How to Use a Whipper Snipper: Ultimate Guide

A whipper snipper (also known as a line trimmer or weed eater) is a very useful tool to have in your garden.

From edging your lawn, to tidying small shrubs and hedges, this tool will quickly become one of your favourite garden gadgets.

In this post, we cover some whipper snipper basics, what to do before using your whipper snipper, and how to use it for some common tasks around the yard.

Why use a whipper snipper?

The whipper snipper is an essential tool in any yardwork arsenal.

It has a spinning head that uses nylon cord to cut grass and weeds around edges and obstacles that can’t be reached with a lawn mower.

The top end of the shaft will generally have a handle with two levers, one for controlling the engine rotation speed and another for engaging the cutting blade.

Line trimmers make yard upkeep much easier because they allow you to reach places other tools just can’t access. They are lighter than hedge trimmers and brush cutters, giving you more agility so you can get into tighter spaces.

They use more flexible nylon cord instead of heavy metal blades, which makes them safer and easier to control.

Nylon cord is also less likely to cause damage when it hits walls or solid objects–the material will break away before causing damage unlike metal blades on hedge clippers or grass shears.

Line trimmers are also extremely versatile – they can be used for a variety of tasks around the garden.

So whether you’ve got some tall grass along your driveway’s edge or need to give your hedges an extra shape-up before summer comes round again: these handy tools are worth their weight in gold.

What you can do with a whipper snipper

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When it comes to your garden, you can mow the grass and call it a day. But what about those pesky weeds or overgrown edges?

A whipper snipper will easily cut through any of these problems.

Let’s explore some other jobs that you can use your whipper snipper for:

  • Edging the lawn. Trimming the edges of your lawn is a great way to maintain its shape and keep grass from encroaching onto paths, driveways and flowerbeds. Plus, it makes your garden look neat and tidy!
  • Cutting long grass. A whipper snipper is great for getting into difficult corners or tight places that are too small for a lawnmower to reach. And if you’re clearing away long grass or overgrown areas in your yard, using a whipper snipper is much easier than using shears or secateurs.
  • Other jobs around the garden. As well as cutting through excess grass around the outside of your home, you can also use a whipper snipper to trim weeds and other foliage in hard-to-reach places such as along fences, walls or under bushes.

How to put a whipper snipper cord on

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A whipper snipper cord, or line trimmer cord, is a flexible monofilament line used to cut grass and other plants near objects such as trees.

It’s typically sold in pre-measured lengths of 50 feet (15 metres) and should be replaced once it breaks or if its diameter decreases from wear.

The spool is the round plastic drum on which the new cutting cord will be wound.

The spool has an eyelet at one end that fits into an aperture on the whipper snipper housing. If your machine has two eyelets, make sure to loop your new line around both so it doesn’t fray when you’re operating the machine.

Keep in mind that each tool will be slightly different so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Before you start your whipper snipper

Before you start your whipper snipper, make sure to do the following:

  • Check your area for hazards like tree stumps or roots, rocks and stones.
  • Familiarise yourself with your whipper snipper. Read the manual and seek expert advice if appropriate.
  • Check the oil and fuel levels.
  • Make sure it has been stored correctly.
  • Make sure it is clean.
  • Check the safety features.
  • Ensure that it is well maintained; there are no broken or worn parts.
  • Check the cords if you have a corded model or make sure that the battery is charged if you have a cordless one.

How to use a whipper snipper to do edges

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Edging is one of the most common tasks that people use a whipper snipper for. Here are some important tips:

  • Cut at a 45 degree angle to get the best results.
  • Don’t cut too low or too fast, or you’ll end up cutting into the soil and damaging your trimmer.
  • Cut in a straight line from one side of the lawn to the other. Use the top of the trimmer guard as your guide for what constitutes straight (it’s designed for this very purpose).
  • Use a sweeping action as you go along.

Check out the video below for some common mistakes to avoid.

How to use a whipper snipper for weeds

When cutting tall grasses or weeds, you will get better and more accurate results if you make small cuts from the top of the plant and work your way down.

This is because whipper snippers are designed to cut only grass, not plants with thick stalks. For plants with thick stalks, use a pruner instead.

Can you cut grass with a whipper snipper?

You can cut grass with a line trimmer but it will take you a much longer time and your lawn won’t look very neat.

So stick to using your line trimmer for edging and for cutting long grass, weeds or other shrubbery that is difficult to get to with a mower or hedge clipper.

Do I need an edger or trimmer?

When it comes to landscaping, there are a few tools that are necessary for getting the job done. In this case, we’ll talk about the two most commonly used.

A lawn edger is great for creating a clean edge between your lawn and your gardens.

