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The secret finishing touch to a well-manicured lawn

You’d never wash only half of your car, serve burgers without the fixings or paint a single coat of white over the 1972-orange walls in your new house. In the same way, a freshly mowed lawn isn’t done until you’ve trimmed away the shaggy, overgrown spots along fences, trees, shrubs, rocks and flower beds.

Enter the string trimmer, the popular handheld outdoor power tool that makes it super simple, even fun, to finish the job right and turn a mediocre yard into a well-manicured masterpiece.

The most important step in keeping your trimmer running well is to replace the line (also known as the string) once or twice per year, depending on your usage. Whether you have a Craftsman, Kawasaki or other brand, study the manufacturer’s owner’s manual in detail. In general, you should find that replacing the line is easy.

String trimmers have spools designed to hold line of a specific size so the most important step is to purchase a replacement line with the correct diameter size, which varies from 0.065 to .125 inches. Always follow the manufacturer’s listed requirements. There also are many different variations in shapes for each size of line. Line with a three, four or six-sided profile provides a faster, cleaner and noticeably more professional cut than the standard round shape.

The quality of replacement line also varies greatly. Cheap line breaks easily and could leave you with scattered fragments of plastic throughout your yard. Tougher, more durable line will prevent potential breakage.

Tip of the month

As with any outdoor power equipment, string trimmers can be dangerous. Pebbles, dust and debris can be catapulted at surprising distances so protective eyewear is wise. Also, warn bystanders, especially children and pets, to stay a great distance away while the trimmer is in use.

Small engines

Since spring arrived early this year for many of us, your small engine may be working harder and longer this season.

To keep it running well, remember to check the air filter every 25 hours or so (varies with model). This prevents dust and grass from sneaking into the engine and causing trouble. Paper air filters must be replaced. Foam filters may be cleaned with hot water and dish detergent. Be sure that the filter is completely dry before saturating with engine oil and reinstalling into the engine. Note that this process may vary so it’s important to consult the owner’s manual.

Check the oil level frequently, at least every eight hours of use, to prevent engine breakdowns. Fresh oil is golden in color. Old oil darkens. At minimum, the oil should be changed every 50 hours of use but some models and usage factors may increase the frequency needs.

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