Author Topic: The planned obsolescence of my Stihl chainsaw is really starting to put me off  (Read 2255 times)

Sjalabais

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I bought a Stihl MS170 about five years ago. It's a short blade chainsaw that's really versatile, with a good engine and a solid reputation - after all, Stihl is a German market leader.

Unfortunately though, there's so much build in obsolescence, I'm starting to get really annoyed at the company, and I thought sharing that here could be appreciated by some looking for a small chainsaw. I'm also interested in your experiences, and recommendations for better built competing products, because despite my lack of willingness to discard just about anything, there will come a day this one goes off a cliff.

So, here it comes:

  • The locks for oil and gas tanks are a foldable two-bit-mechanism with an inbuild sliding function that is entirely designed to fail over time. If you work with gloves and maybe are in a bit of a rough-in-the-forest-mood, you will break them. Getting them to be tight requires an intricate approach to locking them. When I look at newer pictures of the model, it seems Stihl has come to their senses and replaced them with ordinary locks, but just walk away from the two-piece-mechanism when you see it.
  • The oil lines are build in such a way that even irregular use over 2-3 winters will see them start to leak. I first thought my oil tank has a hair split, but the dealer confirmed it's the oil lines and "it happens to all of them". At a rate of 100$/hour, they are willing to start the two hour process of repairing that. No, thank you. But imagine an automaker who designs a car in such a way that the oil lines start leaking after 1000 miles...
  • The handle is made of rather soft plastic. It's a two piece design with the throttle below and a start security button on top. Somehow, the upper part lost a a little securing bit which broke off - again the "happens all the time"-line - and it all fell apart in my hands. I'm now sporting a chainsaw handle entirely covered in black MacGyver tape.

So it's all this auxiliary stuff that is just meant to break. Even if the price for a new chainsaw is comparatively low, I'm getting furious seeing this. With respect for the customer, all of this could have been build in smarter, simpler ways.

Fishindude

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I bought a Stihl MS170 about five years ago. It's a short blade chainsaw that's really versatile, with a good engine and a solid reputation - after all, Stihl is a German market leader.

Unfortunately though, there's so much build in obsolescence, I'm starting to get really annoyed at the company, and I thought sharing that here could be appreciated by some looking for a small chainsaw. I'm also interested in your experiences, and recommendations for better built competing products, because despite my lack of willingness to discard just about anything, there will come a day this one goes off a cliff.

So, here it comes:

  • The locks for oil and gas tanks are a foldable two-bit-mechanism with an inbuild sliding function that is entirely designed to fail over time. If you work with gloves and maybe are in a bit of a rough-in-the-forest-mood, you will break them. Getting them to be tight requires an intricate approach to locking them. When I look at newer pictures of the model, it seems Stihl has come to their senses and replaced them with ordinary locks, but just walk away from the two-piece-mechanism when you see it.
  • The oil lines are build in such a way that even irregular use over 2-3 winters will see them start to leak. I first thought my oil tank has a hair split, but the dealer confirmed it's the oil lines and "it happens to all of them". At a rate of 100$/hour, they are willing to start the two hour process of repairing that. No, thank you. But imagine an automaker who designs a car in such a way that the oil lines start leaking after 1000 miles...
  • The handle is made of rather soft plastic. It's a two piece design with the throttle below and a start security button on top. Somehow, the upper part lost a a little securing bit which broke off - again the "happens all the time"-line - and it all fell apart in my hands. I'm now sporting a chainsaw handle entirely covered in black MacGyver tape.

So it's all this auxiliary stuff that is just meant to break. Even if the price for a new chainsaw is comparatively low, I'm getting furious seeing this. With respect for the customer, all of this could have been build in smarter, simpler ways.

The new twist lock gas and oil caps Stihl came out out with suck.  I echo your frustrations here, however all you have to do is go to the dealer and buy new ones for $4 apiece.  Wasn't a darned thing wrong with standard screw type threads they used to use?

I've not experienced any of the other problems you are having and I have (4) Stihl chain saws, two weed eaters and a blower.  My stuff has been pretty good and reliable.

Spork

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The new twist lock gas and oil caps Stihl came out out with suck.  I echo your frustrations here, however all you have to do is go to the dealer and buy new ones for $4 apiece.  Wasn't a darned thing wrong with standard screw type threads they used to use?

