Get handheld equipment geared up for spring

Photo: Husqvarna
REEVALUATE It’s important to review local regulations and ensure equipment falls within them. Photo: Husqvarna
Photo: Husqvarna
It’s important to review local regulations and ensure equipment falls within them. Photo: Husqvarna

Spring is a critical time for landscaping businesses. They are in the process of getting their equipment going again after being stored for the winter, and crews are starting to clear out the cobwebs and get ready for a busy spring season. Here’s what some top handheld equipment experts recommend to get started on the right foot.

Better safe than sorry

Equipment safety should be top of mind according to all of the experts we spoke with, and a large part of that is maintenance. Per Kvarby, director of global product management for Husqvarna, says, “As you start up any business, you want to make sure that your equipment is serviced appropriately and is ready for the season.”

This includes examining all safety features, such as chain brakes and chain catchers on chainsaws and harnesses on blowers. Check for signs of breakage and leaking, check spark plugs and filters and ensure that guards are securely in place.

Be sure to reference the manuals for your equipment and review all the safety features in those guides, adds Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager for Stihl.

For specific types of handheld tools, the experts recommend a few different things to check on. Phelps advises the following:

  • For trimmers, ensure the interlocks are in place and working;
  • For spools of dried-out string trimmer line that have been stored for an extended amount of time, rehydrate the trimmer line by placing it in a bucket of water overnight; and
  • When present, spark arrestors should be clean and in good condition. Gummed-up arrestors can create pressure, preventing the engine from having a free flow of exhaust, stalling out and affecting the equipment’s performance.

Both Stihl and Husqvarna offer support such as training and online resources for contractors needing to brush up on equipment safety and maintenance.

And don’t forget the proper protective equipment necessary to safeguard against injury when operating equipment — face shields, chaps and hearing protection should be available and accessible for all operators on the job site.

Photo: Stihl
It can be beneficial for crew members to relearn how to safely operate equipment. Photo: Stihl

Train for success

Longtime operators should also be properly trained on equipment, Phelps says, even if it’s just a newer model of a piece of equipment they are familiar with.

“I know that over the years, the starting mechanisms for us have changed,” he says, cautioning that operators who try to start a piece of the equipment the way they’ve always started it could quickly flood the unit.

Paul Vanderwal, senior global product manager for Oregon Professional Products, says crews doing extensive edging to start the season should go heavy on the edger blades on the first deep cut to make a clean border for the rest of the season.

Charge your batteries

Vanderwal says Oregon is seeing more professional landscapers adopt battery-powered equipment, which is an indicator that these machines are beginning to offer power and durability that approaches gas power. Rather than mixing and loading up fuel, he says it’s a matter of “making sure you’ve got batteries charged and then loading up the trailer.”

Kvarby adds that it’s important to keep consumables such as chainsaw chains sharp and have plenty of trimmer line available.

Aside from ensuring you’ve got sharp edges and enough power, considerations specific to battery-powered equipment may include the following, according to Phelps:

  • Inspecting electrical contacts and checking for damage and dirt in the area where the battery is inserted;
  • Checking the battery housing for any cracks or deformities; and
  • Examining cables that sometimes attach the battery to the unit for fraying or breaks.

Get smart about regulations

The start of the season is also a good time to get up to speed on local guidelines or laws, Phelps says.

More communities are either banning or restricting the use of two-cycle equipment for noise and emissions, which is one of the reasons some landscapers have turned to battery-powered equipment.

There’s a lot to keep in mind at the beginning of the season, but “it’s worth the few extra hours to go through these (safety and maintenance) procedures,” Phelps says. “Once (the season) starts, then there’s really no time.”

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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