Customer Reviews: Toro 51609 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed (up to 235) Electric Blower/Vacuum with Metal Impeller
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on May 15, 2012
I compared a few Blower/Vac combo units before choosing this Toro 51609. Ultimately, I'm very happy with this machine.

I researched the following competing models (mainly by reading their Amazon reviews - I do NOT have hands-on experience with these other units):

Black & Decker LH5000 12 amp Variable Speed Electric Leaf Hog Blower/Vacuum - seems like a good unit, but more complaints re: motor longevity and quality of leaf bag.

WORX TriVac WG500 12 amp All-in-One Electric Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum - looks cool, but expensive, poor quality, terrible reviews.

Toro 51599 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed Electric Blower/Vacuum with Metal Impeller - well-established, highly-rated unit with >1200 Amazon reviews, 4.5 star average. Was about to buy it, noticed that Toro had just released a newer model...

Which led me to the 51609. The only detectable difference seems to be the inclusion of some new blower nozzle attachments (cord wrap, power insert, and concentrator insert). These are all quite handy and work as intended. The cord wrap is perfect for a 50ft extension cord, anything longer exceeds the capacity of the hook and makes the unit really heavy to carry around. The power insert does help with blowing leaves more easily into rows and the concentrator insert is good for clearing stuck on debris.

Switching between blower and vac is really easy. One thing I notice is that looser shorts can get sucked up against the intake cover in blower mode, but the opening isn't big enough for anything to get stuck or tangled.

The blower speed is adjustable, but for some reason I was expecting more of a range between slow and fast - I think most people will notice that it's more or less two speeds, and the "infinite" adjustability isn't really a major feature.

Works very well to mulch leaves, not super fine, but certainly good enough to simplify bagging or accelerate composting. Metal impeller was a big feature for me, should last a very long time.

Overall, the differences between the 51609 and 51599 are minimal, but the addition of the two nozzle inserts and cord wrap are nice iterative improvements to an already great yard appliance.
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on December 20, 2013
I am really impressed with the power of this thing. I found myself using it at half power most of the time because it would blow the grass up in chunks at full power. The mulching feature is awesome. I was able to blow my leaves into a pile, and then vacuum them up. The mulch it makes actually looks nice too. I did notice one odd thing, there wasn't any instructions in the box. Maybe mine was a return? The blower was not in a protective bag or anything. They basically just poured the pieces into the box and sealed it up. I figured out how to put the mulcher attachments on but some instructions would have been nice.
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on April 29, 2012
Love this thing! I had a 51599 that I lent out last year and never received back. Came on a couple weeks ago to order the same model when I noticed this- this is the same blower as the 51599 but cheaper, and with newer accessories. The attachments are easier to store now, and the blue piece you see is a cord caddy that slips on the blower nozzle. Quite convenient! I now keep my extension cord wrapped around the caddy.

Great blower, great price.
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on April 25, 2013
After recieving the third Toro blower in 12 years as a Father's Day gift last year, I knew that I would be very pleased with my NEW EDITION. Well nine months later I am extremely disappointed. The Control switch doesn't work well, and it will not allow high speed air, and the motor is burning as it runs.
I wrote to Toro for advice, and they told me where to take/send it for repair, at my cost. Yes, at my expense, what two year warranty are we talking about??? My prior experiences have always been positive with Toro products, but this time disappointed and I am just letting you know of my present dilemma.
Know I must make another decision with a bad taste in my mouth!!! Where to next???
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on November 23, 2012
This is my third Toro blower/vac unit purchase over a period of twelve years. I like all its features in general, and the price is attractive, but I'm not totally thrilled with the unit. Unfortunately, there are several parts of the unit that become obsolete after about three years of use; the electrical switch assembly, the nozzle connector (the size changes with each new model year), and the leaf bag zipper which has been grossly undersized and prone to failure since the whole line of blower vacs first came to market. Toro Customer Support admits this one item is high on the list of customer complaints, yet no attempt has ever been made to upgrade it. They will replace bags with failed zippers for free as long as your unit is still under warranty; after that, you will have to buy a replacement bag (because that would be cheaper than having someone install a new zipper). I am not a fan of companies that use "planned obsoleteness" to stimulate sales. Our landfills are full of such practices.
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on October 23, 2012
One of my better Amazon buys! I am 'very' pleased with this electric [AC] operated model blower/vacuum and today alone it was really put through its paces with leaves a la mode and came through with flying colors! As other reviewers have said, this model very fortunately has a ==METAL== impeller [versus plastic] and this is, IMO anyway, an absolute must when the unit is used [with the attachable leaf-bag with a very convenient carrying strap] to literally suck-up leaves [and the usual multiple small twigs that wind up in the leaf pile] and it makes confetti out of the leaves and small twigs. When used as a blower, and with that 2 plastic piece 'concentrator' gizmo, it's a real whirlwind.

