Bar And Chain Oil Substitute for Chainsaw – Save Hundreds On Lubes

bar and chain oil substitute

Most preferable bar and chain oil substitute for chainsaw is motor oil. Besides, you can use veggie oils, hydraulic fluid even diesel as alternative lubricator for your saw. Today I’ll be explaining what to use when and how and some bonus tips for everyday chainsaw user.

Saws are an excellent tool for the home handyman to have in their arsenal. Bar oil and chain oil are essential for a well-running tool. They lubricate the chain, bar and protect them from wear and tear.

Do you know 2 Scottish medical surgeons invented chainsaw to use in operation room? Interesting, right?

According to the National Association of Chain Saw Dealers, about 60% of chainsaws sold in the United States are a good fit for an oil substitute. However, bar and chain oil are explicitly made for chainsaws. But if you don’t have any handy or If you happen to run out of bar oil or chain oil, or are in a remote location and need to find a substitute for chainsaw bar oil and chain oil, what can you use instead? These oil substitutes are available at any home or anywhere around you, and the cost is minimal.

Majority of the chainsaw owners in the United States that surveyed the use of various oil substitutes in the last 12 month:

  • 45% makes use of engine oil
  • 30% use vegetable oil as alternative
  • 29% use canola oil
  • 25% use Hydraulic oil
  • 15% use drained engine oil
  • 12% use diesel oil
  • 10% use drained hydraulic oil
  • 2% use olive oil
  • 5% use power steering oil
  • 1% coconut oil

In this blog post, a detailed explanation of the importance of chainsaw bar and chain oil is explained. Ten suitable substitutes for chainsaw bar oil and chain oil that you can use to keep your chainsaw running smoothly and safety are discussed.

  • Engine oil
  • Veggie oil
  • Canola oil
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Diesel
  • Drained hydraulic oil
  • Drained engine oil
  • Power steering oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil

Ten oil substitutes for your chainsaw bar and chain are treated below:

Engine Oil

Regular motor oil is a good substitute for your chainsaw guide bar and chain oil. It has a very high flash point and a perfect viscosity.

Clean engine oil for your car lubricates the bar and chain faster than the conventional chainsaw chain and bar recommended oil.

engine oil for saw bar and chain

It maintains the chainsaw blades and makes them shine brighter.

Precautions Before Using Engine Oil

  • It’s a petroleum based oil, and not environmentally friendly. As the chain is spinning during operation, droplets of the engine oil would spill off the bar, which is harmful to the environment. If you’re cutting a live tree, the engine oil being non-organic will harm the tree. So, you must be ready to face this if you’re choosing engine oil for your substitute.
  • The engine oil is a petroleum-based fluid, is highly flammable. So be careful when using it.
  • Make sure you cover your nose and body while using your chainsaw with engine oil to avoid inhaling harmful fumes and skin irritation.

How To Apply Engine Oil

  1. Lay your chainsaw on a flat surface
  2. Locate the oil reservoir for your chainsaw chain and bar
  3. Unscrew the cover
  4. Using a small funnel, pour the clean engine oil and make sure you do not overfill it.
  5. Then secure the cap firmly and use a rag to clean excess oil in the surrounding.

Pro Tips For Engine Oil

  • Due to the differences in oil viscosity owing to temperature during the summer and winter seasons, you can choose to use SAE30 in the summer season and SAE10 in the winter season.
  • Make sure that the engine oil you intend to use for your chainsaw chain and bar is refined.

Vegetable Based Oil

Vegetable oil is another substitute you could use in place of the recommended oil for your chainsaw. It has clear cut advantages over other substitutes.

vegetable oil for saw bar and chain
  • It is cheap
  • it is non-toxic, environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It doesn’t cause harm to living organisms and plants when it spills off the chainsaw bar.
  • It is a good choice when you want to cut live trees because it is non-organic and doesn’t cause harm to the trees, unlike petroleum-based fluids.
  • When it spills on your clothes while working, the stain can easily be washed off.
  • It has a very high viscosity, which makes a good oil substitute for your chainsaw.
  • It has a very high flash point.

Precautions Before Using Vegetable Oil

During the winter season, vegetable oil would clump and become too dense, making it unsuitable.

How To Apply Vegetable Oil

Follow the steps already discussed in the how to apply engine oil section.

