Can You Use Motor Oil For Chainsaw Bar Oil? (Explained)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

I stay in a small town with only a few retailers that stock the basic necessities. I landed in a bit of a predicament the other day while using my chainsaw. I did not have enough oil to lubricate my chain and bar, and there was no stock at the shops, which made me wonder: can I use motor oil for chainsaw bar oil?

It is not recommended that you use motor oil for the bar of a chainsaw when the chainsaw is still under warranty, but some motor oils are a good substitute for the chain and bar oil if the chainsaw is out of warranty and you have to use your chainsaw for a short period.

Some homesteaders have done tests with various types of oil, including hydraulic oil, motor oil, and even canola and vegetable oils, where they ran chainsaws with these different oils to see which would be the better substitute for the chain and bar oil for a chainsaw. In this article, we will further explore using motor oil for chainsaw bar oil.

chainsaw bar

Can You Use Motor Oil To Substitute Chainsaw Bar Oil?

I have found some interesting videos about people trying to find substitutes for chainsaw bar oil, some of them being very successful and some not. Experts and chainsaw manufacturers do not suggest using other oils for your chainsaw bar and chain, so if you have a chainsaw that is still under warranty, it is better to use the oil that the manufacturer recommends.

The warranty on a chainsaw will not be valid if you use any other oil on the bar other than the chain and bar oil recommended by the manufacturer. Every manufacturer will have their own chain and bar oil that they prefer.

If you have a chainsaw that is not under warranty, there are some motor oils you can use when you find yourself in a pinch. Some people have used certain motor oils on the bar of their chainsaws. These will be listed in the next section of this post.

Suitable Motor Oil For A Chainsaw Bar When Out Of Warranty

For a motor oil to be suitable for the chain and bar of a chainsaw, it needs to be the same thickness and consistency as the oil from the manufacturers. There are 2 types of motor oil that we will discuss, namely SAE 30 and 10W30. SAE 30 is for summer, and 10W30 is for winter.

SAE 30 For Chainsaw Bar During Summer

sae 30 motor oil

SAE 30 is a good alternative to chainsaw bar oil if you find yourself in a pinch. I found the technical data for this type of oil during my research, so here it is:

  • The pour point of this oil is -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The Flashpoint of this oil is: 232 degrees Celsius or 432 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The viscosity of this oil is SAE 30; the SAE means Society of Automotive Engineers that created the code for viscosity 30 falls in the mid-range of viscosity.
  • The density of this oil is 0.873.

The benefit that SAE 30 oil can give is that it offers good protection at high temperatures, which means that it does not become extremely thin when it becomes hot. It’s because of this reason this oil makes a good substitute for chainsaw bar oil.

10W30 For Chainsaw Bar During Winter

10W30 motor oil

During the winter months, a chainsaw bar oil needs the type of oil with a lower viscosity because temperatures are so much colder. 10W30 oil has perfect viscosity for winter, and it is a good oil replacement for a chainsaw bar in the winter months; here is the technical data that I found:

  • The pour point of this oil is: -33 degrees Celsius or -30 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The Flashpoint of this oil is: 210 degrees Celsius or 410 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The viscosity of this oil is 10W30  the W means winter. The viscosity of this oil is suited for winter, which means that the viscosity of the oil is at 10 on startup and then goes to 30 as the oil heats up.
  • The density of this oil is 0.875.

Many people who stay in isolated places use this oil as a replacement for their chainsaw bar oil. The main reason they do it is to save costs on bar and chain oil.

Can You Use Old-Used Motor Oil for Chainsaw Bar Oil?

motor oil

It’s a bad idea to use motor oil that has been used before. The first reason is that the oil is dirty and possibly full of fine metal shavings, dirt, and other debris. The second reason is that the oil has already lost some of its properties and the ability to have the required viscosity. Used oil will not adhere to the bar that well, and you will have splattered oil everywhere. 

Old used motor oil will not be able to lubricate the bar of the chainsaw in the same way as unused oil will be able to. Never use old used motor oil on the bar of your chainsaw. Serious damage could occur to the chainsaw bar and chain if you use old, previously used motor oil. It is not advised to use old used motor oil on a chainsaw bar that is still under warranty.


I am very surprised at what my research has revealed about using motor oil for a chainsaw bar. My research shows that it is possible to use SAE 30 oil in the summertime to keep the chain lubricated that is running inside the bar of a chainsaw. You can use the 10W30 oil to get the job done in the wintertime.

Of course, manufacturers do not recommend that you use anything except for the products they prefer (oil made specifically for chainsaws), and if you don’t want to lose your warranty, it is best not to use any other oil for the bar and chain of a chainsaw. If the chainsaw is no longer under warranty, you can choose which oil you want to use.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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