Knowing how to wield this must-have landscape tool gives you power over weeds, hard-to-reach grass and unsightly overgrowth.
For landscape pros and homeowners alike, a weed eater, also known as a weed wacker, weed trimmer or string trimmer, is essential to creating the manicured lawn everyone wants. It lets you abolish weeds, trim grass in places a lawnmower can’t reach and create clean edges around driveways, walkways and other areas. But these tools are only as capable as their operator. Knowing how to use a weed eater like a pro will save you time and give you better results.
Here are the basics of using a weed wacker, from how to string a weed eater to edging with a string trimmer and more.
Operating basics: How to start, adjust and string a weed eater
Like any job, using a weed eater requires some basic prep work. Before you get started, you’ll want to adjust your tool, check your power supply and make sure you know the basics of operation. To protect yourself from flying debris, wear long pants, closed-toed shoes and safety glasses.
How to start a weed eater
Electric and battery-powered weed eaters have push-button starts. To start a gas weed eater, follow the instructions in the user’s manual. Generally speaking, you’ll start a gas weed eater this way:
Place the weed eater flat on the ground, in an area with little dirt or debris.
Turn it on by switching the on/off slider into the on position.
If you’re starting the tool with a cold engine, prime the fuel line and turn on the choke.
Pull the throttle fully.
Pull the starter cable two to three times until the engine starts and runs smoothly.
Turn off the choke or move it to the “run” position.
Release the throttle. Let the weed eater run for a few minutes to warm up the engine.
How to adjust a weed eater
Before you begin wacking away at weeds and overgrowth, adjust the weed eater for ergonomics. You shouldn’t have to hunch over or hold your hands up while using the tool. Adjust the handle to around hip height. Also adjust the auxiliary handle to a position that’s comfortable for you. Make sure both are in the locked position before you start trimming. If you’re using an attachment, put it on before you start the weed eater.
If you have a gas powered weed eater, you’ll likely need to adjust the carburetor occasionally. Trouble starting the weed eater may be a sign that it’s time to perform this maintenance task. Adjusting the carburetor is a simple matter of turning a couple of screws with a screwdriver until the engine runs smoothly. Follow the instructions in the user’s manual.
How to string a weed eater
You may want to change the string on your weed eater for different jobs. For example, you’ll want a larger gauge line for trimming brush or thick weeds than for trimming grass, and you may want a square or star-shaped lined instead of the standard round line used to rip grass. Check the owner’s manual to see what gauges of line your weed eater can use.
Many people use pre-spooled line for convenience. If you’re using pre-spooled string, simply pop off the old spool by unscrewing it or using the push tabs to release it. Then replace it with the new spool.
On some models, you’ll need to know how to remove the head from a weed eater to change the spool. This is done using a screwdriver to remove the bolts and refasten them. But on most models you can restring without removing the head.
If you’re restringing by hand, follow these steps:
Cut a length of string at least 15 feet long.
Push half an inch of string through the hole at the center of the spool.
Wind the string manually. Most models have an arrow on the spool to show you which way to wind. Cover the spool with one layer of string, then begin overlapping.
When all the string is wound, fix the end into the notch in the spool. Replace the spool.
Getting results: How to cut grass, clear brush and edge with a weed eater
With a little know-how, you can accomplish a variety of landscaping tasks with a weed eater.
How to use a weed eater to cut grass
For small lawns or patches of lawn, you can use a weed eater instead of a lawn mower to trim the grass. To get an even cut, keep the head of the weed wacker parallel to the ground, hovering just over the grass. Remember, you can always trim more, so trim conservatively at first rather than risk a patchy job.
How to edge with a weed eater
Some weed eaters have an edger attachment that lets you easily create clean edges where grass meets a walkway, driveway, curb or landscaping bed. But you can do a decent job of edging with most weed eaters simply by turning the weed eater so the head is vertical to the ground, with the debris directed away from you. This creates a clean 90-degree cut, though the cut won’t extend into the soil as it will with an edger attachment.
Cutting brush with a weed eater
To cut brush with a weed eater, use a string that’s at least 0.110 inches in diameter. Alternatively, use a brush cutter blade attachment if your weed eater is compatible with one. Be sure to wear the proper protective equipment for brush cutting, including goggles, heavy pants, work boots and work gloves.
Hold the weed eater head parallel to the ground. Start at the exterior of the brush and work your way inward, keeping the shaft as far away from your body as possible. A straight shaft weed eater will give you more reach into the brush than a curved shaft weed eater. If the string or blade slows, stop the machine and clear the debris before continuing.
A gas weed eater is the better choice for cutting brush because it has more power than electric or battery operated models. If you have an electric or battery operated weed eater, consider getting a hand-held brush cutter, aka weed mower, for brush cutting jobs.
After care: How to store a weed eater
Taking care of your weed eater can prolong its life and keep it effective. When you’re done using it, follow these steps:
Wipe away any cuttings or dirt with a damp rag.
Do a deep clean of exhausts and intakes every few months or when needed.
Store in a dry place like a shed or garage.
Weed eaters are incredibly handy tools for homeowners and absolute musts for landscapers. With a little experience under your belt, you’ll be trimming weeds, cutting magazine-worthy edges and taming brush like a pro.