Kobalt Lawn Mower
a Complete Review
I made a bold decision today and bought a Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower. I have always been one to jump on new ideas fairly quickly. While battery-powered mowers are not exactly new, the larger, more powerful 40 volt and 56 volt lithium batteries are a fairly recent innovation which opens up new possibilities for lawn and gardening tools such as mowers. My 18 Volt Milwaukee drill and Impact driver made a lasting and favorable impression on me and so did my Ryobi, 40 Volt Rechargeable Grass and Weed Trimmer. The big question many of us have is this: Could something as big as a battery-powered lawn mower ever replace the long-time, standby gas lawn mowers that we’ve been using for years and years? I think so. After all, it took a long time for battery powered tools to become efficient and powerful enough to replace corded tools. I imagine the same skepticism existed with even electrical tools when they first replaced manual tools. Most professionals now, use battery-charged power tools almost exclusively. How could something that is quiet, weighs little and makes only a fraction of the noise, be as powerful as the old-fashioned gas lawnmowers? And how can you expect to keep your lawn in tip-top shape without the handling, noise and smell of good ol’ gas and oil? Can a mower be powerful without the noise? Having taken the plunge into re-chargeable mowers, I have refuted a few of the myths we’ve adopted about about some of our old, gas-powered tools. One, a machine doesn’t need to make a lot of noise to cut your grass. Two, there is enough power to get your lawn cut without having to pull a cord and burn gas. Three, a lawn mower doesn’t need to be heavy to get the job done. Myths aside, are these good enough reasons to replace your conventional gas-powered unit with the Kobalt battery powered lawn mower?
Advantages to the Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower vs a Gas Mower
The idea of never having to use or smell gas every time I mow the lawn is probably an appealing enough reason on its own to make the switch. There are a few other good reasons:
The Kobalt, battery-powered lawn mower makes only a fraction of the noise as traditional, gas lawn mowers. In fact, I can be mowing the lawn without worrying about my wife or neighbor wife sneaking up behind me and scaring the daylights out of me. This is only one reason to desire a quiet lawn mower. I have an unwritten rule that I will never mow before 09:00Am on a weekend or holiday as to not wake up any neighbors. The Kobalt mower is quiet enough that I would feel comfortable mowing early in the morning if I had to or felt like it. Hopefully, I won’t need to test this idea very often, except for maybe on one of those predictably, unseasonably hot summer days.
Cordless Easy Start-Up
To me, this is a big deal. No matter how easy, my corded, gas mower was to pull, the motion of jerking that cord back wreaks havoc on my lower back. There were times when the engine would flood and I would hurt my back pulling the cord to get it started. There is never a concern with that on the Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower. I put the battery inside the compartment; press a button, pull back the handle and the mower is running.
Dual Grass-Cutting Blades
My new, Kobalt lawn mower has an impressive pair of grass blades that offer a 20″ cutting surface. As I note in the operations and performance section below, the mower does a great job of evenly cutting the grass.
One of the reasons I chose the Kobalt over other battery-powered mowers is that it includes dual-batteries. With its dual battery compartments, both batteries can be installed at the same time. When one battery runs out, the other automatically takes its place. Based on the advertised operating life of these two batteries, I should be able to mow for an hour and 15 minutes using both batteries. That gives me more than enough operating time for my front and back lawns.
3-in-1 Mulching Capability and Grass Catcher
In the warm days of summer, when my grass is shorter, I prefer to mulch. The Kobalt battery powered lawn mower includes a mulching plug which inserts inside of the back compartment in place of the grass catcher. The grass catcher bag is small, which is fine with me. I prefer to keep some grass for our compost bin and the small bag is easy to install and remove.
Variable Automatic Power Sensing
The mower automatically senses the height and toughness of the grass and only uses the power that is needed to efficiently cut your lawn. This not only saves battery life, but keeps the mower running quiet for most of the job.
Large Back Wheels
Unlike gas mowers, there is no need to worry about emptying the gas tank, changing the oil, spark plug; replacing air-filter or cleaning the carburetor. The mower runs at exactly the same speed; the same way, every time, all the time. I have not owned the Kobalt mower long enough to give a long term review on its reliability, but it does come with a very impressive warranty.
Kobalt Mower Warranty
The one thing that tipped the scale for me on the Kobalt was learning that it came with a five year warranty directly from Lowe’s. If anything goes wrong, I can take it back to the store for a replacement or full refund. That is insurance you usually don’t get from any product, especially gas powered mowers and other lawn equipment. No product is perfect and so I would like to mention a couple of concerns that I have with my new lawn mower.
Kobalt Battery Mowers are Light-Weight
The mower weights a little less than 50 pounds. It is easier to maneuver than my previous, Self-Propelled Snapper Mower which was a heavy beat. It is light enough that I am comfortable carrying it from my back to front yard, making it unnecessary to have two mowers.
Disadvantages of the Kobalt Lawn Mower
Plastic Material and Electronics
Some of the hidden disadvantages of new technology are actually hidden in their advantages. For instance, the light-weight plastic makes the mower a concern for me when it comes to cleaning. When I run over dog-doo (A not so uncommon problem in my front yard), I will not be able to wash it off with the hose. Also, I will have to be careful about mowing wet or damp grass that make it equally difficult to clean.
Non-Standard Dual Blade System
Sadly, the Arnold Power Rake blade I bought two weeks ago, is now completely useless to me. Had I thought about it, I might have even saved one of my old, gas mowers, just so I could continue using the Power Rake in the spring. It seems unlikely that I will be able to find a couple of power-raking blades for the Kobalt Battery-Powered Mower.
The trade-off for light-weight operation comes in the form of those cheap, plastic materials that makes all of us a little nervous when it comes to our wish for long-lasting reliability. The frame and construction of the mower seems pretty durable to me. What I worry most about is how well the connections where the batteries snap into place will hold-up over time and the course of many uses. I would imagine that the plastic could weaken over the course of the many times that the two batteries will be inserted and removed over a couple of years. Of course, the five year warranty is nice, but when you’ve got a lawn that needs mowed, who wants to be in the position of putting a broken mower in your car, lugging it back and hoping that the Lowe’s retailer will be in the position to offer an immediate replacement.
As you can see, the advantages and convenience of the Kobalt Lawn Mower far outweigh the number of disadvantages that came to mind when I made this initial purchase. Now, allow me to give my impressions of how these advantages and functions actually performed for my first, out-of-the-box lawn-mowing experience.
Function and Performance of the Kobalt Mower
Hauling the Mower Home
The last time couple of times I purchased mowers, I used a Mini-Van or SUV to haul it to my house. While it is possible to get one in certain cars, they really are pretty heavy. Hauling mowers is also very messy if they have already been used. At least with an electric mower, you won’t have to worry about spilling gas in your car or smelling it up with fumes. I was able to put the Kobalt 20″ Mower on my shopping cart and wheel it up to the check-out stand. While the box did not fit in my trunk, it very easily slid into the back seat of my Honda Accord.
Assembling the Mower
Getting the mower out of the box and assembling it was a 10-minute process. If you’re like me and don’t like to read instructions, you’re in luck. The Kobalt mower is extremely intuitive and requires very minimal installation. The only thing that needs to be installed is the top, handle-bar which has a high and low setting. I chose the high, knowing that I could easily switch to low if needed. No tools are required.
Batteries and Accessories
I removed the batteries and charger from their boxes and experimented with their placement inside the mower. Again, no instructions were required. The placement of the battery was self explanatory. It snaps into place when you push the battery down into its compartment. To remove the battery, you squeeze the connector on top and it pops outs so you can slide it out of the carriage. This is the mechanism that causes me long-term durability concerns, but only time will tell. The mulching plug and bag were also self-explanatory. The mulching plug comes installed inside the mower. When you want to bag, simply remove the plug and insert the small grass-catcher bag. The grass catcher bag actually has a small rectangular lid that falls down when the grass catcher bag is full, letting you know it is time to empty. Discovering this feature did require reading some instructions. Both batteries have a charge indicator button. Pressing it will give you an indication using 1 – 4 lighted dots to let you know how much of a charge is left on the batteries. I noticed that one of the batteries had 2, lit dots. They recommend fully charging the batteries first, but curiosity got the best of me and I went ahead, popped in the battery and started it up. I ran it about 15 seconds and quickly shut down and fully charged the batteries. While the batteries were charging, I decided to mount both the Kobalt and Ryobi chargers on my garage wall. They recommend removing them from areas that are either over 104 degrees or under 40 degrees. I don’t think I’ll have that problem in my garage, but just in case, I will bring the batteries inside during the winter months.
Starting the Kobalt Lawn Mower
Starting the mower is the best part of owning one of these things, or at least the most fun. I inserted the fully-charged, long-run battery in the mower; pushed the round button and pulled back the operation, handle bar. I was skeptical; this seemed way too easy, but sure enough, the motor whirred right up. I immediately noted how the speed of the motor seemed to slow down as it got quieter. I was running this on my garage floor with no resistance to the blade and so I got my first demonstration and proof that the power-sensing capabilities of the mower actually work.
Using the Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower for the First Time
Since my grass was fairly short and thin from the winter weather, I was unable to get a real good test of how well the Kobalt does with long, thick grass. Using the grass catcher bag, I mowed both front and back yard and still had two dots worth of battery life left on the single, long-run battery that I used. Not only that, I preserved 100% of my own strength as pushing this light mower around my front and back yard was a breeze and required very little of my energy. Mowing with the Kobalt battery powered lawn mower requires no more effort than taking a casual stroll in your yard. It was not difficult carrying the mower down the steps of my backyard. Also, I didn’t have to worry about handling any hot parts. The mower was still cool after mowing the entire front yard. The performance and operation of the mower is smooth and quiet throughout. Though my grass was fairly short, it was evident that the dual blade system does a very smooth and even job of cutting the grass. I will be anxious to see how well these dual blades work when the grass gets long and thick. One of the things I like best about the Kobalt is how easy it is to adjust the height of the blades. There is single lever which can very easily can be moved up or down with one hand.
Testing the Kobalt Mower over the Long Haul
No lawn mower lasts forever, but with proper care, maintenance and winterizing, a good gas mower like a Honda should give you 5-10 years or more of trouble-free performance. Of course, keeping the mower indoors will add years to its life and prevent its metal exterior from rusting. In the past I’ve done very little to help my gas powered mowers. In fact, I rarely even empty the gas or change the oil. I usually get 7 years of life out of them before something goes wrong. I have yet to test the Kobalt electric mower in conditions where the grass is thick and long and I will hesitate to use it even if the grass is slightly damp due to the plastic exterior and electronics which would make it hard to clean. Plastic, however is not all bad. It is light-weight and will not ever rust. The metal handles seem very well made and are not likely to break, snap or bend as some mowers due. The snap-down levers on the handle bars make the mower very easy to fold up and store for safe-keeping in my garage. Since I sold my two, other gas-powered machines, I am stuck with the Kobalt lawn mower for hopefully many more summers. I will report back on how it does in thicker, longer grass. Please leave me your comments on your own experience with the Kobalt battery powered lawn mower.
Other Brands of Cordless Mowers
After 14 months of operation, the Kobalt Battery Powered Lawn Mower continues to run great for me. Many of you have experienced problems with the 19″ version of the Kobalt lawn mower. Here are some other brands of cordless mowers to consider.