I have a big yard with various big trees on the property in a very rural area and while doing the grass in this large area is no particular biggie essentially because I can sit on my fanny and let a 24HP 46" cut rider-mower do about 85% of the grass cutting work and a 'back-up' self-propelled power mower for those places the big rider can't go in the more steep areas of lawn here and there, getting rid of Fall season falling leaves from all those trees [now I know why I like my other pine trees so much!] is another story entirely. If I get lazy and mow over them rationalizing that those twin big rider-mower mulch blades will do the trick and chop them up, then I hear it from my wife [! -- sound familiar?] because the lawn no longer looks green but rather a mish-mosh of color from rider-mower shredded up muti-colored leaves until the snow finally arrives and covers the big lawn soooooo it's one particular job on my big sprawling lawn that I loathe -- rake time for the leaves [a REAL drag and a half] 'and' hauling the endless leaves away bag by bag. But with this blower/leaf shredder, you can blow the leaves into a sort of long [and separated] but narrow furrow configuration with just minimum raking and then switch over to the 'vaccum' [which it essentially becomes with the leaf-bag attachment] and suck up those leaves row by row and the metal impeller chops them up quite nicely and you just empty the attached to the model leaf-bag [with its handy zipper] when it's full and then simply repeat the process. I also like the "variable speed" feature because sometimes you want to regulate [read: lower] the speed as, for example, if you have leaves that have fallen within areas where you may have that multi-colored mulch stuff and if you use too high a speed on the blower, the mulch decorative stuff will be blown away with the leaves! On an open lawn tho' , full throttle is the way to go either for blowing or sucking up leaves. It really does the job with its various attachments. Caveat: read the instructions tho' so as to 'correctly' mount the plastic attachments.

I do recommend three things: A "back-up" leaf-bag [** Amazon sells it specifically for this model Toro [** Model #51609 Ultra 12 amp variable-speed electric blower/vacuum with metal impeller" for I believe $19 or so and it's a 'Prime' shipping item just like the electric blower/vacuum itself is] and when you're preparing the leaf piles to be sucked up, use your rake to quickly churn through it and remove any really thick twigs that inevitably get raked up with the leaves. It's easier on the impeller which can easily chop up smaller twigs and avoid sucking-up thick sticks and the like [Of note: Be careful with any pebbles you might have in certain areas of your lawn where leaves have fallen! Move the leaves away from any area that has pebbles or these small stones will decidedly shorten the life of the impeller!]. Avoiding such things and overly thick twigs or sticks will keep the impeller blade sharp. No need to push it. Ohhh, and the big one, the old plug falling out thing on the main unit =or= long extension cords, do a simple knot loop around each AC cord extension connection and at the unit source itself to 'hold' the plug 'firm' and it won't slip out on you umpteen times. That probably sounds familiar too, yes? Yes. Finally, when you really get into it if you have a large lawn area with leaves all over the place, give the electric motor a periodic break [and yourself too!] after sustained blowing and/or leaf-shredding and it should keep purring for years to come.

A great deal, a real work-horse machine, a name brand, light, a carrying strap for the leaf-bag, additional attachments, a reasonable price [especially on sale from the usual MSRP!] and, to top it off, free shipping. Works for me! In more ways than one!

Doc Tony
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on April 28, 2012
I'm loving this more than shoving leaves in a garbage bag. I vacuumed a small pile of leaves and grass today with ease. You still have to empty the bag after you're finished, but I don't mind that at all.

