A Few Effective Alternatives For Bar And Chain Oil For Your Chainsaw

Chainsaws need to be oiled regularly if you want to keep them working like new for years to come. Every manufacturer recommends a particular bar and chain oil for chainsaws made by them. However, there are times when you need an alternative as the recommended oil is either too expensive or not available in the neighborhood. Thankfully, there are quite a few chain oil alternatives you can use to lubricate the chainsaw.

Alternative oils are a good option but you need to be careful in your selection to ensure efficient performance and to maintain the durability of chain and the bar. Another important thing you need to consider is whether using an alternative oil will nullify the manufacturer’s warranty and it will help you in making the right choice.

Before you start looking at alternatives, it’s important to figure out the important qualities of the oil recommended by your manufacturer. These qualities include:

Stickiness: Chainsaws run at a speed of around 45 mph when on full throttle and the alternative oil needs to be sticky enough to be able to remain on the chain at this high speed.

Slipperiness: The alternative oil needs to be sticky and at the same time it should be slippery enough to prevent the tree sap and debris from sticking to the bar.

Environmentally Friendly: An alternative oil should be eco-friendly. The oil needs to be biodegradable and it should not emit any poisonous fumes.

There are many alternatives available in the market but you need to do some research to find something that lives up to the above-mentioned requirements. Here is a list of 4 alternative bar and chain oils:

1. Motor Oil

It is the most widely available alternative lubricant. It’s affordable as it simply means already used car oil. However, it is important to ensure that the motor oil you use is filtered to be used as an alternative lubricant for bar and chain. If you decide on this alternative, make sure it’s warm during harvesting. Warm oil is easier to filter and provides cleaner output. Simply put, you need to collect the oil before you allow the engine to cool down. Another option is to drain the oil when the engine is running.

Another important thing you need to know is that oils with different weights need to be used in different seasons. The University of Missouri Extension has recommended using SAE 10 weight motor oil during the winter months and SAE 30 during the summer months.

While motor oil is a popular alternative due to its easy availability and overall efficiency but it also has its downsides. It is non-biodegradable but its environmental effect is negligible. Overall, its benefits in terms of availability and affordability outweigh a few shortcomings.

2. Vegetable Oil

It’s another affordable alternative to the manufacturer’s recommended bar and chain oil. It also overcomes the few shortcomings of motor oil which makes it an ideal chainsaw oil as it is biodegradable which means it’s environmentally friendly.

It also has some unique advantages, especially when you need to use the chainsaw in a hygienic environment. For instance, you’re not going to use the motor oil or oil recommended by the manufacturer when you have to use the chainsaw on a deer or a lamb. Another advantage of vegetable oils is that these are easier to clean as these don’t stain your clothes.

What makes it an ideal alternative chainsaw oil is a high viscosity and high flashpoint, and it also offers greater resistance to shear. However, one of the biggest drawbacks of this alternative chainsaw lubricant is that it’s not quite as effective in the winter months.

3. Canola Oil

Canola oil is different from your regular vegetable oil. Your regular vegetable oil is typically made of extracts derived from a variety of plants but only rapeseed is used to make canola oil. It gives different properties to canola oil as it is more versatile and thinner.

Recently, canola oil has been used as an alternative for many varieties of lubricants such as grease, engine oils as well as two-cycle oils. It means it can also be used as a chainsaw lubricant as it’s a natural substitute for the regular bar and chain oil.

Its biggest advantage over vegetable oils is its ability to withstand low temperatures. Its low vapor pressure means that it produces little amount of fumes that are not life-threatening if you inhale them. If you take a close look at canola oil, you will find that it’s almost similar to the human skin oil, which is another advantage as it causes less skin irritation as compared to the regular vegetable oil and motor oil.

4. Drained Hydraulic Fluids

Similar to motor oil, many people have substituted the recommended chainsaw oil with the readily available and more affordable hydraulic fluids. These fluids have functional properties similar to used motor oil and these also have a similar impact on the environment.

However, hydraulic fluids are less viscous as compared to motor oil which means these dry up faster as compared to other alternative oils. Due to this property, you need to mix a little bit of the manufacturer’s recommended chain oil with hydraulic fluid to make it sticky enough or you will have to use lots of it for even some simple tasks.

Alternative Chainsaw Oils – Achieving Operational Efficiency

The alternative oils for chainsaw offer a lot of cost savings. However, no one wants to impact the durability of their expensive chainsaw due to the use of these oils. Therefore, you need to ensure that the alternative oil you use has properties similar to the replaced oil in terms of lubrication abilities and viscosity.

You should always check the level of canola oil and vegetable oil in the chainsaw before using it as these usually leak constantly. If you prefer using hydraulic fluid or motor oil, it’s recommended to add a bit of original chainsaw oil to make the mixture more viscous. Another option is to use it more frequently.


Before you decide on a particular alternative for your chainsaw oil, it is essential to ensure that its lubrication capacity and eco-friendliness are as close to the manufacturer’s recommended oil as possible. While the hydraulic fluids, vegetable oils, and motor oils are effective alternatives for chain oil, a little modification is still needed before use. To save money on oil and to protect your chainsaw, you need to use more alternative oil or complement the alternatives with some additives to attain the characteristics of recommended bar oil. Don’t forget about the possibility of voiding your warranty claim with the use of alternative oils.