I've not experienced any of the other problems you are having and I have (4) Stihl chain saws, two weed eaters and a blower.  My stuff has been pretty good and reliable.

I've had similar positive experiences... Stihl chain saw, blower and weed eater...   I don't even mind the twist lock caps.  My saw is probably 10 years old, used at least monthly (and heavily during wood cutting months).  I've never had an issue.

I did managed to break a little piece out of the saw handle... but I dropped a log on it that was 18 inches in diameter... so I don't really blame Stihl for it.  That chunk has been missing for almost the life of the saw.  No tape on it.  No fix.  It still works.

I've had previous bad experience with Poulan and leaking oil lines, crumbly gas lines... but not with Stihl.
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thesvenster

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Seems like Stihl has a crappy homeowners line and pro line. Is your saw the former?

Sjalabais

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Like Bosch green/blue? I'm not sure, I thought the difference in Stihl chain saws was the size of the blade and engine. Maybe I'm just unfortunate with the one I got. It's anyway good to hear that you guys are happy with your products.

BDWW

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Stihl's own chart doesn't inspire much confidence in that particular model. I don't really want to defend companies selling cheap tools, but most manufacturers almost have to make chincy models lest they completely cede the low-end market to chinese crud.

Buy once, cry once.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2017, 01:15:43 AM by BDWW »

paddedhat

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Sorry it didn't work out, but you bought a very light duty homeowner grade product and probably got better service than if you spent the same amount for a lesser brand, off the shelf at a big box store.. This is no different that a few decades ago, when you could spend $4995 for a Yugo, and own a crap pile that needs constant repairs, or twice as much on a Camry, that's still running today. Stihl makes great products that last for years of daily service in the hands of professional loggers, tree trimmers, etc.  but they are $400 on up, not $170 like the one you bought. My three series Stihl saw was twenty five years old, and trouble free, when I gave to a buddy in the tree business. He told me he would leave it in the shop for parts. Instead he threw it in one of his trucks and used it regularly for a few more years.

I totally get where you are coming from though. I have to tear a three year old leaf blower apart, to get it running again. I could of ( and regret not) dropped $250 for a Stihl unit, but I grabbed a dirt cheap Hitachi on ebay for $90 bucks. It gave me three years of trouble free service, but it's a light duty unit, and I got what I paid for.

bender

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Good info - I had no idea Stihl had any bad products.  What brand and model of saw is best for occasional homeowner use?  I'm looking for a 14-16" that can handle mid size 8" trees regularly, with the occasional worst case 14-18" oak?

Fishindude

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Good info - I had no idea Stihl had any bad products.  What brand and model of saw is best for occasional homeowner use?  I'm looking for a 14-16" that can handle mid size 8" trees regularly, with the occasional worst case 14-18" oak?

Stihl has decent products, OP probably just overworked one of their very low end models.
That Stihl 271 Farm Boss with a 16" bar will do everything you need.  Get a couple spare chains too, and replace them soon as they dull.
If just occasional use, keep a little stabilizer in your fuel.

Nate R

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That's a great chart showing their design intent per each model! I bought an MS250 5 years ago. Been great for occasional use so far!
I run the pre-mixed fuel WITH stabilizer and no ethanol in  all my 2 strokes. Works every time, sometimes after sitting for 8 months.

acroy

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Too bad you are having issues. Good thing is, they make parts for it, essentially forever.

I bought the entry commercial-grade Stihl weedeater, edger, backpack blower when I was 15, building a kickass lawnmowing hustle. That was 25yrs ago (!). They all still work perfectly and I can get parts. They have literally thousands of lawn-hours on them. Still use them 1-2/wk taking care of my house. Minor things have broken, all can be repaired. They have the original carbs, drives, gears, etc.

A couple years back i treated myself to a stihl 2-stroke hedge trimmer. It's a nice machine as well.

Good luck!

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Sjalabais

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Well, that was enlightening. When I bought it, the guidance I received was that this model would tolerate to be used, but because of the short sword, its usage is limited with regard to tree size etc. Which is no problem at all, with our forest being a dense, wet jungle of mostly small trees. One issue when it comes to brittle plastics may be the time of year I use it, as I definitely prefer to work in solid frost, in order to not destroy the forest ground.

