Reciprocating Saw Maintenance (Extend Its Lifespan & Efficiency)

Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Barry Gray

A reciprocating saw is a hardworking tool. It’s powerful and fast enough for anything; from cutting pesky tree branches to cutting through pipes. If you are remodeling, it’s definitely your go-to demolition power tool.

With a variety of blades, you can use it to cut through metal, wood, and even nail-embedded wood. Make no mistake, it’s a tough and durable tool. However, incorrect use and lack of maintenance are bound to shorten its lifespan.

That said, it pays to know a few simple tips to care for and maintain your power tool. In this article, we go over some essential maintenance tips to help you care for and extend the lifespan of your reciprocating saw.

Use the Reciprocating Saw for its Intended Purpose

reciprocating saw cutting through wood

The first maintenance tip you need to always remember is to use the reciprocating saw for its intended purpose. Reciprocating saws are indeed versatile. However, there are limits to the number of materials you can cut with it.

A good reciprocating saw will go through concrete, wood, plastic, ceramic, and metal. If the material you are cutting is thick, you might want to consider using a bigger power tool for a safer cut. You mustn’t force the saw to make cuts that it’s not intended for.

If you are limited on choice, I would advise using a little bit of lubrication. Make sure that you use non-flammable liquid lubricant. Stay away from gasoline or solvents. The lubricant will help the blade stay cooler and sharper, for longer.

Use the Right Power Source

reciprocating saw cutting tree branches

You must never throw away your user’s manual. It contains all the manufacturer’s guidelines & critical information regarding your reciprocating saw. For instance, the user manual is where you find the tool’s specified power rating.

Ensure that you check for the tool’s optimal power requirement before plugging it into a power outlet. Then, plug it into a socket that matches the appropriate power requirements for the tool. This goes for corded reciprocating saws

If you are using a cordless reciprocating saw, you want to make sure that you are using the correct battery pack. The voltage should be as indicated in the manual. This ensures a substantial power supply during cutting.

Pneumatic reciprocating saws utilize power from compressed air. Therefore, ensure that you have the right PSI. Your manufacturer will provide specifications in the user manual.

Insert and Remove Blades as Per the Manual

reciprocating saw blade removal

Different manufacturers have different mechanisms for inserting or removing the reciprocating saw blade. Some require you to move a lever or turn a knob to loosen the blade. Others require you to utilize an Allen wrench to both remove and attach the blade.

Whatever mechanism your reciprocating saw uses, you will need to read your user’s manual. This is important if you don’t know the proper procedure to install or remove blades.

Don’t attempt to do it if you do not know at all. Otherwise, you might damage the saw by forcing the blade in the wrong direction. This could potentially cause the blade to snap or break. Trust me, you do not want to operate a faulty reciprocating saw.

As always, ensure that your saw is not plugged in or on. And, always let your blade cool down for a while before attempting to change it. It might be hot from the friction and could be hot enough to cause injury. Lastly, always check if the blade is locked in. Tug at it once or twice to make sure it’s tightly fitted.

Clean Your Reciprocating Saw Regularly

Reciprocating saws are perfect for a multitude of work. Therefore, it’s more than likely that they will be exposed to a lot of debris and dust buildup. You must maintain proper cleanliness to ensure that the saw operates for longer.

Dust or debris can get caught in the saw’s motor or vents, which might accelerate the equipment’s breakdown. To get rid of dust and debris, most manufacturers recommend using a vacuum cleaner or blower.

Remember to wear safety glasses to avoid getting debris in your eyes. Use filter masks as well. It can be hazardous especially if you have been cutting metal or ceramic. Sharp shards, sand, or wood particles could be blown free. The mask will help filter out metal and ceramic clouds of dust, which can be fatal when inhaled. 

Lastly, avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents to clean your reciprocating saw. These can degrade or damage the rubber and plastic parts of the saw. At the very least, use a damp rag and a mild soap (on the rubber and plastic parts).

