Stihl FSA 56 Cordless Trimmer Review

Stihl FSA 56 Cordless Trimmer Review

I was wrong. I was wrong about cordless outdoor power equipment (OPE). I used to think it was a gimmick. That it was for people that didn’t understand engines. I thought it was for people in metropolitan areas with postage stamp-sized yards. I couldn’t have been more wrong about all of it. I am now a proud cordless trimmer user.

FSA 56 cordless trimmer -5

My wife at 8 months pregnant can easily handle it

Cordless Trimmer Epiphany

I’m sure there are many of you reading this now and thinking,  “Cordless OPE isn’t for me.” I was right there with you. In fact, I was probably one of the staunchest detractors. To be perfectly honest, Stihl’s media event hadn’t convinced me that it was for me. I had held it in my hand, I had used it, albeit briefly, but used it all the same. I still wasn’t convinced. It took an epiphany.

The epiphany came about a month after I had been using the product. I was mowing the lawn and my wife wanted to trim the grass. She had never trimmed in her life. I showed her the controls and away she went. It didn’t take long and she was done. The cordless trimmer was so easy that someone with absolutely zero experience could just grab it and go. I was converted.

FSA 56 Cordless Trimmer Features and SpecificationsFSA 56 cordless trimmer -8

  • WEIGHT w/o Battery 2.5 kg. (5.5 lbs.)
  • WEIGHT w/ AK 10 3.3 kg. (7.3 lbs.)
  • RUN TIME (w/ AK 10) – Up to 17 minutes (if running constantly)
  • RUN TIME (w/ AK 20) – Up to 34 minutes (if running constantly)
  • CUTTING WIDTH – 28 cm (11″)
  • LINE CAPACITY – 16′ (2 – 8′ strings) of .080″/2.0mm Quiet Line
  • VOLTAGE – 36V
  • Instant Start up
  • Adjustable Handle Position and Shaft Length
  • Autocut 2-2 Bump Feed head

No Gas All Go

I’ve read plenty of reviews of cordless OPE where the reviewer lamented years of struggling starting 2-stroke equipment. That’s never been my issue and maybe it hasn’t been your issue either. So why should you care about a cordless trimmer? Even if your equipment works flawlessly all the time, you still have to maintain it. You still have to buy and mix gas. You still have to fuel up your trimmer and then you still have to start it. The real boon of a cordless trimmer is that you click in the battery and you’re good to go. The other huge benefit is the much lighter weight.

If you’ve had engine trouble in the past, I’m preaching to the choir here. You can already imagine how great it would be not to have to futz with a gas engine in any way. Not even a single pull of the rope because there is no rope.

Why STIHL Over Other Brands?

The cordless OPE market has blown up in the last few years with seemingly every OPE manufacturer as well as every power tool manufacturer putting out cordless offerings. So why should you or anyone else pick a Stihl cordless trimmer or other equipment over another brand? STIHL would like to give you over 9,000 reasons. That’s how many independent servicing dealers they have in the US. They are fully trained in the operation and repair of every Stihl product they sell. Sure you can buy a cordless trimmer at Lowes or Home Depot but if you have an issue with it down the road, they can’t fix it for you.

Why the Stihl FSA 56 Cordless Trimmer?

Stihl currently has a total of 5 cordless trimmer offerings. How do you know which one is right for you? Stihl has three tiers of cordless OPE delineated by the size of the yard or the frequency of usage. The AI line (integrated battery) are for small, urban yards or occasional use. The AK line is for medium suburban yards or frequent use. The AP line is for large yards or professional use.FSA 56 cordless trimmer 1

I picked the FSA 56 because while I have a smaller yard (1/3 acre), I’m a frequent user. We have a number of things to trim around in our yard from our kids play structure, to deck posts, landscaping, and a firepit/patio area. Additionally, I use the trimmer to maintain our cabin up in Northern Minnesota. We used to keep a 2-stroke trimmer up there but the FSA 56 cordless trimmer is just easier.

Stihl says that the FSA 56 with the AK-10 battery can trim up to 5 football fields in length. That’s of course dependent on length and type of grass and the feed rate (how fast you trim). While I didn’t test this specifically, I’ve had more than enough power to completely trim my lawn. Sometimes I get almost two trims before recharging.

Stihl lists the runtime of the FSA 56 cordless trimmer as 17 minutes with the AK-10 battery. To be perfectly honest, that doesn’t sound like much and it isn’t until you consider how you trim. You pull the trigger, trim around an object, let go of the trigger, and walk to the next object. A cordless trimmer doesn’t constantly run like a gas unit. Trimming is so quiet with a cordless trimmer. It’s just the whir of the line and then silence as you walk to the next trimmable object.

Reloading the AutoCut 2-2 Cordless Trimmer Head

Rewinding the Spool You Have

NOTE: The trimmer comes with .080″/2.0mm Quiet Line but I wasn’t able to get that off the shelf in bulk from the two largest dealers in town. They would have had to order it. Not knowing any better I bought it. I was able to rewind the spool with .080″/2.0mm Premium Round Line (green color) but the cut ends mushroom a little making it tougher to thread into the channels in the head. I assure you it’s very possible but threading the Quiet Line is much easier if it’s available.

Replacing the Spool with a Pre-Wound One

Where to Buy

The Stihl FSA 56 cordless trimmer can be purchased from your local independent servicing Stihl dealer and is available as a bare tool for $149.95 or as a kit that includes the AK-10 battery and charger for $199.95.

