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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Ethanol in Your Fuel: Just Say No

Ethanol free fuel
TruFuel ethanol-free fuel at Home Depot

Gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) has been offered for sale in America since mid-2012. But the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t addressed the question of how to keep the average joe from putting it into lawn mowers, generators and other outdoor power equipment.

It isn’t that the agency didn’t know that gasoline with higher than 10% ethanol was bad for small engines. The Department of Energy studied that very thing in a 2008 report (PDF), with a focus not only on vehicles but also outdoor gear, including pressure washers, leaf blowers, generators and string trimmers. Among problems the researchers found when using E15 or blends with even more ethanol:

  • A Honda generator idled erratically while running fuel with 20% ethanol (E20).
  • Three Weed Eater Featherlite leaf blowers running with fuels higher than E10 failed or would not idle.
  • A Stihl FS 90 string trimmer ran at such a high idle on E15 and E20 that its clutch engaged by itself.

With all machines tested, average exhaust temperatures rose proportionately to ethanol content. In other words, the more ethanol the fuel contained, the hotter these products ran.

None of this apparently swayed the EPA, which merely says that E15, by law, cannot be used in any engines other than those in cars model-year 2001 or later, except for those of flex-fuel vehicles. But unless you’re paying attention, richer ethanol blends than E10 are bound to make it into your gear eventually. Consider, for instance, a so-called blender pump—one pump used to deliver everything from E10 to E85, the level used in flex-fuel vehicles. Even if you chose E10 to fill up your gas can, if the customer before you bought E85, what remains in the hose will make it into your can, and ultimately into your mower, string trimmer or chain saw.

But you don’t have to take it. Two options:

At the Pump

They’re not easy to find, but some gas stations do include ethanol-free fuel (called E0) as an option. Websites such as pure-gas.org and Buy Real Gas list stations that sell it. And if you live near any kind of seaport, you’ll find that gas stations serving boat owners tend to offer ethanol-free gas. In all cases, however, call first—and expect this fuel to cost more than you’re used to paying.

On the Shelf

It’s taken a few years, but it’s now hard to walk into a home center or Sears outdoor-gear department and not see multiple brands of canned ethanol-free fuel. Some is for handheld machines that require a 40:1 or 50:1 fuel-to-oil ratio; the gas includes both stabilizer and the right amount of oil for two-stroke engines. And some are for four-cycles engines like those found in mowers, snowblowers, and generators. (These products also include stabilizer.) One great feature: It lasts two years once opened. TruFuel might be the most common brand, though Sears sells it under the Craftsman brand. And most manufacturers now sell E0 in their own brands, such as Echo, Husqvarna and Stihl.

This fuel is even more expensive than marine fuel—a quart can typically costs about $6. But for a little perspective, don’t think about the national average retail price, $2.225 per gallon as of yesterday. Think instead of how much you pay for that wonderful new cold-brew coffee at Starbucks.

At an average $3.60 for a 16-ounce serving, it costs $7.20 per quart—not counting a tip for the barista—which is $1.20 more than the TruFuel. Sure, the coffee is bound to taste much better than a fluid that was never intended for human consumption. But your body can’t tell the difference between Starbucks and Maxwell House. Use only pure gasoline in well-maintained outdoor power gear, and it will thank you for years.

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