Pro Tips For Vegetable Oil

You might notice leaks when you use vegetable oil for your chainsaw and bar for the first time. The viscosity of vegetable oil is lower compared to the recommended oil for your chainsaw bar and chain. This property makes the oil flow quicker.

If you notice leaks, just adjust the screw for the oiler flow, which could be found underneath the chainsaw.

Canola Oil

Canola oil is a good substitute for your lubrication oil. It is produced from rapeseed oil, and has similar properties to vegetable oil, but it’s more versatile.

canola oil for saw bar and chain
  • It is inexpensive.
  • It is environmentally friendly
  • It is thinner than vegetable oil. This would cause a bit of a problem because it won’t stick well on the chain, and it would fly off the chain during operation.
  • Chainsaws run at a very high speed, which could cause an oil misting scenario. The tiny amount of vapor pressure present in canola oil helps prevent you from inhaling fumes while using the chainsaw, making it a safer option.
  • Canola oil is used to make various body products. So it reduces the risk of skin irritation during use.

Precautions Before Using Canola Oil

Canola oil is thinner than vegetable oil. This would cause a bit of a problem because it won’t stick well on the chain, and it would fly off the chain during operation. The viscosity of canola oil doesn’t make it a permanent solution, but it’s functional and is a good additive to other oil substitutes.

How To Apply Canola Oil

Follow the same steps for applying engine oil.

Pro Tips For Canola Oil

Due to the delicate nature of the canola oil and its viscosity, it is more suitable during the winter season, or at low temperatures, i.e., it sticks very well to the chain when used in cold temperatures.

So it’s an excellent option to use when the temperature is too low to use vegetable oil.

Hydraulic Fluid

If you have access to fluid machinery, i.e., hydraulic pumps, excavators etc. hydraulic oils for those machinery would be available to you. Also, the oil used for braking systems in automobiles is another example of hydraulic fluid.

Hydraulic oil could be perfect chain and bar lube because it has a very high flash point, good lubrication properties, prevents corrosion/rust, and because it also works well in low-temperature conditions.

Hydraulic oil for saw bar and chain

Some of the disadvantages of using hydraulic oil is that:

  • It’s not environmentally friendly.
  • It has a lower viscosity compared to other oils, and it quickly dries up. This means that for adequate lubrication of your chainsaw, lots of hydraulic oil would be consumed.

Precautions Before Using Hydraulic Oil

  • Make sure you use proper safety gear with the hydraulic fluid because, at high pressure, it can be hazardous.
  • Protect your skin and nose while using hydraulic fluid. Make sure you wear a piece of personal protection equipment.

When you want to choose a hydraulic oil for your chainsaw, make sure it is eco-friendly, possesses good lubrication properties and use a refined hydraulic oil for your chainsaw bar and guide.

How To Apply Hydraulic Oil

Same as applying the engine motor oil.

Pro Tips For Hydraulic Oil

Since the hydraulic oil is not very viscous, it’ll require that you mix the hydraulic oil with another preferable oil specified by the manufacturer to improve its viscosity/thickness for proper stickiness on the chain.

Drained Engine Oil

If you don’t have access to clean and spare engine oil, you could use the drain oil from your car, tractor or bike, as a oil alternative for lubricating chain saws.

Drained engine oil is just as effective as fresh engine oil, and it would work well for your chainsaw bar and guide.

drain motor oil for saw bar and chain

Precautions Before Using Drained engine oil

Drain the engine oil from your car, motorcycle or bicycle, while the engine is still warm. This would make the filtering process of the oil easier.

If you decide to go for used engine oil for your chainsaw, Ensure the drained engine oil is thoroughly filtered multiple times to obtain a cleaner oil for use.

Choosing a used and drained oil as a substitute for your chainsaw comes with a risk. A risk that your bar and chain might not be adequately lubricated and that your chainsaw could get damaged due to the impurities still present in the used oil no matter how many times you’ve thoroughly filtered it.

How To Apply Drained Engine Oil

  1. Make sure your chainsaw is switched off
  2. Locate the chain and bar oil reservoir of your chainsaw through the manufacturer’s manual.
  3. With the engine switched off, add the thoroughly drained engine oil. Top it!

Pro Tips For Drained Engine Oil

  • This should be your last option because it’s impossible to eliminate all the impurities present in it.
  • Just like a new engine oil mentioned earlier, make sure that the drained oil from the engine is suitable for the season you’re in.
  • For the summer seasons, use SAE30 weight oils and for the winter seasons, use SAE10 weight oils.


