There may be times when your RYOBI chainsaw begins to act up and no longer runs at its best. This is often caused from old fuel sitting in the saw, but there are several other items that can keep your saw from running.
A RYOBI chainsaw starts and then dies when it isn’t getting air, fuel, and spark.
This may be due to a wrong choke setting; plugged air or fuel filter; clogged fuel line; bad fuel tank vent; plugged spark arrestor; dirty carburetor; faulty ignition coil; or plugged cooling system.
Keep reading for additional reasons a chainsaw will quit. Never perform repairs on a chainsaw without removing the spark plug wire, waiting for the engine and muffler to cool, and waiting for all parts to stop moving.
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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.
13 Reasons Your RYOBI Chainsaw Starts Then Dies
Incorrect Choke Setting
The choke is used to restrict the amount of air that gets pulled into the cylinder to start a cold engine. Once the engine warms, the choke must be moved to the off position so the engine gets the air it needs to keep running.
When the choke isn’t placed in the off position, the engine will die.
SOLUTION: Ensure the choke lever is placed in the correct position: FULL CHOKE to start a cold engine and RUN for a warm engine.
Plugged Air Filter
The air filter is a maintenance part on your RYOBI chainsaw that must be kept clean and in good condition. Its purpose is to keep dirt and sawdust from entering the carburetor throat and wearing on the engine.
It’s best to replace the air filter annually for the average homeowner and inspect it frequently throughout the year to clean or replace it if necessary.
When filter maintenance is skipped, the filter can become plugged with dirt, sawdust, and debris. The buildup can be significant enough to reduce airflow through the filter. When this happens, the chainsaw will stall and die.
SOLUTION: Inspect the air filter and clean it if it is in good condition and just a little dirty. Replace the filter with a new one when the filter is very dirty or damaged.
Clean a RYOBI chainsaw FLEECE air filter:
- Close the choke to keep dirt from falling into the carburetor choke when cleaning the air filter housing and removing the filter.
- Remove the air filter cover.
- Clean around the air filter to remove any dirt and sawdust.
- Remove the air filter.
- Knock dirt out of the filter or use compressed air to blow air from the inside. DO NOT use a brush.
- If the filter is very dirty, wash it in a mild dish detergent and water solution, and rinse from the inside outward until the water runs clear.
- Allow the filter to completely air dry. DO NOT use heat on the filter as this can damage it. DO NOT apply oil to the filter.
- Reinstall the clean filter.
- Purchase and install a new air filter if the old filter is extremely dirty or damaged
- Reattach the cover.
Plugged Cooling System
The cooling system must be kept clean to keep the engine from getting too hot, overheating, and shutting down. To help cool the engine, remove dirt and debris that block the air intake and cooling fins.
SOLUTION: To do this, first, remove the spark plug and wait for the engine to cool. Remove the engine cover and remove debris from the cover and around the outside of the cylinder.
Clean the cylinder cooling fins, the pawls on the flywheel, and other areas air moves through the chainsaw. Reinstall the engine cover. Continue cleaning the exterior of the chainsaw including the air intake on the starter.
Plugged Spark Arrestor
You will find a small metal spark arrestor screen off the muffler on RYOBI chainsaws. This is a safety feature required by many countries to prevent hot exhaust material from shooting out of the chainsaw.
This small screen is subject to carbon buildup that can reduce airflow and cause a RYOBI chainsaw to overheat and die.
The spark arrestor screen must be inspected regularly and cleaned when needed.
SOLUTION: Begin by removing the spark plug wire and allow the muffler to cool. Then remove the spark arrestor screen on the muffler
Clean the screen with a metal brush. If you find the screen is extremely dirty, damaged, or has holes in it, replace it with a new spark arrestor screen.
To minimize carbon building up on the spark arrestor quickly, make sure you periodically run your chainsaw at full throttle. Letting your chainsaw idle or run at low speeds for a long time will contribute to a buildup of carbon.
Fuel can be the biggest culprit when it comes to a chainsaw not running well and dying. Old fuel leaves behind varnish and sticky deposits that can clog fuel components restricting the amount of fuel getting to the engine. This can cause the saw to shut off.
To reduce the negative effects of fuel on your RYOBI, always use fresh fuel with low ethanol content. Make sure the fuel is made up of gasoline and oil mixed at a ratio of 50:1.
Here are a few tips for selecting and caring for fuel:
- Only use fresh fuel. Fuel can begin to degrade as quickly as 30 days after purchase.
- Use a 50:1 gas-to-oil mixture in your 2-cycle RYOBI chainsaw.
- Select gasoline with a minimum octane rating of 87 and a maximum ethanol content of 10%.
- Mix in a premium 2-cycle oil that is ISO-L-EGD and JASO M345 FD certified.
- Add a fuel stabilizer. To prevent gas from breaking down so it lasts a little longer, add a fuel stabilizer like Sea Foam or STA-BIL. These products will reduce moisture and clean the fuel system as well. Some 2-cycle oils include a stabilizer, but you’ll have to determine how long the stabilizer is effective as it can vary from 30 days to 2 years.
Read more about fuel selection and care for RYOBI chainsaws here.
