Poulan Chainsaw Only Runs With The Choke On? (Fix It Now!)

Dennis Howard
by Dennis Howard

Poulan chainsaws are among the most popular chainsaw brands. Typically, Poulan chainsaws run for years with routine maintenance and care. However, there may come a time when you experience problems. In many cases, you may find that your Poulan chainsaw only runs with the choke on.

The most common cause of a Poulan chainsaw that only runs with the choke engaged is a fouled carburetor. A fouled carburetor can starve the engine for the fuel/air mixture. Engaging the choke makes the fuel/air mixture richer and the chainsaw seems to run normally.

A fouled carburetor is the most common cause of a Poulan chainsaw that only runs with the choke engaged. Other problems can cause similar issues. You should diagnose these issues to keep your Poulan chainsaw running at peak efficiency. You can work through these issues by following a few simple steps.

Diagnosing a Poulan Chain Saw that only Runs with the Choke On

Step 1: Work Safely All the Time.

When you start to work on your Poulan chainsaw, your first concern should be safety. Chainsaws are powerful tools with extremely sharp blades. You should follow these safety guidelines

  • For your safety, wear your safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Good leather work gloves will protect your hands and fingers from the sharp teeth of the chainsaw blade.
  • When cutting with your Poulan chainsaw, wear heavy work boots with steel toes if possible.
  • At a minimum, wear long pants and long sleeves. Leather chainsaw chaps are encouraged.
  • If you are working on your chainsaw after running it, remember that the engine and exhaust are hot.
  • Only work on your Poulan chainsaw in a well-ventilated area, especially if you are dealing with gasoline.

Step 2: Check the Gasoline

Storing your Poulan chainsaw for or very long may result in a gasoline and oil mixture that has gone bad. The additives in modern gasoline and the oils used in the mixture don’t store well. These compounds can combine to clog the passages inside the carburetor.

Never store any small gasoline engine with fuel in the carburetor. Storing a small engine for more than a few weeks can lead to major carburetor problems. Always run the carburetor out of fuel at the end of a work session.

If you suspect carburetor fouling with old gas, immediately dispose of the gasoline left in the fuel tank and refresh it with new gasoline and oil mixture. If the fouling is not too severe, sometimes new gas will dissolve the buildup in the carburetor.

Step 3: Run a Carburetor Cleaner through your Poulan Chainsaw

If your Poulan chainsaw still doesn’t run well without engaging the choke, the fouling may require more attention. Several good carburetor cleaners mix with the gasoline in your chainsaw. Check with your local small engine parts dealer for suggestions on the best product for your application.

Most of these carburetor cleaners will help dissolve the buildup inside the carburetor. The cleaners are not harmful to your small engines and can do an amazing job. You may find that after one application of a carburetor cleaner, your Poulan chainsaw runs as good as it ever did.

Step 4:Check the Fuel System – Fuel Filters and Screens

Some Poulan chainsaws have an inline fuel filter between the gas tank and the carburetor. These small filters can become clogged and require replacement as part of a routine maintenance schedule.

Check the owner’s manual that came with your Poulan chainsaw for information about replacing a fuel filter if necessary. Replacing the fuel filter, if your chainsaw has one, is usually a simple and quick job.

Your Poulan chainsaw may also have a screen over the gasoline intake in the fuel tank. Cleaning the fuel tank with fresh gasoline and applying a carburetor cleaner will usually solve this problem.

Step 5: Air Leaks in the Fuel System

A leaking fuel line or a bad primer bulb can allow air into the fuel system. Air in the fuel system can cause the fuel/air mixture to be too lean. Check the fuel lines on your Poulan chainsaw for cracks or loose fittings.

Primer bulbs are notorious for developing air leaks that can cause carburetor problems. Most often, this manifests as a hard to start engine. Air leaks past the primer bulb and affects the fuel/air mixture just like a leak in a fuel line. Replace the primer bulb if you suspect it has a hole or is leaking air.

Step 6: Check the Carburetor Gasket

Inspect the gasket between the carburetor and the intake manifold on your Poulan chainsaw. If the gasket appears worn, damaged, or cracked, replace it. A damaged carburetor gasket will leak air and cause the fuel/air mixture to be too lean to properly run your Poulan chainsaw.

Step 7: Adjust the Fuel Speed Valve on your Carburetor

Poulan chainsaws come with a factory-set fuel speed valve. This valve is a fuel-saving device. However, this fuel speed valve can get out of adjustment. In some cases, these valves are sealed and cannot be adjusted. Check your owner’s manual for more information about the fuel speed valve.

Step 8: Rebuild or Replace the Carburetor

As a last resort, you may need to rebuild or replace the carburetor on your Poulan chainsaw. For many homeowners, a carburetor rebuild is beyond their skill level. However, if you are handy and have some carburetor experience, you can get a parts kit and rebuild it.

The carburetors on some Poulan chainsaws are sealed and cannot be serviced or rebuilt. In this case, the only alternative is to purchase a new carburetor. Switching carburetors is relatively straight forward. Follow the instructions that come with the new carburetor for the best results.

Bigger Issues Can be the Problem

Other and bigger issues can cause a Poulan carburetor only to run when the choke is engaged. These issues are often beyond the ability of most of us. If you suspect one of these problems, you should consult with your Poulan service center.

Leaking Head Gasket

A cracked or damaged head gasket can cause your Poulan chainsaw to run lean. In most cases, a Poulan chainsaw with a leaking head gasket will also make your Poulan chainsaw hard to start. If you suspect that your Poulan chainsaw has a bad head gasket, head to your local Poulan service center.

Cracked Head

If the head on your Poulan chainsaw has a crack, it will exhibit the same problems as a leaking head gasket. A cracked head is a serious issue that requires immediate attention by a trained technician.

Cracked or Damaged Sparkplug

Remove and check the condition of the sparkplug. Your sparkplug should be clean and unfouled. Check the ceramic insulator for cracks or damage. Clean the tip and make sure the spark gap is set correctly. If there is any question, replace the sparkplug. Check your owner’s manual for the proper replacement spark plug.

Most Poulan chainsaws require a .025 gap on the sparkplug. The part number for replacement sparkplugs is Champion RCJ7Y or Torch R7. Your operator’s manual has instructions on replacing the sparkplug.

Keeping Your Poulan Chainsaw Running Properly

One key to getting the longest life from your Poulan chainsaw is to perform routine maintenance. The User’s manual included with your Poulan chainsaw is the best resource for a maintenance schedule. Some things warrant a few extra mentions for your attention.

Mix Your Fuel Correctly

Most Poulan chainsaws have two-stroke engines that require you to mix the oil and fuel. Maintaining a proper oil to fuel ratio is extremely important to keep your Poulan chainsaw operating properly.

The proper ratio of fuel to oil for your Poulan chainsaw is 40:1. To achieve this ratio, mix 3.2 ounces of two-stroke oil with a gallon of gasoline. Only use oil specifically made for two-stroke engines. Using regular motor oil is a recipe for disaster.

Use the Right Gasoline

Poulan recommends that their small engines run on 87 octane regular gasoline. Never use gasoline containing more than 10 percent blended alcohol. When adding fresh gasoline/oil mixture, shake the fuel mixture thoroughly to ensure that the oil and gasoline are well mixed.

Don’t Forget the Bar Oil

Your Poulan chainsaw has an oil reservoir that provides lubricant to the chain bar while the saw is running. Fill this reservoir with Poulan bar and chain oil. Failure to keep the bar oil reservoir full can damage your chainsaw bar and the chain.

Professional chain saw users recommend refilling the bar oil reservoir every time you add fuel to your chainsaw. Adding bar oil at every fuel fill is a good habit and will give your bar and chain long service life.

Keep your Poulan Chainsaw Blade Sharp

A dull chainsaw blade causes your Poulan chainsaw to work harder. Trying to cut with a dull blade can lead to overheating the bar, chain, and engine. Sharpen the blade on your Poulan chainsaw regularly. Many professional chainsaw operators will touch up the blade at each fuel fill-up.

Keep your Frustration to a Minimum

A Poulan chainsaw that isn’t running correctly is frustrating. Most of the time, the problem is easy to diagnose and fix. A bit of preventive maintenance can forestall many of these small problems and prevent rising frustration.

We hope that the information included in this article helps you diagnose and fix problems with your Poulan chainsaw when it doesn’t run without the choke engaged. Work safe and have fun.

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Dennis Howard
Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

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