As with all aspects of property maintenance, keeping the grass clean and presentable will require work. Smart homeowners will find the right tools to help get the job done efficiently and quickly. One tool that all property owners should own is a string trimmer, also known as a weed whacker or weed eater. In this post we will try to find the most important characteristics of the best weed wacker and guide you through the decision making process to find the best string trimmer for your needs.
- Why would you need a weed wacker?
- Types of weed whackers
- Weed wacker features worth considering
- Safety tips
- Conclusion and buyers advice
Owning a well-kept yard allows us to fully enjoy our property. Maintaining the lawn also improves the look of our homes. This garden and lawn tool uses a monofilament line in place of a blade to cut plant growth. Invented by George Ballas in the 1970s, the string trimmer allows us to clear or trim grass and weeds that a mower would struggle to reach. Over the decades, weed-whackers have evolved into an important lawn tool that nearly anyone can use.
Modern weed eaters are designed to chew through material quickly, making our job easier. With a variety of features and options, one may ask what is the best weed wacker available? Let’s take a closer look at this tool to find out.
Why would you need a weed wacker?
One of the major benefits of a weed eater over a lawn mower is its ability to access areas that a mower cannot reach. Grass along fence lines or near shrubs and trees are difficult to cut. Logs, rocks, and other landscaping materials can prevent a mower from reaching areas that require trimming. Also, uneven terrain can be difficult to cut without the use of a weed-whacker.
Another advantage to using a string trimmer is the ability to edge the lawn. Many weed eaters can be used as an edger by simply adjusting the angle of the monofilament line. A traditional lawn mower is not capable of doing this. Using other hand-held tools for edging will usually require more time and work to complete the task.
String trimmers are easy to maneuver as well. Most modern weed eaters are light and can be used by old and young alike. They can prove to be an effective grass cutter for those who have difficulty pushing a traditional mower. Weed-whackers are ideal for maintenance on areas with small patches of grass, where a lawn mower would prove a hassle to set-up and use.
Alternatively, you may be interested in killing off all weeds using a weed killer spray or other herbicides. We have reviewed backpack sprayers for larger areas as well. However, if keen on weed eaters then please read on!
Types of weed whackers
Corded electric weed wacker
One type of weed wacker that is available would be the corded electric string trimmer model. These tools are often the most basic in design and features. The small electric motor sits above the monofilament cord, supplying the power and speed need to turn the line. A plug socket is located near the top of the handle to supply power.
Corded trimmers do not require batteries or gas for power. This feature makes them one of the lighter weed eaters to carry. They do require the use of an extension cord, which can limit their reach. Extension cords can also get in the way and need to be moved around.
Batter powered weed wacker
Battery powered string trimmers are similar in many ways to corded tools. They use electric power, so there is no gas to fuss with. Extension cords will not get in the way or limit its reach. The downside is limited battery life and the need to recharge them. A battery will also make these heavier than a corded weed-whacker.
Gas powered weed wacker
Gas powered trimmers are capable of greater power, great for thicker scrubs and tall grass. The increased RPMs generated by the two or four-cycle engines will cut and trim faster than most electric weed eaters. They offer unlimited range like a battery powered tool without the longer downtime required for battery charging.
The trimer will require gas, which can be less eco-friendly and messy. Engines will require more maintenance than electrics will. These motors are located opposite from the line, requiring extra work to operate properly. They will often weigh more than electrics as well.
Walk behind weed wacker
There are also string trimmers mounted on wheels that you can walk behind. They can prove an ideal solution for a person that struggles to carry a traditional weed eater. These units often employ larger engines, allowing for more power and greater trimming areas. Mobility and versatility are limited though.
Weed wacker features worth considering
One design element that we want to look at is the shaft of the string trimmer. While older models used heavier construction materials, newer weed eaters take advantage of durable metals that are lightweight. Keeping this mind, it should be noted that larger gas-powered tools will often have heavier shafts that are both longer as well as straight.
Many weed-whacker shafts are designed with a bend or kink along their length. This allows for easier access underneath bushes and shrubs, and these designs are often lighter as well. Taller operators may find bent shafts shorter and therefore less comfortable to use. If the length of the shaft is too long or short for an operator to use efficiently, the harder it will be to maintain a proper cutting height.
Weight and size
The trimmers overall weight may be one of the major factors to consider when using a hand-held weed eater. Heavier weights will create greater fatigue and may also cause more difficulty when moving the trimmer head around. Corded electric string trimmers are usually the lightest overall. The larger engines found on gas-powered units (coupled with fuel storage) are often the heaviest handhelds on the market.
Another consideration when looking at string trimmers is the cutting diameter of the tool. The typical cutting width of a weed eater may vary between 12 to 18-inches or more. The larger the diameter is, the fewer passes we will have to make. Conversely, a larger cutting path may prove too much for tight spaces between rocks and trees.
Electric weed-whackers usually have a smaller cutting path. The larger engines found on most gas powered weed eaters allow them to cut to a wider diameter. Larger cutting diameters can make it more difficult to use the trimmer as an edger. Wide cutting paths are where a walk behind trimmer will often excel, with diameters near two-feet possible.
Gap and clearance
In order for a line trimmer to work efficiently, there must be ample clearance between the line and bottom of the shield on the shaft. This clearance forms a space, with a larger gap designed to give the weed eater the greatest cutting potential. This gap can also cause problems, especially when trimming longer grass or weeds. Longer grass can wrap around the head, resulting in slower rotations or even seizing all-together.
Safety guards are an important protective feature to keep in mind. Trimmers will pick up debris and toss it. Larger safety guards provide more operator protection from flying rocks and sticks. Larger safety guards can also prevent the weed-whacker from reaching into tight spaces.
Line feeding system
Monofilament line is controlled and fed by the head design. Automatic feeds use a motor to keep the line in play while in use, while a bump head feeds a length of line out when the bottom of the trimmer is tapped on the ground. Automatic feeds use moving parts that can break down while bump feeds require constant line monitoring. A fix head design uses lengths of line that must be constantly replaced, but require no wrapping onto the head.
A product warranty may prove important, especially with a weed-whacker that sees heavy use. Finally, the price paid for the weed eater must be justified.
Other considerations include specialty shaft designs that split apart to accept adaptions like blowers and edging blades. Operating sound is a consideration, with electric trimmers operating almost silently when compared to gas-powered units. Adjustable settings and battery life per charge are worth noting. Line diameter and acceptable volume are also worth considering based on yard space.
It is important to remember that the monofilament line will kick up debris and toss it while in use. Even with a sizable shield, it is recommended to use safety glasses or a face shield. Sharp sticks or rocks can damage our eyes easily and may even cause blindness. Kicked up debris could also chip a tooth or cut skin.
It is inevitable that debris will hit your arms and legs. Exposed skin can easily be cut or bruised. It is therefore recommended that operators do not wear shorts and may also want to avoid short-sleeved shirts. Cargo pants or jeans can absorb blows from rocks that would cause bruising and protect against abrasions and cuts from sticks.
Our feet are closer to the line than any other part of our body, so always wear shoes when operating a weed eater to prevent injury. Remember that these precautions help to protect us, but do not protect others close by. Pay attention when working near people or pets. Use caution when trimming near windows that might be damaged by flying rocks.
When using a corded weed-whacker, make sure to keep an eye on the extension cord. It may get wrapped around objects, including feet or legs. Clean up spilled fuel or allow it to evaporate off of gas engines to avoid skin irritations or worse. Avoid walking around the yard while the trigger is engaged.
Our balance is already being put to the test when using a hand-held weed eater so keep an eye out for rocks, roots, and other obstacles to avoid a nasty fall. Make sure all shields and other safety features are working properly before using a string trimmer. Finally, never attempt to wrap monofilament line around the trimmer head without disconnecting power on electric weed-whackers.
Conclusion and buyers advice
Hopefully, the information discussed previously has helped to provide a better understanding of string trimmers and how they may be used. The final steps in determining what would be the best weed wacker to purchase involve evaluating our needs and the yard itself. Few things are as wasteful as purchasing a tool that is seldom used. At the other end of the spectrum, it can prove just as futile to buy a tool that cannot handle the job.
In the case of the yard, size will matter. A small yard that offers little room for grass will not require a large gas powered weed eater. A smaller corded or battery powered trimmer should provide plenty of cutting diameter and power. Larger yards, especially properties with ditches and heavy growth areas, will best be tackled by a gas-powered trimmer that offers plenty of RPMs and cutting width.
Our own needs must also be considered. The weed-whacker must be comfortable to use, especially with larger properties. Ideally, we want to purchase a tool that will meet our current, and future, physical limitations. The extra money spent on a walk behind weed eater could make the difference between a tool that is used regularly versus one that collects dust in our storage shed!