Gardening Articles: Care :: Tools & Equipment
Chipper Vacs Make Fall Cleanup a Snap (page 3 of 4)
by Bill Crosby
Wheels and Drives
How much maneuvering will you have to do in your garden-- Most models have four fixed wheels, but several kinds have pivoting front wheels that give heavy machines much greater maneuverability. With light machines, it's generally not an issue, because you can jockey them around by pushing down on the handle and pivoting the machine on the two rear wheels.
Big chipper vacs are heavy. If you want a big machine or have a hilly yard, buy a self-propelled model. The biggest machines offer several forward speeds and a reverse gear. A self-propelled chipper vac should have, at minimum, a
5-horsepower (hp) engine; one distributor insisted that an 8-hp rating was as low as he'd want for a powered drive.
What Chipper Vacs Can't Do
"These products are for routine yard-cleaning rather than tree-trimming. They're not as heavy-duty as a full-on chipper shredder, but small limbs are no problem at all," Mike Zeidler at Concord Garden Equipment, a California Troy-Bilt dealer, told me.
Think of them as an everyday product, and you'll rarely encounter problems. Sometimes, however, the unexpected happens, and in places with heavy leaf drop, the machine may jam. "If you try to feed too much, you'll jam it up, but that's true with any chipper or shredder," said Chris Randall, service technician at Golden Eagle.
When you shop for a chipper vac, consider certain features relative to weather and leaf load. For instance, many of these machines don't operate well with wet leaves. If you have many deciduous trees and think leaves may cause clogging, select a machine that's easy to clean out. Some manufacturers make the flywheel housings easily accessible; others make it torture to get to the clog.
"The biggest problem with these machines is that people misuse them; they're not really vacuums-they need turf. They're great on grass, but not so great on cement," says Ron Burchfield, territory manager for Scotsco, Inc., in Sacramento. Beltran agrees: "They're not designed for hardscape vacuuming, where you'll end up with a small dust storm. On dirt, you'll end up looking like [the Peanuts comic-strip character] Pigpen."
The Obvious Stuff
Remember: Chipper vacs are serious tools and should be treated with respect. Read the manual, wear proper clothing and eye protection, and keep children clear of the machine. When your chipper vac jams, shut it off, make sure it has stopped completely, disconnect the spark plug, and only then clear the clog.