Rear tine tillers need to offer a lot of power because they are intended for very compact, rough ground. When you’re looking at the power, you’ll probably be looking for horsepower. Many rear tine tillers do highlight horsepower, with 8HP being a relatively powerful tiller. However, it’s more typical for rear tine tillers to just show the engine size. This appears as “250cc” or another number. The “cc” stands for cubic centimeters, so the larger the number before this measurement, the larger and more powerful the engine is. If your garden is particularly compact or it’s never been broken, you’ll want to be sure to get an engine in the 200’s.
Rear tine tillers use a few big engine brands, like Honda and Briggs & Stratton. You should also be on the lookout for terms like 4-cycle, OHV, and OHC. 4-cycle engines (also known as 4-stroke) differ from 2-cycle because they’re more fuel-efficient, quieter, and they last longer. OHV (overhead valve) engines are also known for their efficiency and quieter operation, as well as their relatively light weight. OHC engines (overhead camshaft) are similar, though they are manufactured to be even more compact while still offering significant power.
Another way to gauge the power of a rear tine tiller is to look at the torque. “Torque” is the measurement of how much force (how many pounds) an object needs in order to rotate. In practice, it appears as lb/feet, with a torque of 10 lb/ft being very high for a rear tine tiller. You want a high torque on your rear tine tiller since breaking compact, rough ground needs a lot of pressure behind the tines.
The tines on a rear tine tiller are crucial since they are doing all the work by digging up the soil. The tines on a rear tine tiller sit behind the engine, which is what differs the tiller from a front-tine tiller. When you are checking out the tines, you should know your options when it comes to how the tines move through the soil. The standard tines are forward-rotating tines. These move in the same direction as the wheels and are best when you are working with soil that is not extremely hard or has been broken before. Counter-rotating tines oppose the wheels, creating very powerful, deep digging that is great for soil that’s never been tilled. In terms of actual tine construction, most tines are made from hardened or spring steel, with heat-treated blades lasting longer.
Tine tilling width and depth
Depending on the size and price of the rear tine tiller, you will get a different tilling width and depth. For width, 17-18 inches is standard for most rear tine tillers meant for medium-large gardens. The advantage of a wide tilling width is that you can till faster without having to make a lot of passes. There are some tillers that are even narrower, and these are better if you have really tight spots in your garden that a wider tiller would not fit in. For depth, you usually get to adjust how deep the tines go, with 6-7 inches as the normal maximum depth. If your plot has never been tilled, you will want the deepest rear tine tiller you can get.
The gear transmission on rear tine tillers is very important because the tiller has to work in rocky, uneven terrain. A durable, smooth transmission will lengthen your tiller’s lifespan and give you better maneuverability. Good gear transmissions will be made to be very strong, and use materials like cast-iron and bronze gear drives. You should also look for gears that are versatile and can move both backwards and forwards. Reverse gearboxes allow for forward and reverse movement. The rear tine tiller will be easier to use and more flexible, which speeds up the chore.
Since a rear tine tiller is meant for rough ground, the tires are designed for balance and durability. With the tires in front of the tines, they need to be able to smoothly pull the tines with the engine. In terms of size, a 6-inch tire is on the small size with 13-16 inches being better for uneven ground and for larger tillers. In general, the bigger the tire, the more stability you will get. The tire tread is also important, so look for heavy or agricultural tread. These treads will allow you to work in a variety of soil conditions, like rocky or muddy.
Rear tine tillers have several features designed just for maneuverability. Plow-style handles allow for Just One Hand operation, which essentially means you can operate the tiller with using one hand. Balance is also crucial, so many rear tine tillers use drag bars and counterweights. A drag bar helps keep the tiller’s cutting depth consistent, while the counterweight puts weight on the tires, so the machine stays stable and grounded. A drag stake is similar to a drag bar, and can be adjusted with your desired tine depth.
Most rear tine tillers are gas-powered, so tank storage is something to be on the lookout for. 3-4 gallons is a large tank for a rear-tine tiller, so you can use the tiller for quite a while before needing to refill. While tillers with smaller tanks tend to be cheaper, you do have to factor in the inconvenience of needing to stop during longer chores to fill up again.
If you want a more energy-efficient rear-tine tiller with reduced emissions, look for CARB-compliant rear tine tillers. These are the machines that have been recognized by the California Air Resources Board for being more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly. If you live in California, you cannot buy a rear tine tiller unless it is CARB-compliant, but in other states, you have to check the specs.