Expert Advice About Lawn Equipment

Is Your Cart Before the Horse? (Art’s Advice on Lawn Equipment)

Putting the cart before the horse is an old expression that talks about common sense.

As I look back over the years, I wish someone had pulled me aside when I was younger to explain the best way to purchase the lawn equipment you need! I wish I had a dollar for everyone who said “I shouldn’t have bought that piece of junk”.

Oh well, hindsight is 20-20.

Before you buy your essential lawn equipment, you need to look at what fuels your tools. Let’s look at the difference of fuel powered engines vs. battery powered motors.

Gas Powered Lawn Equipment
Battery Powered Lawn Equipment
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Gas Powered Lawn Equipment

Most of the reliable accessory machines are two stroke equipment using mixed fuel (unleaded gasoline with 10% ethanol). From the factory, two stroke engines are designed to use 87 octane unleaded fuel with up to 10% ethanol (alcohol). Ethanol does not work well in two stroke engines. The ethanol causes the fuel lines to soften and possibly collapse. The carburetor has to be adjusted for the engine to run properly. In my experience, the carburetor has to be adjusted frequently to run properly. After purchase the two stroke engines can become harder to start and difficult to run at full power.

Working retail, I advised customers regarding the purchase and proper use of lawn equipment. Several purchasers would buy the same weed eaters up to three times per year. Obviously there was an issue. First the customer would buy the least expensive models. The next problem was the same for all of them. All of them were using 87 octane unleaded fuel with 10% ethanol. Almost all had better performance when they switched to 91-93 octane unleaded fuel with NO ethanol.

Some of the public became convinced to buy a better model and use the proper fuel. Then the complaints and concerns started to abate. It was a pleasure to see the ideas become reality!

Your Fuel Options for Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment

One does have a couple options when buying the right fuel. You can purchase 91+ octane unleaded fuel (no ethanol), at some gas stations (I find these stations online). The price is higher than the lower octane’s, but as you will learn the alternative is more expensive (although more convenient).

The other option is to buy premixed fuel in quart and gallon cans. The canned fuel comes in two mixes, 40:1 mix and 50:1 mix (oil and gas). The convenience is undeniable. No need to purchase fuel at a gas station and no need to buy 2 cycle engine oil.

50:1 Premixed Fuel for 2-Cycle Engines (ethanol free)

However, the cost of buying fuel at $3.50 – $4.50 a gallon fuel as opposed to $49.00 Premixed fuel (gallon can) and two cycle oil is a huge difference, even when you consider the cost of the oil.

One only uses 2.6 ounces of 2 cycle oil per gallon of fuel. The cost of a pint of two stroke oil was in the range of $15 – $18.

Art Recommends Using 91+ Unleaded Gas (no ethanol) + 2-Cycle Oil Mix

Some of us are now buying a standard/synthetic blend which is better for the environment and will maintain the life of the engine

My Advice on How to Operate Two-Stroke Engines

Most of us where never told or taught the correct way to use two stroke engines. These engines are designed to run at full throttle.

Over the years, I have observed people pumping the throttle. A common misconception to avoid high RPM’s (Revolutions Per Minute). Over time the exhaust of the engine builds up extra carbon and clogs the exhaust system. The result is back pressure against the engine.

When this happens, I unbolt the exhaust and use a small screwdriver to break up the carbon blockage. If the blockage comes again, you can try clearing it or replace the exhaust.

The last issue is an option to enrich your fuel with an additive such as Sea Foam®, which cleans your carburetor and enhances performance of the engine.

Sea Foam Fuel Treatment for Gas and Diesel Engines

Plus, you do not have to use a special additive at the end of the lawn mowing season because the fuel is protected by the fuel additive!

Battery Powered Lawn Equipment

Battery powered lawn equipment is a clear cut alternative to gas powered machines. Let’s look at what powers your potential lawn equipment.