Also, about the parts and prices: Yes, I'm happy they have a parts market, and it's good another lock is just 4$ (even though in Norway it's closer to 10$). But all that doesn't really feel alright when you're up in the forest, ready to get some work done, and then the tool breaks again.

Prairie Stash

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I bought a Stihl MS170 about five years ago. It's a short blade chainsaw that's really versatile, with a good engine and a solid reputation - after all, Stihl is a German market leader.

Unfortunately though, there's so much build in obsolescence, I'm starting to get really annoyed at the company, and I thought sharing that here could be appreciated by some looking for a small chainsaw. I'm also interested in your experiences, and recommendations for better built competing products, because despite my lack of willingness to discard just about anything, there will come a day this one goes off a cliff.

So, here it comes:

  • The locks for oil and gas tanks are a foldable two-bit-mechanism with an inbuild sliding function that is entirely designed to fail over time. If you work with gloves and maybe are in a bit of a rough-in-the-forest-mood, you will break them. Getting them to be tight requires an intricate approach to locking them. When I look at newer pictures of the model, it seems Stihl has come to their senses and replaced them with ordinary locks, but just walk away from the two-piece-mechanism when you see it.
  • The oil lines are build in such a way that even irregular use over 2-3 winters will see them start to leak. I first thought my oil tank has a hair split, but the dealer confirmed it's the oil lines and "it happens to all of them". At a rate of 100$/hour, they are willing to start the two hour process of repairing that. No, thank you. But imagine an automaker who designs a car in such a way that the oil lines start leaking after 1000 miles...
  • The handle is made of rather soft plastic. It's a two piece design with the throttle below and a start security button on top. Somehow, the upper part lost a a little securing bit which broke off - again the "happens all the time"-line - and it all fell apart in my hands. I'm now sporting a chainsaw handle entirely covered in black MacGyver tape.

So it's all this auxiliary stuff that is just meant to break. Even if the price for a new chainsaw is comparatively low, I'm getting furious seeing this. With respect for the customer, all of this could have been build in smarter, simpler ways.

The new twist lock gas and oil caps Stihl came out out with suck.  I echo your frustrations here, however all you have to do is go to the dealer and buy new ones for $4 apiece.  Wasn't a darned thing wrong with standard screw type threads they used to use?

I've not experienced any of the other problems you are having and I have (4) Stihl chain saws, two weed eaters and a blower.  My stuff has been pretty good and reliable.
In the hands of homeowners the old screw type were prone to over tightening. Properly done they should be snug, most novices over tighten. After the first loose screw, where it dumps the oil on your leg, its a common reaction. If you have to buy one its because you over tighten or lost it (which is hard since they have a string attached), over tightening is better than loose but snug is optimal.

I promise, the old screw had more complaints and cost more in dumped oil.

Prairie Stash

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Seems like Stihl has a crappy homeowners line and pro line. Is your saw the former?
the MS170 is the homeowner version. Its too small to be a commercial (pro) saw.

Prairie Stash

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Well, that was enlightening. When I bought it, the guidance I received was that this model would tolerate to be used, but because of the short sword, its usage is limited with regard to tree size etc. Which is no problem at all, with our forest being a dense, wet jungle of mostly small trees. One issue when it comes to brittle plastics may be the time of year I use it, as I definitely prefer to work in solid frost, in order to not destroy the forest ground.

Also, about the parts and prices: Yes, I'm happy they have a parts market, and it's good another lock is just 4$ (even though in Norway it's closer to 10$). But all that doesn't really feel alright when you're up in the forest, ready to get some work done, and then the tool breaks again.
We use to carry small plastic crates (milk crate here) with the oil, gas, chainsaw wrench and file ( when I cut commercial pulp, in the days before modern logging). Usually a second chain, bar and in your case a cap. When you're done toss your hard hat, gloves, ear muffs, chaps in it and its ready for the next time.

You wouldn't start a construction project without your toolbox, you shouldn't cut wood without one either. Its frustrating, preparation is much easier.

Last bit, clean your air filter ;)  Most homeowners forget to clean it regularly.

hoping2retire35

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Contrarian opinion;

I like the caps, seems like it is easy to tell when they are secured. Ms 260(261?)

