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Things to consider before purchasing a trimmer

1. Which type of trimmer is better suited to your application, battery, electric or petrol?

Battery powered trimmers have the advantage of ease of operation, environmentally friendly, no fuss, no fuel and virtually no service requirements. They are ideally suited for smaller areas . Disadvantages of battery trimmers included limited run times, relatively low power and the added weight of the battery. Battery charge needs to be maintained and if you have forgotten to charge the battery and need to trim edges, you have a problem!

Electric trimmers either have their drive motors located at the bottom of the trimmer or at the top of the trimmer, similar to petrol powered trimmers. Generally, electric trimmers  with top mounted motors  are more expensive than the bottom mounted units, but are better balanced and will last longer as the motor is subject to less dust. Electric trimmers are ideal for smaller areas and less frequent use and require virtually no maintenance . Disadvantages include the need for extension leads and very thin cutting line (normally only 1.6mm in diameter).

Petrol powered line trimmers and brush cutters offer versatility.  These trimmers are powered by two or four stroke engines with a wide range of engine sizes, catering for a  small area or for the largest application.  Some petrol trimmers also have the ability to add various attachments such as pole saws, hedge trimmers, edgers and even blowers.

2. Is a bent shaft trimmer or a straight shaft trimmer better suited to your needs.

Choosing between a bent shaft trimmer and a brush cutter is fairly simple.. There is a perception that a straight shaft brush cutter is superior in quality compared to a bent shaft trimmer.  This is not the case as often the same engine is used to power both units! Bent shaft trimmers are practical options for smaller areas particularly where no steel blades are to be used. Good quality units are generally light weight and well balanced and easy to start. Brush cutters are characterised by a straight shaft and a gearbox on the end of the shaft. These units are generally suited to taller operators who would otherwise have their backs continually bent while operating bent shaft line trimmers.  Brush cutters are able to use steel blades as well as using conventional nylon heads. Units are available in many different engine capacities with larger units normally fitted with bull bar handles as opposed to loop handles.

3. Would you prefer a trimmer with a split shaft and optional attachments?

These trimmers are classified as suitable for domestic or professional use with a significant cost difference. The attachments have the advantage of being “high reach’’ compared to conventional hedge trimmers, chainsaws,etc.

4. Do you need a brush cutters that can be fitted with a steel blade?

Brush cutters that are blade capable are ideal for clearing long scrub, tough grasses, thick weeds and even sapling regrowth. The type of blade selection is paramount with the rule of thumb being that the more dense the material to be cut , the greater the number of teeth required on the  blade. Care needs to be taken to ensure more frequent greasing of the gear box when using the unit in heavy conditions.

5. What weight of trimmer would you be comfortable with?

The weight of the brush cutter will increase as the engine size increases. Most brush cutters or trimmers of 35cc and above are fitted with bull bars and full harnesses so that the operator is able to cope with the weight and the better the harness, the less fatigue the operator will suffer.

6. Do you need a harness, would a single or double strap harness better suit your needs?

A single shoulder strap can be fitted to most trimmers and light weight brush cutters but is seldom required. The unit position is often switched between flat and vertical edges and a harness is more of a hindrance in this application. A good harness is essential to support the weight of a heavier brush cutter and should be comfortable and distribute the weight in such a manner as to allow an operator to use the unit for extended periods of time.

7. What’s the difference between a full crank and a half crank engine?

You will recognise the difference between the two types of engines, by the position of the starter on the trimmer or brush cutter. Full crank machines have the starter situated at the back of the engine and a half crank will have the starter situated between the engine and the shaft. Half crank engines are as a rule cheaper and not worth spending significant amounts of money trying to effect repairs to the unit.

A full crank engine, while slightly more expensive, is far better than a half crank engine. A full crank engine has a better balanced engine crankshaft with bearings on both ends of the crank shaft. A half crank engine only has bearings on the load end of the crankshaft, usually requiring the engine to be run at maximum RPMs. A full crank engine can be run at different speeds, without effecting the longevity of the engine.

8. What size trimmer line do you need.

Trimmer line selection is paramount if you are looking to get good results from your trimmer or brush cutter. Lines vary enormously in quality and poor quality line is more often than not responsible for poor performance of otherwise excellent bump feed heads. Indications of poor quality are frequent breakages, welding of the line in the head and line snapping off at the eyelets. Thickness of line is critical as too heavy a line will result in the motor not revving out and excessive clutch wear. We can never emphasize enough the need to buy line from a specialist.

9.  What type of line feed head would you prefer, bump, automatic or manual?

The selection of the type of head required for your trimmer or brush cutter will depend on the  application and should not be made to overcome the selection of poor quality line. Make sure you try before you buy.  Ask the sales person to re-spool the head in front of you. Start the trimmer and make sure the line feeds out easily.

10. Would you prefer a trimmer with a clutch?

We strongly advise against purchasing a trimmer without a clutch.  Trimmers which do not have a clutch are much harder to start, and the starter is subject to far more wear and tare. A clutch also provides a safer option as the head is engaged only when you increase the engine revolutions deliberately. You can place the trimmer on the ground while it idles, without having to turn the trimmer off.

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