Skip to Content

13 Reasons a Craftsman Chainsaw Won’t Start: SOLVED!

Craftsman makes good quality chainsaws that are suitable for most homeowners’ needs. It’s great to have on hand to clean up debris after a storm and to cut some small logs for a fall bonfire. It can get a little frustrating when the saw doesn’t start when you need it.

A Craftsman chainsaw will not start when it isn’t getting sufficient air, fuel, and spark. This can be caused by an incorrect choke setting, old fuel, plugged air filter, faulty ignition coil, bad spark plug, plugged fuel filter, dirty carburetor, or plugged spark arrestor.

It may also not start when the on/off switch is bad or the engine is flooded. Before performing repairs, always remove the spark plug wire and set the chain brake. Follow all safety precautions in your Craftsman operator’s manual.

Chainsaw won't start

This post may include affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may provide a commission for us, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

13 Reasons a Craftsman Chainsaw is Not Starting

Bad Switch or Wrong Choke Setting on a Craftsman Chainsaw

A Craftsman chainsaw has an on/off switch for safety. The switch must be placed in the on position before you attempt to start the saw.

In addition to having the switch in the right position, you must also engage the choke to start a cold engine. The choke restricts the airflow to allow more fuel and less air to form a combustion in the cylinder.

This is needed to start a cold engine. Once the engine warms up, the choke must be disengaged to allow the engine to get sufficient air it needs to run.

SOLUTION: Make sure the on/off switch is placed in the on position. A faulty switch or bad ground wire can also be the reason a chainsaw won’t start.

You can use a multimeter to test the switch. Replace the switch if you find it is faulty. Repair or replace a bad ground.

Old or Bad Fuel in a Craftsman Chainsaw

Old gas can cause many problems in the chainsaw including starting issues. Gas can become less effective and begin to break down as quickly as 30 days after purchase.

An alternative fuel known as ethanol is added to most of the fuels on the market today. This is a plant-based fuel that makes fuels a little environmentally friendly.

While ethanol is safe to use in most vehicles today, it is not good for a small engine like the one used in a chainsaw. Ethanol attracts moisture to the fuel system.

This mixture of water and ethanol will leave behind a sticky varnish over time that can gum the fuel system. This can cause restrictions that keep the chainsaw from getting sufficient fuel and may no longer start.

Because gasoline begins to degrade soon after purchase, it’s important to use gas within 30 days. If you are unable to consume it this quickly, add a fuel additive to stabilize the gas so it lasts a little longer.

Not all fuel stabilizers are the same and will keep fuel stable for the same lengths of time.

You must find out more information about the stabilizer you are using and never assume it lasts longer than 30 days unless the manufacturer provides this information.

Avoid gas with high levels of ethanol content like those sold as E15 and E85 as these have up to 15% and 85% ethanol content respectively. Read more about the gas and oil to use in your type of chainsaw here.

SOLUTION: When you are having starting problems and you find the fuel is old, empty the tank and fill it with fresh fuel.

Add a fuel additive like Sea Foam Motor Treatment or STA-BIL to help reduce moisture and clean the fuel system.

Start the chainsaw to allow it to run through the chainsaw and work its way through the fuel system once you are able to get it started.

Wrong Fuel in a 2-Cycle Craftsman Chainsaw

One thing you don’t want to get wrong is the type of fuel you add to a chainsaw. Getting this wrong can cause permanent engine damage.

A 2-cycle Craftsman chainsaw requires a gas-to-oil mix at a ratio of 40:1. Use 40 parts of unleaded gas with a minimum octane rating of 89 and a maximum ethanol content of 10%.

Mix in 1 part of a premium 2-cycle oil. (This is different from engine oil).

Older Craftsman chainsaws prior to the early 1970s require a gas-to-oil mix of 32:1. Refer to the operator’s manual if you are unsure of the correct fuel mix or age of your chainsaw.

NEVER run straight gas through a Craftsman chainsaw. It runs very dry and can cause the engine to seize due to the lack of lubrication. A mistake like this could result in having to replace your chainsaw with a new one.

