How to use a weed whacker without whacking yourself (a nervous beginner’s guide)

Man using a weed whacker to edge his lawn.
Photo by Jared Muller on Unsplash

Are you a weed-whacking novice and nervous about edging your lawn for the first time?

First, don’t panic. A weed whacker (weed eater, string trimmer) is not an uncontrollable doomsday machine. It’s basically just a long stick that spins a strip of plastic really fast.

This post will prepare you to use a weed whacker safely and keep it in good condition.

Be prepared to use a weed whacker safely

A weed whacker is just like any other tool. Even a simple tool without moving parts — like a hammer — can injure you if you don’t use it properly. (Or if you use it properly for the wrong purpose.)

Anything that can cut through plant material can also cut your skin. And anything that moves at high speeds — like the plastic line in a weed whacker — can fling material like mulch, dirt, and small rocks into the air.

So practice good safety to avoid getting hurt.

Dress appropriately

Cover up anything you wouldn’t want lacerated by the weed whacker line and dirt and gravel the weed whacker might churn up.

For minimum safety, you need:

  • Safety goggles. They’re not just a versatile accessory for elegant evening wear. They protect your eyes from flying debris.
  • Long pants. It’s hard to remember this when it’s hot and you’re wearing shorts every day. But your ankles and shins should be protected.
  • The right shoes. Open-toed shoes are no safer for weed-whacking than they are for knife-dropping. You don’t need steel-toed boots. Just cover your feet.

The right way to hold a weed whacker

For best results, hold it parallel to the ground as possible so the cutting line doesn’t chop up the ground and wear out while simultaneously chucking stuff at you.

Know your equipment

Read the manual.

No one really likes reading manuals, we know. But at least skim and read the important parts.

If you don’t have a manual, you can easily look up your weed whacker’s make and model online and usually find a PDF version.

You may be surprised at how many different kinds of weed whackers exist.

Different types of weed whackers

Gas-powered

There are two kinds of engines for gas-powered weed trimmers – 4c (4-stroke) and 2c (2-stroke). Like it needed to be any more complicated.

If you haven’t bought a weed whacker yet, this should give you food for thought.

Electric

  • Corded. These give you more power, but the cord is only so long and it tends to get in the way.
  • Battery-powered. They don’t have cords to trip over and are great for small lawns and power outages.

How to load line into a weed whacker

You could do this:

Or you could do this:

Remember basic physics. An angle cuts better than a flat edge. Cut your line so that the cut edge angles out.

How to mix fuel for a gas-powered weed whacker

That means knowing which type of engine you have. Use gas only for 4-stroke engines. Look for a label stuck to the side of the weed whacker or look at the manual if you’re not sure.

Use this online oil and gas mix ratio calculator if you need extra help.

Tips for maintaining your weed whacker

Like all things of a physical nature, weed whackers break down. You can extend the life of yours by:

  • Using the right fuel. Pay attention to the instructions and make sure to get the oil to gas mixture right.
  • Cleaning away trimmings so they don’t gunk up moving parts.
  • If it has a cord, make sure the cord is in good shape.
  • If it has a battery, remember to charge it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Takeaways

Safety first. A weed whacker won’t rip your face off, but it can lacerate your skin and kick up things that shouldn’t go in your eye. Wear protective eyewear, long pants, and closed-toed shoes.

Be prepared. Do you have enough fuel? Is the weather on your side? Will you have to step around dog poop?

Maintain your equipment. Things just work better and last longer that way.

Don’t worry — it takes practice just like anything else. Before long, you’ll be a pro at it.

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