Six Worx Leaf Blowers Against the Deluge

WORX WG591 56V Turbine Leaf Blower / Credit: WorxJet-engine technology has gotten a lot of exposure lately. Leaf-blower manufacturers are racing to incorporate miniature turbines into their products—ironic since it’s the leaves, not the leaf blowers, that are supposed to go flying. Among these companies is Worx, a maker of corded and battery-powered outdoor gear, which asked Tool to Power to evaluate six of its handheld blowers.

We tested these half-dozen models, four corded and two cordless, using a mostly level section of lawn measuring 15 by 25 feet on a day with a variable breeze of less than 10 mph. Our reference machine: a Stihl BG55 gas-powered handheld, not top of the line but respectable. The Stihl completed the test course—blowing leaves to behind one line and then back—in about 11 minutes, leaving reasonably clean grass behind it.

Our leaves were a combination of loose and clumping, mostly oak leaves that stubbornly clung to whatever they could. For the heaviest leaf work, of course, nothing beats a backpack or even wheeled blower. But the best of these Worx handhelds could handle lesser jobs.

Models in this review: WORX TURBINE450 Blower, Model WG517 • WORX TURBINE400 Blower, Model WG516 • WORX TURBINE600 Blower, Model WG520WORX TURBINEFUSION Blower/Vac/Mulcher, Model WG510WORX TURBINE20V Cordless Blower, Model WG546.2WORX TURBINE56V Cordless Blower, Model WG591 The six blowers share a number of common features. All have a wide-mouth nozzle that ordinarily compromises blowing power. While we’d be curious to see how a flatter-tip nozzle would fare against near-frozen clumps of leaves, we saw no weakness among the better models. The air intake is in the rear of each model, so there’s no penalty for being left-handed, as with many other models. (The intake on those can pull at your clothes.)

All the corded models have a cord-retention hook, but we found the one on those models cumbersome. If you’re using a common 14-gauge extension cord (what you need for a 100-foot length), you’ll have to really work at pushing a loop of the cord through the attachment and getting it under the hook. What if you’re using a 12-gauge, 150-foot cord? Come up with another way to keep the cord steady, such as the manuals’ recommendation of tying together the cords of both the blower and your extension cord, in a loose overhand knot, before plugging in the blower.

The controls are easily accessible, though we recommend you wear a glove on the grip hand if you’ll be blowing leaves for hours straight. And while the power switch is similar on all six, the models vary by speed options. Three are variable-speed, and two have turbo settings that had plenty of power—though they weren’t the very fastest of the pack.

You can look at the warranty one of two ways: as a two-year that rewards you with another year if you register within 30 days—or as a three-year that penalizes you a year if you don’t register promptly. Either way, do yourself a favor and register online or snail-mail the card. But you might not have a choice should a family member, for instance, shop in October for a Worx blower that you’ll get as a Christmas gift.

Read on for reviews of all six models, which varied significantly in performance.

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WORX TURBINE450 Blower, Model WG517
WORX_Turbine450_WG517 Leaf Blower / Credit: WorxThe WG517 is one deceptive leaf blower, but it isn’t that Worx misrepresents it. It’s that at $40, you might expect less. We found it light and easy to hold at 6.4 pounds, making it a good model for women. The range of its variable speed, however, makes it a good all-around corded blower for anyone.

At its slowest, the WG517 is fine for sweeping decks and walks, barely requiring hearing protection; you wouldn’t want that speed for anything but light leaf work. Yet at its turbo mode, the WG517 outraced the Stihl by a minute.

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WORX TURBINE400 Blower, Model WG516
The $40 WG516, sold primarily at Walmart, bears a close resemblance to the WORX TURBINE450 Blower, Model WG517, but it offers a narrower range of speed. We found it just as light and easy to hold, making it also a good model for women, but its power on both speeds is enough to require hearing protection.

The corded WG516’s value depends on why you buy a leaf blower. It matched our reference Stihl BG55 for speed, pushing our test leaves back and forth in 11 minutes. That makes it fine for moderate leaf work. But at its slow speed, it took only about two minutes more. So if you want a leaf blower that not only bosses around your leaves but can clear your deck, walk or patio without kicking up a cloud of dust, consider looking elsewhere—perhaps at the same-priced WG517.

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Worx Turbine600 WG520 leaf blower / Credit: WorxWORX TURBINE600 Blower, Model WG520

For only $20 more than the WG516 and WG517, the $60 TURBINE600 Blower, Model WG520, weighs the same but uses more amps and, in exchange, had some of the best airflow of the bunch. We tested this corded blower at both extremes of its variable-speed range.

At its slowest, the WG520 took 17 minutes to blow our test leaves back and forth in test area. (Consider this speed for sweeping and light leaf work.) But at its fastest, the WG520’s 600-cubic-feet-per-minute rating came through: eight minutes, faster even than models with turbo settings. It weighs 6.4 pounds, making it also lightweight enough for women—but its power is enough for moderate clearing. Use hearing protection even for the lowest speed.