Ethanol-free fuel mix

Because ethanol in fuel negatively affects your chainsaw’s performance, using an ethanol-free fuel is best, but more costly.

While it is more costly, it is a convenient option to have sitting on the shelf so you don’t have to run out to the fuel station and mix the fuel. You can purchase this type of fuel in canisters from your local hardware store.

SOLUTION: If you find you have placed the wrong fuel mix in the fuel tank, drain the tank and add the right gas to oil mixture. Attempt to start the chainsaw.

When the engine won’t turn over or is running terribly, have a small engine mechanic run tests on the engine to determine if running the wrong fuel causes permanent damage.

Plugged Air Filter on a Craftsman Chainsaw

Sawdust and dirt go flying through the air when operating a chainsaw. To keep this dust from getting into the cylinder and wearing on the engine, an air filter is installed to ensure the engine receives clean air.

When the air filter isn’t regularly cleaned or replaced, sawdust and dirt can build up on the filter preventing sufficient air from passing through the filter and into the carburetor throat.

A lack of air can make it difficult to start a Craftsman chainsaw and keep it running.

It’s good practice for the average homeowner to replace the air filter each year and clean it several times throughout the season. If you use your chainsaw more often than this, you’ll have to check, clean, and replace it at more frequent intervals.

Take time to inspect your air filter to prevent overheating the engine and causing damage. I know, this is one more step but takes less than a minute to check the condition of the filter.

SOLUTION: Remove the air filter and clean it if it’s a little dirty. If the filter is extremely dirty or damaged, it must be replaced. Never run a chainsaw without an air filter.

Bad Spark Plug in a Craftsman Chainsaw

The spark plug provides the spark required to start and keep a Craftsman chainsaw running. The spark plug is a wear item that should be changed annually for the casual user.

A dirty or damaged spark plug can cause the spark plug to misfire causing running issues.

SOLUTION: Inspect the spark plug and clean it with a wire brush if it is in good condition and just a little dirty. Replace a spark plug if you find it is very dark in color, has a burnt electrode or broke porcelain.

Make sure the spark plug is gapped to the manufacturer’s specification and the spark plug wire is securely attached. These things can also cause starting problems.

Faulty Ignition Coil on a Craftsman Chainsaw

If the spark plug is in good condition, but you still aren’t getting spark, check the ignition coil. The winding on the ignition coil can separate and short out.

When this happens, the spark plug won’t get the voltage required to create a spark. This will cause your chainsaw problems.

SOLUTION: Identify a bad ignition coil using an ohmmeter to check for a break in continuity. Replace the Craftsman ignition coil if you find a break.

Plugged Fuel Filter in a Craftsman Chainsaw

The fuel filter is used to keep dirt and debris from entering the fuel system. The filter is a cylinder-shaped part that is located inside the fuel tank. You will find it attached to the fuel line.

When the filter isn’t changed regularly or when dirty fuel has been used, it can become plugged not allowing sufficient fuel to pass through the filter. This may cause the saw to fail to start or run sluggishly.

SOLUTION: Replace a dirty fuel filter.

Replace a Craftsman chainsaw fuel filter:

  • Wipe around the fuel cap to keep any dirt from falling into the fuel tank when removing the fuel cap.
  • Remove the fuel cap (allow the chainsaw to cool down first if you have been using it).
  • Use a clean bent wire to hook the fuel line and pull the fuel filter out of the tank.
  • Hold the fuel line securely while pulling the filter out of the fuel line. Don’t let go of the fuel line.
  • Install a new Craftsman fuel filter by inserting the male end into the fuel line making sure it is secured to the fuel line.
  • Place the filter in the fuel tank and reinstall the fuel cap.

Bad Primer Bulb on a Craftsman Chainsaw

A cracked primer bulb that won’t fill up with fuel won’t function correctly to get fuel to the carburetor.

SOLUTION: Replace with a new primer bulb.

