How to Buy a Petrol Rotovator

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How to Buy a Petrol Rotovator

Rotovators are used to mix and aerate soil. Soil should be aerated before planting seedlings and for mixing in compost and fertiliser. They are an alternative to the time consuming and labour intensive process of using a mattock or hoe. Rotovators are so named because of their rotating metal blades. These blades, also known as tines, plough through the soil, disturbing and churning it. Rotovators are also known as cultivators, tillers, and rotary cultivators or tillers. They are generally pushed along but larger models are self propelling. There are both electric and petrol models of rotovator. The smallest hand held models are electric, and these are handy to use in the garden for small vegetable patches or flower beds where there is easy access to electricity. However, for vegetable plots away from the home, and for larger plots or more difficult conditions that require more power, petrol rotovators are the type required.

Choosing a Petrol Rotovator

Which rotovator is most suitable depends upon various factors. These include soil condition, plot size, and physical ability. Balance these factors against the available budget to find the most appropriate rotovator. Different rotovators are able to perform tasks due to a combination of different features. These include engine size, type, or design, and additional special features. The quality of the rotovator is an important aspect. Some rotovators are cheaper initially, but may be less efficient and reliable. Good quality rotovators are an investment and will generally last longer and perform work more efficiently. If the budget is tight but a powerful rotovator is needed, it may be worth looking at second hand models.


Honda make good quality and powerful petrol rotovators. Other popular brands include Merry Tiller, Centurion, Briggs & Stratton, Viking, Husqvarna, MTD, Ryobi and Mantis.

Engine Size and Power

The engine size of petrol rotovators can vary from under 50 cc to over 200 cc. Rotovators with larger engines have more power and more capacity to tackle difficult conditions such as heavy clay soil.

Design and Blade Position

Petrol rotovators have three basic designs. The first is a machine with blades, or tines, in front of the wheels. These are called front tine rotovators and, because of their comparatively small size, are also known as mini rotovators. Front tine rotovators are less powerful than other rotovators, but are smaller and easily manoeuvrable. Because of this, they are useful for rotovating in tight and awkwardly shaped areas, as well as working close to plants and trees. They are easily transported and stored. The second design has the blades between the wheels. These are called mid tine rotovators. Mid tine rotovators are larger, more powerful and can handle larger areas and dig to deeper depth. They are heavier than front tine rotovators, but their design enables them to be balanced and handled easily. The third design has the blades behind the wheels. These are called rear tine rotovators. Rear tine rotovators are the largest type. They have the power to deal with the most difficult plots and conditions, including working in compacted clay soils, rocky soils, breaking new ground and working large areas of land. They can be heavy, which can affect manoeuvrability, but because they are self-propelled, the weight does not impede their use. Rear tine rotovators often have different forward speeds so that they can be walked with as slowly or quickly as desired. They also generally have a reverse gear to aid manoeuvrability. Counter rotating blades and chevron tyres help steadiness and grip. The various factors that should be considered when deciding upon the most appropriate type of petrol rotovator are summarised below.



Front tine rotovator, mid tine rotovator, rear tine rotovator


Mid tine rotovator, rear tine rotovator

Hard e.g. clay, new ground

Rear tine rotovator

Plot size

Small e.g. flower bed

Front tine rotovator

Medium e.g. larger vegetable plot

Front tine rotovator, mid tine rotovator, rear tine rotovator

Large e.g. large plot or small field

Rear tine rotovator

Transportability and storage

Needs to be transported and stored compactly

Front tine rotovator

Doesn’t need to be transported easily or stored compactly

Rear tine rotovator, mid tine rotovator, front tine rotovator

Budget (for new)

Under £300

Front tine rotovator

£300 - £700

Mid tine rotovator, front tine rotovator

Above £700

Rear tine rotovator, mid tine rotovator, front tine rotovator

Different models of rotovator have different working depths and widths. The depth is usually adjustable by means of depth stakes, while the width can sometimes be extended. Front tine rotovators tend to have narrower working widths making them more easily manoeuvrable in small areas and when working around awkward obstacles. Mid tine and rear tine rotovators have wider working widths to enable them to be used efficiently to work large areas. A rotovator with twice the working width of another will be able to cover the ground in twice the time, all other factors being equal. The approximate working widths and depths of the different types of rotovator are summarised below.




Front tine rotovators

20 cm – 30 cm

20 cm – 30 cm

Mid tine rotovators

40 cm – 100 cm

20 cm – 30 cm

Rear tine rotovators

40 cm – 100 cm

15 cm – 30 cm

Special Features and Attachments

Rotovators have a number of special features to aid their operation.

Ergonomic design

Loop shaped handlebars Adjustable handlebars Handlebar mounted controls Counterweights

Safe operation

Deadman handlebars Handlebar mounted controls Counterweights Engine guards

Easy transportation

Transport wheels

Crop/plant protection

Crop/plant guards

Rotovators sometimes come with different attachments to enable them to carry out different tasks. If they do not come with the rotovator, they can sometimes be purchased separately from the manufacturer. Attachments include edgers, digging tines, and crevice cleaners, used respectively for edging lawns, breaking up tough soils and cleaning out debris from cracks.

Using the Rotovator

Always refer to the manufacturer’s handbook when using a new petrol rotovator for the first time. Consider the soil conditions and set the rotovator accordingly. The depth bar and other features such as the tine configuration and gears may all be adjustable. Once these are set, rotovate a test area. Evaluate the rotovator’s performance and, if necessary, adjust the controls. Remember that different types of rotovator, and different models of rotovator, may perform quite differently from others.

Find a Petrol Rotovator on eBay

To find a petrol rotovators on eBay go to the Power Tools & Equipment page in the Home & Garden section. From here select Rotovators/Aerators followed by Petrol. Various options such as brand, engine size and price range can then be selected. Alternatively, petrol rotovators can be searched for directly using the search field. Type in terms such as “petrol rotovator”, “Honda petrol rotovator” or “rear tine petrol rotovator”.


Rotovators are used to mix and churn soil. They come in electric and petrol models, with petrol models the more powerful and versatile. There are three basic types of petrol rotovator – front tine, mid tine and rear tine. Front tine rotovators are the least powerful but most manoeuvrable. Rear tine rotovators are the most powerful and are self propelled to aid manoeuvrability. The type required will depend upon soil condition, plot size and other factors, but basically small plots with relatively soft soil will be fine with front tine rotovators and large plots with heavy compacted soil require rear tine rotovators. Petrol rotovators have several special features to aid their safe and efficient use, transportation and storage, as well as special attachments for other types of work. Rotovators can be quite expensive when purchased new, especially rear tine rotovators, and it is often worth looking at second hand models as well as new models.

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