Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Get a Garden Tiller to Start

By Patrick Nelson

As with many yard products, a garden tiller uses an internal combustion engine for power to drive it forward, and to operate the machinery -- in this case to rotate the tines. Problems with starting engines on a garden tiller can be related to fuel, controls, the air filter and bad spark plugs. These kinds of problems can be readily identified and corrected.

Check that the spark plug wire is connected to the spark plug and that the fuel tank has fuel in it if the garden tiller won’t start. Add fuel, or drain and replace the fuel with fresh fuel if the gasoline is left over from the previous season -- gasoline can turn varnish-like when left for more than a month.

Put the engine throttle control lever into the “Start” position if the garden tiller still won’t start.

Clean or replace the air filter if you continue to have problems starting the tiller. Remove the air filter cover and identify the two parts usually there: a foam pre-filter and a paper filter. The foam pre-filter can be washed with water and soap. Allow it to dry and drop some oil on it. Squeeze the foam to distribute the oil and wipe excess oil off with a rag. Replace the paper filter with a new one.

Inspect the spark plug and change it if starting problems persist. Remove the boot wire and undo the spark plug with a socket wrench. Inspect the spark plug and replace it with a new one if it’s oxidized and discolored. A light tan color is OK, but anything deeper, including the gap area, indicates a worn plug.

Replace the plug with one recommended by your garden tiller manufacturer. Set the gap to the manufacturer’s specifications before you install it by inserting a gap tool and knocking the head on a hard surface to close the gap, or prying the gap wider with the tool.


Things You Will Need

  • Fuel
  • Air filter
  • Oil
  • Spark plug
  • Socket wrench
  • Spark plug gap tool

About the Author


Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication "Producer Report" and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School.