of your chainsaw.

Not only friction reduction, but lubrication also helps the bar prevent rust. Because of all the reasons mentioned above, lubricating the chainsaw bar is a pretty important matter if you work with wood or in the timber industry.

Things to Consider When Choosing Chainsaw Bar Oil Substitute

Before purchasing one, you should know that a bar oil alternative must need to have certain qualities before you can apply that to your chainsaw. First, as the alternative bar oil will reduce the friction between the surface and the bar, it must contain as many lubricating properties as possible.

Then the alternative oil also needs to be sticky enough not to drip off the chainsaw bar. If the oil doesn’t stick to the bar, it will throw it off when running at high speed and become dry. Lastly, check out the chainsaw speed and if the bar oil is environmentally friendly.

Some high-end chainsaws are rated for higher speed and cannot provide optimal performance without the manufacturer’s recommended bar oil. Though that’s a very rare case, check out the speed of the chainsaw you own before using an alternative.

What can be used as Chainsaw Bar Oil?

Other than the actual bar oil, the number of oil or fluid used as a substitute is pretty limited. Ideally, four items are usually used as chainsaw bar oil by different people depending on the availability.

You’ll be surprised to know how common these oils are, just lying around your home without you knowing about their application.

Motor Oil

One of the most obvious options that usually comes to our mind is motor oil. Considering how well its lubrication properties are, motor oil works like a charm on chainsaw bars. However, the use of motor oil to lubricate a chainsaw is somewhat controversial among woodworkers or on internet forums.

So, using motor oil is something very subjective. On the plus side, motor oil is cheaper, keeps the blade clean, and most importantly, is super available around us. As for the disadvantages, motor oil is not environment friendly, contains microscopic metal particles that damage the blade, and you might end up voiding the chainsaw warranty.

Now the decision to use this is totally up to you, and we recommend this only as a last resort. Look for an SAE rating of 30 to 10 before using. The higher the number, the better for warmer conditions.

Vegetable Oil

The second possible candidate on our list is the vegetable oil we use daily in our kitchen. In terms of lubrication, it might not prove to be as effective as motor oil, but vegetable oil also has no significant disadvantages that can sabotage your chainsaw.

The first and foremost advantage of vegetable oil is its availability and price. There is no kitchen in the world where you won’t find vegetable oil. Then, unlike motor oil, vegetable oil is made from 100% organic materials, which is environmentally friendly. If you are pruning live trees, this is the best lubricant for you.

Lastly, the viscosity of vegetables can be an advantage too in hot weather. However, it becomes too viscous in winter, and different vegetable oils have different viscosity, so keep that in mind.

Canola Oil

You might be wondering why we are talking about another vegetable-based oil separately. Yes, Canola oil is also a vegetable oil and has almost the same advantages as vegetable oil.

However, as canola oil is thinner than regular vegetable oil, we are discussing this separately. On the other hand, it basically has the same features as vegetable oil; we will not rehearse them again.

In addition, the viscosity of canola oil is more suitable in cold temperatures. Lastly, it’s not as sticky as other vegetable oils, so it might need to be used more.

Hydraulic Fluid

This substitute is the least available one with similar characteristics to motor oil. As this is not something you can buy from the store rack, it’s not mentioned as often as an alternative like motor or vegetable oils.

Usually, this oil-type substance is harvested from different machinery, e.g., tractors or anything with a hydraulic pump. This one also has identical downsides to motor oil; it’s not environment friendly and a lot thinner than any bar oil.

Therefore, we don’t recommend this for standard use. If you have some from any other machines you own, use them only in case of emergencies.


Depending on where you live, you might find some of the alternatives widely available and cheaper in your area. We admit that nothing can beat the bar oil the manufacturer recommend with their chainsaw.

However, no matter which alternative you use, we want to assure you that every one of these is equally effective and performs almost as well as a certified bar oil, but at a fraction of the original price for some alternatives.

Whether you decide to use these alternatives is totally up to you. Still, we hope our article will save you from the inconvenience and indecision faced when certified bar oil is unavailable. 

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