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How to Use a Weed Whacker

Weed Whacker

One of the most versatile lawn tools is the weed whacker. Also known as a string trimmer, the modern day tool is useful in a number of different yard work scenarios. However, it’s important to know how to use a weed whacker safely and effectively. Most commonly, they’re used for reaching areas of your lawn you can’t adequately trim with your mower. Some people with tiny plots of grass use weed whackers to do their entire yard. In most cases, however, a mower should be used for the majority of the lawn, and a trimmer for fence-lines, along walkways and around landscaping.

Picking the Right OnePhoto credit: Darron Birgenheier/Flickr

If you don’t already have a weed whacker, you should choose one best suited for your yard and your needs. For a smaller yard without a lot of landscaping, you might find an electric or battery powered string trimmer to be the best bet. These are lightweight and easy to use, and typically come with a lighter or thinner gauge that’s capable of light- and medium-duty trimming.

Gas-powered trimmers are more powerful and usually heavier than electric trimmers. These are often also more versatile, as gas trimmers can often accept different heads for different applications. This includes blades for cutting roots and other thick, dense vegetation. Like any other gas-powered motor, this type of trimmer has fuel and oil costs, and requires more maintenance needs than an electric trimmer.

Safety First

Weed whackers are dangerous machines, and proper safety precautions should be taken every time you use one. The string on the trimmer spins at tens of thousands of revolutions per minute, which can injure you directly, and can throw up rocks and debris, harming you or others nearby. Wear proper shoes (no sandals or flip-flops), long pants, gloves, eye protection and earmuffs.

Extra care is needed when you’re cutting poison ivy, poison oak or other noxious plants, as the trimmer can liquefy the plant material and spray the toxins back at you as a fine mist. A pro landscaper tip when working with poisonous vegetation and power lawn tools is to wear rain gear and gloves.

Basics of Trimming

The first time you use a weed whacker, start slowly, using deliberate, even motions to cut vegetation. If you’re trimming a border, such as against a fence or other landscaping, begin trimming farther away from the border. Gradually move towards the border, being careful not to cut too closely to any material you don’t want trimmed or damaged. Keep the head of the trimmer level and don’t trim too closely to the ground or you will overcut, leaving what’s known as a burn in your lawn.

Make sure the trimmer line is cut to proper length and watch out for build up of grass and weeds around the head. If you’re using an electric trimmer, keep the cord behind you at all times to prevent the trimmer from slicing the electrical cord.

Check out all the lawn and garden products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to use a weed whacker and keep your lawn tools maintained, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Sarah Shelton View All

As a freelance automotive writer, I create articles, how-to guides, web content and white papers for online magazine site and automotive companies. I passionately believe that cars and motorcycles should be appreciated for the works of art they are, and fantasize about owning a white Ducati 899 Panigale to display in my living room. I am currently the Corvette expert at, cover alternatively-fueled vehicles and technology at, and hold the imaginary title of Formula One test driver on the back roads surrounding my Oregon home.

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