Before I carry on with this review, I must apologise for the delay in bringing it to you - it's been hectic here at DriveLink HQ and finding time to write it up has not been easy (what with having to finish the decorating!).
Anyway, without further ado... the loan DCS4301 was fitted with Makita's own version of an easy-start system. This uses a second spring to assist in turning the engine, and does indeed make it very easy to start - but are there any disadvantages? Find out more after the jump...
I first came across easy-start systems with the small Stihl chainsaws and was impressed - in fact, at Sparsholt College, after training several women on the chainsaws and seeing the difficulty they had when starting, the college bought one. It then got termed the "girly-saw" (very un-PC I know), but the interesting thing was that everyone who used it, liked it.
With that in mind, I was interested to see how Makita had implemented their recoil starter, which they call FeatherLight Start.
It works, and it works well and during a recent course I allowed a couple of students to use both this saw and the Stihl MS260. When it came to starting, the Makita won hands-down - "It's sooo easy!" was one comment.
Now this is all very well, but what happens when the starter cord wears down, becomes frayed and finally snaps? Just how easy is it to replace a cord on an easy-start system? Clearly, I was going to have to
get in there with some molegrips and a big hammer take a closer look...
Removing the recoil starter housing was a simple task, requiring me to remove the four Torx-head screws. There's no fiddling around with the front-hand guard either (a la Stihl), it just lifts off. The housing holds the springs, pulley and cord and you don't need to worry about lifting the housing and everything pinging off in various directions! With standard starters, there's really only a couple of components - the main spring and the pulley holding the starter cord. This unit however, has an additional part that houses a second spring, and it's this spring that assists you in starting the saw.
So how does it actually work...? As you pull on the cord, this second spring gets tighter as it's acting against the engine. At some point the energy in this spring can overcome the friction of the piston in the cylinder and the release of the springs energy turns the engine over.
Anyway, back to replacing that cord. The starter housing has a black plastic piece that can be lifted out and helps with access to the starter pulley. To remove the tension from the cord you just need to pull a little cord out and then fit it in to a small notch in the pulley. The tension can now be released from the main spring and with this done the central screw can be removed from the starter assembly. Removing this screw allows the top plastic spring housing to be taken off - the spring within may still have a small amount of tension left in it, but it's negligible. Take a look at this spring as it has to fit back in correctly - the right way round and in to a couple of small notches. With the spring out, the main pulley holding the starter cord can simply be lifted out of the housing. The following images should give you the idea...
So, the removal was simple and certainly easier than I thought it might be.
And then I had to put it back together...
The manual would have you believe that you can just place the main pulley back in to the housing and turn a couple of times to engage the main spring with the underside of the pulley. I have to say that it didn't work for me and after inspecting the parts, I just couldn't see how my spring was going to catch the notch on the underside of my pulley! The problem was that the end of the spring was way off-centre and no amount of
swearing cajoling was going to help. In the end I removed the spring pack (it just lifts out), engaged the spring with the underside of the pulley and put them both back in to the housing at the same time (see photo right) - a little fiddly, but it worked just fine. Happy that I had solved this particular issue, I then continued to put the rest of the starter assembly back together without a hitch.
So, all in all is the easy start system worth it? Definitely. Cord breakage, although it happens, is not something that should occur with alarming regularity - just keep the instruction manual and you'll be fine. It only needs a screwdriver to take it apart and the tools that come with the saw are more than adequate for the task.