What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil? (The Standard and Substitutes)

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Are you new to chainsaws?

And need to know what kind of oil do you put in a chainsaw?

Or maybe you’re a veteran chainsaw user and asking yourself the question, “What can I use for chainsaw bar oil in a pinch?”

Regardless of whether this is your first time picking up a chainsaw or have been cutting wood your entire life, it’s good to know what all of your options are for what chainsaw oil to use.

So keep reading, because I’m going to share with you what the standard chainsaw oil is that you can buy in stores and a few substitutes to use when a bottle of that stuff is not close by.

Let’s get to it!

Chainsaw Buying Guides

Before we jump into the meat of this post, I wanted to let you know that I have a few chainsaw buying guides you may be interested in.

If you’re looking for a new chainsaw for a specific purpose, like cutting firewood, check out my guide on the best chainsaw for cutting firewood pieces. It helps you pick the right length and type.

Or, if you want to see a general list of the best chainsaws out there, take a look at my top chainsaws page.

And finally, if you’re new to the world of chainsaws and just need something simple to use around the house, my best chainsaw for home use guide was written for you.

What Can I Use for Chainsaw Bar Oil?

The Standard Oil

If you were to look in your chainsaw manual, it would tell you to use a specific brand and/or product number for chainsaw bar oil, such as:

  • Oregon 54-059 Chainsaw Bar Oil
  • STIHL 2.6 Ounce High-Performance Bar and Chain Oil
  • Maxpower 337045 ar and Chain Oil
  • Poulan Pro 952030204 Bar and Chain Oil
  • etc.

The reason a special type of chainsaw bar oil exists is that chainsaw chains and bars need a lubricant with certain qualities to keep those parts running smoothly.

Since chainsaw chains spin at such high speeds, the bar oil that’s used in these machines must be “sticky” enough to stay on the chain as it spins around the bar.

If the bar oil is not sticky, it will fly off the chain and cause friction to build up against the bar. If too much heat occurs, this will damage those parts.

Chainsaw bar oil has a certain level of “slickness” to it. This slickness keeps the chain spinning at a fast rate without getting slowed down by the friction that occurs when metal rubs against metal.

So, if you want to use the “correct” type of bar oil in your chainsaw, consult the manual and use what it suggests. Or just use a standard universal replacement oil, such as the Oregon 54-059 Chainsaw Bar Oil product.

Bar Oil Substitutes

What can I use for chainsaw bar oil when the standard stuff is not around?

If you ever find yourself without proper bar and chain oil on hand and still need to use your chainsaw, here are a few substitutes you can try.

Note: Since these are not technically approved by chainsaw manufacturers, using any of the below alternatives can void your warranty. And, if you exclusively use these substitutes without refilling your chainsaw with standard bar oil, long-term damage could occur. So, only use these recommendations when you’re in a pinch and for short periods of time.

Motor Oil

If you own a vehicle, chances are that you have some extra motor oil on hand.

While motor oil is not the best substitute for chainsaw bar oil, it will work as a temporary measure if find you have no other option.

The downside of motor oil is that it’s not sticky enough to stay on the bar and chain. So, when you’re using the chainsaw, the motor oil will fling off as you cut and make quite a mess.

It also means that you’ll have to refill the bar oil reservoir more often since it will get low quicker than when using standard bar oil.

Another problem with using motor oil is that it’s harmful to the environment. Slinging oil all over the trees and surrounding vegetation can be a problem for the local habitat.

But motor oil will work to keep your chainsaw from burning up if you don’t have any standard bar oil on hand.

If you have the choice, use SAE30 motor oil when it’s hot outside and SAE10 motor oil when it’s cold because the variations in oil viscosity are better for certain temperatures.

Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil is similar to motor oil and you can use it as a chainsaw bar oil substitute when you have nothing else available.

However, this type of oil does tend to dry up quicker than motor oil, so you’ll have to use more of it to keep your chainsaw bar and chain well lubricated.

Vegetable Oil

If you do any type of cooking, you likely already have a bottle of vegetable oil sitting in your cupboard. If not, you can easily grab a bottle from the store.

While vegetable oil is thinner and has a lower viscosity than motor oil and hydraulic oil, it’s much more environmentally friendly.

The lower viscosity does cause it to wear out quicker though. So, it may be better for the surrounding vegetation when droplets spread, but you’ll need to keep filling the chainsaw oil reservoir to keep up with the demands of cutting.

Canola Oil

Canola oil is another good substitute when you don’t have access to vegetable oil.

It’s able to handle high heat and protect your chainsaw bar and chain from damaging friction. That is only if you keep it well lubricated while cutting.

Canola oil is also better at handling lower outdoor temperatures than vegetable oil. So, if you’re doing a lot of woodcutting in the colder months and need a bar oil substitute, this may be the better choice.

Protect Your Chainsaw

You now have several ideas that answer the question, “What can I use for chainsaw bar oil?”

Keeping your chainsaw well lubricated is the secret to protecting your investment.

However, not having standard chainsaw oil on hand shouldn’t prevent you from using your tool. I hope you enjoyed these recommendations for what chainsaw oil to use when you’re in a pinch.

And remember, if you’re in the market to buy a new chainsaw, be sure to check out my other free guides on this site.

For cutting up firewood, take a look at my guide on the best chainsaw for cutting firewood pieces.

For a general list of the best chainsaws available in every size, check out my top chainsaws page.

And finally, if you’re a chainsaw newbie, my best chainsaw for home use guide can help you find a good tool to use for common jobs around the house.

Happy sawing!

chainsaw bar oil

Your pal,
Chainsaw Larry