Best 4 Cycle Brush Cutter – Huskie 224L Review

Husqvarna 224L Review

Introduction

Here at Brush Cutter Central, we love 4 Stroke engines.  We love not mixing fuel oil and not smelling like 2 stroke gas when we come home from a hard day.  4 Strokes aren’t perfect, but when you have a lot of work to do, they really do shine.  For more on the difference between a 4 stroke and 2 stroke, check out our main guide.

The Husqvarna 224L is our absolute favorite

This is a four-cylinder motor with a straight shaft that is one piece motor has 25 cm³ of displacement.  The body is made in America of Swedish design.  The real benefit here is the motor is Japanese, Honda to be exact.  We’ll talk about that later.

Build Quality – There is a hard plastic bottom that protects the gas tank from damage and dirt.  Instead of a cheap plastic housing around the motor, you get steel. And this is more of a commercial minded trimmer as the safety, on/off, and throttle are built to be more modular than a consumer model.   The thing looks like a shaft attached to a motor, as opposed to a completely plastic molded black box that no one is going to touch.   Subtle differences in the design tell you what the machine was meant for.   Not too many folks geek out about those sort of design details, but most folks don’t have websites dedicated to brush cutters.

Attachment Ready – I’ve heard mixed things on what you can bolt on to this trimmer.  Most of it not good.  Sometimes the universal attachments are not so universal.  The 128LD takes attachments, but the plastic coupler wears out after a few years.

When you get the box from Amazon, make sure that the packaging isn’t damaged.  Always do a smell test, because sometimes people put gas in these things, don’t like em, and send em back.  You want a virgin unit.   Also check to see if you have all the parts, including the manual. (Although most manuals are unintelligible or full of so much information that the heft makes you not want to read it).

Assembly – Most users found the 224L easy to assemble.  After assembly, two minor problems crept up for some users.  Oil leaking for some, and others couldn’t get is started.  Believe me, this is not the norm, and don’t let the nervous Nellies dissuade you.

Operations

Starting – When it comes to starting, mostly found that the model was very easy to start. A modern and quality string trimmer is typically easy to start.

Idling – Most users found that the unit could hold in idle.  While running in idle, there is not much in terms of vibration.  Especially not when compared to a typical 2 stroke.

Power – In terms of power the unit did not seem to bog down. With a 2-Stroke Engine, you usually need to get the head up to a high rpm for cutting.  The 4 stroke engine has most of its power just above idle.  It’s rare that you need to go full bore to do normal work.   Sometimes you’ll notice that with a 4 Cycle, the engine performance is not that good unless it has work to do.  Basically a 4 stroke can be cantankerous when you’ve got the throttle wide open, but it’s not doing any work.  So the key is to crank it up only when it’s time to get serious.

Honda GX 25 Engine in 224LThis is a close up shot of the Honda Engine.  It’s a GX 25, and it’s glorious.  This power plant makes your life way easier.

 

 

 

Many users were able to handle weeds and brush.  Area wise users handled lots as small as a half-acre to a full acre. It could even cut saplings that were 3/8 of an inch thick.

Time – A lot of users were able to get a couple hours of use out on one tank.   And longevity wise, some of these 224L’ were going strong after four seasons.

Over Heating? –  When it came to working on a hot day only a few people found that the unit overheated.  Overall this is not a unit known for overheating.

Noise – In terms of noise most thought was quiet when compared to a two-stroke engine.

Vibration – Vibration it was not considered to be very bad.

Debris – Some users thought that the debris shield could be better.

Exhaust – When it comes to the exhaust if not handled correctly it will hit your elbow.

Height Issues – For short users this was a good unit but for tall users they had to bend over to use it.

Weight of the Unit – Many users thought the unit was heavy, only a handful thought it was light. With that in mind, the unit did not come with a harness.

Here’s a full video review hitting a lot of the same points

Overall this is probably one of the best 4 stroke trimmers.

Troy-Bilt Brush Cutter TB 42 Review

What is there to say about the Troy-Bilt TB42?

At 27cc’s of displacement and weighing in at 14 lbs, it has the basic specs to be a decent brush cutter and a tremendous weed eater.

Overall we like the Troy-Bilt, but it’s not the best in the class for the money. ($150-200 range).

Check out our main guide on brush cutters to see what you should be looking for.

Let’s talk about the specs

Specs

The 14 lb engine is a two-stroke and 27 cc’s of displacement.

Just on paper a two stroke engine means

  • Having to mix the fuel oil and non-ethanol gasoline, and then having that gas can around for the season. As we said in our overall look at the Brush Cutter and Weed Eater Market this year…we’re not ready to give up the 2 stroke for a 4 stroke or an Electric, but I for one am tired of the arm and a leg that these manufacturers charge for their Company Brand Gasoline.
  • Not to mention the awful fumes of the 2 stroke
  • 2 strokes are still noisy. So you’re still going to need proper noise protection. Be on the look out for our guide to earmuffs and other yard work accessories.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, then Troy Bilt’s engine is giving you more of the same.

Between the motor and the cutting head is a straight shaft made of two pieces. We prefer a solid steel straight shaft for brush cutters, but Troy Bilt is giving you the option to buy and swap out different heads.

The cutting heads are a string trimmer/weed whacker and a “brush cutter”.

I see a lot of companies selling “brush cutters”, but when you examine the product closely, you’re really getting a grass blade.   The reviews mention being able to knock out a 1” sapling with this grass blade, but when I want to clear out some brambles, I want something that looks like a saw.

Attachments – it does accept other attachments

Control – Controlling the beast is done by a J-Handle. That right there should tell you that despite the HP numbers, this is more of a light duty machine. For serious work you need a harness and a bicycle handle.

Rounding out the basic specs, Troy Bilt offers a 2 year limited warranty.

Operation and Usage Notes

Gasoline – This is a 2 stroke, so you will have to mix your fuel and your oil. And if you’ve used two strokes in lawn equipment before, it’s a good idea to use premium fuel with absolutely no ethanol. Ethanol causes two common problems. First it fouls up the carburetor, and then will rot the fuel line. And here’s a pro-tip, add some fuel stabilizer to your fuel mix.   Now ideally, you would drain the tool every time you use it. But most people live in the real world. After a day of ranch work, babysitting the fuel drain isn’t high on the agenda.   Save yourself some trouble and use a stabilizer to prevent problems down the road.

Starting – Modern brush cutters and string trimmers generally start much easier than model that came out just 5 years ago. A good axe chop was what you needed to get one started. Troy Bilt has gotten their system down so that it’s no longer onerous.

They’ve gone one better and offer an electric starter, called Jump Start. You use a drill to get the motor cranked. (sold separately of course)

What will they think of next?

Handling – This comes with a harness for a reason. You may want to replace it with another harness, but even if you think of yourself as a big strapping lad, (or lady), saving your back, knees, and elbow is a good idea. With that said, depending on your level of strength, you might consider this heavy. No one considers this too light.

Cutting – Like I said in the intro, this is more of a trimmer with a blade option and not so much a brush cutter. So if you’re clearing out an orchard or getting rid, I’d opt for something more suited to that.

Long Term

There just isn’t enough data out there for me to make the call right now. We are leaning towards it.  But check back with us.

 

Troy Bilt TB 575 Review

Troy Bilt TB 575 ReviewIntroduction

With Honda not available through Amazon, there are only a couple of 4 bangers out there.  The TB-575 is one of em.  We think it’s the best of the bunch to be honest.

As a reminder the benefits of a 4 stroke brush cutter/stringer

  • No More Fuel Mixing
  • Quieter/Less Vibration
  • Less Noxious Fumes
  • Carb Compliant

But the downsides

  • More complicated than a 2 stroke
  • Harder to use the trimmer as an “edger” as oil runs out of the pan.
  • Heavier

Specs

With that out of the way, the TB 575 does have pretty good specs.  Weighing in at 13 lbs, with an engine that boasts 29 cubic centimeters of displacement, and making a good bit power. (Oddly HP #’s are hard to find). With a D Loop handle and a straight shaft, this should be ready for some serious Weed Eating.

Attachments – You should be able to attach your other Troy Bilt attachments.

Usage and operation

Start Up  – The reviews are mixed on how easy it is to start and how well it keeps going.   The general trend is that people that are very good about running the unit on 100% pure gasoline, with no ethanol, they have no problems.  Whenever I see someone has carburetor issues, it’s often a fuel problem.  But the carb is what mixes the air and the fuel.  If there are problems there, the machine will not start right or ever run right.

A lot of users found that it was hard to start. Some even went as far as to jump start and that did not work well.

There is an easy start option for those who are not fans of the pull start. The easy/jump start uses a power tool to get the motor going.

Idle and Restart – For those that were able to get started and keep it running they found that it would not start once the engine got hot or the outside temperature was very warm.

All that being said many found it was easy to adjust the idle after it was started.  This is sometimes a problem on brush cutters and weed eaters.

Ergonomics –  When it comes the ergonomics of the TB 575, it is a big dumb oaf. Most reviewers say that the unit is very heavy for a string trimmer.  On top of being very heavy,  It does not come with a harness. So a prudent buyer would get a harness when they buy this unit.

When you are actually using the unit, the lack of harness make it very awkward. When something is hard to use you use it less or you hate it whenever you use it. Never a good sign

Vibration and Noise –  Using the machine is like riding a roller coaster. It vibrates a lot which is what you expects with the cutting tool but there is no vibration protection in the handles. And what that means is, when you’re actually cutting you are vibrating the hell out of your elbows.  Many describe the unit as loud.

Bump Head Design, Line Feed, and Reload – The spool  is not well designed. Now when you have to reload the line it is he’s easy to do but since the the poor design makes the string snaps. This means that you have to rethread constantly. When it comes to adding more line the bump head does not work well.  This is a common complaint on these models, and it’s hard to chalk it up to user error.  Indeed, if everyone is making the same mistake – perhaps a redesign is in order.

Sometimes  the head comes apart. Other times is hard to change the line.  And under heavy usage the head will get hot and some of the internals melt.

Long Term

Build Quality – In terms of build quality, there were many recorded complaints

  • Gas cap leaks
  • Screws are poor
  • Air filter housing fell off.

Long Term Engine Issues – In terms of the engine it has oil problems. Either the engine runs to hot) all of the oil, or the engine itself leaks oil. When these things happen the engine overheats. One user even opened the inside of his engine and found that pieces that fell off into the case itself and scratch the size of the cylinder. Once the sides of the cylinder are scratched, the engine will lose compression. Once you lose compression, you lose power. If you lose power you cannot do the job.

Endemic to all two-stroke engines there are fuel problems. Either the user uses ethanol instead of pure gasoline. ethanol corrodes and rots the fuel line between the tank and the engine itself. Or ethanol itself gums up the carburetor.

No Clutch – In terms of transmitting the power from the engine to the cutting head the TB575 does not use a clutch. Motor turns the shaft which turns the head. When using it as a brush cutter, this design flaw means that you have a one-to-one relationship with the power of the engine and the cutting strength of the blade.

Conclusion

In terms of using the tool is actually better to use it as a brush cutter rather than a weed eater.  But by limiting the function, we can put this on the short list.

Tanaka TCG31EBSP Brush Cutter Review

You had me at commercial grade.  The folks over at Tanaka put together a great machine that has good specs and top features.  But will it brush?  Here’s what we look for.

Specs

A 30.8 cubic centimeter 2-stroke engine makes a nice 1.4 horsepower.  The engine turns the cutting head through a solid steel shaft.  All of this is controlled by a bicycle bar’s style handle.

This is everything we look for in the basic specs and design of a brush cutter. A powerful motor driving a solid steel shaft and controlled by bicycle bars.  Tanaka thoughtfully includes a necessary harness so that it will be easy to control the beast in an extended brush cutting session.

Assembly – Nowadays, most of brush cutters and string trimmers come mostly assembled.  In this case, out of the box the only things that needed to be put together are the guard for the cutting head, the handle to control the unit, and the blade.

Operations

Starting – As we’ve noted with other Tanakas, typically the starting is easy.  But there is always concern with keeping it running.  The carb may need adjusting before it will run properly.  The reviewers were decidely mixed on whether the TCG31 was easy to start.   As with all 2-strokes, proper fuel must be added (100% gasoline, no ethanol) and fuel stabilizer added to the storage tank for the season.

Brush Cutting – That’s what this unit is for, and most of the reports suggest that this is up there with a herd of goats when it comes to gnawing away vegetation.

String trimming – This is not the ideal lay out for a string trimmer, and that’s compounded by the bad trimmer head that plagues Tanakas.

Long Term

Build Quality – Problems with the trimmer head are noted above.   There have been reports of air filters that fall off.  Bolts and screws that unscrew themselves during operation. An in-thread adhesive like Loctite might be in order.  Ideally would not have to get a second party accessory to make the unit run properly. Also one person mentioned a broken gas line.

Customer Service –  Even though the units have shipped with poorly designed heads, customer service is largely seen as good, given the frustration of a device that does not always work properly fresh out of the box.   As usual, check to see if there are nearby service centers.

Conclusion

This unit definitely requires more research on our part.  Hopefully we can get one into office to give a once over.  Given the number of trimmer head issues that we’ve run into and some issues with assembly and design.

Husqvarna 223R Review

SHow we evaluate brush cutters can be found here.

The 223R is another entrant from Swedish powerhouse Husqvarna.

This model is in the premium section. It boasts a  standard two-stroke engine with a straight shaft.  The engine is CARB-Compliant, which out of the box might need little adjustment with a carburetor spline tool.

The motor displaces 25 cm³ and puts out 1.1 hp.  Noise wise, this is 98 decibles at the ear.

The shaft is straight. Managing this beast is done by a two handle bike bar set up.  This is our preferred set up for a brush cutter, as it allows better control over in big jobs.  In the box is a two strap harness, standard.

No one complained that the box was damaged. It came all of its parts. When it comes to assembling these guys, I’m betting that the Husky technical writers were classmates with the folks over at Ikea.  It’s somewhat intuitive, but not necessarily easy.

Operations

Starting – There is a big difference in the earlier reviews of the products where many users complained that it was hard to start.  The later reviews remark on how easy it was to start.  The hallmark of modern weed whackers is easy start.  We just assumed that that each iteration of the model is slightly better than the last.  When these things fail to start, or the line does not retract – there is usually an issue with the pulley.  We have not torn one down to see if the pulley is made of plastic, but too much strength on a plastic pulley has felled many a string trimmer.

Cutting brush – When it comes to brush cutting,  most found that this unit did not bog down until it hit the burliest of saplings and brambles.  The real issue is that the blade gets dull.  Switching to a different blade is probably the best fix for that. A beaver blade, a set of Renegades or a Tri-blade are good options.

The in the box blade  is more of a grass blade and a brush cutter.  When it comes to trimming the grass, the bump head works but this is primarily a brush cutter.  If you do multi-task, you should buy line when you order this unit.

Coverage –  People were able to work easily their backyards, and go all the way up to 4 acres. This is made possible by the harness.  The harness makes it easy for people of various shapes and sizes get to work.  And a usage tip, 1) put on harness, 2) start machine, 3) attach machine to harness.

Fuel – With respect to fuel economy many were able to get 30 minutes for the tank. Of course this will vary based on the sort of thing that you’re cutting.  Longer for weaker grass and less for harder saplings. This is not the best fuel economy in the class in fact it is one of the worst.

Overheating – Running any string trimmer in the heat of summer opens up the possibility of overheating.  A well designed unit will avoid that.  Doing the research, we could not find evidence of rampant overheating with the 223R.

Long Term, Warranty, and Service – The standard 2 year warranty applies.  We looked for typical repairs needed, but did not find any that warrant special comment.

Conclusion

As brush cutters go, the 223R is one of the better ones out there.  The straight shaft, double harness, and bicycle bars puts the unit in our upper echelon.  Not being able to track down obvious issues, also raises the profile of this unit.

Husky 223L Review

223L Review

One of our top 3 Two Stroke Brush Cutters

Introduction

Another day, another Husky to review at Brush Cutter Central.  Husqvarna is a Swedish company best known for their chainsaws.  Their equipment is mentioned in the same breath as Echo, Stihl, Toro, and Ryobi.  The 223L fits right into their product mix, but is it up to snuff as a brush cutter and weed eater?

That’s what we aim to find out with this review of the 223L.  Here’s our overall criteria on how to judge a brush cutter. It’s a lot like the 223R, except for the loop handle.

 

 

 

Specs and Assembly

The engine displaces a healthy 24.5 cm³ making a health 1.01 HP. The two-stroke engine, requiring all of the usual maintenance that accompanies the fuel efficient two-stroke engine, including

  • 100% pure gasoline, absolutely no ethanol. Ethanol gums up the carburetor and corrodes the fuel lines
  • The pure gasoline has to be mixed with the proper motor oil, or purchasing the manufacturer’s pre-mixed fuel
  • Adding a fuel stabilizer like Sta-Bil will also help the overall longevity of the engine

The carburetor does need adjustment if it isn’t running properly, especially at high altitude.

A straight shaft leads to the cutting head, and everything is handled by a “D” loop handle.

Start, Idle, and Usage

It starts very easy and it runs very easy.  Modern string trimmers are usually easy to start, ideally less than 5 pulls. That being said, I know a lot of us are used to older models that required a Hank Aaron swing to get going.  This unit has a nylon pulley system that can definitely break if you put too much oomph into your pull.

Some found the engine ran hot, in particular the exhaust stream was very hot.  It’s important to wear protective clothing when using any power tool, and gas trimmers are no exception.  Eye, Ear, and skin protection are needed at the very least.

Some found it was very loud, another start vibration was very hard for the unit.  The waste debris was also an issue for some users.  The shield did not catch as much as many would have liked.

In terms of ergonomics users were split on whether or not it was a good fit for everybody and tall people didn’t like it at all.  One of the issues is that it does not have an obvious place to hook in an aftermarket harness. (The unit does not come with a strap or harness)

When it comes to starting the unit the assembly sometimes breaks. It is important to remind ourselves with these modern units there’s no need to keep pulling and pulling pulling heavily in order to get the unit to work

Reloading the bump head? Most found that the line was easy to replace.

Concerns and Longevity

As mentioned above the nylon starter pulley is prone to break.

Also the warranty is limited to only two years and for the carburetor it is only 30 days.

After researching hundreds of reviews, many users have gotten more than 3 years out of this model.  Assuming that they did what was necessary to maintain these models, it’s likely that a new unit will have the same life.

Conclusion

With an easy hand, and being mindful of the heat generated by this model, we recommend it.

Husqvarna 128 LD Review

Husqvarna 128LD Brush Cutter ReviewIntroduction

Husqvarna is a big name in power tools.  Husky chainsaws are legendary.  Does that prowess in bringing down spruces carry over to brush cutting and weed whacking?  This is how we figure out if it’s good or not.

The research suggests that once you get the carburetor dialed in, the unit runs very well.

Specs and Assembly

This is a two-stroke engine 28 cm³ of displacement. It puts out 1 horsepower. Like every two-stroke engine, the string trimmer requires 100% gasoline with no ethanol.  You can mix this yourself, or buy some of the premixed fuel gas.  This is particularly important for Huskies as we will discuss below.

It has straight shaft. So far this has the makings of a decent brush cutter, but a better string trimmer.

The shaft is detachable. But one of the issues is that it’s not easy to attach genuine Husky parts to this particular model. For that you need the 128LDX.  Users have found that they could attach parts from other manufacturers. This goes into the overall design as well.  The unit is easy to put together.  Overtime, the plastic coupler of the split shaft wears out, making it hard for other attachments to stay attached.

On Amazon, we only found 1 user that had a dead on arrival unit.  Over at Home Depot, there were many users that ran into these issues.

Start, Idle, Ergonomics, and Usage

Most users found it was very easy to start, and easy to restart. And once it was started it kept going very easily.

However a lot of users found the idle to be very rough, and the trimmer would just stop running. If the unit is not idling properly, the unit might be running lean or rich  Adjusting the carburetor is accomplished by a special carburetor tool which is not available at your local tool store.  It’s interesting that this is the case given that Husky leaf blowers and chainsaws do not run into these issues.

carburetor tool s-l1600After adjusting, the unit should run correctly.

When it does run, most users found that it was relatively quiet and not a lot of awful vibration.

In terms of using it to trim the grass, most  found that the bump head was not very good.  It could be that the internal parts are made from plastic.  And for the prepared, buying some additional trim line

With respect to ergonomics many found this unit was heavy and it does not ship with a strap or harness. This is a unit that benefits from having a shoulder strap or harness. In terms of balance those over 6 feet said that they had to bend over in order to use it.

Operators were able to handle 3/4 of an acre and 1 acre of jungle.  But not on one tank.

Long Term

The warranty is limited

Some users reported the overall longevity of this unit at 2 years.  Others have not been so lucky

Conclusion

It seems that users that did not do well with the 128LD mainly had issues with it working properly every time.  Our analysis of the complaints point to what are probably carburetor adjustment issues.  When those can be surmounted with proper adjustment, the 128LD lives up to the Husky reputation.

Blue Max Brush Cutter 52623 Review

Blue Max 52623 Review

Introduction

Now we’re talking.  Big 2 stroke motor, bike bar handles, hefty debris shield, straight shaft…lemme at that fence line with this baby.  But who is Blue Max? Are they reliable?  This is our general criteria for all brush cutters.

Just on the features, this is a good option, but what did the users have to say?

Specs, Assembly, Starting

This is a monster brush cutter. It is a two-stroke engine with 42.6 cm³ of displacement putting out 1.6 HP.  This is definitely not made for puttering around the petunias.

Since there is a two stroke engine you need to mix the gas and the oil.  That means true gasoline no ethanol. Ethanol will degrade carburetor and also eat up the fuel lines.

Most found this unit was easy to assemble and easy to start.

Idle, Ergonomics, and Usage

True to form, with any 2-stroke engine, chances are good that you will have to adjust the carburetor for it to run and idle properly.

In terms of ergonomics incident with that handlebars but many found it was not very balanced. It does come with a harness just not a very good harness.  And that’s a problem because the unit is considered heavy by most users.  The design flaw is that it’s only a one strap harness, instead of two or multi-strap harness. With only one strap holding up the weight, the machine ends up digging in to your shoulder.  That’s not anything that an aftermarket harness wouldn’t fix, but it’s those small user friendly details that a lot of manufacturers drop the ball on.

And many users found that the vibration from such a big motor was a little more than they bargained for.  One user even commented that the vibe shook a bolt loose.  With the bolts and screws, a little Loctite never hurt anyone.  But the vibration also affects the user.  That’s something to keep in mind when you’re thinking about using this for a full day.

It will run for a good long time. In terms of how long it can keep going, surprisingly for such a large unit many found it was very fuel efficient. I would not expect a 50 cc engine to be so parsimonious.  Now if you have a lot of dense or heavy foliage, opening up the throttle to full will not be as fuel efficient.

If you’re going to do a big job or work for a long time most found it was a good idea to sharpen the blade comes with or swap out for better blade.  The big motor and fuel tank plus a sharp blade will make short work of any thing that needs clearing.

And with all of that brush being cut, the debris guard is larger than most.  Some users found that size notwithstanding, the guard was actually flimsy.

Long Term Concerns, Maintenance, and Serviced

With all power tools, especially those running on gasoline and bought via the internet, there are bound to be issues.  Maybe there was some jostling of the parts during the shipping process.  As always, before you make a purchase, investigate whether you there is an authorized service center near you.  Blue Max products are manufactured and distributed by North American Tool Industries.

Conclusion

In general, we think this brush cutter is a buy because

  • The Motor
  • The Power
  • The Shaft
  • The fuel tank capacity and efficiency

Our main concerns are

  • Lack of harness
  • Vibration

 

Tanaka Brush Cutter TCG31EBSP Review

Now this is a brush cutter!

At the motor, it puts out a nice 1.4 horse power.  Weighs in at 20 pounds.  That power works the cutting head through a single straight shaft. And you control the monster with bike bar handles.  This is generally the sort of numbers we look for when it comes to a consumer/pro-sumer grade brush cutter.

And turns out that we liked it as much as the other users out there. Recommend.

With stats like that, what did the regular users think?

Assembly and Start Up

This unit is considered easy to assemble.  The shaft and the gear set come assembled. All you need to do is put on the handles and bump head/brushcutter. Though it is always a good idea to give it a once over before you start operating.  You never know if a piece got bumped on the delivery. Once put together, it’s time to start it.

Many users found it was easy to start.  Easy start is a general industry advancement.  When we were kids, you had to be John Bunyan to get some of these machines to start.

Once it got going, most found that this motor did not idle well.  As is the case with many modern 2-stroke engines, for emission reasons, the carburetors are not always tuned to local conditions.  Maybe you’re not at sea level.  Maybe you operate in an environment that is hotter than most or colder than most.

You need to be able to adjust the carburetor.  For that, you’ll need a carburetor tool, many of which you can find on ebay.  carburetor tool s-l1600

Most found that this motor did not idle well, so that means to me that you need to adjust it. That’s rather annoying if I may editorialize.  I wonder if there is that much emissions savings in comparison to what can happen if you do not manage the brush and foilage?

 

 

 

 

Ergonomics and Use

With a unit this heavy and this powerful, after you manage to get the thing running, can you operate it?

So to deal with the weight, you have to use a harness. Luckily the unit does come with a harness.  Many users found that the harness was not an obvious thing to put on. One user found that if you were hooked into the harness, it actually made it difficult to start the unit.  Damned if you do…

Brush Cutting

When everything has been assembled, fueled, harness put on correctly, started promptly, idles perfect – how does it cut?

Most found that it worked quite well.  Goes through 2-3″ saplings, high grass, and bushes.  Though it still weighs 20lbs, it makes the work easy.

Weed Eating

This is primarily a brush cutter site, but many of you will just want to change out the heads and turn this monster loose on your backyard.   Many of the Tanaka weed eaters that we cover have the same issues.  The string feeder tends not feed well, hard to refill, and hard to disassemble and reassemble.  We would suggest getting an aftermarket string feeder to go with this wonderful engine.

Longevity, Warranty and Repairs

Like most brushcutters and 2 stroke gas trimmers, making sure that you use 100% gasoline and absolutely no ethanol is crucial.  Ethanol does quite a number on the internals of a typical two stroke.  It will gum up the carburetor as well as corrode the fuel lines.

So when it comes to fuel, just some reminders

  • Always use 100% gasoline
  • Add a gasoline stabilizer in the container that you store your fuel in
  • When the season is over drain the tank.
  • Remove the spark plug
  • Clean the air filter
  • keep out of reach of children.

When it comes to warranties and after-purchase service, there are countless tales of the staff at Tanaka coming through.  A good stop gap is also to check to see if there’s a Tanaka service center near you. In terms of after purchase service many were okay with.

Conclusion

Overall, we do recommend the TCG31EBSLP.  For brushcutting, the main downside is the weight.  But that’s the story with every brush cutter.  As a weed eater, we think there are better choices.

Sticky: The Ultimate Guide to Brush Cutters

Don’t have time to read the whole thing?  You’ve come to the right place for the best brush cutter reviews.

Husqvarna 223R Brush Cutter Review
Husqvarna 223RBlue Max 52623Husqvarna 223L

Our Top 3 Best Brush Cutters

  1. Husqvarna 223R – It has enough power for a most applications.  We like the straight shaft and bicycle bars.  Husqvarna makes great chainsaws, and they don’t seem to slack in the brush cutter department either.  It’s a little pricey, but we’ll take it over the equivalent dealer only Stihl and RedMax.
  2. The Blue Max is a bit of a beast with a good Horse Power/Dollar ratio.  Bicycle bar handles and a lot of motor for the money. Blue Max seems to be new to the brush cutter game, so the jury’s still out on long term reliability.
  3. Husqvarana 223L – Like the 223R, the 223L is essentially the same but has a loop handle instead making it a little more taxing for long jobs.

Keep reading to understand out thought process.

 

Introduction

 

Best Brush Cutter Reviews 2016

Is this your lawn?  

Where do you even start!  I can tell you from experience what is not going to work.

  • Running your lawn mower over this mess
  • Using your weedwacker 

What you need is a brush cutter! The best brushcutters! Think of a weed eater (or string trimmer of you want to be politically correct about it) and the brush cutter is the bigger and beefier brother.

 

String Trimmer Head versus Brush Cutter Head

The string trimmer is a powered tool used to trim the edges of your lawn. It goes where no lawnmower can go.  It is great for doing the fine detail work that you can’t do with lawn mower. What happens when the vegetation is too thick or too tough for a string cutter? You call in the Marines of lawn care, the brush cutter.

 String TrimmerBrush Cutter
Power SourceElectricity, Battery, GasGas
Ideal forWeeds and GrassUnderbrush, Saplings, Nettles, Blackberry Bushes
Method of CuttingNylon lineMetal blade
HandlingCan be used with one handIdeally used with 2 hands

Do I Need a Brush Cutter? 

As you look at the Garden of Steven, you wonder how else you can handle it.  Options?

SituationTool
Clearing a fieldTractor/Bush Hog
High Grass and Some WeedsRide Along Mower
Clearing out the forest behind your house for fire purposesClearing Saw or Professional Grade Brush Cutter
Neglected backyard of a foreclosed homeBrush Cutter
Fence Line of your propertyBrush Cutter
Property is on an angle or steep gradeBrush Cutter
I’m Just Sick and Tired of this MessBrush Cutter
Pruning treesPolesaw or Brush Cutter
Detail Work around the House and GardenString Trimmer

The brush cutter is best used in a situation where you have

  • Overgrown foliage with thick grasses, tall grasses, “woody” grasses, nettles, brambles, underbrush, and saplings
  • Fence lines that can’t be reached with mowers and tractors and have hearty foilage
  • Areas that on a grade or hill that require a person to do the work, and can’t be safely done by tractor or mower

Can’t I just use a String Trimmer?

You can always try.  You will probably run out of power before you clear what you need to clear, and you will not have the power to cut through dense undergrowth.   A better question is do YOU need to BUY a brush cutter.  When you look at the savage land slowly taking over your property, you have a few options

  1. Hire a contractor – Getting someone else to do it
  2. Renting one and doing it yourself
  3. Buying a unit.

If this is an out of the ordinary/one time situation like your parents letting the backyard get out of control, I actually recommend you have your local lawn care professional do the initial work.   When the rough cut has been handled, then you may need a brush cutter for maintenance and touch ups. If money is tight, then renting is your next best option.  Your local big box hardware store may have them in their rental section, and your specialty lawn care provider will have some for rent. But if property maintenance on this level is going to be an ongoing concern, buying is your best option.

What do I look for in a brush cutter?

The feature

  • Power – Strong enough to do the job,
  • Ease of use – Easy to start, easy to use, and easy to care for 
  • Reliable – Will it last?
  • Price – Does it do the job for the money?

Let’s start with power.  Brush Cutters are powered in 1 of 4 ways, 1) by wire, 2) by battery, 3) by 4 stroke gasoline engine or 4) by 2 stroke gasoline engines.  I recommend sticking to 2 stroke engines.

Here’s a handy dandy comparison chart

 BatteryWire4 Stroke2 Stroke
Overall powerWeakGoodBetterBest
WeightLightLightHeavierHeavier
NoiseQuietQuietLouderLoudest
FuelElectricity, but  limitedElectricity, but not limitedGasoline, limited to tankGasoline, limited to tank
Lubricationn/an/aSeparate OilOil mixed with Gasoline
Price$$$$$$$$$$$
MaintenanceLightLight MostFair Amount
MovabilityEverywhereLimited by length of CordEverywhereEverywhere
ManeuverabilityEverywhereEverywhereNot VerticalEverywhere

For now, the electric brush cutters are considerably less powerful.  What they lack in power they make up for in being light weight, operating quietly, and can be maneuvered or oriented in any direction.  However, if you’re not trying to clear brush in a national forest, just got an acre or two, you might try this electric brush cutter.

The gasoline/petrol brush cutters are more powerful, but they are heavier, louder, and require you to have access to gasoline.

If you stick with my general recommendation, you’re going to pay more for your gas powered unit, but you’ll get the job done.

Two Stroke Engines v. Four Stroke Engines

A little history lesson first.

This is some animation for a four stroke engine.

This is some animation for a two stroke engine.

For our purposes, 2 stroke engines tend to be more powerful than 4 stroke engines.  And since they have less moving parts, 2 stroke engines tend to be more reliable.

In choosing between a two-stroke or a four-stroke,  four-stroke engines tend to be better on fuel, quieter, and less emissions.  At the time of this writing, four stroke engines are more expensive.  Two-stroke engines are generally more powerful than four0stroke engines thus tw0-stroke engines are worse on fuel economy, have worse emissions.  What they lose in fuel economy and emissions, they make up for in price and more reliability because they have less moving parts.

And speaking of less moving parts, the 4 stroke has a separate oil pan to lubricate the engine.  Many lawnmowers are 2 stroke engines and generally cut grass flat on the ground.  A brush cutter or a string trimmer often has to be tilted and held at odd angles in order to do its job.  That tilt can result in oil moving out of where it needs to be, exposing the engine to greater wear or even damage.

Q. Do I need anything special when I gas up my brush cutter?

A. Two stroke engines, because they have no oil pump, require require gasoline plus some oil.  If you run a two stroke engine without adding oil, the engine will seize up and you are going to be in for an expensive repair.

Q. Do I need special gasoline or will any gasoline work?

A.  For most of these brush cutters the manual specifies  the use premium gasoline with no ethanol in addition to the fuel oil.  My research has uncovered that many lawn care professionals will use whatever gas is available.

Other Features

Now that you’ve rightly decided on a gasoline two-stroke power plant, what other features are useful in a brush cutter?

Shaft

A solid steel shaft to drive the cutting head is necessary.  Brush cutters come in straight shaft and bent shaft configurations.  Bent shafts  allow you to get closer what you’re cutting and are sometimes a good choice if you’re doing a lot of detail work.  However the additional precision comes at a cost.  To bend the shaft, manufacturers put a mechanical linkage between the gas engine and the cutting head.  This linkage necessarily is not as powerful as a straight shaft, and because of the typical use (and abuse!) for a brush cutter the bent shaft often has more mechanical problems.

2 Stroke Engine + Solid Steel Shaft – what next?

Glad you asked.  The recent trend in the power tools industry is to sell you a strong motor with good internals and good drive shaft to do lots of different tasks.  Your drill can become a ratchet or an electric screw driver.  Your rotary tool can cut, sand, and gouge.  This trend of multi-use tools is welcome, but sometimes you need a dedicated tool.

Quick Change Heads

This trend is now entering the brush cutter market.  There are manufacturers offering “quick change”.  Avoid at all costs.  The standard use for a brush cutter tends to be greater than current levels of engineering.   So if you want to change the cutting element on your unit from a tri-blade to a quad blade or to a many toothed saw blade – pick a unit that requires you to to break out your hand tools and get intimate with your brush cutter.

That wraps up the performance and reliability portion of the guide.  Bottom line, we’re looking for a gasoline powered brush cutter with a 2 stroke engine that drives  a solid steel shaft into the cutting head that is not a quick change head.

2 Stroke Engine + Solid Steel Shaft + Slow Change 

Ease of Use

Power

How much power do I really need for my routine tasks?

Power, such a tricky concept.  More than just engine displacement, fuel tank capacity, or horse power ratings, power is not just a raw number, but it is how much work you can do given the task at hand.   The rule of thumb with power tools is to get something slightly more powerful than you need, but how much power do you need?  How much power is too much?  How much power is dangerous?

A professional clearing underbrush in a forest to prevent wildfires needs something that is very powerful because they’re likely to encounter tough saplings on a routine basis.  Too little power and the job takes too long.  That kind of power might not be appropriate for keeping a fence line clear.  You may spend too much up front, too much on fuel, and then dreading having to take the monster out.  And you never know what accident might happen because the cutting edge goes too quickly through the brush.

We’ll leave the power question for the end.

Handles and Handling

One handed or two handed?  You can buy brush-cutters in two designs.

joined 2

The one handed loop design (right) And the two handed design  (left). The two handed design is also known as bull horns, bulbar, bul-bar, tubular, bike handles.  The handles are typically offset and designed for use with a harness.  As of this writing, I do not know if they have right handed folks or left handed folks.

