Time for another product review.
We needed a brush cutter. At Home Depot, the Ryobi X430 power head (the brush cutter attachment is purchased separately) was the only four stroke unit in stock. I wanted a four stroke engine because, quite simply, I’m lazy and prefer not to have to mix gas and oil for a two stroke unit. We’ve had good luck with Ryobi equipment and like the brand.
Guess which brush cutter went home with me?
Pam’s son, Zach, happened to be here today when I decided it was time to get the power head and brush cutter out of their boxes, put them together, and get to work. He volunteered to get things started.
“After all,” he reminded me, “I’m a pro at this.”
He certainly is. Zach has multiple years of career endeavor in yard maintenance work. He definitely knows more about weed whackers and mowers and such than I ever will.
“Go for it,” I told him. “I was going nuts trying to figure out how I was going to run the brush cutter with one hand and the camcorder with the other.”
He laughed at that, borrowed my folding knife, and set to work opening the boxes and parts baggies. The assembly was simplicity itself: Bolt your choice of two handles onto the power head, slide the power head and brush cutter attachment together, add oil, add gas, and you’re done.
Except for the shoulder strap, which–as it turned out–neither of us uses, anyway.
We were ready to add oil, but first, a scan of the leftover parts.
Okay. Not bad. There was nothing we couldn’t explain…except for a thin rod-thingy. Maybe it would help to read the instructions….
The rod turns out to be a “gear head locking tool”, useful when changing blades.
Ryobi brush cutter assembly
Adding oil and gas
Ryobi includes a cute little oil bottle full of 20W-50 engine oil for the power head’s crankcase…but I never use the recommended oil in any of our internal combustion engines. Instead, every engine gets the same treatment, a combination of Slick 50 oil additive and Pennzoil 10W-40 motor oil.
That raised an eyebrow, did it?
The combo works for us. Our 1996 GMC truck engine has 179,000 miles on it, still going, doesn’t use a bit of oil yet. The 2001 Subaru Outback is closing in on the 190,000 mile mark, also not using oil (though the rear main seal has begun to seep just a tiny, tiny bit). The little Yamaha generator has run at least 18,000 hours and is still going strong.
Slick 50 and Pennzoil it is, then, and a pretty potent mix at that: 50/50, half Slick 50, half Pennz.
Zack dumped out a few drops of “shipping oil” already in the crankcase. I hadn’t even known they did that, but it makes sense. Who wants a rusty crankcase on arrival?
Ryobi also included a little disposable funnel made out of plasticized white paper. Cool beans.
The gas tank received a load of 91 octane fuel. High test is the only kind of gasoline we use around here. Even the generators can tell the difference between that and regular.
Starting her up
When Zach first saw I’d purchased a four stroke brush cutter, he was concerned. I’d forgotten that we’d bought him a four stroke weed eater from Sears in 2010. The machine started up just fine the first time. When he shut it down and took a break…that was it. The beast never started again.
He returned it to Sears and got a two stroke, mixed oil and gas forever more, and–come to think of it–still has that weed eater to this day.
Additionally, he’d talked to lots of other workers in the yard maintenance business who said the same thing. They, too, had found it necessary to get rid of less than functional four stroke weed eaters and go to two stroke engines.
“But,” he acknowledged, “that was a few years ago. Maybe they’ve improved the technology.”
They had. There was a bit of a learning curve, figuring out the best way to get the machine to restart when it was pistol hot and also when it was cooled down partway…but even after Zach did his “test drive” of the new brush cutter and left, I was always able to get it restarted sooner or later. For a little popper like this one, that’s plenty good enough.
One quirk: It helps to keep the throttle opened up above idle. If you’re in the middle of a job and allow the hot engine to idle down all the way, it’ll die on you about half the time. In my book, though, this is not a problem. Heck, my first car (pink & black 1951 Ford) was like that toward the end. So was my first motorcycle (1979 200KZ Kawasaki). Adopting the technique for the Ryobi brush cutter required no effort at all.
The little four stroke engine’s got heart, too. You can hear it in the following video.
You can’t hear me very easily. My voice doesn’t compete at all well with the engine. But the video is worth watching for two things:
1. Listen to a solid little engine that should last for decades.
2. Watch a master lawn dude (aka Zach) in action. The guy knows how to knock down weeds in a hurry!
After he’d tried out the cutter, he opined that, “It’s slow (compared to his string type weed whacker), but impossible to break.”
Three tanks full
After Zach left, I wound up running the better part of three tanks of gas through the Ryobi. Pam’s preferred path from the Border Fort over to the laundry shed did not get done, primarily because that’s more than 100 feet of gravel to de-weed. The brush cutter does pretty well over gravel; I only got face-stung by small rock chips half a dozen times or so…but still.
On the other hand, wide walkways were cut through vegetative overgrowth around the concrete pad beneath the bird feeder gazebo, around the house to where we check the outside temperature, to the generator under the semi trailer and the generator over by the camp trailer, to the ladder on the side of the water tower, and a few other places.
After all that, it was time to load up the Briggs & Stratton generator in the Subaru and drive over to the well head.
The 500 gallon batch storage tank needed to be filled back up with water.
The brush cutter went along for the ride. I remembered the weeds getting a bit thick the last time I was over there.
Today, they weren’t a “bit” thick. They were seriously overgrown. This is our fifth monsoon summer on the land. Not once, until now, had vegetation been a problem near the well head. The rain we’ve had this year had changed all that. I wasn’t about to dive into that possibly snake infested and most certainly chigger infested jungle as it stood. No way.
Minutes later, Ryobi to the rescue, we were good to go.
I really like this machine.
The four stroke Ryobi X430 power head with brush cutter attachment is a solid machine. It has a few little quirks–primarily the tendency to die at idle when it’s hot and a bit of learning curve when it comes to restarting, also when it’s hot–but I’ve never met an internal combustion engine this small that didn’t.
It’s not as speedy a cutter In grass and light weeds as a string type cutter, but there’s no stopping to reload string every few minutes, either–and the Ryobi will handle thick-stalked weeds that would utterly defeat a string weed whacker.
Overall, I’m happy to have it join our growing family of reliable Ryobi power equipment (along with the jig saw and circular saw)…and I’ve got to give it a full FIVE STARS.