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WORX TURBINEFUSION Blower/Vac/Mulcher, Model WG510
Worx TURBINEFUSION WG510 Leaf Blower / Credit: WorxThe notion of vacuuming up your leaves can sound glamorous. But once you factor in the myriad twigs, acorns and other debris that tends to catch in the impeller, reality sets in. The $90 WG510, the only model tested that can vacuum as well as blow, is also the only one with a metal impeller. At its slow speed, this corded blower did roughly as well as the WORX TURBINE600 Blower, Model WG520, making it best suited for decks, walks and light leaf work. Its fast speed, while not blazing, was just behind the speed of the gas-powered Stihl BG55. You’ll want hearing protection at any speed.

For vacuuming, the WG510 won’t knock your socks off. The model is heavier than the usual electric model, 9.7 pounds but 11 pounds in bagging mode, and you’ll be emptying the bag often since it isn’t especially large. But there are two pluses. First, the WG510 blows and vacuums through the same nozzle, actually reversing direction for vacuuming. (In this case, the wide nozzle comes in very handy.) Second, while we can’t be sure it achieves the claimed 24:1 ratio Worx claims it will reduce your leaf piles, what filled the bag was some of the finest mulching we’ve seen. If you’re sure you want to vacuum leaves, also consider the Toro Ultra corded electrics, which cost less, deliver plenty of power and have larger bags. Otherwise, for $30 less you can get the WG520.

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WORX TURBINE20V Cordless Blower, Model WG546.2
Worx WG546.2 leaf blower / Credit: WorxThe $120 Model WG546.2, one of two cordless models we tested, is an improvement over the prior Model WG546 in that, for $20 more, it comes with two 20-volt, lithium-ion batteries. And if you’re trying to do even moderate leaf work, you’ll need both batteries and maybe a third. This model, by its performance against the 56-volt WG591, clearly shows how far cordless technology has come.

Among pluses of this model, it’s lightweight at 5.7 pounds, making it suitable for women as well as men. The rubberized grip, found on all these models but the WG516 and WG517, felt comfortable. And at the quieter of its two speeds, you don’t need hearing protection.

The two-speed WG546.2 was at its best in its faster speed, at which it took more than 14 minutes to complete our test course. In the slow speed, though, this model was clearly not up to the task—taking a plodding 38 minutes to complete the job. At both speeds, it needed both batteries. User reviews concur that it’s best for moving leaves along paved surfaces.

Run time on the slow speed was 18 minutes; in the fast speed, it was a mere eight. Charging with the included Model WA3742 then takes nearly five hours, an eternity by modern standards, but you can buy a 30-minute charger, the WA3847, for $50. The batteries are warranted for 12 months.

The same 20-volt battery that powers the WG546.2 can power several other tools, and the similar WG546 itself sells for just $50 without batteries or charger. Other 20-volt Worx products are a non-turbine leaf blower, a 12-inch string trimmer/edger, a 20-inch hedge trimmer, the JawSaw (a relatively safe, light-duty chain saw), a drill/driver, an impact driver, and an oscillating multitool for cutting, sawing, sanding and other tasks. These tools often sell in combination with one another and in battery-free versions for people who have more than enough 20-volt Worx batteries.

This model, unfortunately, is a prime example of where cordless technology still needed to improve. Its slowest speed is tied for slowest; its fastest took the longest of all tested. Clearly, it’s best for light to moderate tasks. But for heavier leaf work—or jobs you don’t have all day to do—look elsewhere, either at a corded model or a newer battery-powered blower such as the newer WG591.

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WORX TURBINE56V Cordless Blower, Model WG591
Worx has a lot of competition in lithium-ion battery-powered yard tools, chiefly from EGO and GreenWorks, but you could do a lot worse than the 56-volt WG591. At $200 it seems pricey compared to the others in this review. Compared to other top-performing cordless products, however, the price is right—and you get plenty for it.

WORX AIR 56V TURBINE Leaf Blower WG591 / Credit: WorxIf one of your criteria for a leaf blower is the ability to run it slowly to clear your deck or patio when you want to, the variable-speed WG591 complies. Its slowest speed matched that of the cordless WG546.2: a glacial 38 minutes. For getting debris off paved surfaces, that’s fine since you’ll find it goes much faster, too. Besides not needing hearing protection at this speed, you’ll also get about 55 minutes off the battery.

On a faster speed, the WG591 took 17 minutes for our test course—roughly matching the slow speeds of the WG510 and WG520. But then there’s turbo. At that speed, the WG591 matched the fast speed of the corded WG517, besting the gas-powered Stihl BG55 by a minute. Run times at these faster speeds are 19 and 10 minutes, respectively. The charge time was almost 85 minutes.

At 8.1 pounds, the WG591 is heavier than the other six except for the WG510 blower/vac, but its weight was less noticeable since the job took less time than with the WG546.2. Much of the weight is the 2.2-pound battery. But one drawback of this machine is its handling: As the model blows, especially at its turbo speed, it pushes back toward you. Above the slow speed, we recommend hearing protection.

As with the WG546.2, the same battery powers other Worx products. You can also buy the tool-only WG591 for just $90 if you already have the battery and charger. Also in the series are a 13-inch string trimmer/edger, 19-inch push mowers with and without caster wheels (both require two batteries), and a 24-inch hedge trimmer.

With the industry’s Green Industry & Equipment Expo coming up next month in Louisville, more cordless yard tools are surely on the way. But the leaves won’t wait. If you want a powerful cordless leaf blower for the coming fall, consider the WG591. For moderate leaf work, you won’t be disappointed.

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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 percent 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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