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Hands-On: The RYOBI Outdoor 40V Brushless Expand-It System

When we set out to simplify our lives by moving back to a smaller town after 20 years (and thanks for sticking with us and our lack of posts... it's been quite the disruptive journey, to say the least!), that also included a smaller home and yard with less maintenance. A smaller yard means simpler tools, without the noise, mess, smell, and fuss of gas and oil. The RYOBI Outdoor Products 40-Volt Expand-It System suddenly became an attractive choice for quick yard maintenance, once we settled in. The Expand-It line has been around for several years and, while it's probably obvious,…

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A versatile system of yard tools with lots of attachments that will make your job much easier, including on the ears. Not for the super-dense stuff, but plenty powerful enough for the average yard.

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User Rating: 5 ( 1 votes)

When we set out to simplify our lives by moving back to a smaller town after 20 years (and thanks for sticking with us and our lack of posts… it’s been quite the disruptive journey, to say the least!), that also included a smaller home and yard with less maintenance. A smaller yard means simpler tools, without the noise, mess, smell, and fuss of gas and oil. The RYOBI Outdoor Products 40-Volt Expand-It System suddenly became an attractive choice for quick yard maintenance, once we settled in.

The Expand-It line has been around for several years and, while it’s probably obvious, the “Expand-It” name means that the system uses a base unit or motor (what RYOBI calls the “power head”) to power lots of different attachments. All RYOBI Expand-It attachments are compatible with RYOBI’s 40V battery, 2-cycle gas and 4-cycle gas power heads, which makes switching from gas-powered to battery-powered tools (or vice-versa) a much more affordable affair.

To satisfy my needs, I opted for the 40V Brushless “Attachment-Capable” String Trimmer (which itself is a power head), an extra 5Ah 40V battery (the unit came with a 3Ah battery and charger), and the edger, hedger, pole saw, and leaf blower Expand-It attachments. I do have individual tools to cover all of these jobs, but the idea of dealing with just one battery platform rather than charging three different brands’ batteries is just better for me personally, given our new home and its smaller yard.

Keep in mind that while I discuss each attachment below, I am rating my experience with the RYOBI Expand-It 40V system that I have as a whole.

“Attachment Capable” String Trimmer

No matter which RYOBI platform you choose—battery or gas—the power head is the core of the Expand-It system. Again, I have the “attachment capable” 40V brushless string trimmer, which is different than the stand-alone 40V “X” power head—both accept all RYOBI Expand-It attachments. The string trimmer housing is larger than the stand-alone power head but does have a relatively thin profile. It is certainly smaller than most gas-powered trimmers.

The trimmer’s power head has both a variable-speed trigger and a high/low max speed toggle switch. There is a trigger lock on top of the unit that must be depressed simultaneously with the trigger for the motor to operate. Once engaged, you can let go of the trigger lock and the motor will keep running as long as you’re pulling the trigger. For comfort’s sake, I’ve had to tape down some safety triggers/bars on various tools I’ve owned in the past, but this one is situated nicely and didn’t bother me at all.

RYOBI positions its 40V systems as achieving “gas-like” performance. I’ve used a lot of gas-powered yard tools over the years and this thing is pretty close, depending on which attachments you’re using and how.

The string trimmer performed as you’d expect—it cut down weeds and grass along my fence line, and around my trees and beds just fine. And while I did try the lower power setting and variable speed trigger around some more sensitive areas, it’s just my nature to run things at full bore. The trigger itself doesn’t really have much travel, so holding it steady at a lower speed was a bit difficult to do as I moved the machine back and forth doing my thing.

Like many, I constantly rev my power tools as I walk around the yard using them. I guess my inner Tim Allen just takes over sometimes. That bad habit, coupled with the fact that I ran this trimmer at full-power most of the time, gave me about 20 minutes of usage on one 3Ah battery and a little over 35 minutes on the 5Ah battery using the trimmer, hedger, and edger. The edger attachment seems to draw the most power—more on that later.

It is important to note that each RYOBI Expand-It attachment has its own power needs and those needs vary depending on what you’re doing with the attachment. Thus, overall or even average runtimes are difficult to determine with a convertible tool such as this. We highly recommend having a few batteries on-hand if you intend to use different attachments during a single job, even for smaller yards.

Restringing the Expand-It trimmer is a breeze, thanks to the cog-like design of what RYOBI call the “REEL-EASY” string head. The included plastic crank tool with opposing teeth slides over the string head, allowing you to simply reel in the new string. It’s so much better than how we had to restring old-school trimmers.

The RYOBI Expand-It String Trimmer package includes the 40V Expand-It Brushless Power Head, Straight Shaft Expand-It Trimmer Attachment, 40V Lithium-ion 3.0Ah battery and charger, grass deflector, adjustable overmolded front handle, and a small unspooled supply of .080 replacement trimmer line (my trimmer also came pre-loaded with string). The trimmer also comes with a 5-year warranty and currently sells for about $200.

Again, if you have one of RYOBI’s other power heads, you can just buy the Straight Shaft Expand-It Trimmer Attachment.

Hedge Trimmer Attachment

We’ve got shrubs and hedges around just about every part of our new home since it sits up pretty high and the foundation needs to be hidden. Our plants don’t really require any shaping, so I opted for the 17.5″ non-articulating Expand-It Hedge Trimmer Attachment—there is also a 15″ articulating model.

At about 4lbs, the hedger seems to balance well when attached to the string trimmer power head. The double-sided, dual-action reciprocating blades also make for a nice, clean, consistent cut. To protect the blade (and yourself), the hedger comes with a sheath that slips over the blades. I’ll probably end up losing it eventually.🙄

Like the string trimmer, the hedger seemed to do its job just fine. I was able to hedge around my entire home on a single charge with some juice still leftover (3Ah battery). Granted, I was only trimming the plants on top, not cutting them way back or anything, so your mileage may vary. Also, our shrubs are only a few years old at best. RYOBI claims the hedger attachment can cut branches and new growth up to 3/8″ thick and, while I didn’t come across anything that thick in my yard, I certainly didn’t have any issues with anything less than that.

At about $70, the RYOBI Expand-It Hedge Trimmer Attachment isn’t cheap when compared to stand-alone hedgers on any platform (remember, you have to take the power head into account to some degree). But, I go back to both the performance and convenience of managing a single battery platform.

Edger Attachment

I’ve used plenty of edgers before but, over the years, I’ve just gotten used to flipping the weed-whacker on its side and using the trimmer string to get the job done. But a true edger tool makes the yard look so much better—especially from a distance.

With its 8″ double-edge steel blade, adjustable 6½” cutting depth, and oversized guide wheel, the Expand-It edger attachment gets the job done almost as good as a gas edger. I say ‘almost’ because some thicker grass/weed roots, dirt or erroneous pieces of cement along the edge of the driveway did bog the edger down a bit and wake my arm up with a little kickback every so often. Kickback and inconsistent blade RMPs are to be expected with most edgers, but a little more power and weight from a gas tool would power through a bit more smoothly. Still, after the first few times, the edges do get easier and I don’t see myself going back to gas-powered any time soon.

As mentioned earlier and although I didn’t do any super-scientific testing, the edger attachment seemed to drain the battery of the string trimmer power head faster than any other attachment. I thought the blower would take the top spot for battery drainage, but I suppose spinning an 8″ metal blade and cutting through the earth’s surface tends to require some extra power. Either way, I’d recommend additional 5Ah batteries, depending on the size of your yard.

Like most attachments in the product line, the RYOBI Expand-It Edger Attachment retails for about $70. Replacement blades are only about $8. 5Ah batteries, on the other hand, go for about $140 each.

10″ Pole Saw Attachment

The 10″ Extend-It Pole Saw Attachment (also called the “Pruner Attachment”) is great for maintaining the few [somewhat] mature trees around our new house. I used it on some scraggly crepe myrtles and it worked great. While I didn’t actually cut down any larger limbs from up above, I did use it to saw through an 8″ diameter log I had laying around as leverage for some Jeep suspension work… totally safe.😉 RYOBI say the max cut diameter is 6″ but I had no issues at all with the larger log. Granted, it was on the ground and you should always follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Without the additional extension bar, which gives you up to 12′ of reach, the pole saw, coupled with the string trimmer power head, is well-balanced and easy to control. With the extension on, however, things get just a bit wobbly when holding the saw overhead. That’s pretty common with pole saws in general, so it’s not really a big deal. RYOBI includes a shoulder strap, and I highly recommend using it when using the extension shaft.

