Common Stihl 500i Problems

Common Stihl 500i Problems & Troubleshooting

Latest posts by Samantha Biggers (see all)

All chainsaws have their problems regardless of brand or quality. Stihl has a lot to offer for those who want a top-quality saw. The Stihl 500i is an innovative chainsaw because it is the only chainsaw available that comes with electronic fuel injection. This system makes the Stihl 500i easier to start and less likely to stall out while cutting logs.

Over the years, my husband and I have experienced every problem you can think of when it comes to chainsaws. From handles on cheap chainsaws breaking while in operation to the everyday issues that can occur, we have learned the importance of being able to troubleshoot problems and avoid a time-consuming and costly trip to the repair shop.

The Stihl 500i is a high-quality saw that packs a lot of power without piling on a lot of extra weight. The electronic fuel injection system takes Stihl’s legendary reliability and ease of use to a whole new level.¬† If you are going to use a chainsaw, it can save a lot of time and money if you learn how to troubleshoot common Stihl 500i problems yourself.

The Bottom Line Up Front:

If you are having problems with your Stihl 500i, a good place to start is to check your air filter, which often gets missed. If you are having issues with the chain rotating (which is common), you can also look at lubrication, and don’t forget to check if the tension is too tight!

Problem: The Chain is Stopping or Going too Slow While Cutting Logs

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

My husband and I have run into many situations where a chainsaw suddenly lacks the power to advance the chain fast enough to get through felling a tree or cutting up a log. Sometimes the answer is simple, and other times it can take a little more to figure out.

Possible Solution: The Most Common Culprit is Your Chain Tension Being too Tight

Even if you adjust your chain tension before starting a project, the tension can change throughout the day. Too much tension will cause your chain to move slowly or not at all; this situation can be worse if a log starts to put pressure on your bar and chain as you cut through it.

This can happen to anyone, but getting a bit of a pinch when cutting happens even more if you are a beginner. You may need to allow your saw to cool off before checking your tension. If you cannot pull a few teeth out of the bar channel when you try, then the tension is likely too tight.

Adjusting the tension on newer Stihl chainsaws is slightly different from older models. To learn how to adjust the tension on a Stihl 500i, I recommend reading the instructions and looking at the pictures provided by Stihl the first time you do it. Here is a link that will have you adjusting tension like a pro.

Adding some bar oil to the chain and bar can also help if you have trouble with pinching and getting your saw bogged down.

Problem: A Smoking Bar or Chain

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

Possible Solution: Lubrication Issue.

While smoke coming from your chainsaw may seem super alarming, it is often just a lack of lubrication. That being said, you must turn your saw off immediately. The longer you allow your bar and chain to smoke, the more likely it is that you warp your bar, which means all your future cuts will be crooked. Also, bars are not cheap, hence the importance of always topping off your bar oil reservoir every time you refuel.

If you have oil in your reservoir, but your bar and chain are still hot, your oiler may be clogged or not functioning correctly. In this case, you must take off your bar and chain and thoroughly clean the interior of your saw.

  1. Loosen and remove bar nuts
  2. Remove the bar and chain.
  3. Locate your oiler and use a fine brush to dislodge dirt, dust, and grime.
  4. Put your bar and chain back on and readjust the tension.
  5. After your saw is put back together, start it and aim the blade near a piece of cardboard or the face of a piece of wood and see if any oil stain appears. If not, you may need to take your saw to a shop and get a more serious repair.

Problem: A Stuck Chain

Possible Solution: Check if the Chain is Rotating.

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

Check and ensure the chain brake is disengaged if the chain is not rotating. It is easy to forget to release the brake before starting a cut.

Problem: An Overheated Chainsaw.

A chainsaw may start to have a hot smell or even feel burning in your hands if there is a problem with the exhaust. Permanently shut a saw off if it seems to show signs of overheating or losing power. But, first, check for a plugged exhaust port. This can happen if dirt and debris accumulate in the port and clog it partially or entirely.

A dull chain can lead to overheating because your chainsaw’s engine works harder to cut through a log. Allow your saw to cool down, and then take the time to do a good job sharpening your chain with an appropriately sized file. Suppose you are using your saw for a long period of time or sawing wood that is particularly hard such as black gum or locust. In that case, your chain may become dull faster than usual, meaning you might need to resharpen several times throughout the workday to get the performance you want and avoid putting too much stress on your saw’s engine, bar, and chain.

Another possibility is that you are attempting to take on a cutting task that is too much for your chainsaw, or you are cutting a tree in a way that pinches your bar and chain. Again, this is not a situation you want to find yourself in since partially cutting a tree and then having to stop your saw and work on it can be dangerous.

Try to make sure you use a bar and chain that is long enough for the size of the tree you are feeling to help avoid a bad situation. Knowing how to “read” a tree and determine the likely way it will fall is an essential skill that can prevent your bar and chain from getting pinched and causing problems throughout the mechanical framework of your chainsaw.

Problem: The Engine is Not Starting After at Least a Few Attempts

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

Try to start your saw at least a few times before you assume there is an actual problem. This is especially true if you start your chainsaw for the first time on a freezing day.

