Why Is My Chainsaw Hard To Pull? [Simple Fix]

Why is my chainsaw hard to pull?

Problems are relatively easy to fix when they occur in an immediate type of way. It is those annoying ones that creep up slowly in almost puny increments that are so difficult to resolve.

When the threat of a dislocated shoulder becomes a real possibility as you reach for the starter cord on the chainsaw the signs are there that it’s time to check a few things on the saw.

The starter cord gets progressively difficult to pull and we question whether it’s just us getting older or is there really something wrong?

Before we go into any repairs, please, at the risk of sounding silly, check that the chainsaw has a decompression feature. If it does please check that it is working.

Start with the Cylinder. It’s the easiest.

Let’s start with gradually more difficult scenarios. It’s important to remove the bar and chain. We will get back to these two parts later.

Spark plug

Remove the spark plug and give a tug on the starter cord. If it is easy to pull the starter cord and there is no fuel spurting out through the spark plug opening, then you are on the right track.

When there is almost no resistance to pulling the chord with the spark plug removed, it is a safe bet that the bearings are fine, and the cylinder and piston are in an acceptable condition. If the spark plug is refitted and the cord remains seriously difficult to pull, then the exhaust system needs some attention.

If it is a case of ‘gradually getting worse’ type of problem, chances are that the exhaust has become a little choked and there is nowhere for the gasses to escape to. Cleaning the exhaust passage should sort this problem out.

To do this, the muffler will have to be removed and the exhaust port will need to be inspected for a possible build-up of carbon and other material deposits that will require careful removal.


Please take care when inserting instruments into the exhaust port. It is important that the piston is positioned to prevent any foreign material from entering the cylinder.

And the golden rule about this operation is to not use any sharp metal object that may risk damaging the side of the piston or the cylinder.

The muffler can be cleaned with a stiff wire brush to remove any build-up of material. Once cleaned, refit the exhaust and remove the spark plug. Try to pull the starter cord. It should be easy because there is no compression.

Next, refit the spark plug, and try the starter cord again. If it is easy enough and the only resistance is derived from the compression, give yourself a gold star for another successful chainsaw repair.

A small precautionary tale. Always check when replacing a spark plug that you are fitting one with the correct reach. That means check the length of the thread on the spark plug. Make sure it is correct for your machine.

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Flipping chainsaw bar
Why is my chainsaw sparking?

What’s wrong when the spark plug removal has no effect

As we have checked the bearing, cylinder, and piston, and the exhaust is clear it’s time to turn our attention to the starter cord and starter system itself.

I apologize in advance here because you are going to have to deal with springs that are waiting to jump at you and unwind. So, with caution, we proceed.

First thing is to check the condition of the cord itself. If it is worn and it starts to look a little threadbare it is time to change it.

Despite the nagging little voice in the background suggesting it can go for another couple of pulls, change it now. It may just be the reason the pulling of the starter cord is getting so difficult and it also will present the opportunity of examining the starter pulley and mechanism.

What faults to look for in the starter system

After carefully removing the cover of the starter pulley you need to check on the condition of the springs and the fitting of the pulley. Check for damage to the alignment of the pulley and the opening in the cover to ensure that there are no foreign bodies restricting the travel of the cord.

Applying a little lubrication to all the moving parts in the system will not do any harm. Having checked that there are no broken parts, the pulley itself is in a good condition and rotates freely, and the new cord is fitting well the system can be refitted.

The final step

Hopefully, this has resolved the problem and the starter cord is moving more freely, and starting the machine is a whole lot easier.

It is time to replace the bar and chain. Having refitted both items, manually move the chain around the bar and check that it moves freely. Check the chain brake. Does it engage and release properly?

All being well it’s time to tension the chain correctly and tighten the retaining bolts for the bar.