How To Start A Stihl Chainsaw – 7 Easy Steps

Stihl MS311

My family has been in the chainsaw business for decades and we have operated and serviced just about every brand of chainsaw on the market.

Each brand of chainsaw has its own starting procedure, with most being self-explanatory.

However, one brand of chainsaw has a particular starting procedure that has to be followed to the letter.

That brand is Stihl.

Not following the correct starting procedure of a Stihl chainsaw will result in a flooded chainsaw and an arm ache from pulling the starter rope.

I have seen Stihl chainsaws flooded to the point of gasoline running out of the chainsaw’s muffler.

The good news is you can avoid a flooded Stihl chainsaw by following the correct starting process.

The starting procedure of a Stihl chainsaw is as follows:

  1. Engage chain brake
  2. Pull trigger and move master control switch to full choke
  3. Pull starter rope 3 to 5 times or until chainsaw burps
  4. Move master control switch from full choke to half choke
  5. Pull starter rope 2 to 3 times until chainsaw starts
  6. Quickly tap trigger to move master control switch to idle
  7. Disengage chain brake
Stihl MS170

Starting a Stihl chainsaw is a very consistent and easy process if you know how to do it.

A Stihl chainsaw will start the same way every time if you follow the starting procedure.

However, if you don’t follow the procedure and you try to start a Stihl chainsaw like a Husquvarna, Echo, or Poulan, you will likely flood it.

Once you understand how to start a Stihl and do it a couple of times, it will become muscle memory and can be done without realizing it.

It’s so easy to start a Stihl chainsaw. Almost anybody can do it.

Always engage the chain brake before attempting to start your chainsaw.

Never drop start your chainsaw. Drop starting is very dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death.

Stihl recommends two different starting techniques to start your Stihl chainsaw.

The first way is the ground method, and the second is the standing method.

The Ground Method is placing the chainsaw on the ground and gripping the handlebar with your left hand, and applying downward pressure on the handle. Then place your right foot through the rear handle and hold the saw down with your body weight. Your right hand will be free to pull the rope.

Chainsaw Ground Starting Method

The Standing Method is placing the chainsaw’s rear handle between your legs above the knees tightly. Then grip the handlebar with your left hand. Your right hand will be free to pull the rope.

7 Steps To Start A Stihl Chainsaw

Step 1. Engage Chain Brake

Before starting your Stihl chainsaw, engage the chain brake for safety. Engaging the chain brake will keep you from injuring yourself or someone else during the starting process. It only takes a second to engage a chain brake. Do it first.

Step 2. Pull The Trigger And Move The Master Control Switch To Full Choke

In order to move the master control switch to full choke, you will need to pull the throttle trigger.

Pull the throttle trigger of the chainsaw and use your thumb to press the master control switch all the way to the bottom, which is the full choke.

Step 3. Pull Starter Rope 3 to 5 Times Until Chainsaw Burps

Once the master control switch is set on full choke, it’s time to pull the starter rope. Pull the starter rope 3 to 5 times or until the chainsaw burps.

Depending on certain conditions, your may need to pull the rope more than 3 to 5 times to get the chainsaw to burp. Please don’t overdo it, though.

Step 4. Move Master Control Switch From Full Choke To Half Choke

Now that the chainsaw has burped, you need to move the master control switch to half choke. This is done by pushing the master control switch up one notch to half choke.

Step 5. Pull Starter Rope 2 to 3 Times Until Chainsaw Starts

After setting the master control switch to half choke, pull the starter rope 2 to 3 times, and the chainsaw will start.

Step 6. Quickly Tap Throttle Trigger To Move Master Control Switch To Idle

Now that the chainsaw is running, you need to quickly move the chainsaw from half choke to idle.

This is done by quickly tapping the throttle trigger. If the throttle trigger is pressed while the chainsaw’s master control switch is set to half choke, the master control switch will automatically go to the run setting.

Step 7. Disengage Chain Brake

Now that your Stihl chainsaw has been started and it’s idling, it is time to cut some wood.

Before cutting, you need to disengage your chainsaw’s chain brake.

That’s it. You did it.

Why Is My Stihl Chainsaw Flooding?

There are three primary reasons a Stihl chainsaw can flood during the starting process.

A Stihl chainsaw will flood out if the unit has spoiled fuel, a fouled spark plug or if you did not follow the proper starting procedure.

Where Is The Choke On A Stihl Chainsaw?

The choke on a Stihl chainsaw is located to the left of the rear handle on the master control switch. The master control switch is a black lever with four different settings which are full choke, half choke, run and stop.

Do All Stihl Chainsaws Have A Primer

No, not all Stihl chainsaws have primer bulbs. In fact, the vast majority of Stihl chainsaws do not have primer bulbs at all. Primer bulbs are usually on the Easy Start variants of chainsaws and on some arborist-grade chainsaws.

Wrapping Up

If you are used to starting and operating chainsaw brands like Husquvarna, Poulan, or Echo, you probably have the starting process relegated to muscle memory.

However, if you purchase a Stihl chainsaw, the starting procedure is different and specific and must be followed; or you risk a flooded, hard-to-start chainsaw.

If the starting process is followed correctly, a Stihl chainsaw is one of the easiest and most reliably starting chainsaws on the market.

Make sure you follow the correct process and be safe out there.

Steven R

Steven R

I have been part of the chainsaw and outdoor power equipment business in one way or the other for over 35 years. There are not many things that I have not seen in the business. From repairs, sales, equipment operation, and safety I can help you with your questions.

Recent Posts