Our back lawn is level, but beyond that is a hillside that goes down another 100' to 150' or so at a 30ļ to 45ļ slope before leveling off at the bottom. The hillside is not cultivated, but we get a yearly crop of foxtail grass and assorted weeds at the end of the rainy season. (Right about now.) Like everyone around here, we have to keep the hillside trimmed or face fines from the Fire Department.
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Sunday I fired up my 3 or 4 year old Troy-Bilt string trimmer and spent probably 10 minutes out of an hour actually cutting grass and weeds, and the other 50 minutes monkeying around with it trying to get it to run, or trying to get it to feed string, or trying to find the parts to the line spool that had gone SPROING! into the weeds. I went through similar frustrations last year with this trimmer, and had already spent $50 or so trying different "improved" line spools. Even when the line did feed OK, the engine didn't run strong and I always had to baby it along. I decided it was time to replace it with a good one.
So after spending some time Sunday night doing a bit of research, I had narrowed the search down to either Echo or Stihl. Echo seems to be what most of the pros around here are using, but Stihl also has an excellent reputation. Monday I went to the local shop where I bought my Stihl chainsaw -- they sell both brands -- and told the guy I needed a string trimmer. He asked "What do you want to trim?" I said "Well, string, of course." Anyway, after getting his advice and checking out a few different models in each brand, this ended up following me home:
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It's the Echo SRM 230S, which is supposed to be sort of a crossover between Echo's homeowner and professional lines. It was a bit lighter and better balanced than the comparably priced and equipped Stihl, and it comes with a 5 year warranty versus the 2 years that Stihl offers.
Home Depot sells this model for about $20 less than what my local dealer charged me, but the dealer walked me through the operation and maintenance of the trimmer, took me outside to show me how to start it, test ran it for a bit, and will be there for me if it ever needs service. I don't think I'd get that same service from the Borg. Plus, he threw in a Stihl padded strap and the ring for attaching a shoulder strap for free. (The strap and ring retail for about $25 or so.)
I had a chance to run about a half tank of fuel through it this afternoon before my back told me to quit, but so far I'm pleased as punch with this machine. Even though it's still in the break-in period and I'm not running it at wide open throttle, it chewed up and spit out everything I pointed it at. I love using a good tool. It's a similar feeling as when I replaced the Poulan chainsaw with the Stihl, or the Sears lathe with the Powermatic.