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Yes, two-cycle engines make more power per displacement and weight unit than four-cycle engines, which makes them engines of choice for go-fast go-karts, small motorcycles, and most handheld yard tools like string trimmers and blowers. But truthfully, they’re a mess. Besides forcing you to keep a separate gas can around the garage just for the two-cycle’s gas-oil mix, they’re also finicky as hell and not much fun to work on. (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m parroting my dad here. He did a lot of small engine repair and he hated ’em. I’ve been of the throw-it-away-when-it-quits camp, which is embarrassing.)

That’s why these four-cycle models from Ryobi caught my eye. They offer wheeled trimmers and edgers in the line, too, but it’s easy to find those from other sources with a nice Briggs and Stratton on top. But the four-cycle blowers and string trimmers just seem like a great idea.

The Ryobi site doesn’t say a whole lot about power or other features, but c’mon — do we really care how much torque or HP a string trimmer makes? It chops weeds, right? It’s not exactly light at 9.1 lbs., but that doesn’t sound too bad, especially if you (like me) would just use it once a week or so. (I’m guessing that pros will want to stick with the two-cycles.)

They call the pictured model a “power head” because it’s designed to work with all the Ryobi Expandi-it attachments, including a whole bunch of different-shaped trimmers ends, a cultivator, a pruner, a brush cutter, and even a hedge trimmer. They also offer a straight up curved-shaft model.

The power head pictured above runs $150 at Home Depot right now, and I actually spotted a refurbished model on Google shopping for sale at just $80. Expect to pay around $50-$80 for various attachments, with the more unusual ones on the top end of the pricing.

4-Cycle Power Head [Ryobi]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

26 Responses to Ryobi’s 4-Cycle Handheld Yard Tools

  1. Keith says:

    I’ve had a Troy Bilt 4-cycle trimmer for 6 years. They no longer make it but it has worked great. Less noise, less maintenance, no gas mixing, and always starts.

    My dad has a similar view of 2-cycle engines and recommended I get the one I have, I have never been sorry.

    From what I have heard about Ryobi, this trimmer/engine should have similar performance.

  2. phil says:

    Let me see if I get this, mixing your 2 stroke gas makes a HUGE mess, but changing your oil on a four cycle is a cleaner process. Opening a clean bottle of 2 stroke oil and dumping it in a fairly clean gas can makes almost no mess, compared to the act of performing and oil and filter change. I have even gotten good and quick enough mixing gas-n-oil that I cannot even smell gas on my hands when I’m done. But, when changing the oil in my tractor, I need a couple of hand washings.
    I’ll keep my ECHOs, thank you. For anyone else having trouble with your 2 stroke being finicky, I’d suggest getting an ECHO or at least a Stihl. These seem to start when you want to use them. Which here in the subtropics, is about daily, all year long. Even the pruner or the blower that sits most of the time, they also start right up.
    The only two strokes that ever gave me fits about being finicky were the old Lawn Boy mowers.
    Just my $0.02.

  3. Sprague says:

    I’ve had a 2-stroke Homelite trimmer for 12 years. The thing has performed better than I had ever expected. It was a $99 special.

    That being said, i would rather have a 4 stroke. I don’t like messing with the oil/gas mix. I like the idea that the 4-stroke will burn cleaner. Right now the whole back half of my trimmer is coated with oil residue from the fuel/oil mix. It is also pretty loud and i would think the 4-stroke would be better from that point.

    I doubt i will try one out until my trusty red one keels over, that would be asking for trouble. 🙂

  4. Ben says:

    I wonder if they mean more polluting by messier. Doesn’t a two stroke put out a ton of hydrocarbons? Out here in California it might be big selling point what with all the “Green” lanscapers.

  5. Mac says:

    My 10 year old Ryobi 2 stroke weed wacker starts within 6 pulls every spring. Pisses me off too, I’m ready to upgrade to a Sthil/Echo, but it must know, ’cause it hasn’t died yet!

    * Disclaimer: I do take care of it, so I may be helping its longevity.