It also does a great job at creating very straight lines in places where you want them, such as along flower beds or walkways and driveways.

To edge with your line trimmer, you will need to be extremely steady on your feet as balance is key.

A line trimmer is best suited to getting around obstacles like trees and fence posts or along uneven surfaces such as hillsides or areas surrounded by rocks.

This can also be done with an edger but it will take much longer and be much harder to navigate around these types of things which makes using a line trimmer much more efficient in these instances.

Whipper snipper safety

To stay safe with a whipper snipper, here are some tips:

  • Wear safety goggles and hearing protection.
  • Put on sturdy and protective shoes or boots to protect your feet from debris and the line itself.
  • Wear protective gloves, long pants and a hat to avoid being scratched by branches or bushes.
  • Keep the whipper snipper away from people’s feet, children and animals at all times while in use. Also be aware of other people who may be nearby (such as pedestrians in parks and driveways) when using it so you don’t accidentally injure them with flying debris (soil, rocks etc).

Why does my whipper snipper cord keep breaking?

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Whipper Snippers are a great tool for keeping your yard neat and tidy, but as we’ve all experienced, the nylon cord can snap with no warning.

Here are some tips to minimise the chance of cord breakage:

  • Practice proper whipper snipping technique.
  • Ensure you use the correct length of cord for your job.
  • Use the correct type of cord for your whipper snipper.
  • Check that your cord is not worn or damaged.

What whipper snipper should I buy?

So, which trimmer is right for you?

Below we summarise the key things to look out for. Also, in our guide to the best whipper snippers in Australia, we list our picks for the best products on the market.

  • Petrol or electric. If your garden is large then it may be worth considering a commercial grade petrol-powered trimmer.
  • Weight of the trimmer. Lighter trimmers are easier to use, especially if you need to work overhead often. Lightweight models can also be more expensive than larger ones, so consider how much you’ll use your new whipper snipper before splashing out on a top-of-the-range lightweight model that will only see occasional use on weekends.
  • Length of shaft. A longer shafted model is ideal for taller users and reduces bending over when cutting tall grasses and weeds, while shorter shafts weigh less and are easier to control in small spaces like around trees or under shrubs and hedges.
  • Power of the motor. If you have a large garden with tough growth then opt for a powerful motor with plenty of torque so you won’t struggle to get through thick patches of tough weeds and grasses quickly without burning out your machine.
  • Noise level. Electric models tend to be quieter than petrol powered machines. This is beneficial to your eardrums and to your neighbours.

What’s the difference between a line trimmer and whipper snipper?

A whipper snipper is another name for a line trimmer, which is an electric or gas-powered tool that uses nylon string to cut grass, weeds, and small bushes. They’re also sometimes called strimmers and weed eaters.

The line trimmer’s name comes from the long length of fine nylon string—called a “line”—that spins out at high speeds through a rotating metal head on the end of the device.

What’s the difference between a line trimmer and a brush cutter?

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A line trimmer is a low duty tool that operates by spinning a length of nylon line at high speed. The user guides the angle of the tool in order to cut grass and weeds.

On the other hand, brush cutters are heavy duty tools that can be mounted with either metal blades or nylon rope. Brush cutters are capable of cutting through thick brush and small trees using their powerful motors and strong blades or ropes.

The distinction between these two is somewhat hazy, however, because many brush cutters can be equipped with nylon rope instead of metal blades and some line trimmers can be fitted with metal blades instead of nylon rope.

Moreover, brush cutter and line trimmer models vary greatly in terms of power output so it’s tricky to categorize them based on power alone.

As a rule of thumb though, brush cutters are heavier duty than line trimmers and generally come outfitted with more power than even the highest powered line trimers tend to have.

Is a thicker trimmer line better?

Thicker line is better for heavy duty grass cutting, weeding, or tidying hedges.

Thinner line is better for precision work and edging.

The thicker lines are also better for general lawn trimming and lawns with taller grass.

How to replace trimmer line bump feed

The bump feed mechanism is a common method to feed line in most trimmers. These are the steps to replace it:

  • Remove the spool from your tool. (If you’re unsure how, consult your owner’s manual.)
  • Get your replacement spool ready—make sure that there is extra line on the end to make threading easier.
  • Thread your replacement line.
  • Place the base of your replacement spool back onto your tool—there should be an arrow on it indicating which way to wind it.

The video below also provides a helpful guide:

What is a brushless line trimmer?

A brushless motor is that it’s a type of electric motor that provides greater performance than its brushed counterparts. They are more efficient and quieter; they generate less heat and have better run time.

Brushless motors are also more durable because there are no brushes to wear out or replace.

These benefits come with a cost—brushless motors tend to be more expensive than brushed ones.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.


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