With my experience in commercial lawncare, I understand that gas-powered trimmers are a necessity in the business. They have power, precision, and reliability that even the best cordless electric trimmers just can’t touch. All those reasons are what makes them so much more expensive. The Bolens Company (a division of MTD Corporation) makes some affordable gas-powered string trimmers (or weed-whackers), so I bought one several years back.
In 2002, I went to the Lowe’s in Powell and bought a Bolens BL-150 straight shaft trimmer, having learned while in the landscaping business, has better balance and efficiency than curved shaft models (such as the counterpart to the BL-150, the BL-100). It lists for $89.96 – $94.99 at lowes.com, which makes it one of the least expensive gas-powered weed-eaters available. Therefore, the Bolens BL-150 was the best I could afford.
As most familiar with yard care tools already know, weed-whackers have 2-cycle engines with no oiling system. The lubricant must be mixed with the fuel to keep them from burning up. For the Bolens BL-150, the 2-cycle lubricant is to be mixed with the fuel at a ratio of 1:40. The 31c.c. engine propels a cutting head full of .080 gauge line which gives a generous seventeen inch cutting path. It also has a pretty nice balance, and the shaft handle can be adjusted for lefties and righties of various heights to minimize back discomfort.
After fueling, they must be primed several times by pressing a flexible rubber bulb on the engine. The Bolens BL-150 has a manual choke, which must be engaged when starting cold. Now, here’s where my troubles began, because my experience with the Bolens ‘EZ-Pull’ starting system was anything but. It took about 25 good, shoulder-aching cranks to start the thing for the first time. Once it got going, though, it still took a good 3-7 pulls on the starter cord to start it. Not surprisingly, I had to go through the same painful starting ritual every spring after it had sit up for 4-5 months.
Next problem is the bump-feed head. Its only attractive feature is the fact that it is loaded with heavier gauge .080 inch line, which is pretty thick stuff, capable of laying out all but thick seedlings from trees. First downfall, the soft plastic bump-button wore out way too quickly. I had bought two more until I just decided to put a hand-loaded Grass Gator head on it, also because I got tired of the Bolens bump-feed head jamming all the time. That brings up another problem: No matter how carefully I reloaded it (and I landscaped for a living before. I know how to reload bump-feed trimmer heads), it would always jam. Truly, it was much less of a hassle to carry a pocketful of cut weed-eater line and just manually replace them as they wear out.
Overall, the Bolens BL-150 performed much better with the Grass Gator head installed. The 31 c.c. 2-cicle engine seemed like there was less work involved in keeping the aftermarket head spinning. Also, you had the advantage of installing commercial-grade line in the new head that will even take our small Mimosa saplings. And then in 2006, the propeller shaft broke inside the tube, which rendered the unit inoperable (But, hey, at least the engine still ran!). When several estimates told me it would probably be easier to replace the thing rather than to repair it (even if I did the work myself), I decided to just give it to a friend who needed one, so he can pay to fix it and not be out too much money.
Well, you get what you pay for. The Bolens BL-150 will never be as durable or reliable as, say, the awesome Kawasaki string trimmers I have used commercially, but we’re talking about a $400.00 price difference here. At the time, I needed one to keep an already out-of-control yard from getting worse. My suggestion to anyone in the market for a string trimmer (and if it just HAS to be gas-powered), please, just buy a cheap electric to get by for a few seasons, and save your money to buy a gas-powered weed-eater worth having!