The Expand-It pole saw attachment has an integrated, automatic chain/bar lubricating system. Simply fill the tank with some premium chain lube and you’re good-to-go. If you’re using the pole saw for extended periods of time, I recommend you have some extra lubricant on-hand—it seemingly consumes it quicker than other saws I’ve used, although I didn’t measure just how long a full tank will last.

The RYOBI Expand-It 10″ Pole Saw Attachment sells for about $70 and comes with the shoulder strap, tension adjustment tool, protective sheath, 8oz bottle of chain/bar lubricant, tool hanger cap, and the manual.

Jet Fan Blower Attachment

Out of all of the yard tools I have, I use leaf blowers more than anything (and my neighbors LOVE me for that!). Here in North Florida, we’ve got a lot of outdoor ickiness to manage every few days on our porches, patios, and in our garages and yards—pollen, leaves, dead insects, and deer, frog, and lizard poo. It’s lovely.

I will say, that it’ll take something special to replace my EGO 56V blower that I’ve grown to love using over the past year or so. The RYOBI Expand-It Jet Fan Blower Attachment is definitely a solid contender, though. At 475 CFM and 140 MPH it’s not quite as powerful as some stand-alone blowers but, again, because it’s part of a single platform, it’s really convenient.

Because the EGO batteries are so very expensive, I only have one. It’s frustrating because it only lasts about 20 minutes but takes a few hours to charge. I intend to get another, but now that we’ve got a smaller yard, it might be OK. Still, I found myself reaching for the RYOBI blower the other day while the EGO battery was charging—and I didn’t mind at all. I mean, I might’ve missed the EGO a tiny bit, but the RYOBI Jet got the job done just fine. It was a bit louder, a little lighter, and had less control as it relates to speed, but if you can only have one leaf blower and you’ve bought into the Expand-it system, it’d be silly not to own this blower—it works perfectly fine.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the RYOBI Expand-It System is super-convenient and, as noted above, I can’t think of a reason to purchase any gas-powered equivalent tools—at least not for my personal situation. I like this system a lot and will be using it for years, I’m sure.

While the majority of reviews online have been very positive for the various Expand-It power heads and attachments, I have seen some negative comments around the cost of the batteries and their lifespan (or lack thereof). I’ve not had my system long enough to know for sure and I don’t think folks are fibbing, but the vast majority of reviews are very good and I personally haven’t had any issues. As stated before, I do highly recommend at least one or two additional 5Ah batteries if you intend to use multiple tools during a session of yard work. The 5Ah batteries cost more but last longer than their 2.6Ah or 3Ah counterparts.

Don’t forget: I only own a handful of what’s available in the RYOBI 40V line of products. Be sure to check out their lawn mowers, and other stand-alone (non-Expand-It) 40V tools. I’m actually eyeballing the 20″ mower now that we’ve got a smaller yard… stay tuned!

You can only purchase the RYOBI Expand-It equipment at Home Depot, for the most part. There are a few products on Amazon, as well, but it’s kind of hit-or-miss. So, if you’re in the market for some new lawn equipment, The RYOBI 40V Expand-It system may just fit the bill.

P.S.: I realize that there are no photos of this system in-use. It’s a long story. We’ll try to update the post later with some. In the meantime, Google is your friend.

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About Michael Turner

Forty-something years later, Michael still doesn't' know what he wants to do if he grows up. Raised around cars and trained in diesel mechanics, Michael has owned a successful detail shop, developed and sold software, lead a K-9 SAR team, ridden the dot-com wave as a sales/marketing/PR executive, led digital strategy teams at both large and small agencies, and now this. He digs Jeeps, off-road racing, football, photography, flying, trains, making EDM, cranking metal, PC gaming, and a plethora of other contradictory things.

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