How to Use a Rear Tine Tiller: A Step by Step Guide

The sun is rising; birds are chirping. You look outside to your yard and think about the unkempt mess that could’ve been a lush, green, plant and vegetable garden. 

Well, we’re here to tell you that your dream backyard can be right around the corner. One of the essential steps to revive your yard is tilling. 

There are several types of tillers, but one of the most effective types is a rear tine tiller. In this article we will go into detail about what a rear tine tiller is, why you might need it, and how to use one. 

What is a Tiller?

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re still new to this, you might be wondering what a tiller is or what it does. Simply put, a tiller is a tool used to prepare the soil for planting. It does this by refining and breaking apart the dense soil into a workable planting site.

Rear Tine vs Front Tine Tillers

There are several types of tillers commercially available. Two of them are the rear and front tine tillers. Depending on how your lawn is looking, each type has its perks. Here’s what you should know.

Rear Tine Tiller

A rear tine tiller has its wheels built in the front while its tines are in the rear, hence the name ‘rear tine tiller.’ The machine pulls the tines forward with its engine-powered wheels, unlike the front tiller that you have to push forward yourself. 

This means that you don’t need to use force to push this tiller much. Instead, it’ll do most of the hard work for you.

If your soil has never been worked on, the rear tine tiller would be a perfect choice. Its heavy-duty build allows it to penetrate the toughest of grounds. As a result, it’ll be able to level your yard in no time.

Rear tine tillers are usually larger than front tine ones; therefore, they will take some space in your gardening shed. But, their power and high endurance do compensate for the bulkiness.  

A rear tine tiller is mostly used by farmers and avid or commercial gardeners with large gardens to tend to. Nevertheless, with some helpful tips and practice, we’re sure you’ll be able to manage yours.

Front Tine Tiller

Unlike the rear tine tiller, a front tine tiller has its wheels in the back and the tines in the front. The front tines of the tiller are what push it forward. 

These tillers cost less than rear tine ones, as they don’t cover as much ground. However, front tine tillers are considerably smaller and will be able to fit into every nook and cranny in your garden with ease. 

If you’re more of a home gardener, or have a small to medium sized yard, a front tine tiller might be more suitable for you. We also have an article on how to use a front tine tiller if you need help.

How To Use a Rear Tine Tiller – Steps

We’re here to guide you through each step on how to use a rear tine tiller. After a few practice runs, we’re sure you’ll be able to get the hang of it.

Step 1: Check the User Manual

Before operating on any machinery, you should make it a habit to check out the user manual. Make sure you’re able to locate all of the main switches, including the on/off button, speed control, depth regulator lever, and forward lever.

Most importantly, if your tiller has one, make sure to familiarize yourself with the emergency shutdown mechanism.

Step 2: Set the Elevation 

Now you need to see what elevation you want to set your tiller at. You’ll be able to adjust it through the depth regulators in the back of the tiller. 

Simply detach the cotter pin and adjust the tines to the depth level desired. Afterward, just place the cotter pin back to hold the tines in place. Ensure that you’re on a flat surface; otherwise, some engines won’t even start.

Step 3: Start the Engine

Put the wheels, choke, and throttle in their corresponding positions, as per the manual’s instructions. 

Switch the drive and tine control to N (neutral). After this, starting the engine might differ for each rear tine tiller. Therefore, check your user manual. Some tillers require you to pull on a starter cord, some have a button start, etc.

Step 4: Drive the Tiller 

You should now feel the engine running. It’s time to drive! Get your hands on the handles and switch the drive control to D (drive).

Some other rear tine tillers might use a choker lever, in which case you simply adjust it to the ‘run’ position.

Step 5: Activate the Tines

It’s time to activate the tines by turning their controls on. The tines, in turn, will spin in the opposite direction of the wheels. Now you’re just going to let the tiller do its thing and till. 

Step 6: Take Your Precautions 

If you want to adjust the leveling, you can just slowly push the handles downwards or upwards. Make sure you move uniformly in straight and parallel lines. 

Also, before operating your tiller be sure to clear your lawn or garden of any rocks or large debris. You wouldn’t want that damaging your tiller. 

Step 7: Turn off the Tiller 

To turn off your rear tine tiller, disengage all the control levers. Be sure to also switch the fuel valve off to prevent any fuel from leaking into the engine. The engine will slowly turn off after a few minutes. 

Tips on Using a Rear Tine Tiller

Here are some tips to help you get more acquainted with using your rear tine tiller. 

  • Don’t force your tiller to go deep on the first run. Always start on a shallow surface first, then make your way in deeper soil. 
  • Try to avoid tilling on wet soil – this will clump your soil and inhibit your planting surface. If it’s wet, just wait a few days. Test it out by grabbing a fistful of the soil; if it remains compact, that means it’s still too wet. 
  • If you’re preparing a seedbed, move your tiller lengthwise and then crosswise. 
  • We don’t recommend terracing using a tiller. Sloping on a 15-degree angle or higher is not advised because the oil might skew away from its normal level, which will starve the engine. 


Tilling your garden is a rewarding experience. Knowing all your hard work is paid off by looking over your beautiful garden, planted by hand, will make you feel accomplished. 

After knowing all the steps and precautions, we’re sure you’ll be ready to start tilling and be on your way to growing your own plants and vegetables. Good luck!