  6. shotdog says:

    I’m afraid I’ll have to take issue with your “nice Briggs & Stratton on top.” I bought a new snowblower powered by a Briggs. The manual suggests changing the break in oil after 5 hours of operation. I jumped the gun and drained it out after four hours. The amount of metal shavings that drained out with the oil was criminally negligent. I will avoid any equipment bearing a Briggs power unit. Machinery costs too much today to gamble on lousy quality and inattention to detail. sd

  7. Phil says:

    Here’s something that does not make sense. I hear a TON of people complaining about “having to keep two gas cans around” because of these 4-stroke trimmers and such, since their other gear needs a mix. I suppose that none of these guys have a lawnmower or tractor or other 4-stroke powered equipment in their stable. Otherwise, you already HAVE two different fuel cans. Sorry to remind you. Otherwise, go back to pushing that antique Lawn Boy 2-stroker and ignore the preceding.

    @shotdog: I don’t care which brand of engine it is, the first oil change that removes the break-in oil will look like brown metallic paint. About the only ones that might not are larger engines equipped with oil filters. The metal particles are still there, try cutting open the filter to find them. I have gear with Briggs, Kohler, Honda, Generac and Robin engines, and each and every one that had their first oil change looked the same. Even the second, longer-used oil came out a tad metallic. After that, the oil looks good. It means the engines are _broken in_ now. It’s the nature of the beasts.

  8. Phil says:

    I have an original Ryobi 4-stroke trimmer I bought new in the early/mid 90s. I recently had to replace the primer bulb, fuel cap and the fuel lines, but it is still going strong. This was the first commercially available consumer 4-stroker on a handheld, and it was pretty good for it’s time. Still is. I recently bought a Troy-Bilt 4-stroker to compliment it and use all the attachments I have between the two. I prefer the quieter operation compared to my Echo trimmer and the big Stihl brushcutter I also have. They are a bit on the heavy side, but I can handle it. My only complaint with either one is the occasional dribbling of oil from the breathers of either one of these units if they get tipped over in storage.

  9. Brau says:

    I just gotta agree with Phil. There’s nothing arduous about mixing a bit of gas and oil. Conversely, performing oil changes are always messy and require visits to local recycling depots to dispose of the old oil. Today’s oils allow a 50:1 ratio which burns pretty damn clean compared to the olden days when 16:1 or 32:1 wasn’t uncommon (My old craftsman chainsaw manual recommended 16:1), meaning a trail of blue smoke wafting down the street. . The only thing that scares me is the off chance that someone kills my 2 stroke by NOT using mixed gas … as is what happened to my brother’s lawnboy mower when he lent it out.

  10. ShopMonger says:

    Ok so Phil, one thing about messy is also messy when it comes to environment, the two stroke still burns oil into the atmosphere, and a 4 stroke can be tuned to burn really clean. And yes, I have a lawn mower and a tractor and almost all of my equipment in 4 stroke.
    I agree that it easy to do, but if i don’t have to then that would be great. And think of the cost saving for some large operations, that don’t have to have 2 can’s nor buy the two stroke oil. yes changing them can be messy, but the oil can then be recycled.
    I am a firm believer that all two strokes should be outlawed except for commercial use, and be sold only with a license. There has been so many strides in modern machining that the 4 stroke equivalents are now close, enough. That we could easily do without the 2 stroke…..

    As for the “Briggs on Top” They are still one of the most popular engines around, they are the chevy of the small engine world, not the smoothest, not the fastest, but there are millions around, and if cared for, they will run for ever.

    ShopMonger

  11. Chris says:

    Here’s one for you, and I don’t have any two-stroke tools that I’m using regularly at the moment, so I have no idea…

    Do two-strokes run as well on modern “gasohol” (10% ethanol blend) as they did on “pure” gasoline? Do they run better or worse than four-strokes on the same fuel?

    A couple things worth thinking about since ethanol-free gasoline is becoming harder and harder to find.

    cl

  12. Mike says:

    I have this trimmer and I upgraded from a 2 cycle trimmer and I also have the edger attachment for this trimmer. I must say it is nice being able to get the trimmer started after a couple pulls. Also not mixing the gas/oil is convenient. I am not saying its not as messy but convenient yes.

    As far as the power goes my “Power Head” puts out enough power to run the edger up and down my 75′ driveway without hesitation and the trimmer will do some damage if not careful. I have already put some holes in my siding and broken some pieces off the corner siding channels.

    That is my input on this power head and so far in terms of power/reliability/performance I am more than happy after fighting with my old 2 cycle.

