How to Use a Rear Tine Rototiller


Rear tine rototillers make the chore of tilling soil easier. While more expensive than their front tine counterparts, rear tine tillers make the cost worth the extra work you save. They move forward with little effort from the user and require only that you walk behind it with a light hand on the handlebar. It's important to know how to use a rear tine rototiller before placing its tines in the soil to prevent damage to the machinery and protect its users from potential hazards.

Step 1

Start the engine by moving the gear lever, often located on the engine or handle bar, to "engage." Set the depth regulator, usually located by the tines, to "travel" so the tines remain elevated from the ground. Position the engine throttle at "fast." Prime the engine by pushing in the primer three times. With non-electric models, pull the recoil starter rope back toward you until it chokes. Position the choke lever at "run" once started. On electric models, turn the engine key to "start." Let the engine crank for a few seconds. After it starts, release the key to allow it to switch back to "run." Move the choke to "run."

Step 2

Walk the tiller to the garden area and switch the depth regulator to 1 or 2 inches. Set the tines of the rototiller in the soil and allow it to move forward on its own. Walk behind the rototiller. Securely grip the handlebar, but do not push the machine.

Step 3

Lower the speed by adjusting the gear level before turning the rototiller. Lift the handlebars until the tines and engine balance over the wheels. Push on the handlebar to turn the rototiller. Place the tines in the soil again and increase its speed.

Step 4

Set the depth regulator at 1 or 2 inches for the first pass. Increase the depth by 1 or 2 inches on each pass until you have achieved the correct depth.

Step 5

Overlap each pass by one-half of the tiller's width after the first row. On the first row, go over the row twice.

Step 6

Adjust the speed on each pass to the speed that feels the most comfortable. Keep it at a lower speed initially to give it power, yet allow it to work slowly on hard, compacted soil. As you begin to work with looser soils, after you have made a few passes, increase the speed.

Step 7

Till up and down on moderate slopes. Refrain from tilling on steep ground where you may experience difficulty with footing. When tilling downhill, overlap by one-half of the tiller's width. Check the rototiller's oil level every half hour. Keep the oil full as tilling on a slope may cause the oil to run to one side and can starve the machine of oil.

Step 8

Till across the slope when tilling steep areas. Create terraced rows by tilling in rows 2 to 3 feet wide and leaving 12 inches of untilled ground between each terraced row.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not place hands or feet near running parts of the machine during operation. Only till in areas where you can maintain a solid footing--avoid tilling on slopes if unnecessary. If tines catch in hard ground and the machine propels forward, let go of the handle bars and let the machine go until it stops.


  • Troy-Bilt: Pony Garden Tiller Owner's Manual
  • Troy-Bilt: Big Red Horse Garden Tiller
  • LSU AgCenter: Use of a Rotary Garden Tiller
  • LSU AgCenter: Selecting a Rotary Garden Tiller
Keywords: rear tine rototiller, using rototiller, tilling soil

About this Author

Sommer Sharon has a bachelor's degree in IT/Web management from the University of Phoenix and owns a Web consulting business. With more than 12 years of experience in the publishing industry, her work has included "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "MORE," "Country Home," "Midwest Living," and "American Baby." Sharon now contributes her editorial background by writing for several Internet publications.