When dealing with older Stihl chainsaws, you often need to find out the saw manufacturing year and model number (i.e. type) of the saw. These pieces of info are critical, for example, for knowing which replacement parts are going to fit. But with many Stihl saws having carried this info only on a sticker – all too often unreadable or missing – telling these essential specs is not always easy.
Fortunately, Stihl chainsaws carry two types of identification numbers permanently marked on the saw body: the Serial number (S/N) and the Part number (P/N). These numbers actually tell a lot about your saw, and in this article, I will give you the tools to decode them.
Summary: The Stihl chainsaw part numbers (P/N) are useful in saw identification in that they indicate the saw series and narrow the saw model identity down to 1 to 6 options. The Stihl saw serial number (S/N), by contrast, carries little information as such, but can be used to look the saw up in Stihl’s databases. This article gives quick lookup tools for both the part and the serial numbers, which tell you the likely saw model, the manufacturing year and the manufacturing location.
Below, you find instructions on where to find the serial and part numbers on your Stihl and the two lookup tools I programmed. These small programs incorporate majority of the open information available and give you the best guesses for the saw model as well as the manufacturing year and site that you can get without Stihl manufacturer data.
Where to find the Serial number (S/N)?
The serial number on most Stihl chainsaws is on the top side of the saw body, right of the muffler (see image). The number is stamped onto a flat metal surface on the motor housing or crankcase, but may also be dot-printed into plastic in some newer models.
The serial number is purely numeric and consists of 4 to 9 digits depending on the saw age. The serial may be prefixed by an X, E, f or sometimes _ (underscore), but none of these are part of the serial.
Stihl Serial Number (S/N) Lookup Machine
This lookup machine estimates the manufacturing year and location of a Stihl chainsaw from the serial number. Just type in the serial of your saw, confirm that you are not a robot, and click “Calculate”. Please type in only numbers; if you find letters or other marks near the serial, leave them out.
What is the Lookup Machine based on?
I built the Stihl serial lookup machine on more than 100 identification cases for Stihl chainsaws which I assembled, plotted and analyzed.
Apart from coding changes, Stihl chainsaw serial numbers increase predictably from late 1950s up to the present day (2021). This means that predicting the manufacturing year from the serial number is possible.
How accurate is the Lookup Machine?
The relationship I finally came up with actually seems precise to +/- one year. This is enough for most purposes and about as good as you can get without access to the full Stihl factory records.
At a detailed level, there was some scatter in the the serial numbers, caused either by inaccurate dating of some of the saws in the database or by Stihl not actually assigning the numbers in strict chronological order. (It looks like Stihl has batched the serials to different saw models.)
While the scatter prevented me from making the manufacture year predictions 100% accurate, the large number of cases helped me to discard obvious outliers as false data points and make the final prediction reliable.
Which saws are included?
The serial lookup machine works for all Stihl chainsaws produced from late 1950’s to 2020’s. The only exceptions are the early Stihl BL and BLK from 1950s and 1960s, which used their own system.
That said, the lookup machine is made by a hobbyist (me) and comes with no guarantees. It is good for giving you a quick estimate, but if you need certainty, I recommend you contact Stihl.
Where to find the Part number (P/N)?
A single Stihl chainsaw has part numbers on many of its parts. Basically, many cast metal parts and almost every plastic part on a Stihl saw have a part number on them. The easiest to find are:
- Handle assembly part number (on the bottom of the saw)
- Brake lever part number (on a sticker on the inside of the lever)
- Air filter cover (inside of the cover)
Modern Stihl Part numbers consist of 11 digits in the format 1234 123 1234. The first 4 digits of the number are essential: these leading digits identify the saw series and are the same for all (or at least most) parts on a given saw.
Stihl Part Number (P/N) Lookup Machine
This lookup machine tells the possible Stihl chainsaws models based on the leading 4 digits of the part number you type in. Please type in just the first 4 digits, confirm that you are not a robot, and click “Calculate”.
What the Part number tells?
The part number both uniquely identifies each part in a Stihl chainsaw and tells the saw series in question.
Although it may not be very obvious to the average saw user, Stihl saw models actually come in series: MS 170 and MS 180, for example, belong to the 1130 series (along with older 017 and 018). Saws of the same series share parts.
The first four digits of each part number (P/N) on a Stihl saw identify the series. Each series consists of anywhere from 1 to 6 models, with three being average.
Knowing a part number from the saw, and therefore the series, narrows the saw model search down to a few types. In lucky cases where the series has only one saw model, such as the MS 661 in the series 1144, the part number identifies the model uniquely.
Serial number vs. Part number
Stihl part numbers and serial numbers are often confused. Below is a quick comparison table of these numbers to help you identify each one.
|Part number |
|Serial number |
|Format:||1142 011 3003|
[series] [xxx xxxx]
4 to 9 digits,
|Contains:||– saw series|
– part type
|– saw ID|
– production site
– full decoding with Stihl database
|stamped on |