Things to Know Before Buying a Petrol Strimmer
Whether you’re struggling with overgrown grass, shrubbery, weeds or brambles, investing in a petrol-powered garden strimmer is one of the best ways to keep your garden under control.
As tools go, strimmers are up there with the most useful and versatile, plus, both the cost of purchasing and maintaining a petrol strimmer is pretty low.
Considering that petrol strimmers can be very powerful machines, it’s worth doing a bit of research before getting one, to make sure it’s the best petrol strimmer for you, your garden, and your lifestyle.
Here is some useful information to bear in mind before buying a strimmer:
Petrol Vs. Electric Strimmers
Petrol strimmers aren’t generally used for small jobs – they’re tough machines that are well suited to clearing large areas and tough undergrowth.
There are three main types of strimmer: petrol, mains-powered and battery-powered. Each has its pros and cons, and there are certain jobs which will likely better suit one type than the other. Here we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type:
These strimmers are generally best suited to light strimming jobs, for example: cutting the grass and clearing small weeds. You should not expect to use a battery-powered strimmer to cut plants with thick stems, like brambles. A battery-powered machine will often stutter, and maybe even stall, if you attempt to take it through tough foliage.
The main pros of battery-powered strimmers are:
- You are not restricted by cables. This makes them more relaxing to use than a mains-powered machine with cables that you could accidentally cut through. Battery strimmers are also quick to start using straight away, without organising an extension cable, and well-suited to use in large gardens.
- Battery strimmers are both cordless and lightweight, unlike petrol strimmers which are cordless but heavy.
- They are the most practical strimmers for quickly neatening up areas where the mower can’t reach. Battery-powered strimmers are no hassle to get out of the shed, meaning you won’t be put off using one as often as necessary, and they require no preparation (apart from charging the battery when it runs down).
The main cons of battery-powered strimmers are:
- You have a finite period of time that you can run the strimmer for before the battery runs out. Tougher tasks may make the battery drain faster, and recharging can take the best part of an hour which can be interruptive. As a result, they’re not the most appropriate for longer jobs.
- They can be relatively limited in terms of what they can strim through. As previously mentioned, battery-powered strimmers aren’t the best choice for bigger garden-clearance tasks.
These strimmers will generally clear weeds and smaller patches of thicker undergrowth. They are less likely to stutter than battery powered machines thanks to their stronger, constant energy flow, but still won’t make it through areas of dense brush.
The main pros of mains-powered strimmers are:
- They’re able to help with clearing some thicker patches of weeds etc. in the garden, whilst still remaining very manageable. Unlike petrol strimmers which can feel unwieldy, mains-powered machines vibrate less and are easier to control.
- There’s no limit on how long mains-powered strimmers can be used for – it doesn’t have a battery to run down and won’t need refuelling. Of course, the motor may need a bit of time to cool down during extended use.
- They bring a decent amount of power, without emitting the fumes of petrol motors.
The main cons of mains-powered strimmers are:
- The power cord. Mains-power strimmers keep you tethered whilst working in the garden. You will likely have to use an extension cable, and need to be aware of where the cable is at all times so as not to cut through it accidentally.
- If you’re hoping to clear dense brush like brambles, mains-powered strimmers will likely get stuck.
As mentioned, petrol strimmers are best suited to big garden-clearance jobs. They can generally make their way through brambles, nettles and thicket, often cutting branches of up to 15 mm in diameter. They’re powerful and aren’t always that easy to manage, but they don’t give up easily.
The main pros of petrol-powered strimmers are:
- They’re very powerful and are a good option for clearing larger patches of land.
- You have the freedom of cordless roaming with a petrol-powered strimmer – you can move wherever you wish without being held back by a cable, and there’s no danger of cutting through any power lines.
The main cons of petrol-powered strimmers are:
- They can be a little too powerful. Unless you really need the strength of a petrol model, they may be more difficult to manage than it’s worth. Vibrations can also make them uncomfortable over extended periods.
- Petrol-powered strimmers are generally quite heavy – often over 10 kg – which can be quite difficult to support whilst doing longer jobs, even if a harness is included.
- You’ll need to spend some time prepping the machine before you use it each time. It will need fuel and oil, and a general safety check before using it. Petrol-powered strimmers are not a machine that you simply get out of the shed and use straight away.
As you can see, finding the best strimmer really depends on what you’re going to use it for. Some gardeners may choose to have a battery-powered strimmer for quicker jobs, as well as a petrol-powered strimmer for clearing larger areas.
When it comes to petrol-powered strimmers, there is still quite a lot of variation amongst them in terms of power output.
Some of the best petrol strimmers for really tough jobs will have a 52 cc engine. Other machines have closer to a 20 cc engine – but which should you be looking for?