Clogged or Punctured Fuel Line on a Craftsman Chainsaw

A fuel restriction can be created when the fuel line becomes clogged. This can prevent the chainsaw from starting.

SOLUTION: Remove the clogged fuel line and use carburetor cleaner to help loosen the clog. Spray compressed air through the line to remove it.

If you are unable to remove the clog or you find the fuel line is dry, cracked, or punctured, it’s time to replace it with a new fuel line.

Dirty Carburetor on a Craftsman Chainsaw

The carburetor regulates the amount of fuel that is mixed with air to create a combustion in the cylinder. Old fuel will gum up and clog the carburetor so it no longer functions as designed. This can keep your chainsaw from starting.

SOLUTION: If you are a little mechanical you should be able to handle cleaning your carburetor. Clean the carburetor by taking it apart and using carburetor cleaner to clean it.

If the carburetor does not function after being cleaned, you may need to rebuild it or replace it with a new carburetor.

Bad Recoil Starter on a Craftsman Chainsaw

A chainsaw uses a recoil to start the engine. A bad pulley; loose or missing spring; or broken clips can keep your recoil from working.

SOLUTION: You can attempt to replace the spring and restring the recoil. If it does not work because other components in your recoil are damaged, such as the clips or the pulley, you are better off just replacing the recoil assembly.

Plugged Spark Arrestor on a Craftsman Chainsaw

The spark arrestor is a small screen in the muffler that can get plugged with soot. A plugged spark arrestor will prevent airflow causing a chainsaw not to start.

SOLUTION: Remove the spark arrestor and clean it with a wire brush. Replace the mesh spark arrestor screen when you are not able to clean it sufficiently or if it is damaged.

Never run a chainsaw without this screen or with a screen that has a hole in it. Without a screen, hot material can come out of the saw potentially starting a fire or causing burns.

Flooded Engine on a Craftsman Chainsaw

The engine can become flooded when the choke is in the closed position and the starter rope was pulled many times.

It can also happen with the switch off and the starter rope being pulled multiple times or when the primer bulb is pushed too many times.

SOLUTION:

How to Fix a Flooded Engine on a Craftsman Chainsaw

  • Turn the switch on and make sure the choke is off and in the open/run position.
  • Press the throttle trigger while pulling the starter rope over and over. This can take anywhere between 5 and 15 pulls before it starts. Your chainsaw engine will sputter first. Continue to pull 2 to 3 more times and it should start.

Craftsman Chainsaw Starting Problems & Solutions (Quick Reference Chart)

ProblemsSolutions
Bad Switch or Wrong Choke SettingEnsure the choke is on to restrict airflow when starting a cold engine. Remove the choke once the engine has warmed so it continues to run.
Replace a bad switch or bad ground wire.
Old FuelReplace fuel that is older than 30 days with fresh fuel. Add a fuel stabilizer.
Incorrect FuelDrain the fuel. Use a gas and oil mixture at a ratio of 40:1 in current Craftsman chainsaws
Plugged Air FilterRemove a plugged air filter and clean it. Replace the filter with a new one if it is very dirty, wet or damaged.
Bad Spark PlugReplace a bad spark plug. Make sure the electrode gap is correct and the spark plug wire is securely in place.
Faulty Ignition CoilReplace a bad ignition coil.
Plugged Fuel FilterRemove the old filter from the fuel tank and install a new fuel filter.
Weak Primer BulbReplace a cracked primer bulb.
Clogged, Dry or Cracked Fuel LineRemove a clogged fuel line and remove the restriction. Replace a fuel line if the clog can’t be removed or the line is dry or cracked.
Dirty CarburetorRemove and clean the carburetor. Rebuild any damaged parts or install a new carburetor assembly.
Bad Recoil StarterReplace a spring and restring the recoil starter. Replace the recoil starter when it is damaged.
Plugged Spark ArrestorRemove the spark arrestor from the muffler. Clean it using a wire brush and reinstall it. Replace a damaged spark arrestor.
Flooded ChainsawFix this by using the method listed above.
Craftsman Chainsaw Starting Problems & Solutions