Troubleshoot Simple Faults

You want to make sure that all functions and parts of the reciprocating saw are normal. You also want to make sure that there is no damage to any part of the tool. With that said, here are a few parts that you will need to check regularly:

  • Check whether the tool’s body has any cracks or breakages on it. For the corded model, ensure that the power cord is in good shape. Don’t plug it in if you notice that the power cord is frayed.
  • Check whether the power switch can turn the tool on and off. A power switch that doesn’t is dangerous. You might want to have it checked by a competent and reliable service center.
  • Check the condition of the battery for the cordless model. Look for signs of liquid leakage. Don’t touch any liquid that leaks as it might cause severe skin irritation or burns.
  • Check the balance of the tool during cutting. If it seems imbalanced or a bit wobbly, chances are there is a problem with the tool’s gearing. Do have it checked at a competent and reliable service center.
  • Check for any sparks or a burnt smell coming out of the air vents. Any of these signify an electrical issue in the tool; particularly wear and tear. You may want to have a qualified technician check the tool.
  • Check the tool for any unusual rattling sounds (or any unusual sound). This is a sign of worn-out bearings or brushes. Make sure that you turn off and unplug the tool immediately after you hear any unusual sounds.
  • Check whether the tool overheats. Chances are you might be forcing it to work too hard. Try going for a slower cut to allow the tool to work at its set speed.

The Use of Blades

used reciprocating saw blades

As reiterated earlier, the reciprocating saw blade can cut through many materials. However, you will need to have the correct blade installed. For instance, aluminum casts require carbide blades. Cast irons require diamond abrasive blades.

With that said, here are a few more reciprocating saw maintenance tips to keep in mind always:

  • Extend the Life of the Blade with Lubrication: Lubricants help cool the blade down while cutting. They also free the blade teeth from getting caught up in any material chips. They can help your blade stay sharper for longer. 
  • Adjust the Saw’s Shoe to Extend Blade Life: Often, the teeth right next to the shoe always wear out before the rest. You will need to adjust the saw’s shoe to ensure the cutting action happens at different spots on the blade.
  • Bend Longer Blades to Cut Flush: Longer reciprocating saw blades are perfect for flush cutting. Simply bend the blade so that a good part of it rides flat along the surface of where you are working on. Use the end portion of the blade to do the cutting.
  • Avoid Waggle and Use Smaller Blades for Smaller Materials: You want to make sure that you use shorter blades to cut through smaller materials. Using a longer blade for a shorter material can lead to a lot of vibration, slower cuts, and possibly, a bent blade.
  • Frequently Change Angles for Faster Cuts: If you are cutting through thicker materials, you want to make sure that you frequently change the angle of the blade. This reduces the surface area being cut, which reduces friction and makes the blade cut faster. Also, it prevents the material from rattling around.
  • Cut Plastic with Dull Blades: In some instances, a dull blade can come in handy. For instance, when you are cutting through plastic, there is a chance the teeth of the blade can get caught in the pipe. This can cause a back and forth jerk motion instead of cutting. You want to use a dull blade to ensure that you make clean cuts.
  • Fix Bent Reciprocating Saw Blades: If you are down to your last good blade, you might want to fix it. A bent reciprocating saw blade can be easily bent back into shape. How? Simply get a block of wood and gently pound down on the raised part of the blade. Avoid hitting the teeth section of the blade to avoid damaging them.

Summing It Up

As you can see, the reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile tools in your workshop inventory. With it, you can take on so many tasks; from cutting pesky little tree limbs to cutting metal pipes.

If you are thinking of buying a reciprocating saw on a budget, be sure to check out our article on the best reciprocating saws. We also have plenty of other articles on reciprocating saws.

As always, if you have a particular question, be sure to leave one in the comment section below. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.   

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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.

2 thoughts on “Reciprocating Saw Maintenance (Extend Its Lifespan & Efficiency)”

  1. I found a reciprocating saw in a thrift store for 10 bucks. I found the blade holder did not work, because the ball bearing it used to lock the blade had rusted solid in the holder and would not budge. After a long struggle I finally got it loose, oiled it, and the saw again worked. I think using the saw on live wood, like pruning trees, etc, will expose the blade holder to extensive moisture and sap, etc. The blade, therefore, should be removed and the older oiled so the ball bearing doesn’t rust shut like that before putting the saw away after use. Bob Luhrs


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