Best Bar and Chain Oil Alternatives for Your Chainsaw


In Brief: Bar and Chain Oil Alternatives?

There are several bar and chain oil alternatives that you can use. Motor oil performs well but damages the environment. Drained motor oil does less damage but requires filtering. Vegetable oil and canola oil are eco-friendly but perform poorly in cold weather and warm weather respectively. Hydraulic fluid and diesel oil perform well when mixed with other oils.

Chainsaws require bar and chain oil to lubricate the chain as it rotates around the bar.

Poor lubrication can shorten the lifespan of your chainsaw and reduce its cutting efficiency, but what can you do if the manufacturer recommended oil is unavailable or too expensive?

We have put together this list of bar and chain oil alternatives that you can use in the absence of standard bar and chain oil.

Bar and Chain Oil Alternatives

If you are out of bar and chain oil and cannot get any more, consider these alternative lubricants for your chainsaw.

Motor Oil

Motor oil can be found in any automotive store and costs less than bar and chain oils, while also possessing all of the properties required of a chainsaw lubricant.

You will have to use an appropriate weight for the time of year. In cold temperatures, you should use SAE 10, whereas in hot temperatures you will need SAE 30.

The main disadvantage of motor oil takes the form of environmental concerns.

Motor oil does not biodegrade, so using it can be wasteful and damaging to the environment. Spraying motor oil over nearby vegetation can cause local ecological damage.

Drained Motor Oil

To help address the shortcomings of using motor oil, you could drain the used motor oil from your vehicle and recycle it for lubricating your chainsaw.

You will need to filter the oil before you use it as a lubricant because sludge can build up in used motor oil.

Filtering works best with warm oil, so harvest your car’s oil tank while the engine is warm.

While recycling use motor oil addresses some environmental concerns, you will still be spraying motor oil onto vegetation and causing ecological damage.

You also cannot perform butchery with a motor oil-lubricated chainsaw.

Diesel Oil Mix

If you can still get hold of the standard bar and chain oil but want to make it go further, you can add some diesel oil to the mix.

Diesel oil can help the bar and chain oil function more effectively in cold weather, especially in sub-zero temperatures.

However, diesel oil has the same environmental concerns as motor oil.

You also need the standard bar and chain oil to mix it with, so except in specific situations the disadvantages of the diesel oil mix outweigh the advantages compared to other alternatives.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil can be found in any grocery store for a fraction of the price of other alternatives on this list.

Despite its affordability, it performs well as a bar and chain oil alternative due to high viscosity, shear resistance, and high flash point.

It also biodegrades and does not emit any harmful fumes, so does not negatively impact the environment. Being edible, you can also use it for butchering.

However, vegetable oil performs poorly in cold weather so during a cold winter you will need another alternative.

Hydraulic Fluid

Hydraulic fluids, such as those found in your vehicle or other machinery, can be used as bar and chain oil due to its similarity to motor oil. If you can drain some from somewhere else, why not recycle it?

Unfortunately, it lacks viscosity and will need to be mixed with another alternative such as motor oil. If you use it on its own, it will dry up far too quickly to be effective.

In a pinch, mixing some hydraulic fluid and motor oil drained from your car will work as a bar and chain oil alternative.

Canola Oil

Canola oil differs from standard vegetable oil in that it derives solely from the rapeseed plant, whereas vegetable oil derives from a variety of different plants.

Where vegetable oil lacks effectiveness in cold temperatures, canola oil excels. It is thinner than vegetable oil, with a viscosity that suits lower temperatures.

However, in normal and warm temperatures, the thinness of canola oil means that it will fly off the bar far quicker than vegetable oil, making it less useful and forcing you to reload the bar with lubricant far more often.


We hope we have helped you find a bar and chain oil alternative that works for you.

Your chainsaw needs lubrication, but hopefully, you can now see that you do not need to splash out on specialist oils when you probably have something suitable sitting in your home or vehicle.

If you have any questions or comments about this guide or bar and chain oil alternatives in general, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

About Donald Parker

Donald has more than 15 years of experience working with power tools. But his main area of expertise is working saws, especially chainsaws. He's always had an affinity for the cutting edges and all that they can do.