It got water in the fuel (was rained on some and I didn't know not to use ethonal gas mix) so the piston was seized (locked?) ordered a piston kit for $34 and paid a guy $60 to replace. Runs great again!

Sjalabais

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Quote
the MS170 is the homeowner version. Its too small to be a commercial (pro) saw.
I am a homeowner only providing his own firewood (or even just 75% of it) from a dense, wet forest of small trees. The saw is supposed to fit my profile. With others reiterating that I overused a basic product, I'd like to point out that I used it for what it is intended to do - and it was recommended for me at the store I bought it.
Quote
You wouldn't start a construction project without your toolbox, you shouldn't cut wood without one either. Its frustrating, preparation is much easier.
Totally agree on that one. What is surprising though is that I would need a collection of parts which I consider badly designed, that with a small improvement would not need to be part of my tool box at all.
Quote
This is no different that a few decades ago, when you could spend $4995 for a Yugo, and own a crap pile that needs constant repairs, or twice as much on a Camry, that's still running today.
That's a very interesting comparison - may I go off topic a bit? First of all, you don't compare the Toyota Starlet with the Toyota Camry, as would be the correct intra-Stihl-comparison in this case. I bought a product from a renowned company at a price that reflects it is not "Partner" or "制作不好的工具". Second, Yugos were bad, but not as bad as the price suggested. They were simple. It were the cheap owners that really were the problem. Here's an enlightening quote:
Quote
Sorry to hear all the negativity about Yugos. I believe as the former owner of Far West Rent a Car in So Cal, I can be the ultimate judge on the quality of these little cars. I owned over 10 of them and I made money renting them for 12 bucks a day. They did hold up for me and we ran then usually til about 45K miles.
They got about 40 mpg, were light, quick and sat 4 people comfortably.
We changed oil every 4K miles and they did not use oil ,using a standard 30 wt. oil. We never had a customer complaint and we made money on the rentals as I bought a couple of them new for half price as the original dealer discontinued them. The main problem was they were sold too cheap :$3995. The people that bought them were ones that did nit maintain them!
The only mechanical problem we found was that the clutch cable would break (an easy 10 min. fix); they were also interference engines. At about 40K miles you needed to change the timing belt.
Here's another:
Quote
I bought a 1987 Yugo GV brand new in Manchester, NH. Paid the advertised price of $3,990. No sales tax in NH. Contrary to all the jokes and myths, I never had a single problem with my Yugo. Put 53k miles on it, and only had normal maintenance done.
Compared to what American car companies were making at the time, the Yugo wasn't that bad. It's just another case of media/lobbyism ridicule that has a tendency of truth to it, but far from the entire picture. Which doesn't mean I'd buy "the Yugo of chainsaws" (not owning the Cadillac of minivans either), but it's just a metaphor I needed to comment on. :)



hoosier

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Stihl home-owner grade products like the MS170 are mediocre at best.  They serve their purpose for someone who doesn't want to drop a lot of coin on a pro-grade saw.  Their pro-grade gear is still top of the line, IMO.

I'm not a fan of flippy caps on the newer products, but they were most likely created to prevent caps from getting stuck due to all the corn liquor (ethanol) found in modern fuel causing plastic to swell up.

My advice for a homeowner who values a good reliable saw that can take on most tasks would be to find a gently used 261CM with a 16" bar .  I have a 362CM that I have an unhealthy level of affection for. 

Syonyk

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Yeah, you bought literally the bottom of their line and are complaining about it not being built to last forever.

I've got a MS171 I'm happy with, but it's for the purpose of pulling apart a bunch of tree piles that are laying around from getting our house in, and then our property isn't actually wooded so for occasional light use afterwards.

If I lived somewhere with a lot of trees, I wouldn't consider anything less than their 200 series.
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BDWW

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I am a homeowner only providing his own firewood (or even just 75% of it) from a dense, wet forest of small trees. The saw is supposed to fit my profile.

Whoever marketed that saw to you - claiming it was meant for that - was pounding sand.  Cutting firewood with it is actually a pretty intensive activity.  These models are made for a homeowner to fell/trim the occasional tree, ie once or twice a year a few hours worth of work. 

hoosier

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I am a homeowner only providing his own firewood (or even just 75% of it) from a dense, wet forest of small trees. The saw is supposed to fit my profile.

