November 1, 2016

A guide to garden tillers

By Sears PartsDirect staff
A guide to garden tillers.

Tilling is the gardening practice of turning the soil to loosen it, usually to prepare a garden for planting, to work organic matter (like grass clippings or peat moss) into the earth or to kill weed seedlings between rows of plants.

While many gardeners manually till the soil with a garden spade, manual tilling is laborious and time-consuming for large gardens. A gas-powered tiller makes tilling faster and less strenuous by using the power of an engine to drive rotating rows of metal tines into soil. Two types of garden tillers are available:

  • Rear-tine tillers have the tines behind the engine. They have several forward gears and a reverse gear to aid in deep tilling. Rear-tine tillers are driven by the wheels, so you guide the machine rather than push it. Rear-tine tillers machines are heavy, large and powerful.  They’re best for deep-tilling heavy soils to prepare for planting. You can use them to cut through sod—it’s easier than busting sod by hand, but it’s still hard work. At the time of this writing, rear-tine tillers range in price from about $700 to $900. 

  • Front-tine tillers have the tines in front of the engine. Front-tine tillers are lighter, smaller and less powerful than rear-tine tillers. They aren’t wheel driven, so you have to push them forward through the soil. Front-tine tillers are designed for light soils that don’t pack tightly and for cultivating between rows to kill small weeds and improve air flow into the soil. They can’t cut through sod and are prone to popping out of the soil if they hit an obstacle. Front-tine tillers range in price from about $220 to $600. 

With two types of tillers on the market, how do you choose which one to get? Choose a rear-tine tiller if you have soil that’s difficult to turn or if you have a huge garden of any soil type. Opt for a front-tine tiller for a small to moderate sized garden with light soil. Also consider the storage space needed.

If you’re still not sure which is right for you, rent both types first to see how they handle and which does the best job in your soil. 

Symptoms common to all tillers

Choose a symptom to see related tiller repairs.

Main causes: carburetor failure, bad gasoline, dirty spark plug, broken recoil starter
Main causes: clutch cable problems, faulty transmission
Main causes: dirty carburetor, engine needs tune up, stale gas
Main causes: damaged tines, broken clevis pins, worn drive belt, faulty transmission, clutch cable problems, improper depth-stake setting
Main causes: leaky engine head gasket, damaged sump gasket, damaged oil drain plug seal, loose or cracked fuel line, leaky carburetor seal
Main causes: broken shaft clevis pins, transmission failure
Main causes: worn or broken drive belts, bad transmission, clutch cable problems
Repair guides common to all tillers

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your tiller.

May 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a tiller recoil starter

The recoil starter spins the engine when you pull the starter rope, and the rope retracts when released. If the recoil starter assembly is broken, follow the steps in this repair guide to replace it.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Articles and videos common to all tillers

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your tiller.

November 1, 2016
A guide to garden tillers
By Sears PartsDirect staff

Rear tine tiller or front tine tiller, what to know to help in choosing the correct one for your needs.

November 1, 2015
Tiller common questions
By Sears PartsDirect staff

These frequently asked questions might help you figure out what's wrong with your garden tiller.