The one handed design allows for some ease of use, but given the general power of a gas powered brush-cutter and safety concerns you want to use both hands.   Also for using a scythe-style motion for clearing land, two hands make it very easy to get a lot of work done quickly.

In terms of handling, if you have a big project a harness plus two handles is the best option

Vibration

A quality brush cutter unit will be engineered to reduce vibration. When it’s idling and not working, the anti-vibration works well.  When the brush cutter actually “bites” into a bushes, nettles, and trees, that’s when you’ll notice how good the brush cutter is.

Some brush cutters are designed to be used at full speed, and they may vibrate at lower speeds.

The amount of vibration seems to be different for every machine.  Some users will

So with respect to ease of use – 2 handles and anti-vibration technology.  Power is the open question.

So what do I recommend.  Based on my overall guidance

  • 2 Stroke Engine
  • solid steel shaft
  • 2 handles
  • anti-vibration/dampening technology

Power Revisited

If you have a strong engine with a strong linkage, controlled by 2 handles, and the vibration is mitigated by technology, power is your last concern.  For heavy foliage many experts recommend a displacement of greater than 35cc and a hp that is 2.0 or greater.  For moderate underbrush, a displacement in the mid 20’s and HP greater than 1.2 hp is ideal.

So we had to look at a good # of brush cutters to make our determinations.

Best Brush Cutter Brand

This is a really tough question.  If you take it back to the 80’s (when I was a teenager mowing lawns), most of the top brands were made here in the States for US conditions.  Names like Echo, Redmax, Stihl, all come to mind.  Tanaka and Honda had offerings from Japan, and Stihl from Germany and Husqvarna from Sweden all offered options.  Now, we’re in a global economy and different areas have different requirements.  Lots of US made options have expanded.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the factory was in Ohio, new parts weren’t coming across the ocean.

At the commercial level, operations that will pay a lot for the brush cutter and also have dedicated people no staff to keep the machines in tip top shape. For them Stihl is the name to be reckoned with.  You have to go to a dealer to buy, and usually to service.  None of which come cheap.  If you’re making money with the equipment, it’s the cost of doing business.  However, most of us don’t run lawn care companies or forestry service organizations.

Brush Cutters Reviews

Here are the recommendations.

For 4 Stroke – We like the TB 575 from Troy Bilt
  Our full review is here.

The TB 575 does not have a whole lot of competition for a 4 Cycle.  With Honda out of the game, the only other easily found option is the Poulan Pro.

 

 

For the 2 Stroke, here are our top 3 again

3.  The Loop Handle 223L  from Husqvarna. Our full review is here.  You can find it on Amazon here.

2. The Blue Max 52363 from Blue Max. We covered this brush cutter earlier this year.  Amazon has it here

So what is the best brush cutter?

1. Our #1 pick for 2016 is the Bicycle Bar Handle 223R from Husqvarna.   Full review is here.

Husqvarna 223R Brush Cutter Review

Honorable mention is the TCG#31EBSP from Japanese manufacturer Tanaka.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a large amount of brush that needs to be cleared you would know that a simple line trimmer while highly efficient at cutting grass and trimming in those hard to reach places is not cut out for denser vegetation, or anything thicker than a quarter inch. For jobs where you are cutting denser vegetation you need a brush saw, or clearing saw. Like the trimmer the brush saw has many different names and applications, some people call it a regular trimmer and others prefer to call it a clearing saw. You can use a brush saw to hedge, prune and clear thick grass that would bog down a string trimmer as well as thick vegetation that even a mower cannot handle.

With brush cutters you have the option of either gas or electric, the downside of electric is that it is limited by the length of the cord and more suited for consumer use, whereas the gas brush cutter is much more powerful, and more versatile, which is ideal because you’re typically only going to need a brush cutter in more remote areas that aren’t well maintained. Most trimmers can be turned into brush cutters, you simply take off the trimmer head and attach a brush blade to the trimmer. If you’re going to turn a regular trimmer into a brush cutter there’s a few things you need to be aware of.

1.Does your trimmer have enough power to handle a brush blade

2.What handle does your trimmer have

For a trimmer to effectively handle attaching a brush blade you must make sure the trimmer has at least a 20cc engine. Anything less than 20cc won’t be able to spin the blade at high enough RPM’s.

Most trimmers have a loop style handle which is inadequate for larger clearing jobs.

[Image: stihl-trimmer-fs-55-r-90-r-km-55-90-loop...e6e3c8.jpg]

The loop style of handle is great for precision tasks and where control is paramount, however brush cutting typically doesn’t require precision, brush cutting requires more force to chop through vegetation. This is why many brush cutters have handles that look like they are from a bicycle.

[Image: fs55-2.jpg]

These handles provide the operator with more movability as well as being able to apply more force to cut through vegetation, they are also more comfortable for longer jobs and many times you can add straps or a harness to them to further increase comfort.

[Image: CorpFull_1.png]

This is the ideal set up for brush cutting, allowing optimal comfort and power for those long jobs where a regular loop handle won’t suffice.

Many people think that attaching a circular saw blade to a trimmer effectively turns it into a brush cutter and saves them the extra thirty dollars on a brush blade. While this seems like a good idea.

It’s not.

The problem lies with the RPMs a brush cutter produces, a brush cutter running on full throttle can be within the range of 7000-10000 RPM’s whereas a circular saw runs at about 3540 RPM’s. This is more than double the RPM’s a circular saw blade is designed for, making the blade unstable and any form of impact whether it be a rock, or a hardwood tree will cause the blade to shatter, sending pieces of shrapnel in every direction.

The good news is brush blades aren’t very expensive and if you buy the right ones as well as sharpen them often you will get a lot of use out of a single blade. But before you buy a blade, there’s a few important details you should know.

Diameter of blade

Arbor Hole Size

Amount of teeth

Carbide Steel or Steel

Guard or no guard

The first and most important factor when choosing a blade is the diameter. The wider the blade, the more powerful of a machine you need to have in order to cut through the vegetation. Blades come in three diameters, 8”, 9” and 10”. The larger the blade the more power your machine needs to keep it at high enough RPM’s. If your blade is not spinning fast enough, not only will it make the job more of a hassle than it should be, you also introduce kick back meaning the blade will kick away from thicker vegetation because it cannot cut it. This is a problem because essentially you are losing control of the brush blade, and its hard on the body when you have to deal with constant kick.

