Tiller: Poor tilling

Worn or damaged tines, broken tine shaft clevis pins, a worn drive belt, a faulty transmission, a problem with the clutch cable, improper depth-stake setting or bad soil conditions can cause a tiller to do a poor job turning the soil.

The soil must be moist enough that it forms a ball when you squeeze it in your hand, but dry enough that the ball falls apart when dropped. Check soil conditions and water the area that you're tilling if the ground is too dry. Let the ground dry out if soil is too wet.

Check the depth stake setting and adjust it for the type of soil you're cultivating. Lower the depth stake to till at a 1-inch depth when using the tiller on soil for the first time or when breaking up hard soil. Also use the 1-inch depth setting to break up sod for shallow cultivation. Raise the depth stake to till loose soil and for deep cultivation.

Check the condition of the tiller tines and replace worn or damaged tines.

If tines don't rotate when the tine shaft turns during tilling, check the tine shaft clevis pins. The clevis pins are shear pins that connect the tines to the rotating tine shaft. The clevis pins are designed to shear off if the tines hit a fixed object during cultivation to prevent damage to the engine and other tiller components. Replace any broken tine shaft clevis pins.

If the tiller doesn't move and the tines don't spin when you pull the bail arm up against the handle, adjust the clutch cable to spin the drive belt when you pull the bail arm up. Replace the clutch cable if it's damaged. Replace the drive belt if it's worn or broken.

If the drive belt spins the transmission pulley but the transmission pulley won't move the wheels or the tines, replace the transmission.

tiller

These repairs may help solve your tiller problem

Replace the tiller tines

Replace the tiller tines

The tines can bend or break if they hit a fixed object during cultivation. The can also get dull and wear out. Replace the tines if they are worn or damaged.

How to replace the tines on a front-tine tiller

When a front-tine tiller isn’t digging into the soil well, the tines might be bent or worn. This easy DIY repair guide shows how to replace the tines on a front-tine tiller in about 15 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Read more
How to replace the tines on a rear-tine tiller

If your rear-tine tiller isn't turning soil like it should, the tines could be worn or bent. This DIY repair guide shows how to replace the tines on a rear-tine tiller in less than 30 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the tiller drive belt

Replace the tiller drive belt

The drive belt connects the engine pulley to the transmission to drive the wheels and tines on the tiller. A worn belt slips, resulting in poor tilling. Replace the belt if it is worn or broken.

May 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a tiller drive belt

If your tiller won’t move forward or the tines won’t turn, the drive belt might be broken or worn. This DIY repair guide shows how to replace a tiller drive belt in 6 easy steps.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Adjust or replace the tiller clutch cable

Adjust or replace the tiller clutch cable

The clutch cable engages and disengages the drive system on the tiller. Test the drive system and adjust the clutch cable if necessary. If the cable is damaged or broken, replace it.

Replace the tiller tine shaft clevis pin

Replace the tiller tine shaft clevis pin

A clevis pin attaches the tines to the rotating tine shaft. The clevis pin is designed to shear off if the tines hit a fixed object while cultivating to protect the engine. Replace the clevis pin on the tine shaft if it breaks.

Replace the tiller transmission

Replace the tiller transmission

The transmission controls the motion of the wheels and/or tines on a tiller. An internal gear failure in the transmission can prevent the tines from turning or the wheels from moving. Replace the transmission if it won't drive the tiller components properly.

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.