Easy Fixes for Garden Trimmers

A well functioning trimmer will keep your garden looking beautifully well-manicured all season long. Fine tuning the engine, lubricating the blades and replacing the line will ensure your trimmer is in top working order.

Easy Fixes for Garden Trimmers

The edge trimmer won’t start

Pre-season tune up

Edge trimmers are usually powered by small two-stroke engines that run on a mixture of gas (for power) and two-stroke oil (that lubricates the walls of the engine's cylinder).

  • Make sure you are using the correct mixture of gas and oil — the ratio will most likely be printed on the fuel cap or tank; the gas to oil ratio is typically around 40:1. Use the mixing bottle supplied with your machine to make up the fuel.
  • Drain and refill the fuel tank if you are using the machine for the first cut of the season — fuel/oil mix can go bad during the off-season.
  • Trimmers throw up a lot of dust while in use, so their air filters are prone to clogging. Open the filter cover, remove the filter and wash it in soapy water or gas. Allow it to dry before replacing.
  • Remove and clean the spark plug. If the contact at the very end is pitted or bent, install a new spark plug.
  • Lift the trimmer into the air by its starter cord. If the weight of the trimmer pulls out the cord, your engine compression may be too low and you should talk to a professional repairer.

My hedge trimmer is sluggish

Lubricate the blades for a quicker cut

The metal blades of a hedge trimmer can begin to stick with use, but can easily be revived with a little lubrication.

  • Spray light machine oil liberally onto both sides of the blades and run the hedge trimmer to lubricate between the blades. Be warned that some oil may flick off the blades, so wear eye protection and old clothes.
  • Let the oil soak between the blades for an hour or so, then carefully wipe away any excess.

Word to know


An engine is basically a pump, powered by the explosion of a fuel/air mixture. If the pump leaks, the engine works inefficiently or not at all. Compression is a measure of how well the engine cylinder holds air; low compression can mean a problem such as a worn seal or gasket, or a more serious crack in the engine itself.

My trimmer runs but doesn’t cut

Replace the plastic line

Trimmers cut by spinning a length of plastic line at high speed. The line wears down with use and can snap.

  • First, try to extend a new length of line by bumping the bottom of the trimmer on a firm surface while the machine is running. If no line extends, the line may be tangled or may have run out.
  • Remove the spool cartridge on the base of the trimmer.
  • You may see that the free end of the line is caught beneath the wound line; untangle the line and end-feed 15 centimetres (six inches) of the loose end through the hole in the trimmer head. Give the coiled line a quick spritz of WD-40 and reassemble the cartridge. If there is no line in the cartridge, install a new line according to instructions.

Make trimmers last

  •  Wear a pair of thick gloves to protect your hands from the blades.
  • Clean the cutting and protective surfaces of your trimmers of debris and sap, which can cause blades to jam.
  • Store all your tools in a dry shed or garage to prevent corrosion.
  • Always drain trimmers of fuel at the end of the cutting season.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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