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

You rely on your chainsaw to cut wood for heating or cleanup after a storm. You’re not using it every day, so it’s frustrating when it won’t start when you need it. There are many items that can prevent a chainsaw from starting and I’ve prepared a list to help identify your problem.

A Homelite Chainsaw won’t start when it isn’t getting spark, air, or fuel.

This can be caused by a plugged air filter, incorrect choke setting, bad switch, bad spark plug, plugged fuel filter, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, plugged spark arrestor, faulty ignition coil, or old fuel.

For safety, remove the spark plug wire and follow all additional safety precautions found in the Homelite operator’s manual prior to performing repairs.

Chainsaw won't start

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before 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.

Troubleshoot a Homelite Chainsaw Starting Problem

1. Bad Switch or Wrong Choke Setting

You will have an on/off switch on a chainsaw that must be placed in the correct starting position. The switch must be placed in the on/run position to start the saw.

An ignition switch that isn’t placed in the correct position or a switch that is faulty will prevent the Homelite chainsaw from starting.

Another item that can prevent the chainsaw from starting is the choke. When the choke is engaged, the air is restricted so the engine receives a higher concentration of fuel to start a cold engine.

While a cold engine requires more fuel, the choke must be adjusted to allow sufficient air once the engine is warm.

Start a cold engine:

  1. Make sure the ignition switch is in the on/run position.
  2. The chain brake must be off and in the run position.
  3. Place the choke lever in full position when starting a cold engine.
  4. Press the primer bulb about 6-7 times.
  5. Pull the rope several times until the engine acts like it’s going to start. Do not overdo this as you can flood the engine.
  6. Adjust the choke lever to half position and pull the starter rope until the engine starts.
  7. Once the engine runs and warms up after about 15-30 seconds, place the choke lever in the off/run position.
  8. Allow to run for another 30 seconds and then blip the throttle trigger to return the engine to idle.

To start a warm engine, follow the steps above starting with step 6.

2. Old or Bad Fuel

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

The ethanol found in most gasoline has negative effects on the small engine. Ethanol attracts moisture and leaves a varnish that restricts fuel flow and damages components. This can cause problems starting the chainsaw.

Because of this, it’s important to consume fresh gas within 30 days. Add a good fuel stabilizer if you are unable to consume it within this time.

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 to use in your type of chainsaw here.

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.

3. Wrong Fuel in a 2-Cycle or 4-Cycle Chainsaw

One thing you don’t want to get wrong is the type of fuel you add to the tank. Getting this wrong can cause permanent engine damage. A Homelite chainsaw with a 2-cycle engine requires a fuel mixture of gas and 2-cycle oil.

2-Cycle Homelite Chainsaw Fuel Requirement:

A Homelite chainsaw with a 2-cycle engine will have a single fill port for a gas and oil mix. The gas and oil are mixed at a ratio of 50:1.

To create the gas and oil 50:1 mixture, use gas with a minimum octane rating of 87 and maximum ethanol content of 10%. Mix gas with premium 2-cycle engine oil that is ISO-L-EGD and JASO M345 FD certified.

NEVER run straight gas through a 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

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 find pre-mixed ethanol-free cans of fuel at your local hardware store or online.

4. Plugged Air Filter

An air filter is used on a chainsaw to collect dust so the engine receives clean air. The filter keeps dirt from causing wear and damage to the engine.

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 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 a lot, you’ll have to clean and replace the filter more often.

Take time to inspect the 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 to prevent engine damage.

If the filter is extremely dirty or damaged, it must be replaced. Never run a chainsaw without an air filter.

Steps to clean an air filter:

  • Remove the air filter cover.
  • Wipe around the filter to remove as much sawdust and dirt as possible.
  • Remove the air filter.
  • Wipe out any remaining sawdust and dirt from the air filter housing.
  • Wash the filter with warm soapy water and rinse it with cool water until it runs clear.
  • Allow the air filter to completely air dry.
  • Reinstall the clean filter. Purchase and install a new air filter if the old filter is extremely dirty, damaged, or is unable to properly seal leaving a gap where dirt can bypass the filter.
  • Reattach the air filter cover.

5. Bad Spark Plug

The spark plug provides the spark required to start and keep the chainsaw running. The spark plug is a wear item that should be changed annually for the average homeowner. If you use your Homelite more often, you should change the spark plug more often.

A dirty spark plug can cause the spark plug to misfire causing running issues. Replace a spark plug if you find it is very dark in color, has a burnt electrode, or has broken 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.

6. Faulty Ignition Coil

If the spark plug is in good condition and you have tested it with a spark plug tester, 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.

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

7. Plugged Fuel Filter

The fuel filter is used to keep dirt and debris from entering the Homelite’s 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.

I recommend replacing the fuel filter if you are a homeowner that uses the saw for emergency situations or sparingly. If you’re using the saw regularly to cut wood, you may have to replace it as often as every 3 months.

Replace a 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 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.

8. Bad Primer Bulb

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

9. Clogged or Punctured Fuel Line

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

10. Dirty Carburetor

The Homelite carburetor regulates the amount of fuel that is mixed with air to create 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.

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.

11. Bad Recoil Starter

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

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.

12. Plugged Spark Arrestor

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.

Allow the muffler to cool. 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.

13. Flooded Engine

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 is pulled multiple times or when the primer bulb is pushed too many times.

How to Fix a Flooded Engine on a Homelite Chainsaw

Here are a couple of options to try when starting a flooded chainsaw:

Start a Flooded Chainsaw Option 1:

  • 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.

Start a Flooded Chainsaw Option 2:

  • Place the switch in the stop/off position.
  • Remove the spark plug.
  • Pull the starter rope 6 to 8 times.
  • Reinstall the clean dry spark plug.
  • Start the chainsaw with the choke off and in the open/run position.

Homelite Chainsaw Starting Problems & Solutions (Quick Reference Chart)

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.
Incorrect FuelDrain the fuel. Use a gas and oil mixture in a Homelite chainsaw with a 2-cycle engine.
Plugged Air FilterRemove a plugged air filter and clean it. Replace the filter with a new one if it is very dirty 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 one of the methods above to remove excess fuel and start the chainsaw.
Chainsaw Starting Problems & Solutions