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How to choose a strimmer

PUBLISHED: 11:21 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:14 30 August 2018

The size of the strimmer needed will depend on the work it is required to do. Picture Echo

The size of the strimmer needed will depend on the work it is required to do. Picture Echo

Archant

Should it be petrol, two stroke or four stroke, battery or would a brushcutter be better? We get to grips with weedwhackers.

If the only things to grow in your garden during the long hot summer months were weeds, join the club.

I didn’t need the lawn mower for a couple of months, but the thistles and nettles have thrived and some serious strimming is needed.

I find our brush cutter too heavy after about ten minutes of cutting, plus the cutting head is just out of reach so I have to unclip it from the very awkward – and too big - harness every time it gets tangled in sticky weed.

It cuts well, but I struggle starting it and find myself putting off strimming jobs because I can’t face the arm ache – and the weeds get even taller and tougher.

But how to choose the right strimmer – one that we can handle but can still do the job?

The rule of thumb is the more power a strimmer or brush cutter can do, the heavier work it can tackle. Look for the capacity in cubic centimetres of the engine of petrol trimmers, or the voltage or cordless trimmers.

The more power it has, typically the heavier and more expensive it is going to be. Usually too, the more powerful the strimmer or brush cutter, the wider the cutting width will be.

Cordless trimmers can be handy for those who can fit all the trimming they need into the 30 minutes (typically) power a battery provides before needing a recharge – which can take three or so hours. The longer lasting lithium-ion battery models are faster charging than the cheaper NiMH battery models.

Petrol brush cutters or strimmers are typically chosen by those with a lot to trim, but can – as in my case – be harder to manage.

We asked Kelvin Sloper of Randells, farm and garden machinery specialists in Horstead and Dereham, for advice.

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH STRIMMER TO CHOOSE?

Carefully consider what your expectations of the machine will be. Although price will always be an important factor with any buying decision, but thinking about the kind of vegetation that needs to be dealt with and the size of the area to be trimmed and making sure that you buy a machine that will actually do the job is extremely important. Check that after sales service for repairs and spare parts are available for the brand you consider. Buying from a recognised garden machinery dealer who will offer support for the machines they sell can avoid future frustrations

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A STRIMMER AND A BRUSH CUTTER?

Generally, a strimmer will be a lighter duty machine with a curved shaft with a flexible drive. The cutting line on a strimmer is often a smaller diameter and will only allow light growth of grass and weeds to be trimmed.

Brushcutters have a straight shaft and the drive shaft is strong enough to power a cutting head with thicker line or a metal blade allowing heavier work to be undertaken. Most brushcutters will be supplied with both cutting head and a metal blade.

 

IF I WANT A STRIMMER TO TRIM THIN GRASS FROM AROUND MY FRUIT TREES AND ALSO CUT THROUGH NETTLES AND THICK HOGWEED STALKS, CAN ONE MACHINE DO BOTH?

Brushcutters can be purchased with engines from around 20cc to 50cc. As a rule, the larger the engine, the heavier duty the machine will be. Smaller engine brushcutters would be suitable for use in smaller gardens or where a lighter machine is needed.

 

ARE THERE LIGHTWEIGHT STRIMMERS WHICH ARE ALSO BEEFY ENOUGH TO DO A GOOD JOB?

Yes, as long as the right machine has been purchased to match the task.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BATTERY STRIMMERS?

Our sales of battery-powered strimmers and brushcutters have grown rapidly in recent years and now are a significant part of our business. The pace of development of battery powered garden machinery has been rapid and the latest products can offer a very viable alternative to petrol powered machines. Battery powered strimmers have already all but eliminated mains electric line trimmers from the market and we are sure that they will only gain further popularity in the future.

Battery strimmers and brushcutters are easy to start, light in weight and cause far less pollution than a traditional petrol engine machine. Long term, they have a lower cost of ownership and the battery can be used to power a wide range of other garden power tools. A cordless strimmer or brushcutter with a 40v battery will be suitable for most domestic users.

 

HOW RELIABLE ARE TWO STROKE STRIMMERS?

If reasonably well cared for, very reliable. Using fresh, good quality fuel is vital for the maintenance of any two stroke engine machine. We recommend the use of Aspen pre-mixed alkylate petrol in all two stroke machines. Aspen fuel burns extremely cleanly, ensures that the correct fuel/oil mix is used and will remain stable for up to five years unlike normal petrol which can degrade within a few weeks of purchase which can result in some two stroke machines becoming difficult if not impossible to start.

 

ANYTHING ELSE ESSENTIAL ABOUT BUYING A STRIMMER?

We cannot place enough importance on making sure that the buying decision takes into account the amount and type of work that the machine will be expected to do, the operator’s requirements and comfort, aftersales support and meeting cost expectations. Visit a garden machinery dealer who can show you and let you handle a range of machines and who will take time to help you decide what strimmer or brushcutter is right for you.

 

For more inspiration, check out the digital edition of Beautiful Homes & Gardens.

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