Homelite ChainsawDear Ole Mechanic; 

I was poking around in my late father’s old storage shed the other day when I came upon an old Homelite® chainsaw.  It was all oily and dirty, but it didn’t look like it had been used all that much, as the painted name was not worn off of the bar.  How should I go about checking it out to see if it is any good without spending an arm and a leg?  I did pull the recoil starter rope easy and the engine was not stuck and seemed to have good compression.  Dad died about five years ago and I doubt that he used it in the last five or six years before he passed away.  Where should I start?

Needing a Chainsaw


Dear Chainsaw;

If you have followed my ramblings at all in the past few years, you know that a gas engine must have spark, fuel and compression to run.  Yes, there are other things that also need to happen at the right time, but if you are lacking any one of these three items, it will not run. 

You seemed to have checked out the compression part of the ‘must have’ things.  So fa,r so good.  Next, would be another easy item.  Does it have spark?  Remove the spark plug and reattach the spark plug wire to the plug.  Ground the threaded part of the spark plug to a metal part of the engine in such a way that you can see the gap between the plug's center electrode and the ground electrode.  Turn the kill switch to run.  On your Homelite®, the switch would need to be pushed foreword towards the tip of the chain bar.  Now, pull the recoil starter fast.  If you see one or more sparks jump the gap, then that shows that you have the required spark.  No spark?  You can pull off the recoil starter and sandpaper the magnets in the flywheel untill they are free of rust.  If you still have no spark then, you will probably need a magneto coil.

Once you get spark, then it's on to the fuel requirement.  This is where it can get tricky.  If a gas/oil mixture was left in the saw for the ten or eleven years that the saw has been sitting, then the fuel system will need to be flushed out, the fuel lines checked for cracks and the carburetor disassembled and cleaned.  Even if the gas/oil mixture had been dumped out of the tank, there would still be the remnants of the old mixture in the fuel line and carburetor.  You could try putting in a fresh mixture of fuel and two-cycle oil to see if it might start, but be ready for a bunch of yanking on the starter rope.  By the way, that saw requires a 32 to 1 gas to oil mixture.  That would be one ounce of oil in every quart of gas.  I really don’t expect it to start, because of the old mixture in the carb.  It really should be cleaned first.

How do you get to the carburetor?  First, the side handle that goes around the recoil starter needs to be removed.  Then, take off the plastic cover on top of the throttle trigger.  Next, remove the screws that hold on the recoil-starter cover and remove the cover.  Then, the black plastic cover that says “choke” can be removed.  That will expose the side of the engine and you can see the carburetor, but you cannot get to it to work on it.  Next, you will need to remove the chain bar and chain as well as the sparkplug, if you had put it back in.  Then remove the four Torex (star) bolts, two from the top of the cover and two from the bottom.  Now the entire engine, fuel mix tank and bar oil tank can partially pulled sideways out of the cover.  Then, remove the throttle rod from the trigger and the kill switch wire from the coil.  Finally, the entire assembly--the engine and tanks--can be pulled out of the cover and you can get to the carburetor to remove and clean it.  If you get this far, watch out for the very tiny spring under the inlet needle retainer inside the carburetor.  It is very easy to lose, and the carb will not work without it.

At this point, an arm and a leg probably look pretty cheap, and a new chainsaw is starting to seem like a good idea.  Also, at this point you are probably wondering how I know so much about old Homelite® chainsaws.  My ex-wife got me one for Christmas in 1981.  It lasted a lot longer than our marriage and after cutting hundreds of cords of Oak firewood, I wore it out and had to get a new saw in 2008.  The old ones were very good if you took care of them and--yes--more than once I crawled on the floor looking for that tiny spring.  I have always found it.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts