Tractor Rototiller Buying Guide | Great Days Outdoors

Tractor Rototiller Buying Guide

You may desire to till the soil for the preparation of a garden, a food plot, to stimulate native vegetation, or to prepare a firebreak for controlled burning, amongst other needs. This article is dedicated to helping you understand your options and alternatives in a tractor rototiller. We’re going to look into sizing, mechanical features, and intended usage to help you find the best choice for your situation. Let’s dig in!

Comparing A Rototiller For A Tractor To Other Implements

Before buying a tractor rototiller, it’s a worthwhile exercise to make sure that this implement is the correct choice for the job(s) you have in mind. Homestead Implements designs and manufactures tractor rototillers and other 3-point implements as well as front end attachments right here in America. With years of experience under their belt and a commitment to quality, innovation, they have managed an excellent reputation for providing robust, efficient, and dependable implements. With Homestead having both tractor rototillers and their alternatives available for sale, I reached out to Travis Hoyt of Homestead Implements to learn what potential tractor rototiller owners need to think about when considering their options. 

Look for a more durable rototiller that can withstand the repeated wear and tear of larger farms and other projects.

Rototiller Vs. Cultivator

Among the most valuable tools in soil preparation are the rototiller and the cultivator. “A rotary tiller is super helpful when you are needing to dig deeper into the soil and get it prepped for food plots or other applications. A cultivator, specifically an S-tine cultivator doesn’t go super deep into the surface or into the soil. A rotary tiller is a lot more aggressive,” Travis said. The rototiller is a more robust piece of equipment designed to break new ground whereas a cultivator is generally smaller and is used to stir and aerate the topsoil, making it perfect for weeding and maintaining existing gardens. 

Disc Harrow Vs. Rototiller

“The tractor rototiller does a few different things at the same time,” Travis mentioned when asked why someone should choose a rototiller vs a disc harrow and vice versa. “It cuts into the earth, chops it up and digs it and leaves a more finished product compared to a disc harrow. A disc harrow tears into the ground and it cuts everything up but it doesn’t leave it as smooth or as fine or finished as a tractor rototiller. Also, for the most part, depending on what kind you get, it digs into the earth a lot quicker and easier, so you might have to do slower passes, but you do way less passes.” Travis added. Another Benefit of the tractor rototiller is its compact size. “If you do need to get into tight areas, a disc harrow might have a harder time getting back to that area and turning around in those areas, where as a tractor rototiller is a lot shorter and compact”

What Size Tractor Rototiller Do I Need?

If you’ve decided that a tractor rototiller is the right implement for your needs, the next decision is to decide on the sizing. Width will be the main area where you will have a decision to make, and what width you choose will depend on a couple of factors, tractor width and tractor horsepower. 


How Should We Choose The Width Of A Rototiller?

“So typically, for a tractor rototiller, you want it to be outside the width of your tires,” says Travis.  “If you are not outside the width of your tires, you’re going to be running over where you already rotary tilled. So if you have it on the outside, you can kind of make sure you’re not missing anything with that.” 

tilling soil
The width of your tractor isn’t the only factor determining the width of your rototiller.

How Much Rototiller Will A Tractor Drive?

But the width of your tractor can’t be the only factor determining the width of your rototiller. “There’s a rule of thumb that you want one foot for every five horsepower of your tractor. So if you have 25 horsepower, you’re typically going to go with a five foot tractor rototiller.” So with 43”, 55”, and 67” tractor rototillers in production, if your tractor is over 30 horsepower, focus on a rotary tiller that is wider than your tires. If your tractor is under 30 horsepower, you’ll want to focus more on the rule of thumb Travis mentioned. “A rule of thumb of one foot for every five horsepower of your tractor is a good guideline, but it’s not definitive in all cases. If you have a much smaller size tractor it may not be able to handle a larger rotary tiller because of the weight. If it’s too heavy and you can’t lift it with your three point then you’re not gonna be able to use it effectively.”

Mechanical Features To Evaluate In Rototillers For Tractors

So by this point, you should know if a tractor rotary tiller is right for you and what width your tractor can handle. The next points to consider are in the design. There are various designs on the market, all built for various needs. 

Front Vs. Rear Tine Rototiller

Your tines can rotate forward or in reverse, so which one do you want? Again, it depends on your tractor and your soils. “Forward rotation moves the same direction as your tractor. If you’re pulling your rototiller, the rototiller is going to be spinning forward and pushing your tractor. Typically they don’t chop and dig in nearly as much as a reverse. They’re used a lot more often in softer soil conditions such as sand, or in areas that are aerated, and they’re not as compact or dense,” Travis mentioned. 

“Whereas reverse rotation, as you’re pulling the rotary tiller, it’s rotating backwards and digging in and pulling against where your tractor is. It’s super helpful for if you have harsh conditions, if you have a lot of heavier compacted soil types. The big issue with the reverse is that you will need to make sure you’re using a little bit more power because you’re fighting what the rotary tiller is doing.” 

Gear Drive Rototiller Vs Chain Drive Rototiller Pros And Cons

Tractor Rototillers are either driven by gears or a chain. Which one you choose will depend on several factors. “With a gear drive, you get a little bit more torque to the ground, so it loses less torque as it’s rotating. This is a lot better for when you have harder soils or soils that haven’t been worked in the past. They also tend to weigh more so that’s great for your counterbalance but also to be able to dig in a little bit easier as well,” says Travis. 


“With a chain driven implement, they will weigh a little bit less. So if your tractor doesn’t have a lot of lift on its three point a chain driven might be a little bit easier to manage. They’re also easier to fix because chains are more readily available. A lot of times you can find a chain that fits correctly and you can get it from Tractor Supply or somewhere similar compared to having to order most likely from an OEM to get the correct gear for your gear driven implement.”

gear drive
A gear driven rototiller is better for harder soil or soil that hasn’t been worked before.

Offset Rototiller Design – Ideal For Smaller Tractors And Small Spaces

If you run a smaller tractor, one feature to be sure your rotary tiller has is an offset design. “If you need more narrow implement, like if you are in a lot tighter of areas and you can’t quite get outside the width of your tires, you can offset the tiller to be outside one side of your tires so that when you’re tilling you’re not driving back over what you’ve already rotary tilled.” Going back to the rule of thumb, if you’re on a lower horsepower tractor, you would want that offset rototiller design because you’re going to need to run a narrower piece of equipment.

Tractor Rototiller Slip Clutch – What Are The Advantages?

If you’re like me, you’ve been known to inadvertently run your tractor into things you. This is where a slip clutch comes into play. “Not all rototillers come with a slip clutch. A lot of times they come with a shear pin. A slip clutch is super helpful because you don’t have to worry if you hit a large rock or root or something that would normally bind up your gearbox, the slip clutch protects your gearbox while also allowing you to continue to work.” A slip clutch allows you to keep going and if you do happen to hit something that binds everything up, you will know it and protects everything inside of your system.”

Focus on rototiller size first, then let the design features dictate what you choose based on the work you intend to do. 

Final Thoughts On Tractor Rototillers

For those of us who work in the dirt, tractor rotary tillers can be a great tool to help us get more done in less time while enjoying the satisfaction that comes with a beautiful finished product. If you’re in the market, look for those implement manufacturers that have a proven track record of supporting their customers before, during, and after the sale. And remember, focus on size first, then let the design features dictate what you choose based on the work you intend to do. 

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