Here are some tips for troubleshooting your saw not starting at all.

Check Your Fuel Level.

If a chainsaw has a low level of fuel in it, then it may not start. Therefore, it is really common for operators not to realize they are out of fuel until their saw will not start.

  1. Remove fuel cap
  2. Add fresh mixed gas to the tank.
  3. Check your bar oil and fill that if it is low.

Consider Draining and Replacing the Fuel

A chainsaw should not be stored with fuel for months at a time. If you have not used your saw in 3 months or longer and discover that there is still fuel in it, you should drain and properly dispose of the older fuel and replace it with fresh.

  1. Remove fuel cap
  2. Pour out old fuel into a container and keep it for proper disposal at your local recycling center or garbage drop-off point.
  3. Refuel your saw with freshly mixed gas and oil mixture.

Clear the Engine of too Much Fuel. Flooding is a Common Problem

If you have attempted to start your saw more than a few times, then it is possible you have flooded the engine. This can take a few minutes to clear up because you have to allow for gasoline to drain from the combustion chamber.

I have had luck giving the saw a few minutes and then trying to start it again. If you need to clear the combustion chamber manually, you must take the following steps.

  1. Remove the air filter cover and shroud.
  2.  Locate the spark plug boot and remove it.
  3. Remove the spark plug and dry it off.
  4. Put the spark plug back in and attach the boot.
  5. Place the air filter cover and shroud back on and make sure they are locked down.

Problem: Finding Your Chainsaw in a Puddle of Oil

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

It is a real pain when you store your saw for a short period and come back to find it sitting in a puddle of bar oil. This is another problem that no chainsaw is immune to. Luckily there are a few pretty easy solutions to fix most leaks.

Make Sure Your Oil Cap is Secured But Not too Tight.

Forgetting to secure your lid correctly is not a hard mistake to make.

  1. Wipe off the excess oil from your saw
  2. Remove the bar oil cap
  3. Refill the bar oil and make sure you secure your lid correctly.

Pour Out Some Oil if the Reservoir is Full to the Point of Overflowing.

While you always want to keep bar oil in your chainsaw, it is important not to overfill it. To remove excess oil, take the following steps.

  1. Remove oil cap
  2. Drain out enough bar oil to have a small amount of headspace.
  3. Replace cap

Ensure Your Oil Reservoir is Adequately Ventilated.

While you don’t want your oil cap too loose, you also do not want it too tight. Avoid the urge to overtighten. Oil tanks need some ventilation to work correctly and not leak.

Double-check your saw and lid for cracks if none of these quick fixes work. Replacing the cap or lid to your reservoir is easy enough, but any main oil tank cracks require a trip to a Stihl chainsaw shop for repairs.

Problem: The Chainsaw Just Isn’t Working as Well as it Could.

Stihl 500i chainsaw for cutting woods

Possible Solution: Clean Your Air Filter

Cleaning your air filter is a bit of chainsaw maintenance that is important but gets overlooked more than it should. Here is how to clean your air filter.

  1. Remove the air filter cover and the air filter.
  2. Carefully use a soft brush to remove any loose debris and dust.
  3. Rinse your air filter with water to remove even more waste, and allow it to dry before putting it back in your saw.

Air filters that are damaged or that are too clogged may need to be replaced. It is straightforward to purchase a replacement air filter; however, you need to ensure that you get the filter that fits your specific Stihl chainsaw model.


Question: What are the advantages of the electronic fuel injection system versus a traditional carburetor-based fuel system?

Answer: Electronic fuel injection means operators do not have to worry about carburetors getting clogged and preventing a chainsaw from starting quickly or, in the case of a severely clogged carburetor, starting at all. Electronic fuel injection makes it possible for the Stihl 500I to accelerate more rapidly for faster cuts through big trees and logs. Sensor-controlled fuel metering delivers the right amount of fuel to get the job done while avoiding flooding the engine.

Question: What size bar and chain can I use with the Stihl 500I?

Answer: Stihl recommends a 25″ bar and chain to its customers. Unless you ask for a different size, this is the size that Stihl will provide when you order this saw. The Stihl 500I is a powerful chainsaw designed primarily for those who need the ability to take on larger trees. Depending on the task, the saw can be used with chainsaw bars in the 16″ to 36″ range.

Question: How much does the Stihl 500I weigh?

Answer: The weight of the powerhead is 13.9 lbs. The bar and chain you choose add additional weight that will vary based on the size.

Common Stihl 500I Problems: The Bottom Line

The Stihl 500I is an excellent saw with a lot of power. Although some of the problems discussed in this article may sound like a big deal for those new to chainsaws, they are not unique to the Stihl 500i. I would go so far as to say that Stihl chainsaws are generally less likely to experience these issues with the regularity of less expensive and less well-known brands.

Knowing how to troubleshoot common problems is essential so you can get back to using your Stihl 500I as quickly. At the same time, you must realize that an experienced Stihl mechanic must complete some repairs. Authorized Stihl dealers have the training and required parts on hand to fix most chainsaw problems.

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