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weed whacker

Weed whackers won't damage rocks, but be careful when using them around trees so that you don't damage the bark. The bark is the tree's life-support system and, if damaged, the tree can die.

The gas-powered string trimmer, aka weed whacker, is less complicated than a lawn mower, so many people don't know that it can benefit from a tune-up.

But it can.

Here are tips from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute:

• Clean and visually inspect your equipment. Wipe it down with a rag or cloth and remove any dirt or debris. Look for loose screws, missing parts, or signs of damage.

• Remove and inspect the spark plug. If the electrode looks worn, replace the spark plug. Whether you install a brand new spark plug or plan to use the old one, use a spark plug gapping tool to set the proper gap. Information on this should be found in your owner's manual.

• Inspect and replace the line. Pull the trimmer line spool out and remove any leftover line from last season. The line can get brittle over time. Rewind with new line and reinstall the head.

• Examine the air filter. Remove the cover and the air filter. Inspect the air filter carefully not only to see if it needs to be cleaned, but also to make sure it does not have any holes in it. Holes will let dirt enter the engine, causing damage.

• Check the controls. Start with the on/off switch. It should click on and off. Pull the starter rope all the way out and check for cuts, nicks, and frayed spots. Replace it if you see any signs of damage. Test the throttle for smooth operation and check the choke and primer bulb.

• Drain any old fuel. If you did not empty your trimmer’s fuel tank in the fall, drain your tank now. Most fuels today contain ethanol which can phase separate into alcohol and water and cause damage to your mower’s engine. Follow safe handling procedures and dispose of old fuel properly.

• Protect your power by using the right fuel. Always use E10 or less fuel. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment, including your string trimmer. Higher ethanol blended fuels may damage or destroy outdoor power equipment.

For more information about safe fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

Editor's note: Many people use their weed whackers to level the grass growing next to trees. But a big problem can develop if your weed whacker chips into the bark. Many trees die because repeated "whacking" has eliminated the bark, thereby cutting off the tree's means of getting water and nutrients.

So be careful to keep your weed whacker away from the bark.

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