Springtime is just around the corner, and you're wondering if that garden tiller in your shed is going to fire up or fizzle out.
If you didn't winterize your rototiller in the fall, you may have your work cut out for you. But either way, there's at least a little work to be done before you fire it up.
Even if you think you'll be okay, don't try starting it without checking the oil and making sure the gas is fresh. Running old gas through the carburetor will only give you more problems, and running the engine without enough oil is even worse.
Disconnect & Check the Spark Plug
Before you do anything, disconnect your spark plug wire and remove the spark plug. If that spark plug is in great shape, you can set it aside and reinsert later. However, if it's cracked, has caked on deposits that can't be easily scrubbed away, or the electrodes are burned away, you'll have to replace it.
Luckily, spark plugs are quite affordable and easily replaced. To clean it off for inspection, simply scrub deposits away with a wire brush. You can use a little fuel injector cleaner to help loosen and remove any more stubborn deposits.
Change the Oil
You should change your oil at least every spring, but ideally after every 50 hours of operation. Between oil changes, check your oil level before each use to ensure there's enough oil present. Small amounts of oil may burn off during use, so you may need to occasionally top it off.
Find the drain plug at or near the bottom of your tiller's oil reservoir. Place an old pan or bowl under the drain plug, and remove the plug. Hold onto the plug and set it aside where you won't lose it. Fully drain all of the old oil, then wipe the plug clean and reinsert it in the oil reservoir.
Refer to your owner's manual for the recommended grade and amount of oil, and refill the reservoir to the fill line. When you think you're close, let it settle for a minute, wipe the dipstick and check the oil level. Add a little at a time until it's full, but don't overfill it or you'll have some foul exhaust to deal with.
The filters in your tiller are responsible for keeping crud out. Without them, your tiller wouldn't last long. However, if they're never changed, they aren't going to be very helpful.
A clogged, dirty air filter will choke out your engine, preventing optimal air flow. Dirty fuel filters will lead to hard starts and poor running performance. And an old dirty oil filter will lead to more wear and tear on your engine's components.
Change your filters according to the manufacturer's specifications in your owner's manual. Promptly changing these filters on time is one of the best ways to ensure longevity and performance quality of your tiller.
Grease Your Tiller
Tillers often have grease ports for the many moving parts surrounding the drive unit, shafts, and belts. These grease fittings should be pumped full of grease until it squeezes out the shaft to ensure there's enough grease present and the old grease and dirt has been flushed out.
You can pick up a grease gun and tube of grease at any local hardware store, and it's generally inexpensive. Adding plenty of fresh grease will help keep your tiller running better and protect it from unnecessary wear and tear.
Tighten the Wheels
When you run and operate your tiller, it's no secret that there's a lot of vibration that takes place. You also know that the wheels are an important component. They play a major part in supporting the weight and stability of the machine.
Throughout a full season of use, the tiller's wheels may loosen a bit from all of the movement. Take a moment to check the wheels and ensure they're fully tightened in place. Making sure your wheels are tight will help ensure proper balance and control during operation.
Check Tire Pressure
In addition to tightening the wheels, many large gas-powered tillers now feature air-filled tires. With such tires, you need to ensure they are filled with the correct amount of air. This is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch), and the PSI can decrease quite a bit during the off-season.
Use a tire gauge and check the tire pressure to ensure it matches what's specified on the sidewall of the tire itself. The PSI number should be matched as closely as possible to ensure proper wear, balance, and traction.
Maintaining proper PSI in your tiller's tires will improve safety, operation, and longevity of the tires. This should be checked prior to use each season. If you use your tiller in spring and fall, check before first use in spring and before first use in fall.
Inspect & Adjust All Drive Belts
At the start of each season, it's important to inspect your drive belts for excessive wear. The drive belts are necessary for rotating the tines and, in some cases, assisting in moving the tiller forward and backward during operation.
Check the belt for cracking or slipping can help to determine in advance when it needs to be replaced. A cracked or slipping belt is ready to break, and when it does you won't be tilling until a new one has been put in place.
Refer to your owner's manual for more specific information regarding what type of belt to use and how to change the belt on your specific make and model of rototiller.
Inspect the Tines
The tines are what you're powering. They are what make contact with and churn the earth into garden soil. These simple, yet highly important, metal pieces take quite a beating.
If you already cleaned and checked your tines at the end of the last season, you may only need to brush them off and go. However, if you placed it into storage just after its last use, you may need to do a little more work.
First-off, never place your hands near the tines while the tiller is running. That said, you want to make sure that any tangled roots or foliage is cut away and removed from the tines. Be sure they are free of any debris or obstructions, and then brush the tines clean of hardened dirt clumps.
Finally, before starting your tiller, make sure to fill the fuel tank with fresh gasoline. If you left old gasoline in the tank throughout the off-season, we recommend you empty the old gasoline out and replace it with fresh fuel that won't gum up your carburetor. Add fuel stabilizer prior to off-season storage to prevent stored fuel from going bad.
Place the spark plug back in place if you haven't already, and try starting. If you have trouble starting your tiller after leaving old fuel in the tank, it may be an issue with your carburetor. In this case, it's important to follow your owner's manual for instructions on cleaning or replacing your carburetor. Otherwise, you can contact the manufacturer for further advice on troubleshooting hard starting problems.
Gas Powered Tiller Tune Ups - Find out How to Tune Up & Prep Your Rototiller for Springtime. Our roto tiller how-to library can help you pick the perfect electric cultivator, gas cultivator, front tine rototiller, rear tine garden tiller or garden tiller accessory.