Diesel is a good mineral oil for your Chainsaw bar and guide. Diesel is very effective when you’re working in sub-zero temperature conditions, i.e., it can withstand under-freezing and frigid temperatures.

diesel for saw bar and chain

Precautions Before Using Diesel

Diesel isn’t environmentally friendly.

How To Apply Diesel

Follow the steps already discussed.

Drained Hydraulic Oil

Thoroughly drained hydraulic fluids from power machinery is an option you could bank on when you need to use your chainsaw and you’re out of recommended oil.

Drained hydraulic oil would lubricate your chainsaw and bar. It has a high flash point and is suitable during cold weather conditions.

drain hydraulic oil for saw bar and chain

Precautions Before Using Drained Hydraulic Oil

  • Make sure you protect your body while using your chainsaw with hydraulic fluid to prevent serious injuries. When the oil is highly pressurized, it is hazardous to your skin if there’s contact.
  • Filter oil; used hydraulic fluid would contain lots of dirt and clogs. Make sure you filter it with caution before using it.

How To Filter Drained Hydraulic Oil

  1. Stretch a clean cheesecloth or semi-porous cloth across a funnel.
  2. Then gently pour the drained oil through the funnel, through the cheesecloth, and into a clean plastic bottle.
  3. repeat multiple times.

You can also use a filtration cart to filter your drained hydraulic oil.

After filtering the hydraulic oil multiple times, then it’s ready to be added to your chainsaw. Follow the steps already discussed above to add your filtered hydraulic oil to your chainsaw.

How To Apply Drained Hydraulic Oil

  1. Make sure the chain saw is switched off.
  2. Uncap the chainsaw bar and chain oil reservoir, then top with the drained hydraulic oil.
  3. Tighten the cover of the oil reservoir very well.

Pro Tips For Drained Hydraulic Oil

Make sure you don’t use a drained hydraulic oil for a long time because no matter the amount of filtering, contaminants, debris, and impurities would still be present, and it would potentially damage your chainsaw. It should be a short-term solution.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is another option you could bank on for your chainsaw bar and lube. If you have a handy bottle of olive oil nearby, it’ll work just fine for your chainsaw bar and lube. It has good lubrication properties, and it is biodegradable.

The only disadvantage is that it could be a little bit expensive, but not as expensive as the recommended oil for your chainsaw.

olive oil for saw bar and chain

It’s very high viscosity makes it suitable for your chainsaw. Follow the same steps as for the motor oil to apply olive oil to your saw.

Power Steering And Gear Fluid

The power steering and gear fluid for your car would work just fine for your saw chain and lube. Synthetic oil, such as power steering fluid and gear oil are great chain lubricant. These are lightweight oil, that can prevent chain brake and bar jamming. They would adequately lubricate your saw bar and chain, thereby reducing/eliminating intense friction.

power steering and gear oil for saw bar and chain

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a good substitute oil for your chainsaw and bar oil. It is very suitable for use during the summer or warmer season.

The coconut oil also has a very high flash point, which reduces the risk of fire hazard, making it suitable for your chainsaw chain and bar.

coconut oil for saw bar and chain

Precautions Before Using Coconut Oil

Coconut oil should be used with additives like veggie oil or motor oil to improve the viscosity level and perform well on your chainsaw chain and bar.

Follow the steps mentioned here for applying coconut oil.

Pro Tips For Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a very unstable viscosity with temperature. At a temperature of 22 ᵒC, it freezes, and above this temperature, its viscosity becomes thinner. Due to this varying viscosity, the fluid cannot be used all year round.

Coconut oil should be your last resort when you’re looking for a substitute for your chainsaw chain and bar.

A chainsaw bar, also known as a chainsaw guide or a chainsaw blade, is a curved metal bar responsible for protecting the cutting element’s motion (the saw-chain) of the chainsaw during operation. It sits in the chainsaw’s chains and spins the chainsaw’s chain. When attached to your chainsaw, it improves the overall performance of the chainsaw.

chainsaw bar and chain

Lubrication is vital for your chainsaw bar to function correctly. Your chainsaw bar needs oil to ensure proper lubrication between the bar and the chain as they rotate during operation. This would help keep it from rubbing against the chain and getting caught, preventing the generation of intense friction, avoiding the burning of the chain, preventing excessive fuel consumption, guarantee maximum efficiency of the chainsaw bar, preventing the risk of injuries, and preventing damage of the chainsaw.

