How to start a STIHL chainsaw

How to start your STIHL petrol chainsaw – step by step guide and safety considerations, with instruction video guides.

A STIHL MS 180 C-BE chainsaw on the ground, with a person wearing protective gloves holding the handle.

Before starting your STIHL chainsaw

Before you can start your petrol chainsaw, you need to make sure you have a safe area to use it in.

Preparing a space for chainsaw work

  • Petrol chainsaws begin generating toxic emissions from the moment the engine starts. These gases may be odourless and invisible, so it’s important to only use your chainsaw outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces. A closed room is not a safe environment for working with your STIHL chainsaw.
  • Check the ground of your working area: uneven ground and freshly shaved bark can be stumbling hazards, along with slippery, wet, snowy, icy, or sloped surfaces.
  • Keep other people, especially children, away from your working area.
A STIHL MS 261 petrol chainsaw with chain guard being carried by a man as he walks across a bridge

It’s important to keep these safety considerations in mind before you start work with your STIHL chainsaw:

  • Petrol can be extremely hazardous, so always ensure the refuelling site is at least 3 metres away from anywhere you are using your STIHL chainsaw.
  • Inspect your work area carefully and be aware of potential obstacles. Maintain a clear escape route in case of emergency. Slippery, uneven or icy surfaces can be dangerous so try to avoid these if possible. 
  • Make sure there are no people in the immediate vicinity of your chainsaw work. That being said, you should never work alone and must make sure you can be heard if you need to call for help.
Forestry worker wearing protective equipment carrying a STIHL MS 462 C petrol chainsaw in a coniferous forest

Start-up steps for a STIHL petrol chainsaw

You’ve checked your working area is safe, so now it’s time to get going with your saw. The steps below take you through the start process for your STIHL chainsaw, but you must also always refer to the safety information in your operating instructions.

Follow the instructions appropriate for your STIHL chainsaw: we have provided steps for how to start a chainsaw without M-Tronic, as well as the instructions you need if you have an M-Tronic tool.

Though the instructions steps given are for starting your chainsaw on level ground, they can be adapted if thick shrubbery or snow makes a ground start impractical: you can instead hold your STIHL chainsaw between your knee and thigh to start it, and skip the steps that aren’t relevant. 

How to start a STIHL chainsaw without M-Tronic

Someone wearing gloves performs a ground start of a STIHL MS 261 C-M petrol chainsaw with Light 04 guide bar

How to start a STIHL chainsaw with M-Tronic

Close-up of the starter grip on a STIHL MS 261 C-M petrol chainsaw with M-Tronic and ElastoStart.

STIHL ErgoStart and STIHL ElastoStart make starting easy

As well as the M-Tronic system STIHL offers other features that also make it easier to start your chainsaw: STIHL ErgoStart reduces the amount of power required for start-up and the special STIHL ElastoStart shock absorber grip makes the starting process smooth, with no sudden load peaks.


These instructions are intended to supplement the operating instructions for your STIHL chainsaw. The videos depict just one chainsaw as an example, and other chainsaws may have different controls. Make sure you familiarise yourself with your own chainsaw before using it, and read the operating instructions in full. Contact your STIHL dealer directly if you have any questions.

Summary: how to start a STIHL petrol chainsaw

  • The right way to start a STIHL chainsaw may vary depending on the model
  • Before starting your tool, you must carefully read the operating instructions
  • To start a STIHL chainsaw safely, you can either do a ground start or a knee start
  • You need fewer steps to start a chainsaw with M-Tronic – for example there is no need to pull the starter cord a second time
  • Don’t start working with your chainsaw until you have successfully completed the start-up sequence. If you are doing a ground start, do not pick up the chainsaw until it is running correctly
  • If you follow these instructions and your STIHL chainsaw still doesn’t start properly, we recommend you contact a STIHL dealer