Your hands could start to feel tired if you've been vacuuming for about 10-15 minutes because of the unit vibrating. It didn't bother me, but I noticed that I had to shake out my hands after long use, and I was good to go.

After cutting the grass, I tried the blower function, and it worked just fine.

Vacuuming Trash
We get various forms of trash and debris in our yard after a windy night. I would not use this to vacuum up regular trash. Recently, I had a bunch of quarter-size pieces of Styrofoam in the yard, and I didn't want to rake them, so I decided to try it. It handled the Styrofoam without any problems because it is a soft material, but I don't recommend buying this for trash. Use this at your own risk for trash other than leaves and grass. I accidentally vacuumed a plastic sandwich bag today, and the metal impeller made a quick disturbing noise that startled me, but it didn't disrupt the performance of the vacuum. The noise was just from the speed of the impeller going against plastic.

Vacuuming Leaves
We have a town home with a small yard, so I don't know how convenient the bag attachment will be for someone with a large yard. I'm looking forward to using this during the fall season. I think I'm going to rake the leaves and then vacuum them versus going across the whole yard with the vacuum. I've procrastinated on the yard a handful of times, so I have leaves and other tree/yard debris that is kind of mashed into the ground from rainy days, and the vacuum will not suck up those leaves in one pass. You have to work at it, so I suggest raking your yard if you've procrastinated on keeping it clean.
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on November 19, 2012
I bought the Toro in May. I used it a few times during the summer to remove debris from the deck - approximately one hour total usage. Used it again this fall to remove leaves from the yard - approximately five hours total.

Yesterday, I was into hour seven of its life removing the last of the leaves in the yard and the Toro died. It just stopped working without warning.

I performed the troubleshooting suggested in the manual and that fixed nothing.

I got online and someone had trouble with an internal safety switch that may be my problem, too. So I took the Toro apart and tested the internal switch, but the switched tested OK.

There are not too many other parts inside the Toro that could go bad: the motor, the heat-sink mounted voltage regulator, or the on/off/speed switch. Nevertheless, the Toro died after just six hours of usage over a six month period.

I will never buy Toro again.
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on May 19, 2013
I purchased this item two months ago. I have used the item successfully on two separate occasions, yet when I plugged in the blower yesterday to clear my driveway it was running with the variable speed control dial in the off position. I cycled the control dial multiple times as the motor was running at a constant low speed in all positions. I tried several troubleshooting steps to see if I could clear the malfunction with no success. I am highly irritated by this product. I would not recommend it nor would I purchase this again.
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on September 26, 2013
In the past two decades I've gone though three electric Craftsman leaf blowers. After several years of service, my most recent Craftsman blower finally burned out. I chose the Toro 51609 Ultra Electric Blower/Vacuum because of the great reviews and reasonable cost. First impressions:

1. The Toro is slightly lighter than my old Craftsman.
2. The Toro's metal impeller blade is unusual for electric blowers (they are usually tough plastic). It does of terrific job of snorking up and grinding leaves, dirt, even small twigs and acorns. The suction and blowing power is clearly superior to my old Craftsman.
3. At full blast, the Toro is considerably louder than the Craftsman; enough so that I'm going to start wearing hearing protection. It is still quieter than those darn gasoline blowers, though!
4. Instead of a simple on/off switch, the Toro uses a knob that smoothly goes from "off" to full blast. I prefer a simple on/off or rocker-switch, but no biggie.

5. I almost forgot. You need a good electrical cord to power this 12-amp leaf blower. A standard household extension cord can burn up (literally!) and is a real physical danger; don't cheap out! I use a 100' Yellow Jacket 2888 14/3 Heavy-Duty 13-Amp SJTW Contractor Extension Cord to power this blower and other yard and woodworking tools. Finally, the Toro's cord coiling hooks are useless for a reasonable heavy-duty cord, so I just left them off.

All in all, this is a solid five star product. If I ever have a problem, I'll update this review.
UPDATE: I've been using this leaf blower for over two and a half years and it still works perfectly. Nuff said.
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