Corded-electric handheld blowers are best for small properties, especially in communities that restrict noise. And in our leaf blower tests, Toro models have figured prominently, with impressive power for sweeping and loosening leaves, superb vacuuming, and quiet running from a distance. But in recent user reviews, we learned of a flip side to that power, as complaints arose about burned-out motors and switches.
Toro has since replaced both models. The red Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609 (shown), $75, looks identical to the 51599 that led our leaf blower Ratings for corded-electric blowers. Ditto for the black Toro Super Blower Vac 51602, $60, which replaces the 51592. Both have a redesigned motor that managed to pump out more oomph in our tests. Alas, they’re both a bit louder at 50 feet. Nevertheless, they're both winners.
As we completed our tests, we continued to wonder about the initial trouble that resulted in Toro’s debut of the replacement models. The manuals for the old and new blowers specify either a 14-gauge, 100-foot extension cord or a 12-gauge, 150-foot cord. (The lower the gauge number, the heavier the cord—and the more current it can carry.) Use too light a cord, including some of the myriad cords sold for “outdoor” use, and your gear could overheat.
In a side test, we looked into the potential effect of using too light an extension cord with Toro’s new models. To the Ultra Blower Vac 51609, we plugged in a lightweight 16-gauge, 100-foot cord, a lighter one than specified. To the Super Blower Vac 51602, we compounded the sin by using the same gauge but at 150 feet. We ran both models for an hour or two at a time, with a 15-minute cool-down break after each run, over a total of 30 hours. While 16-gauge cords of any length are not recommended for either model, the voltage of both blowers remained steady throughout the test. Still, play it safe and spring about $40 for a 14-gauge, 100-foot cord that should suffice for all your corded-electric gear.
There’s still plenty of time to buy a leaf blower before the autumn deluge. Picks from the 56 models in our latest Ratings include the gas handheld Husqvarna 125B, $150; the gas Stihl BR 350 backpack, $350; and the $400 Troy-Bilt TB672, a gas-powered, wheeled blower. To find the features you need, check out our buying guide.