Before the Ryobi Expand-It system entered my life, I bought my first home. That was 2008. With that transaction came the necessity to purchase a number of power tools and yard maintenance items to maintain said home, and the small yard that accompanied it. Being relatively poor from having just spent a good chunk of change on the down payment – but mostly on the other fees and taxes you may neglect to consider before buying a home, my budget was relatively limited. As much as I liked them, I wouldn’t soon be purchasing a huge 5hp gas powered brush cutter to tame my relatively compact lawn (as much fun as those could be). What was in my budget though was a nice compact little 18V string Trimmer from Ryobi.
While I eventually swapped out the original Nickel Cadmium batteries for their upgraded One+ Li-Ion Batteries, that little string trimmer chugged right along and continues to work to this day. That said, we recently moved to a home with a little more yard to tame. Sensing an upgrade was in order, I graciously accepted Ryobi’s offer to send over one of their new 40V line of tools to check out, the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Trimmer. As an added bonus, this unit is part of their line of Expand-It tools, meaning with one battery and base handle unit, there are over half a dozen attachments that can be used. Ryobi sent along their Expand-It 8 inch Universal Straight Shaft Edger Attachment for our evaluation as well.
Expand-ing our Tool Collection with Ryobi Expand-It
I received the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Trimmer with 4.0 Ah Battery and Charger first. This came as the full kit, including one 40V 4.0Ah battery and charger, the battery base with a Carbon Fiber Shaft and the String Trimmer Attachment as well as an additional head with swing blade attachments, ideal for the really heavy stuff. It also came with some extra lengths of pre-cut line.
Unboxing and assembly was a quick and easy process and one that didn’t really require a review of the manual first. That said, never let me be one to discourage you from carefully reviewing the manual from front to back. In fact, this just in from our lawyers, let ME be the one to encourage you to carefully review the entire manual start to finish prior to operation of your new power tool! The only tool needed for proper assembly is a flat screwdriver. The manual (one part each for the power head and the trimmer attachment) are a relatively short read and include diagrams and helpful tips on the operation and maintenance of your new tool. While reading and before assembly, I suggest throwing the battery on to charge. If it’s like mine, it will come with one bar lit up at best.
A couple nice highlights of unboxing it – one, the string trimmer spool came preloaded with a full strand of string. This allows you to immediately put your tool to use without the fuss and muss of loading string (always my arch nemesis when it comes to weed-whackers!) The RYOBI 40V Expand-It Trimmer string and bladed heads are both very easy to remove and install. Replacing the blades is an incredibly simple task. However, as I always do, I still had a little trouble feeding the line when testing out the install process. That said, the included speed winder made things a little easier.
After messing with it a few times, I still wouldn’t go so far as to call it easy, but I will say it got easier. My pro-tip: place the green load spool in first, feed the string in to the two holes, and press down with your thumbs on the black spool while pulling the string out through the holes. That helped me to get the spool sucked down. Don’t worry about over-feeding, just grab the included speed winder tool and wind it back in. You can also buy (or cut yourself) smaller pre-cut lengths to make it a breeze since you’re not worrying about installing a length of wire capable of circling the moon, or at least the block.
Ryobi politely informed us, there’s an easier approach to loading, as documented in this handy video suitably titled, “How-To: Load The RYOBI REEL-EASY SPEED WINDER Bump Feed Trimmer Head”
So if you’re smart, unlike me, don’t mess with the pre-strung head and just let sleeping dogs lie until the battery is charged and you’re ready to put things to work. While you’re waiting on that charge, here’s a few stats on the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Trimmer courtesy of the Home Depot site:
• Added durability with a carbon fiber shaft
• Attachment capable: works with RYOBI EXPAND-IT attachments
• Brushless motor for maximum power and durability
• Reel Easy+ 3-in-1 bump feed head
• Bump feed head for easy reloads in under 60-seconds, includes speed winder, compatible with 0.080 in. or 0.095 in. cutting line
• Bladed head with heavy-duty serrated blades, ideal for heavy weeds and thick grass
• Fixed line head, designed for fast and simple reloads, no winding or bumping required, line pivots for increased durability and long-life
• Premium dual 0.095 in. line
• Variable speed with 2-speed trigger for more control
• Adjustable 13 in. to 15 in. cut swath
• Adjustable front handle for user comfort
• Includes RYOBI 40V 4.0 Ah lithium battery
• Includes a rapid charger for 4X faster charging
• Works with all RYOBI 40V lithium batteries
• 5-year tool warranty, 3-year battery warranty
Ryobi Expand-It and Trimming a Little Off the Top
I let my weed whacking duties fall by the wayside a bit to make sure we could give this RYOBI 40V Expand-It Trimmer a good work out. Not at all because I hate weed whacking and I’m lazy. Definitely not that. Most of what I have to do in my yard is relatively light duty work, cleaning up around the edges, or in tight areas or spaces where the lawn mower won’t go. We also have a monstrosity of a weed-covered hill in the backyard, but that is probably a bit beyond the expectations of a string trimmer, even with the swing bladed head. That said, we’re still going to see what it can do when confronted with a gargantuan task, but it’s likely a more suitable project for the Expand-It 8 inch Brush-Cutter Trimmer Attachment, which we don’t yet have at our disposal (but keep an eye out for a future article).
