Craftsman Mower Helps Keep the Peace

Craftsman 37441 mower / Credit: SearsMowers introduced in mid-season easily get lost in the shuffle since shoppers did their mower shopping back in the spring. But although mower trouble mostly tends to show up at the start of the season, some machines give up the ghost around Labor Day, too. The self-propelled Craftsman 37441, $340, is one to consider for a late-season trip to your local Sears. You can also hit the website, where at press time it is was selling for $17 less, with free shipping to that nearby store.

A couple of the 21-inch 37441’s attractions owe to the mower’s 163cc Briggs & Stratton engine. Your neighbors might appreciate a gas-powered mower that doesn’t drown out their scholarly ruminations about the Kardashians, and the engine’s Quiet Power Technology (QPT) provides muffling that lets you cut grass without hearing protection, at least in the mulching and side-discharge modes. And did your former mower die because you never changed the oil? Then you might fancy the “Just Check and Add” feature. It’s just what it sounds like: You never have to change the oil, though you can’t fully ignore it, either.

Setup was easy and tool-free, aided by an included 15-ounce bag of SAE 30 oil (the engine’s capacity), and the machine started like a dream on the second pull. This is part of Craftsman’s guarantee—that the engine will start, no priming or choking needed, on the first or second pull…or the repair is free. Of course, you have to follow the manufacturer-recommended maintenance on the schedule outlined in the manual.

Turf wars

Keeping up a comfortable pace was a snap with the variable-speed control, a feature that plagues many a manufacturer of self-propelled mowers. You can adjust the tension, but the default was just fine. If your last mower was a rear-drive model, you might also find yourself digging up a divot or two with the front wheels—at least till you learn to release the drive control before you back up. Overall, though, the 37441 felt lightweight to maneuver with only a gentle touch on the drive control.

Another word about front-wheel drive on any mower: It can be tricky should you take the mower up an incline in bagging mode. As the bag fills up, it tends to weigh down the rear, which makes the drive wheels rise unless you pull up the handlebar—tough while you’re also trying to forge on ahead. Another alternative is to keep the bagger off for slopes.

Also aiding in maneuvering are the large-diameter rear wheels, which Sears claims work better for varied terrain. One drawback, however, is that to accommodate the larger rear wheels, the manufacturer must move the engine a smidgen forward. This makes the mower feel heavier than you might expect when you need to lift the front end to change direction. We liked the deck-height adjustment, which uses just two levers for front and back, though the stops for the levers, numbered 1-5, correspond to nothing in particular. Here’s how to measure the height to which your mower will cut: 

Most of the right noises

In both mulching and side-discharge modes, the 37441 cut evenly without clumping or leaving noticeable rows. Briggs & Stratton says its QPT muffling cuts sound by up to 65% over the noise of the Honda HRR216VKA and Toro 20371 mowers’ engines. What matters most: We didn’t need hearing protection in these modes on the Craftsman. Once we switched modes and installed the separate bagging blade, however, the mower found its voice and roared like any other mower. (Cutting in this mode worked very well, too.) To no surprise from past testing of QPT mowers, the hearing protection went on.

Nothing in the Craftsman 37441 is new or groundbreaking, considering that both the Briggs engine and the deck, made by MTD Products (maker of Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt and other brands) debuted in past seasons. But you don’t need novelty to make your lawn flourish—just a fine mower and lots of TLC, such as routine water and fertilizer. The Craftsman 37441 does its part; the rest is up to you.

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Troy-Bilt String Trimmer Grows the Core Business

Troy-Bilt Core TB4200 / Credit: MTD Products
The Troy-Bilt Core Model TB4200

Some outdoor gear doesn’t seem quite convinced that it’s up to its designated job, and string trimmers are occasionally among them. Sure, such models might seem as careful as you want to be around your flowerbed and precise with that line you want down the edge of your lawn. But those tall weeds in your property’s nether regions? Those require a string trimmer that knows what it’s about, something like the Troy-Bilt Powered by Core, Model TB4200.

That name is a mouthful, but there’s a reason. Core Outdoor Power, back in 2011, was a spanking-new company with a cordless technology that used multilayered circuit boards and magnets instead of commodity motors with wire windings and steel armatures.

When the company’s CGT400 string trimmer came out in 2012, it was revolutionary, a cordless product that rivaled gas-powered trimmers. But it was actually too powerful—one slightly wrong move, and you scalped beyond bare earth. It wasn’t what you’d expect from a battery-powered model, to say the least. A leaf blower and hedge trimmer followed. Fast-forward to last year, when MTD Products, maker of Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt and several other outdoor-gear brands, bought up the company. You can go to Lowe’s this year to check out the TB4200 and two other products that use the same 40-volt battery. But be warned: They don’t come cheap.

The Rundown

The straight-shaft TB4200 sells for $279 with the trimmer, one 40V lithium-ion battery and a charger. The sibling products, the Model TB4400 hedge trimmer and Model TB4300 leaf blower, cost the same. All three, however, come in B versions (for barebones) without the battery and charger, for $100 less apiece; the barebones string trimmer, for example, is the Model TB4200B. More introductions are expected.

Troy-Bilt Core TB4200 string trimmer
The TB4200’s power meter

The battery slides in at the opposite end from the cutting head, and there’s no way to insert it improperly and screw things up. Pressing its charge-meter button lights up to four indicators showing you the battery’s remaining power. And while you’re running the trimmer, you can’t miss the onboard power meter. The trimmer defaults to Eco Mode (a feature Core Outdoor Power’s original CGT400 lacked), but you can press the boost button for incrementally more muscle.

To run the trimmer, you release the throttle lockout and press the throttle control, which lets you vary speed. For more line, you bump the cutting head with the trimmer at high speed. The recommended line is 0.095-inch, but you can use line as light as 0.080. And installing new line is a snap.

Taking it for a Spin

We tried out the TB4200 in a variety of applications: slightly overgrown grass, the line of lawn-meets-asphalt and myriad dense weeds, including a pervasive onslaught of ground elder, also called goutweed and lots of other names—some unprintable. At straight grass trimming, it ran smoothly and cleanly. The trimmer’s weight, about 12 pounds, is nearly as much as the typical straight-shaft gas trimmer, but it’s well balanced. Even in a narrow space between some tiger lilies and a stone wall, a light touch on the throttle trimmed only as intended. And while nowhere in the manual does Troy-Bilt claim that the trimmer is suitable for edging, we somehow managed to etch out a line.

It’s in the dense weeds that the TB4200 truly makes its name, for it tore through the goutweed as if it were personal, and that was in Eco Mode. In the Boost Modes, it showed even more oomph—though of course weeds of that species will need cutting back a couple more seasons till it takes the hint. Over an hour, stop and go, the trimmer’s 4-amp-hour battery held out till the job was done. It recharged in well under an hour, roughly at the claimed 45 minutes.

The Verdict

The Troy-Bilt Core, Model TB4200, weighs more than you might want, making it most suitable for either short trimming sessions or longer tasks by someone in very good shape. And the barebones version, sans battery and charger, costs what the typical cordless-electric string trimmer does with a battery. But when you see what this trimmer can do, particularly in the rough, you might be willing to shrug off both concerns—particularly if you’re interested in the other Troy-Bilt Core tools as well.

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