Chainsaw Oil Essentials

Electric Chainsaw Oil Substitute – Eco-Friendly Alternatives

When you’re in a bind and your electric chainsaw is running low on oil, you might be wondering if there’s something else around the house you can use to keep things running smoothly. 

Common motor oil (SAE 30) or household vegetable oils, such as canola, can come to the rescue. Although they’re not a perfect match, these alternatives can serve as a stopgap solution until you get the proper oil.

While it’s okay to use these substitutes in a moment of need, it’s crucial to revert to the recommended chainsaw oil at the earliest opportunity. 

Let’s get into the details of why this is important and how you can ensure your chainsaw stays in top condition.

Popular Electric Chainsaw Oil Substitutes


Like gas chainsaws, electric chainsaws need bar oil to operate. A high-quality bar and chain oil produces the optimal lubrication of all the moving parts with the least friction.

Most chainsaw manual recommends using a specific brand or product number for chainsaw bar oil. For instance, most companies recommend lubricating your electric chainsaw with brand-new engine oil. 

Similarly, In the summer, most manufacturers suggest using SAE 30 motor oil. Some experts might advise using SAE 10 motor oil for the best lubrication in the winter.

Therefore, the chainsaw manual will recommend a range of bar oils for your chainsaw. There is a reason behind a unique type of chainsaw bar oil. A chainsaw needs a lubricant with specific qualities to keep its chains and bars functioning smoothly.

read more: How Much Bar Oil Should A Chainsaw Use?

Let’s first look at the characteristics of the lubricant a chainsaw requires before discussing alternatives to electric chainsaw oil.

What to Look for in an Electric Chainsaw Oil Substitute?


The chainsaw lubricant must have the following characteristics.

A. Stickiness
Chainsaw chains spin at a rapid rate. Therefore, the bar oil used in these machines should be sufficiently sticky to keep the chain attached as it rotates around the bar.

B. Viscosity
Viscosity refers to the thickness or flowability of the oil. The temperature affects the oil’s viscosity. Oil becomes more viscous as temperature decreases, and vice versa. It indicates that as the temperature rises, oil becomes runnier.

Let’s take a look at the electric chainsaw oil substitutes.

1. Motor Oil

If you own a car, motor oil is undoubtedly an option at your hand. Most chainsaw manufacturers advise against using motor oil as a substitute for chainsaw bar oil. So, if you have no choice, this oil will be a partial fix.

The reason is that when using a chainsaw, the rotating blades spray oil everywhere, including into the air, the environment, and the user. However, it has a high flash point. So, it can be a quick solution.

This motor oil works well in cold weather. However, SAE10 may not offer constant lubrication when the chainsaw heats up.

This well-balanced chain lubrication works for any weather condition. However, it runs faster than bar oil, so fuel waste is higher in this case.

This motor oil is thick enough to remain on the chainsaw blade under high heat. It has a high flash point and is durable under heavy use. For winter, a blend of SAE30 and SAE10 works well.

2. Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic fluid works similarly to motor oil. So, it can also be used as a transient alternative. It works well at lower temperatures because of its excellent viscosity and strong flash point. Remember, Hydraulic fluid will dry up quickly as compared to motor oil. 

As a result, you’ll need to use more of it to maintain the chainsaw’s bar and chain well-lubricated.

Furthermore, don’t use recycled hydraulic fluid.  Drained hydraulic fluid is harmful to the ecosystem. It could also damage your chain. Thus, new hydraulic oil is suitable.

4. Vegetable Oil

The term “vegetable oil” refers to vegetable-based oils and other popular plant-based oils. Most kitchens have vegetable oil, and you can easily buy a bottle at the store.

Vegetable oil is one of the best oils to use as a substitute. There is no environmental risk of contamination from this oil. When used, it nearly never emits fumes. In contrast to motor oil and hydraulic oil, it is thinner and has a lower viscosity.

The following vegetable oils work well as alternatives for chainsaw oil:

Canola Oil
Canola oil is non-toxic, less sticky, and distributes effortlessly in cold weather. Most of the globe uses it as the primary chainsaw bar oil.

Coconut Oil
It is ideal for summer use because it has the highest flash point. You can also use it to increase other vegetable-based oils’ thickness. However, it is unstable in cool weather.

Olive Oil
Due to its high viscosity, olive oil is suitable for all climates. The flash point is not high, and it could begin to smoke. It is also pricey, making it a poor replacement.

Soybean Oil
It is thicker than olive oil but still has a high viscosity, making it ideal for winter use. It is a less expensive option than other pantry oils.

Sunflower Oil
This costly thin oil can is a backup option for chainsaw bar oil. Its flash point isn’t extremely high, and in colder climates, it can start to become very sticky.

4. Gear Oil

Gear oil is not a suggested choice for chainsaw oil unless you are operating your chainsaw in hot weather. Most gear oil is thicker than suitable chainsaw lube and at least three times tackier than conventional motor oil. 

Thus, gear oil is a poor substitute due to its high viscosity. It will probably result in performance issues. With some gear oil, your chainsaw will likely start up. Its prolonged usage, however, is not healthy for your chainsaw.

5. Transmission Fluid

Another item in place of bar oil in chainsaws is transmission fluid or ATF. It’s significantly runnier, so it’s not a good permanent solution. You can also blend it with standard chain oil to extend its lifespan. 

Environmentally speaking, it’s not very good. The chainsaw will eventually disperse a considerable amount of this oil throughout the entire surroundings.

Frequently Asked Question

Do electric chainsaws need special oil?

Electric chainsaws don’t require special oil; any standard bar and chain oil will do the job.

Can I use vegetable oil in my electric chainsaw?

Yes, vegetable oil can be a biodegradable and safe alternative for your electric chainsaw.

Can I use SAE 30 oil in my electric chainsaw?

Yes, SAE 30 oil can be used in warmer temperatures as a substitute for chainsaw bar oil.

Can I use 2-stroke oil for chainsaw bar oil?

It’s not ideal, as 2-stroke oil is thinner and may not provide the same level of lubrication as chainsaw bar oil.

Chainsaw bar oil substitute transmission fluid?

Transmission fluid is not recommended; it’s not designed for the high-speed contact of a chainsaw bar and chain.

Wrapping Up

  • Proper lubrication is crucial for electric chainsaw maintenance.
  • Bar oil is recommended; alternatives are for temporary use.
  • Consult the chainsaw manual for guidance.
  • Choose substitutes (motor or vegetable oils) carefully based on viscosity and flash point.
  • Aim for a balance between equipment health and environmental impact.