For light duty work, the string trimmer does an excellent job, rivaling most gas trimmers I’ve had experience with in the past. There were a few weeds with heartier stems that were a little too hardy for the strings to chew their way through. However, overall it did a great job cleaning up the edges of the mowed area, and getting in tight around mailbox posts, trees, wood piles, etc. where the lawn mower can’t reach. The auto-feeder worked well, but not perfect every time. Typically after bouncing the head on the sidewalk a time or two it would feed right out to the length I needed.
After giving the strings a workout, I replaced the string head with the swing blade head to give that a test. I had previously used a similar set up (different brand and very heavy duty) that used both the plastic blades and heavy duty string. I was impressed at what this swing blade head could do. We have a bit of a jungle, or really more of an overgrown meadow going down the hillside behind our house. After 17 years with virtually no maintenance, it’s a mess.
While not expecting much, I took a quick whack at it with the bladed head and was impressed. Even in deep heavy brush, it was tearing right through. I was able to saw right through an impressive amount without much in the way of slow downs, taking down weeds with trunks probably up to about a half inch diameter. While I (and my not so great back) weren’t quite up to tackling the task of the whole hillside, I was impressed and glad to know that with just the bladed head I could probably tear through at least 75% of the brush on the hillside. But that’s for another story and another day (and maybe another person’s back). Let’s move on to the edge.
Taking the Edge Off with the Ryobi Expand-It Edger Attachment
As great as the new trimmer is, I was looking even more forward to the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Edger Attachment. Our last place actually didn’t have much in the way of a sidewalk, and with some careful use of the string trimmer, what we did have was kept looking tidy. Now we have a lot more driveway, patio and sidewalk, all of which were in serious need of an edging. According to our neighbors, 17 years worth of a need for edging.
It was a happy day when the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Edger arrived and I quickly used the tool-less nut to detach the string trimmer head and slide the edger in to place. With a fresh battery charge, as I don’t like to live on the edge, I went to work attacking 17 years of overgrown grass and dirt.
First thing, definitely make sure you wear proper safety attire. Like the trimmer, the edger has a safety guard. However, it is a steel blade rotating at high speeds, and debris will escape. Pants, boots and safety glasses are highly recommended! The RYOBI 40V Expand-It Edger dug right in to the overgrown mess that was the edges of our sidewalk. It was not an easy task, and considering how bad it was, I eventually found that I could cut through things easier by skipping ahead and then working the blade backwards towards me.
It was slow going, with occasional bog downs as the dirt packed in to the blade guard. Every so often I’d have to stop, remove the battery and then clean out the dirt build-up. Despite the gargantuan effort, the edger made it through, providing a crisp clean cut. I was able to get through somewhere between about 120 and 150 lineal feet of sidewalk at the front of our house. Despite the very heavy work, the Expand-It edger made it all on one charge.
I also got to test the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Edger out on a section of grass where my neighbor had previously (likely earlier this year) done some edging. It needed nowhere near the trim that the rest of the sidewalk did, and in that location, the Edger cut through the dirt and grass like a hot knife through soft butter. I’m looking forward to using it again. Now that the tough work is done, the maintenance, if I keep up with it, will be a piece of cake.
Two weeks later, I was able to test the edger out a second time. The edger cut through the two week delinquent edges with ease! I was able to clean the edges up in no time, and without having to stop and remove mud build-up. I easily swapped heads out and finished all the weed whacking around the entire house. Once complete, I still had two bars of battery life burning brightly and that was with the beast mode swing blade head attachment. A great sign for when I use it again in the future – because no one really wants to stop halfway through the work while the battery charges – that is unless you really don’t feel like doing yard work. But, who doesn’t feel like doing yard work on a hot, humid day with the sun burning your back and your retinas?
Here are a few more quick stats on the RYOBI 40V Expand-It Edger:
• Fits RYOBI, Toro, weed eater, troy bilt and other universal brand fit trimmers
• 8 in. double edge steel blade for powerful cutting
• Large guide wheel offers stability and control
• Height adjusts for convenience and for custom edges
• Rubber flap protects against debris
• Converts a trimmer to a powerful edger
Time to Expand Your Own Collection?
I’m a huge proponent of battery-operated equipment, particularly when it can meet the same demands and performance that corded or gas powered models do. When it comes to yard equipment, it’s a no brainer to me – it’s a lot less of a smelly mess to swap a battery out on a charger than it is to deal with spilling gas and mixing oil ratios just right, and priming, and yanking the pull cord. Need I really go on?
There’s also something to be said for the sound. I still surprise my neighbors when I mow the lawn with our battery operated mower and the string trimmer and edger are also quiet in their own right. I was very happy with the performance of the String Trimmer, and the 40V marks a big improvement over the adequate, but not awe-inspiring, performance of my old 18V model. The edger really impressed me with its ability to tear through nearly two decades of grass and dirt creep on to the sidewalk. Overall, I’m very happy with the new tools and look forward to many more years of putting them to use around the home.
If you’re looking to pick up a new trimmer, edger, or even a brush cutter or cultivator, the Ryobi Expand-It system might be just what you’re looking for. The option to add additional attachments at a very reasonable price makes for a lot of flexibility for future needs and also saves a little space in the shed as well. Ryobi also makes a 40V mower, so having a full line of matching tools that can all run off the same batteries is a really nice perk. In fact, in the last two weeks, I’ve noticed two of my neighbors have replaced their noisy gas mowers with the Ryobi 40V Mower. I’m excited to Expand my own collection of attachments, so stay tuned for some future reviews.
If you’re looking to take the edge off or trim some string, you can find these excellent Ryobi tools at your local neighborhood Home Depot or online via the links below:
Or snag the base (non-carbon fiber) trimmer and edger together: