The best gas weed eater
When you need to clear overgrown areas quickly or you have a large garden to manage, nothing beats the power of a gas weed eater. Modern machines offer trouble-free starting and are easy to manage. There are no annoying extension cords restricting where you go and none of the frustration of waiting for a battery to recharge. We've been looking at the wide variety available to help you make the right choice for your yard. Our favorite, the Husqvarna, comes from a company with a tremendous reputation for quality. It has the performance you need to clear the most rampant weed growth in no time.
Considerations when choosing gas weed eaters
Two-cycle vs. four-cycle
Two-cycle engines on gas weed eaters are simpler, lighter, and cheaper. They vastly outnumber four-cycle alternatives, particularly in the low- and middle-price ranges. However, they tend to be noisier, not quite as durable, and historically have been poor with emissions. They have undoubtedly improved, but many are still not CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant. Noncompliant models are illegal in 16 states (and we suspect others will follow). Two-cycle engines also require a careful mix of oil and gas.
Four-cycle engines have the oil in a tank. You just add gas -- like with your car. They're quieter and tend to have a longer working life, though they're heavier and more expensive. These are the semi-professional and professional-grade machines.
Actual cubic capacity of the motor has relatively little impact on your choice. The majority of motors vary from 20cc to 25cc, and none are under-powered.
Other key considerations
The size of the trimmer head is a good indication of intended use -- the bigger the cut offered, the more aggressive the tool.
You should be wearing gloves. Controls need to be substantial, so you can make adjustments without removing your gloves.
When available, a throttle lock allows you to set the trigger for continuous running without needing to hold it in all the time. A quick extra squeeze of the trigger releases it again.
Line feed is either automatic or bump (also called "tap and go"). Automatic feeds supply new line as it wears out. They are great when they work but frustrating when they don't. Bump feeds have a spring-loaded button in the middle of the spool. You bump it on the ground, and centrifugal force releases more line. These are more common.
Handles should be comfortable, and again, allow space for gloved hands. Padding reduces the amount of vibration that reaches the user, resulting in less fatigue.
A short shaft has advantages around beds and borders. A longer shaft can allow you to stand more upright, thus reducing backache. Curved shafts can be great for tight spaces and also allow good posture. However, that bend means the drive line loses torque, and it will wear more quickly than the straight version.
Weight can have an impact if you're using one all day, though most are in the 10- or 11-pound range. A harness gives good support, and it allows you to use your hands without needing to put the weed eater down -- but they often cost extra.
Starting your gas weed eater
In the past, starting gas weed eaters was often tricky -- a common criticism. Modern versions have advanced choke and pull mechanisms, which help enormously. Most start very easily. However, it's important to follow the manufacturer's procedure, and they aren't all the same. Many problems are the result of people thinking they know what to do without reading the instructions first.
Gas weed eater prices
You can find several cheap gas weed eaters for about $65, but performance and ease of use are often disappointing. A reliable entry-level machine starts at about $80. Mid-range models -- the kind that would suit the majority of homeowners -- run from $150 to $200. If you need top performance for large acreages, you'll need to spend anything from $250 to as much as $500 for high-performance machines with long-reach heads.
Q. Are gas weed eaters difficult to maintain?
A. No, but it's important to follow manufacturer's instructions to maximize performance and working life. With four-cycle motors you need to keep an eye on the oil level and top up as necessary. Fuel and air filters need to be changed periodically. Spark plugs will need to be replaced about every 100 hours.
Q. Is the right gas-to-oil ratio important for two-cycle motors?
A. Very. With too much oil it will be difficult to start, and it will smoke and splutter. With too little it could seize, requiring expensive repair. A cheap plastic measuring jug is accurate enough for the job. If you mix too much, you can store it for a couple of weeks in a sealed bottle or jar, out of direct sunlight.
Gas weed eaters we recommend
Best of the best: Husqvarna 324L Straight-Shaft Gas String Trimmer
Our take: A high-performance tool for owners of large acreage or land-management professionals.
What we like: Great quality from a top brand. Very easy starting. Reliable durable 25cc four-cycle engine. Low-emission CARB compliant and also fuel efficient. Good reach. Comfortable soft-grip handle.
What we dislike: Some problems with idle. Tuning should fix it, but it shouldn't be necessary on a new machine.
Best bang for your buck: Troy-Bilt Two-Cycle Gas String Trimmer and Edger
Our take: Lightweight for the budget-conscious homeowner.
What we like: Simple to start. Easy to control with adjustable handle for improved ergonomics. Dual-line bump head can be inverted for edging.
What we dislike: Not much, as long as you understand it's light-duty only.
Our take: Basically, a copy of a commercial-grade Husqvarna. Proven technology but old-school.
What we like: Hugely powerful 52cc engine. "Bicycle"-style handles and shoulder harness give good balance and control. Simple change from weed eater to brush cutter.
What we dislike: A bit loud and heavy. Not always easy to start.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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