Oil is also what keeps the sawdust from gumming up the chain and clogging the engine. Chainsaw bars last up to 20 times longer if they are oiled. Oil is pumped to the bar through an oil reservoir hole outlet in your chainsaw bar.

The chainsaw bar and chain are vital parts of your chainsaw, and they make up the cutting system of your chainsaw.

The chainsaw guiding bar and chain work together to easily cut through wood or any other slightly more rigid material. The chain runs in a circular motion with the guiding bar to successfully cut through a piece of wood when a power source is linked to your chainsaw.

Chainsaw components

When your chainsaw engine is powered electrically or via gasoline, there is a transfer of energy to the chainsaw chain and the guiding bar, causing both components to spin in a circular motion. There is a throttle within your chainsaw engine that controls the energy that gets to the engine and controls the chain and bar’s speed. Most chainsaws would allow you to use the throttle to adjust the chain and bar’s speed depending on the job you are working on.

The circular motion being generated ensures that an adequate amount of friction for the successful cutting of the wood or tougher material is created.

During operation, the chainsaw chain moves rapidly around the guiding bar, causing severe friction and heat. To counteract this serious friction, oiling the chainsaw bar and chain would help minimize this friction being generated and ensure proper running of the chainsaw bar and the chain.

Chainsaw chains need oil because they are made of metal. Oil would provide lubrication for the chain to glide more efficiently, increase the chain’s lifespan, and prevent the generation of friction. Some chainsaw chains are greased with oil from the factory, but it doesn’t last long.

  • To get rid of or reduce the level of dirt and debris in the chain.
  • To prevent the chain from becoming glued up in sappy wood scenarios.
  • When your chain lacks oil, it will run slow. This would cause the generation of severe friction, overheating would occur, and it could lead to excessive fuel consumption. In this situation and the chain could wear out, which can eventually damage your chainsaw.
  • To prevent excessive fuel consumption. This occurs when the chain runs slowly and severe friction is being generated. In this situation, overheating occurs, and the chain could wear out, which could be detrimental to your chainsaw.

Your chainsaw chain needs oil to work properly!

When using a substitute oil for your chainsaw bar and chain, choose the best oil substitute with closely related properties to recommended oil already specified in your manufacturer’s manual for optimal performance.


The substitute oil must be very sticky. This quality ensures that the substitute oil sticks very well to the chain. It spins at high speed during operation and prevents the chain’s drying up. It also prevents the chain from drying up.


This quality ensures that the substitute oil is slippery enough to perform well as a lubricant for your chainsaw.

Environmentally Friendly

Since most of the oil would come off the bar as you’re sawing, it needs to be friendly to plants and living organisms. The substitute oil should offer no danger to the environment.

High Flash Point

This property would help the chainsaw bar and the chain withstand extreme speeds and extreme heat.

When using a substitute oil for your chainsaw bar and chain, make sure the substitute oil you select has closely related properties to recommended oil specified in your manufacturer’s manual for the chainsaw’s optimal performance.

Chainsaws are designed so that both the fuel (if powered by gasoline) and the tank’s recommended oil run out simultaneously.

So when using a substitute oil for your chainsaw, you need to observe whether the substitute oil runs out before the fuel or vice versa.

Fill up the fuel in your fuel tank, fill up the substitute oil in your chainsaw chain and bar reservoir, and study the trend. In some cases, your chainsaw might be running be out of oil, depriving the system of lubrication. This can cause the generation of intense friction between the chain and the bar during operation.

So, after noticing the trend, make proper adjustments when necessary. If the oil is quickly used up before the fuel, top it again. This would ensure the chainsaw is working properly.

My 2¢

Statistics show that engine oil is the most commonly used substitute for chain/bar oil. This is because it is mainly found in homes and suitable for use. Anytime I run out of the chain and bar oil, the next thing that comes to mind as a substitute is engine oil. It’s not far-fetched to believe that engine oil production will continue to rise. Anytime you run out of chain/bar oil, you don’t have to be afraid. You can stay on top of it by using engine oil or any other bar and chain oil substitutes discussed above.

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