6 Best Substitute for Bar Chain Oil [Cheap & Safe]

What’s the best substitute for bar chain oil

Well, you’ve come to the right place because, in this post, I’ll be covering various bar oils you can use and oils you should avoid.

So let’s get straight into it!

What to look out for when looking for a substitute

Manufacturers of different brands of chainsaws each have their specific recommendations when it comes to the type of bar and chain oil to use.

Chainsaws get designed to work with various bars and chains. Although you get chainsaws that only work with one type of bar and chain, oil recommendations are usually given with guide bars and chains separately.

Please keep in mind that manufacturers develop bar and chain oils to international health, safety, and environmental standards. Substitute oils should only be applied when you have no other option.

Bars and chains get built with different types of composites and metals, thus needing proper lubrication. Friction can cause all sorts of trouble, especially when your chain is rotating at 40 + MPH.

Varies types of oils get researched and developed to deal with wear and tear on the bar and chain effectively. 

A factor to consider when choosing a suitable substitute for bar and chain oil is to match it as close as possible to the original product. There are a few key characteristics that you can keep in mind. 


The correct amount of oiliness is needed to provide enough glide between the bar and the spinning chain. Without an adequate amount of oiliness, your chain will begin to turn into an abrasive on your bar.

The friction created by a dry guide bar will eventually become dangerous. The chain could begin to stick due to heat and jump off the bar at high speeds.

Fuel consumption will become heavier due to not enough lubrication on the bar and chain.


Being slick is not the only factor of a good substitute oil. When your oil is too greasy, it will just fly off your chain.

To avoid this, you need a certain degree of adherent to the oil as well. Being mindful of this will save you time and resources.


The thickness of the oil matters because when your oil is too thick, it becomes more adherent. Getting the balance between the greasiness and the stickiness will help you avoid damaging your machine.

That is why it’s good to know what can work for you, and what can’t.

What are some good bar oil substitutes?

Any lubricant won’t work. As mentioned earlier, you need to keep a few elements in mind so that your chainsaws operate safely and efficiently.

Here are some substitutes that contain the necessary components needed to ensure proper lubrication and risk mitigation.

1. Motor Oil

Being the most common ‘go-to’ substitute oil because of its lubricating properties, you can see why it is a popular solution. Motor oil is also very affordable and readily available almost anywhere you might find yourself.

Although containing most of the needed properties, motor oil falls short on the environmental side of things. Unfortunately, it’s not biodegradable.

But, for a worthy substitute to keep you safe and your machine running, it will work.

Check Price of Motor Oil

2. Vegetable Oil

You can call this nature’s motor oil. Vegetable oil is readily available at almost any grocery store around you.

Not only is it very affordable, but its uses extend far beyond the kitchen. The properties of vegetable oil make it a useful lubricant on your bar and chain.

Eco-friendly and fumeless, preferred over motor oil because of the ability to be used in areas or situations where cleanliness is required. For example, processing meat or harvesting fruit.

Effective lubricant, yes. Perfect? No. Vegetable oil is not as effective in colder temperatures. Motor oil thickness can be adjusted for weather conditions, whereas vegetable oil can’t.

Check Price of Vegetable Oil

3. Canola Oil

To be as informative as possible, vegetable oil and canola oil are very different. Canola oil is derived from the rapeseed plant only, and vegetable oil gets produced from multiple plants.

Canola oil can be found in vegetable oil as an ingredient because it is thin and has a high grease content. It is also natural and can be used for meat processing and fruit harvesting as well.

Unlike vegetable oil, colder temperatures do not affect canola oil as much. And thus it is a good substitute, not only for your bar and chain lubrication but for other lubricants as well.

Check Price of Canola Oil

4. Second-hand or drained motor oil.

Even though you cannot put it back into your vehicle, you can still use it in the same way you would new motor oil. Oil does not have an expiry date, so instead of throwing it away, you might as well use it as a substitute.

Filtering the used motor oil will help you get rid of micro-shavings or dirt that may be in the oil. This dirt can be invisible to the naked eye, so filtration is a safer option than just taking a chance.

5. Second-hand or drained hydraulic fluids.

If you have machinery around that uses hydraulic systems, you can use the hydraulic oil as a substitute for bar and chain oil. Using only hydraulic fluid might be frustrating as it will dry up very fast.

Hydraulic fluid has a low viscosity and is not very adherent. This can be corrected by mixing your hydraulic fluid with some motor oil or one of the natural oils you mentioned. 

Mixing the oils will make it more adherent, therefore sticking to the bar and chain for much longer.

6. Diesel motor oil.

Are you working in sub-zero temperatures? Diesel motor oils will be the best substitute here. 

It contains the same properties as regular motor oil, the only difference is that it can withstand freezing temperatures.

Check Price of Diesel motor oil

What kind of oils you should not use

Whilst several types of oils will be suitable substitutes for your bar and chain, you need to be aware of certain factors that might damage your chainsaw overall.

When it comes to using second-hand motor oil and second-hand hydraulic oils, this should be your last resort. Even multiple filtering cycles can not ensure the removal of microscopic metal debris.

If you do not have any other option then you resort to second-hand liquids. Running your chainsaw without bar and chain oil should be avoided at all costs.


You can use motor oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, diesel motor oil, second-hand or drained motor oi and drained hydraulic fluids. Diesel oil is great if you’re using your chainsaw at freezing temperatures. Second-hand oil should only be used as a last resort.

Hope you found what you were looking for in this guide.

Happy sawing!

– Adam