  13. Parker_ says:

    2-strokes are so obnoxious. You can smell when they are around and know you are breathing additional crap. I especially despise the back-back leaf blowers where typically people are blowing around dust and pollen off the ground as well as making dirty exhaust from the engine. There is also the loud noise. Many peaceful weekend times are interrupted by a 2-stroke. I even have had to listen to them in the background of some podcasts.

  14. Darren says:

    2 strokes have more power and less weight. Easy choice for me.

  15. Darren says:

    I would also point out that the application in this case is primarily a string trimmer. For a weedwacker or a chainsaw the 2 stroke works best. My mower and tiller are 4 strokes. I just use what works best. Having more than 1 gas can is no big deal. You should see all the other crap I own.

  16. Rick says:

    @ Keith – it is foolish and short-sighted to say that the 4 stroke is less maintenance than a 2 stroke. The 2 is as maintenance free as possible – mix your gas and be done with the annoying act of having to check the crankcase for proper fill/cleanliness at every fillup. I’ve foung in all my years that usually people who are unfamiliar with certain things remain that way as it’s just too ‘foreign’ to them.
    phil – I got rid on my Lawn Boys in the early 70’s for Briggs & Strattons and have never looked back. Because they were very dependent on fuel mix/quality/age of the mix. Next!
    Sprague – do you hang your trimmer vertically? That usually leads to leaks every time the fuel tank is above the carb…makes an aweful mess.
    Mac – 6 pulls? My equipment is usually ready to work in less than three pulls.
    (Run them completely out of gas before storing, use fresh gas that is stabilized) So save your elbow, just give your present trimmer to your brother-in-law and trade up. Heck, Sears has a trimmer that starts with your cordless drill to help some people save their elbow.
    Shotdog – Metal shavings are a very common sight in all young engines. Just follow the mfrs recommended lube schedule (and other instructions) and you’ll be rewarded with long service.
    Phil – People complaining of ‘one more gas can’ to deal with…perhaps they are the types that need the mixed canto be color-coded a different color.
    2 strokes have far more power than the equivalent 4 stroker – I’m not willing to give up scalpel-sharpness to work with butter knife sharpness.
    Brau – Some people will tell you anything to get you to lend them an item and it never turns out well in the end.
    ShopMonger – Live and let live…we don’t need more gov’t in our lives…case in point – look what their meddling has done to one of the simplest of items in regular use by everyone…the gas can. Their meddling has ruined all consumer-type gas cans. Now to get a common-sense gas can, you’ve got to get a lab-quality storage device. Outlawing 2 strokes and licensing? In a word…NO. Not even joking. 4 strokes are only for the casual user. The power users will still need the 2 stroke.
    Chris – 2Ts run almost as well on the 10% stuff if it’s fresh and use stabil’s alcohol stabilizer.
    Parker – Try to protect your sensitive breathing with the appropriate filter mask. However, I have to agree that the backpack blowers are annoying and could maintain adequate performance with a 4T engine.
    Long Live the Two Strokes!

  17. Paul says:

    I own an approx year 2001-3 or so ryobi 4 cycle trimmer, its the heavy duty model that has the straight shaft and geared head. It runs very reliably and is idles down very low and quite when not trimming. But it weights a TON. I cannot handle it for more than 30 even with its shoulder strap. I got this one used from my dad when he moved so its my spare. I still like my 1998 era echo 21cc curved shaft trimmer. Its super light weight and takes the very thick string, a very capable machine.

    I’m sort of in the edge on the 2 cycle vs 4 cycle, I’m leaning toward 2 cycle. Being a boater and having grown up on 2 cycle outboards that i can lift then buying a 15hp 4 cycle that nearly breaks my back every time i need to move it. It also doesn’t seem to make the same get-up-and-go my old 2 cycle did! makes me think its too bad the emissions stds are forcing builders to go to 4 cycles in areas where 2 cycles really excel.

  18. Paul says:

    This post is aimed at the guy hating the 2 cycle smoke and stink. This is a product of a poorly running engine. Just about any modern 2 cycle will have little or no smoke after start-up and should run quite clean on a nice lean mix of modern 2 cycle oil (which burns much better than the old stuff). The lawn trimmers are too small but larger 2 cycles get oil injection and computers just like your car would have and make them very efficient engines that make a lot of power for their size and weight, that’s just hard to do when you are talking about a single cylinder hand held device. The next thing you’ll need is a fuel injection system for your 4-cycle self propelled lawn mower. IMO when you are using a push power and burning maybe 5 gallons a season in it the overall efficiency and “green-ness” of the engine would not be an enormous concern, it just isn’t burning enough fuel to make a it really matter.