To attach a blade to your machine you need to know the size of the arbor hole

Most brands have 20mm arbor holes but some use 20.45mm arbor holes. STIHL is known to use the slightly larger 20.45mm hole. It is best to double check the size before buying a blade.

The next thing you want to be aware of is the amount of teeth on the saw, this is important because the more teeth you have on the blade the more cutting power you have. Cutting power and teeth are directly proportional however, there are some blades don’t have any teeth on them at all just blades.

[Image: brushknife.png?preset=Product.ProductDetails]

The brush blades that have no teeth are your most basic blade, only designed for dense grass and very light vegetation, these blades dull quickly making them unsuitable for heavy or even medium duty work. There isn’t much of a reason to buy these, a blade with teeth on it will cut just as well and is more versatile.

Then you have the blade with 30-40 teeth. These blades are designed to cut through heavy stock brush, thick brush and brambles but due to the low amount of teeth, you cannot hedge or prune with this blade. These are best suited for medium use, where you will not be cutting anything too thick in which case you would need a blade with 80-120 teeth.

The 80-120 toothed blade is your most versatile and best value of the different types of blades, these blades can take care of any brush you throw at them, they can prune, hedge and stay sharpest the longest of the different types. The only issue is once you get into 100 toothed blades and 120 toothed blades the diameter changes from 8” to 9” which as I stated above, can cause issues with your machine struggling to keep up with the RPM’s necessary.

The final thing you want to be aware of when choosing your blade is the type of steel the teeth are made out of, it can either be steel or carbide steel.

Regular steel costs less, is more abundant at your local big box store and is great for light use or if you don’t have the need for a brush cutter often. Regular steel is also easy to sharpen. Carbide steel is longer lasting, a little bit more expensive and harder to sharpen, carbide steel is far superior to a regular steel blade while only costing a little bit more. You should always buy carbide blades, there’s no reason to buy steel blades even if you only plan to use them once. A blade with 30 teeth on it that are tipped with carbide steel is far superior to a regular steel blade with 100 teeth, despite having 70 teeth less than the carbide version.

Depending on the design of your trimmer, you may have to take the guard off in order to fit the brush blade, this can cause safety concerns because you will have nothing to protect you from debris. The plus side to remove the guard is you will deal with less clogs and have an easier time clearing. I personally cut with the blade off but it’s your discretion, if you want to keep the guard on your brush cutter or trimmer then it is best to do a quick measurement before purchasing anything.

There’s many, many different designs for Brush blades and many of which I haven’t mentioned. There’s a simple reason for this, most of them are not safe. In the UK during 2010 there was a fatal incident with a flail type of blade

[Image: Chain-Flail-Type-Brush-Cutter-Blade-600x298.jpg]

The one in question didn’t even have a blade attached to it, but rather chain to act as a form of crusher. This sounds like a good idea but when that chain is spinning at 7000 RPM’s and it grabs a rock it’s going to send it light speed toward you and I hope you’re wearing a teflon vest for when that sucker hits you. In EU and Australia these types of cutters are banned.

Which is why it is wise to stick with the circular type of blade, it’s the safest blade to use. There is however one flail blade I will recommend, it’s expensive but if you want something that’s going to last a long time and has superior cutting power to anything else on the market then this blade will be your best option.

[Image: Brushcutter-Blades-Extra-Heavy-Duty-Brus...-blade.jpg]

The BrushDestructor blades are your absolute best option, even though they are a flail type of blade they have been tested and many professionals use this brand. The great thing about them is they are very versatile, able to handle any brush, weed, bramble, or job you throw at it them. You do not have to deal with switching blades depending on the type vegetation you are cutting. The blades are easy to sharpen and tangle free, which means more time cutting, and less time idle. The downside to these blades is that they are expensive, mainly because each order is done by hand which drives the price up but also means that quality control and customer service will be exceptional. They are made in a little shop out of Australia and the company has been supplying landscapers the best blade on the market for many years now. If you run a professional business and want something that’s going to last a long time, and provide you with a superior cut these blades are the best option. You can find them here.

The next blade that I’ve chosen is the STIHL Circular Saw Blade – Scratcher Tooth.

[Image: 31iEcduDG5L._SX300_.jpg]

This blade comes in both 20mm and 20.45mm arbor hole sizes and are about the best blade on the market and will handle anything you throw at it, able to cut through brambles, thick weeds, dense grass and even prune and hedge for you, this blade does it all. I’ve personally used this blade when I worked at a high end private golf course and I had no issues with it clogging or not being able to handle the job. It made spending a week on a brush cutter an enjoyable experience.

There’s one thing to be careful of when you purchase this blade, and that is to make sure it uses Swedish steel and not the Japanese counterpart. Japanese steel is much softer and therefore dulls quicker than Swedish steel, you should be able to check on the back of the package to see where the steel comes from.

You can buy the blade that uses Swedish steel here.

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The third blade I’m going to recommend is the 8” Renegade Brush Blade, this blade is designed for multi use which means it can cut brambles, thick brush and weeds with ease as well as hedging and pruning. I choose this blade because it’s a slightly different design than the STIHL blade, which means the cut will be slightly different as well, along with the feel. STIHL blades tend to be a little more heavier than aftermarket blades, the STIHL blade is a heavier blade whereas the Renegade blade is lighter. It comes down to personal preference, both the Renegade and STIHL blade will do the same job, in the same amount of time, and cost about the same, it’s just a different feel. Renegade blades tend to be a bit easier to sharpen as well, according to professionals. You can buy them on Amazon here.

The three blades I have chosen are the best when it comes to versatility, price, cutting power and are used by professionals and consumers alike. Brush blades can be more confusing than trimmer line, there’s so many different designs out there and most of them are rubbish. Knowing what blades are the best can make the difference between spending two hours clearing an area and four hours because the blade you have is inadequate for the job. Brush cutting isn’t supposed to be a chore, and with the blades I recommended I can assure you that you will learn to enjoy clearing large areas of vegetation, hassle free. Happy cutting.