SOLUTION: Empty the fuel tank. Prepare a 50:1 fuel mix using fresh gas and 2-cycle engine oil in a gas can. Add a fuel stabilizer to help clean the fuel system. Sea Foam or STA-BIL offers a good product that works well.
Add this mixture to the fuel tank. Start and run the chainsaw to allow this mixture to run through the fuel system.
Plugged Fuel Filter
The fuel filter’s function is to keep dirt from entering the fuel system and damaging the engine. The fuel filter is a small cylinder-shaped part located inside the fuel tank.
You will find it attached to the fuel line. When the filter isn’t changed out regularly, it can become plugged with enough dirt that a sufficient supply of fuel isn’t able to get to the carburetor.
SOLUTION: Inspect the filter and replace it if needed. I like to replace it annually and more often if I begin using it regularly.
Change a RYOBI chainsaw fuel filter:
- First, wipe around the fuel tank cap so dirt doesn’t fall into the tank.
- Pull the filter out of the tank using a filter hook or a clean bent wire.
- Once the filter is out of the tank, grab the fuel line with one hand and pull the filter out of the line with the other hand.
- Insert a new fuel filter into the line.
- Place the fuel filter inside the tank.
- Reinstall the fuel cap.
Clogged or Punctured Fuel Line
Gummy deposits left behind by old fuel can clog the fuel line restricting fuel flow. When you find a clogged fuel line, remove it from the chainsaw and clean it to open the line.
SOLUTION: Spray carburetor cleaner into the line to loosen the clog. Follow this with compressed air to dislodge and remove the clog. Repeat as necessary to remove the clog.
If you can’t remove the clog or you find the fuel line is dry and cracked, you need to replace the fuel line with a new line of the same diameter and length.
Also, replace any line that has a puncture. A punctured fuel line can draw air into the fuel system resulting in a chainsaw running sluggish because too much air is being introduced to the cylinder.
Plugged Fuel Tank Vent
The fuel tank on a RYOBI chainsaw must be able to vent to allow air to pass in and out of the tank.
Air must be able to pass through the vent and out of the tank when fuel is added. Air also needs to be able to pass into the tank when the fuel level decreases.
When the tank isn’t able to vent, pressure builds, and vacuum forms that will prevent fuel from leaving the tank to the carburetor.
SOLUTION: Locate the fuel vent on your RYOBI chainsaw and replace a clogged vent. It is a small circular part that is installed on the top side of the tank in front of the handle.
The carburetor mixes the correct proportion of air and fuel required for your RYOBI chainsaw to start and continue to run.
The passageways can become clogged and the small components can fail to function correctly which can be the reason the chainsaw stops running. Old fuel is a big reason why a RYOBI carburetor will stop working.
SOLUTION: You may be able to clean or rebuild your carburetor to get it working again. You will have to replace the carburetor if this doesn’t work.
Carburetor Needs Adjustment
The carburetor may need to be adjusted to change the RPMs at idle speed and at full throttle. There are adjustment screws on the carburetor to make these adjustments.
The screws are labeled “L” for low speed and “H” for high speed. Let the chainsaw idle and adjust the “L” low-speed screw clockwise and counter-clockwise until you find the “sweet spot” where it runs smoothly and not sluggish.
Next, adjust the “H” high-speed to get a good smooth RPM at full throttle. Don’t over-adjust and allow the RPMs to increase too much or you will damage the engine.
RYOBI does have some limits to the adjustments you can perform to the carburetor. If you are continuing to have problems with the carburetor or your model RYOBI doesn’t allow you to make the carburetor adjustments, bring your chainsaw to your local RYOBI servicing dealer.
A special tool may be required so only your dealer can make the necessary adjustments.
Bad Spark Plug
A dirty or broken spark plug won’t provide the consistent spark needed to run the chainsaw. It may provide intermittent spark causing the saw to lose power and possibly die.
Inspect the condition of the spark plug tip. If it is very dark in color and has a broken porcelain or burnt electrode, the spark plug must be replaced.
You can try to clean the spark plug with a wire brush and reuse it if it’s just a little dirty. I prefer to just replace it. It’s an important part required for your RYOBI to run well and it’s an inexpensive maintenance part.
Make sure the spark plug is gapped correctly and the spark plug wire is securely attached. (Don’t leave the spark plug attached if you need to continue to make additional repairs).
Faulty Ignition Coil
After you have confirmed the spark plug is in good condition, check the ignition coil to make sure it is functioning correctly. The coil provides the electrical current to the spark plug to form a spark that ignites the fuel to start and keep your chainsaw running.
When the coil gets hot, the winding on the coil can separate and short out. This will cause your RYOBI chainsaw to lose power, run sluggishly or stop running when there is an intermittent spark.
A bad ignition coil will not be able to provide sufficient voltage to the spark plug.
Engine Compression Problem
While pulling the starter recoil rope, you may notice a loss of compression. When the compression is low on a RYOBI chainsaw, it will fail to have enough pressure to keep it running.
This can be the result of worn crankshaft seals, worn piston rings, or damage to the piston.
I advise bringing your chainsaw to a small engine mechanic or your RYOBI service center for testing and making necessary repairs.