We‘ve come a long way from Nickel Cadmium batteries (which were short lived and bad polluters). Lithium batteries are the norm at this time. Lithium batteries operate longer and supply power for a decent measure of time. For turf tools the typical batteries come in different voltages – 20, 25, 40, 60, 80 and 120 volts. The batteries come with different amp hour (AH) ratings. For example a 20 volt 4.0 AH battery will power twice as long as the same battery at 2.0 AH.

Explaining the Difference in Amp Hour (AH) ratings in the Lithium Batteries used in Lawn Equipment

Charging your batteries is a limiting issue for you to consider prior to choosing to go with battery-powered equipment.

Things I Recommend Considering Prior to Purchasing Battery-Powered Lawn Equipment

The first thing to consider before you purchase is the reliability of your electric power supplier. If you have power interruptions at the time of year you need your power tools most, that is of great concern.

Another consideration is the need for an adequate amount of battery chargers to give you the power and the length of time you need to run your lawn equipment.

Lawn Equipment Batteries Charging

And while we are on the subject, once the batteries are fully charged, you need to turn the chargers off. Batteries need to discharge as a routine to maintain their ability to recharge and give you the power and longevity of use.

Another consideration before you choose battery powered lawn equipment is that the cost of batteries can be prohibitive! I have experienced the “jaw dropping” reality of paying for multiple batteries.

Careful research needs to be done on not only the brand and model of the equipment, but the batteries and chargers as well. Plus, there is the issue of the disposal of batteries gone badly.

The power source for this equipment has a useful life just like the power tools themselves.

Something Often Overlooked When Choosing Battery-Powered Equipment

An aspect I encourage homeowners to consider is the weight of the power tool with the added weight of the battery.

Additionally, I advise you to set realistic expectations for performance.

The motor speed of the equipment and the torque (strength) will determine what you expect to accomplish. Time spent, ease of use, weight and cost will drive your decision.

Do not be swayed by clever marketing, but by practicality. Unless it is an emergency, take your time to decide what you need and choose the best option for your property and how you prefer to maintain it.

How to Recycle Dead Batteries from Lawn Equipment

When batteries have reached their useful life, you will need to recycle them. Some of the big box stores like Lowe’s will accept them for recycle.

If the motor and or machine go out, you will have to decide if they are under warranty or worth the repair. An important factor is many of the equipment manufacturers have proprietary parts and accessories. You may have to buy the same brand again to continue to use their batteries and/or chargers.

About the Motor Types Available in Lawn Equipment

Let’s take a look at the options on types of motors you may purchase.

  • The original type of motor uses metal or carbon brushes to transfer power to the armature.
  • The second type of motor is brushless, which is powered directly, instead of by brushes.

The brushed motors will require the replacement of the brushes as they wear out and abrade against the armature. Therefore, the brushless type is superior in speed and power, plus, uses less energy and the battery charge lasts longer.

My Recommendation – Handle Tools Before You Buy Them

Finally I recommend you go to specialty stores, big box stores and warehouse stores to look at, pick up and feel and compare the items of interest.

Look at labels and specifications on the packaging. A quick way to determine what those numbers mean for you, the user, is to go on line and get a lot of your answers. Look at real customer reviews. Find out about the warranty. Understand if there are accessories available that you will want or need. What about a dedicated shaft weed eater vs. a split shaft that accepts attachments?

You will not be disappointed when you follow the advice and information contained above. I truly want you to be an educated and successful keeper of your lawn and grounds.


Arthur Davidson is a seasoned horticulturist with over five decades of hands-on experience. Holding an A.S. in Horticulture, Arthur’s expertise spans landscape design, organic gardening, soil science, and more. A former ISA Arborist and Master Gardener, he’s been a guiding light in the horticultural community, sharing his wisdom through talks, seminars, and his blog, Papas Gardens. Today, even in retirement, Arthur’s commitment to the world of plants remains unwavering. We're pleased to have him as a member of Lawn Chick's expert panel.

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