Garden Tool Review: Honda Rototiller

This review is based on several rentals of the 8hp Honda rototiller with rear tines. I typically tend to work machines fairly hard on rental days (as do many folks) although I do not abuse them by trying to run them through rock fields. Here’s what I think about this machine.
power
The 8hp engine is set to a lower rpm than I’m used to on other machines so it depends on gearing to do the job and an obviously good torque. It started easily (newer machine) with a single pull. As an aside, following the starting directions was easy and I did find the warmup period to be useful.
Having said that – this particular machine is fairly lightweight in construction and at 8hp, it doesn’t have the ability to take a big “bite” of the garden on the first pass. I had to set the tiller height adjustment to take deeper and deeper bites.

Construction weight

As I said above, the overall weight of this machine isn’t high so it does tend to bounce very quickly and easily. Most of weight is concentrated over engine so rear tines tend to lift easily and bounce quickly.
This compares to some of the older machines I’ve owned and used with heavier construction on the rear sections that would both take a good soil bite and not bounce as readily.
I broke three tines in normal tilling. I did hit a rock or two that caused a big bounce and I did hit 3 roots that also caused a bounce. But overall, the soil was not overly rocky and tough. Either these tines were weakened by previous users (they were reasonably sharp so hadn’t had that much use) or they are using far cheaper steel than they used to.
Bouncing is an adventure with these rear tined units. When you hit an obstacle, the rear end launches itself off the ground and the machine lurches forward. You really need to be ready for this kind of lurch. And it will happen in all but the most rock-free of soils with this machine.

Maneuverability

As with all rear tined machines, the Honda rototiller is great on a straight run but not so great in any kind of tight corner or turning area.
While the ads might tell you differently, they do take a good lift and haul to turn so big square gardens are their strength – not the home landscape.
noise
I thought it prudent to wear hearing protectors with this Honda rototiller. It is not well muffled although I’ve heard worse. You’ll appreciate those ear-protectors if you have to do any more tilling than 15 minutes.

Vibration

The Honda rototiller was excellent for lack of vibration. I have “whitehand” (a pins and needles feeling in the hands caused by years of handling vibrating nursery tools) and am particularly sensitive to poorly balanced tools.
Using my normal work gloves for a minimum of protection, I did not have any whitehand symptoms even after 4 hours of tilling.
safety
Lots of shields in place covering all major problem areas (belts, tines, discharge, muffler) so that wasn’t an issue at all.
I did wear gloves, ear protectors and safety boots with steel toes because I’m rather fond of my hearing and my toes. And one just never knows with machines that can surprise you.

I did like the u-shaped handle on this Honda rototiller for safety purposes. It’s a long story but many years ago, I managed to get a big commercial rear tined tiller jammed up on some binder twine, fell into the handles when it lurched driving one of the handles through my glasses into my eye. A trip to the hospital where they dug the glass out of the eyeball was an object lesson in safety. This u-shaped handle has no “handles” and falling into it won’t hurt anything but your vanity.
The machine does have a safety clutch that has to be depressed while operating. A useful feature indeed as when this light-weight rear tine tiller lurches, it can quickly cause the unwary gardener to lose grip on the handles. The machine instantly stops when this handle is released.
overall
This machine did a decent job of tilling, started quickly and easily and ran relatively smoothly for the 4 hours I used it.
For a simple tilling once or twice a year on a big garden it is going to do just fine. Good machine.

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