Whoever marketed that saw to you - claiming it was meant for that - was pounding sand.  Cutting firewood with it is actually a pretty intensive activity.  These models are made for a homeowner to fell/trim the occasional tree, ie once or twice a year a few hours worth of work.

Pretty much this.

From Stihl's website:

" the MS 170 makes quick work of trimming or cutting small trees, fallen limbs after a storm, and other tasks around the yard."

I wouldn't consider anything under 50cc's as a viable option for firewood duty.  This one is 30cc.

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Stihl makes some pretty solid equipment.  I've used a lot of small power equipment over the years and the cheaper brands always seemed to require a lot more maintenance and upkeep than my Stihl equipment.  I do all my own work on equipment so maintenance is pretty cheap and Stihl parts are always available, unlike some of the cheaper brands.  Buy 2 of the same size saws, one from Stihl and one from a competitor, use equally and let me know which one you prefer 5+ years down the road.
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index

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Get a Jonsered 2055 or the equivalent Husqvarna 455. they run $350 to $400 and are "real" chainsaws. I used the 2055 for two years in college when I started my own tree trimming business. It was honestly abused, it ran somewhere around 300 hours during that period. I still have the saw and use it occasionally. Starts on the third pull every time.   

paddedhat

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Get a Jonsered 2055 or the equivalent Husqvarna 455. they run $350 to $400 and are "real" chainsaws. I used the 2055 for two years in college when I started my own tree trimming business. It was honestly abused, it ran somewhere around 300 hours during that period. I still have the saw and use it occasionally. Starts on the third pull every time.   
The solution you propose is solid, but it's the dollar amount that matters. The OP's saw is $170 USD in the states. Spending $400 will get you a Stihl saw that will last as long as any typical homeowner will ever need it to, and be handed down to the next owner, as will a Jonsered, or a Husky. In this area, I can get Stihl parts and service in 5-6 places within a half hour of my place, a Husky gives me about two options, and a Jonsered, well that would be a problem.

index

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Get a Jonsered 2055 or the equivalent Husqvarna 455. they run $350 to $400 and are "real" chainsaws. I used the 2055 for two years in college when I started my own tree trimming business. It was honestly abused, it ran somewhere around 300 hours during that period. I still have the saw and use it occasionally. Starts on the third pull every time.   
The solution you propose is solid, but it's the dollar amount that matters. The OP's saw is $170 USD in the states. Spending $400 will get you a Stihl saw that will last as long as any typical homeowner will ever need it to, and be handed down to the next owner, as will a Jonsered, or a Husky. In this area, I can get Stihl parts and service in 5-6 places within a half hour of my place, a Husky gives me about two options, and a Jonsered, well that would be a problem.

Yeah the two saws are the same. I'd buy whatever you can get serviced in your area. It sucks buying a name brand and being let down when you think you paid up for quality. I think the op's problem is a saw meant to reliably supply firewood costs $400.

Syonyk

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Parts and service is a good point as well. I have a Stihl because that's what D&B has. And they have a proper service shop as well (dedicated staff in an engine shop).

But, seriously.

This is how the 170 is described.

Quote
The STIHL MS 170 is the perfect lightweight chainsaw for homeowners seeking a great value. Compact, lightweight with just the right amount of power, the MS 170 makes quick work of trimming or cutting small trees, fallen limbs after a storm, and other tasks around the yard. And even at its great price, the MS 170 has many of the same design features the professionals depend on.

The MS250 is described like this:

Quote
A chainsaw designed for firewood cutting with a great power-to-weight ratio.

For people held hostage by high heating bills, firewood can mean freedom. With an exceptional power-to-weight ratio, the STIHL MS 250 is ideal for building the ultimate woodpile so you get great bang for the buck.

The 100 series just isn't the right saw for the job.
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hoosier

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I still wouldn't want to cut a heating season's worth of firewood with a MS250.

Also, the higher end saws are much easier to work on yourself.  I could rebuild the top end of my 362 on my tailgate with a T27 and a couple screwdrivers because it is a cylinder on case design.  The lower end saws are "clamshells" that require splitting the case to service any engine internals.

Syonyk

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Oh, interesting. I hadn't considered the engine block design as a difference between models.
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