  19. dave says:

    Cheap consumer grade engines in yard tools don’t handle ethanol (or even summer lower emissions gas blends) very well, there tends to be a marked decrease in RPM and throttle response, but unless the carb needs cleaned or the gas has gone quite stale, they’ll run.

    Commercial grade engines typically run MUCH better on stale gas, ethanol blends, summer gas, etc. It’s the carb that makes the difference.

    I’ll gladly use a 4 cycle with any tool where I don’t have to support the weight of the engine. Lawnmower, tiller, ground-riding edger, etc. but for the rest, 2 cycle suits my needs.

  20. Robert Burnham says:

    Ryobi four cycle seized up on me as the oil reservoir was low. Not empty just low and when I used the tree trimmer you can put it in different positions. I think this caused it to stall out and seize up. Never had anything like this happen to me in 50 years of working with motorized tools.

  21. Mark says:

    I have gone though 2 4-stroke Ryobi’s. The first one I have to say I was not sufficiently diligent on maintaining engine oil lubrication levels. what I thought was a lack of fuel was a lack of lubrication. Although at the time I did not give it much thought since I had finished weed wack’in. I did not know it at the time since I was through with my weed maintenance. When I needed to start weed wack’in again I found I was wrong in thinking I was previously out of fuel. I bought a second Ryobi 4-stroke but just the engine end, since you can buy it without attachments. I thought I just needed to be more careful and watch the oil level more closely. Unfortunately, after some use and things were fine plus being careful on oil levels adding after every time I refueled. Same thing! Came back to start the Ryobi and it had seized up as well. The pull string would not budge. I checked the oil level and it was empty. I could not believe it. Perhaps, just could not see the oil levels when last used since I was working under my yard lighting. I had felt and observed oil in the reservoir. Not likely. Apparently, there was insufficient light and should have used a flashlight to peer into the reservoir. 2nd mistake I suppose. My issue with this unit is it’s lousy access to the oil fill and check port. It is also awkward to pour into. I would have liked the reservoir to have been larger since it seems to really go through oil. I had not run the Ryobi very long either and never without refilling the reservoir with oil after every fueling. I am at a loss since I do have attachments for it. I was told that the Husqvarna that attachment for the Ryobi were inter-changable with the Husqvarna. Can anyone confirm this?

  22. mike baronowski says:

    bought a Ryobi 4 stroke unit last year with several of the attachable units. Loved it. Toward the end of the year it started becoming difficult to start, but it would still perform.

    I only use non-ethanol fuel in all my small engines.

    Winterized the unit by emptying the tank and running out any fuel.

    When I went to restart this year, it would run. It would start, but when I attempted to raise the rpm’s it would die.

    Found the fuel lines which were black plastic had crumbled and broken apart in the tank body. I mean these lines were virtually disintegrated into a Grey powder. From trying to start the unit, the powder had moved into the carburetor and plugged up the tiny passages it contains. Took it to the shop and they said they tried but cannot clear the carb. Since I already own the attachment heads I have bought a new unit recently.

    I noticed that since last year Ryobi has changed their gas line material and gone away from the black plastic lines that were on my first unit.

    I retained the black lines that were on the outside of the old unit and have placed them in gasoline to soak, After tree weeks they are breaking up like the ones that were in the tank of my original head.

  23. melissa luong says:

    my ryobe dont start please help

  24. melissa luong says:

    where can you chang the starder

  25. Ed Koch says:

    I have a Ryobi 4 stroke weed trimer model RY34001. It is two years old this month. While using it yesterday it died. The problem is very low compression. I took it to the an authorized repair shop. They said that these are basically a throw away units. Tomorrow I will buying what I should have bought to begin with, a Stihl. You get what you pay for in this case.

  26. Dick Burns says:

    I’ll stick to my Chevy SBC powered tools. I mow my lawn in 0-60MPH, bulldoze a tree, turn over a mountain of dirt, and mulch things into confetti. All this while wearing jeans, a wife beater, choice fishing hat, flip-flops, and a tall can of American made beer. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 or 4 stroke. As long as it’s loud, you can strap it to things, put it between your legs, ride it, or just draw attention with it. That’s how we do it in the good-ole USA.

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