Generally, even a 25 cc engine will make be able to cut through thicker growth like brambles; however, they may get stuck slightly more easily than a strimmer with a 52 cc engine. Therefore, if you’re working through a very large area of thick vegetation, you might want to go for something closer to 52 cc.
The majority of 20 cc + petrol engines will be capable of clearing dense vegetation etc. But you may have to put it more work driving the machine forwards through the brush if it has less power.
Remember that larger engines often result in a heavier unit. So, to control a powerful strimmer with a 52 cc engine you need to be quite confident in your physical ability.
Starting a Petrol Strimmer
Some people understandably get put off petrol machines because they require more to be done prior to starting than electric tools.
Before talking about the best way to prepare a petrol strimmer so that it’s easier to start, it’s worth mentioning that some petrol machines come with an ‘electric start’ function. This means they can be started with the push of a button, much like an electric machine.
On some strimmers this may be a feature that can be purchased for an additional cost, if it’s not already included. Although it should be said – it’s more common to find on petrol mowers than on strimmers in general.
For the most part, taking care to follow the correct starting procedure can make it a lot easier to start a petrol machine. Here are the steps to follow for starting a petrol strimmer (although do refer to your strimmer’s instruction manual as they can all vary slightly):
- Prepare the fuel and oil. If your strimmer has a two-stroke engine, you will need to mix the petrol and oil together before putting it into the tank. With a four-stroke engine the oil and petrol are not mixed and go into separate tanks. The manufacturer’s instructions will show what type of oil should be used, and what ratio it should be mixed at.
- After filling the strimmer with petrol and oil, press the primer bulb 7 times. Pressing the primer bulb lets some fuel flow from the tank to the carburettor and will help the engine start without too many pulls on the cord.
- Flick the switch of the strimmer so that it is ‘on’. Move the choke lever to the ‘start’ position.
- Lightly press the throttle.
- Now all that’s left to do is pull the cord. Place the strimmer on the ground, making sure that its strimmer head is not in contact with the ground. Secure the strimmer in place with both of your feet whilst you pull the start cord. Generally, it should start in 1 – 3 attempts.
Cutting Line or Brush-Cutter Blades
Most strimmers will come with a cutting-line head and a brush-cutter head; however, some may only have a cutting-line head so it’s worth checking before you buy, depending on what you need.
A cutting-line head uses fast-spinning nylon string to cut through grass. These heads usually have a wider cutting width than blade heads so can cover more ground faster. They should be used to cut grass, and maybe some weeds, but generally shouldn’t be expected to get through thicker vegetation – this can cause the nylon line to break. A lot of gardeners prefer to use cutting-line heads around the base of trees and near roots and rocks – using a blade-head in these areas can cause damage and be dangerous.
Bladed brush-cutter heads are what you’ll need to get through thick undergrowth. The harder blades can chop through thicker stems and are therefore best to have around for tougher jobs.
The cutting width of petrol strimmers can range from 25 cm up to around 50 cm.
If the strimmer comes with two head attachments, one of them will likely be narrower than the other, making it more versatile.
Whilst you might want a wider width if you’re trying to cover a large area, one of the other most useful functions of a strimmer is being able to neaten up the tighter spots where the mower can’t go.
In these instances, having a narrower cutting width can be useful. This is another reason why it’s useful to have a choice of cutting heads.
Weight, Handles and Manageability
Petrol strimmers can range in weight, although they are usually around 8 – 15 kg.
If you need a lighter machine, there are options available such as the 3.9 kg McCulloch Trimmac Trimmer. Of course, the weight always increases a little after fuel has gone in as well. The downside of a lighter strimmer is that they can vibrate a lot, and they won’t be able to do the same tasks as more powerful and heavy models. That said, they are a good compromise if you want the power of petrol but are worried about manageability.
Manageability is especially important when considering a heavy petrol strimmer. These are powerful machines and, even with a harness, they can feel unwieldy. You need to be relatively confident in your physical ability, especially to use a strimmer over 10 kg.
The type of handle can make a difference in terms of how easy the strimmer is to control. There are generally two types of handles: a bicycle-handlebar style handle, and a U-shaped shaft handle.
Bicycle-handlebar handles allow you to balance the weight of the strimmer between two hands. Whilst this can take a bit of getting used to, it offers a lot of control and stability.
A U-shaped shaft handle offers a place for one hand to hold the strimmer. The other hand is positioned higher up on the shaft of the strimmer. This means that hands are positioned one behind the other in a linear fashion. This may seem more intuitive to some, but is a posture that can take its toll if the strimmer is heavy and used for an extended period.
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