Plenty of snort for the thick stuff

About the author

Jeff Williams

Contributing Editor Jeff Williams is a carpenter for a commercial General Contractor specializing in concrete, steel, and wood buildings. Jeff comes from a long line of contractors. His parents started a commercial General Contracting firm many years ago and it has afforded him life-long, hands-on learning opportunities from rough and fine carpentry all the way to structural steel and concrete. Jeff has a Construction Management degree and loves the thrill of coordinating and successfully managing large jobs from start to finish. Inspired by the difficulties sometimes encountered to complete punch lists his motto is, "Work hard until the job is done."

@jeff_williams

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10 Comments

  1. Garry Bryant

    Purchased this model this afternoon. Charged the battery and went trimming the grass. Worked great until the line was cut short. Saw this and thought the line needed to be replaced cause it came with a short line. Took the spool head apart and the line spool out and saw that there was still line but somehow the cut took the line just out of the spool hole. There’s a white plastic cover over the line. How does this come off, no idea? Manual says pop in another pre-loaded spool. Didn’t buy one, so back to store. Was showed how to pry off the plastic and just throw it away. Store didn’t know there was such thing as pre-loaded spools. I then asked sales person how to make the 56 trimmer do vertical cutting for trimming sidewalk. He took down display model and…IT DOESN’T DO VERTICAL!, only horizontal. Head is tilted so holding the trimmer vertical for trimming is difficult and ruined one side of driveway. Then the line cut short again. Goes back tomorrow!

    1. Jeff Williams

      Gerry, I’m sorry about your experience. My dealer didn’t know about the spools at first either, the cordless stuff is still relatively new. There are two videos included above showing you how to replace the line. The 2mm quiet line is easier to respool but the regular is possible as well. As for edging… I only use mine to maintain edging, not cut new. It does take a steady hand though. As far as the line breaking, the regular 2mm line is very long lasting for me but I’m not trimming around chainlink or anything like that that chews through line.

  2. Dick Vogel

    I have had the same problem with the line going back inside. I have tried restringing a spool with the same problem. I have had this piece of junk for a year now. Have had Stihl chainsaws in the past with good luck. But sure wish I never would have bought the FSA 56.

  3. Gareth

    We’ve had ours for just under a year and it’s had some heavy usage. Having finally worn out the trimmer head that attaches to the drive shaft I now want to replace the entire Autocut 2-2 assembly. Can you offer any advice how to do this? There is a circlip which I have removed but I cannot get the head off. Overall I’m really pleased with the quality and robustness of the fsa56, but it would be great if the head was easy to replace. Thanks for any suggestions.

    PS I can’t check the notify box, but would be grateful if you’d let me know of any replies via my email.

  4. John Pfender

    Had a FSA 56 for less than 2 months and it completely died. Was told by local STIHL dealer the product was being recalled and replaced with a FSA 57. I decided to not take him up on the exchange offer and decided to just get my money back. Very disappointing and the standard battery does not last long enough to complete my city lawn (double corner lot). So I say avoid the FSA56 as mine did not make it even two months and 5 complete cuts.

    1. Jeff Williams

      The FSA56 is not being recalled. The 57 is just an incremental release according to my Stihl USA contact. Do you have the AK10 battery? Are you trimming against chainlink? I don’t know man, I get more than my full lawn done in one battery and we have tons of crap to mow around in the yard.

      1. John Pfender

        Long story. After 3 seasons my DeWalt 20V died. A good friend who runs a lawn care business recommended STIHL. They use gas trimmers but loved theirs and speculated the cordless would do fine for my city corner lot (I have about 40 minutes of weed eating if I do all the trimming).

        The STIHL dealer they use sent a FSA56. My first two or three cuts were fine and the only issues were learning the best method to refill the line and the AK10 battery just didn’t allow me to finish the job. So I decided to stop by a STIHL dealer located on my commute to work (different dealer than the one who sold me the FSA56) to buy the AK20.

        As my luck goes the FSA56 trimmer died about six weeks after I bought the trimmer and about two weeks after the battery was bought.

        I returned the FSA56 trimmer to STIHL dealer #1 and received a full refund. I was then stuck with a FSA20 battery ($107 with tax) that was doing me no good. STIHL dealer #2 was awesome and gave me a full refund when they did not have to. I was told not to give up on STIHL and that I could trade in my FSA56 for a FSA57. I swore he called it a recall. But as I has already returned the FSA56 I could not take him up on it.

        I have since purchased another brand cordless weed eater and so far I really like it. But I have learned not to get too excited as the trimmer could die without notice as my FSA56 did.

        Bottom line, my FSA56 died on me after 6 weeks and about 4 or 5 trimmings. I may have had 4 hours run time on it tops. I decided not to give STIHL another chance as that was totally unacceptable to me.

  5. Ad_Augendae

    I have the same strimmer (UK Based) and have been using it for around a month now. So onto a second spool from the main dealer and after being fitted 10 minutes with some slightly heavier work it broke with a grinding sound, Packed off to the Main Dealer and awaiting NEWS!. Not sure if the offer of an upgrade in the UK is available or not, but I would take a punt as I do like the little guy. I hope they have sorted the weak large nylon gear fitted to the FSA 56 model to the 57 model. The 65 model seems to be direct drive?

    They do bigger batteries as well AK20 etc for people needing that option, but it all depends on the performance of a rehash I guess.

    1. Jeff Williams

      There is little difference between the 56 and 57 model. A marginal increase in run time but not much else is different in the specs. The 57 is just an incremental update to the 56.

  6. Chuck Mathews

    I purchased a FSA 56 a couple months ago as for trimming is ok but don’t even think about edging with it. As far as I’m concerned this was a waste of my money, run time I can live with 45 minutes but spool could hold more and thicker line in my opinion. As for as the re-spooling I discard the plastic on the spool you will save yourself a lot of headaches. If you have had gas powered Stihil power equipment in the past you will be very disappointed with this. I only wish I bought gas!

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