Restoring a vintage tiller

My big project this week is restoring a vintage 1983 Mantis tiller. I picked it up at an estate auction for what I hope turns out to be a reasonable price. This is the kind of job I like to do during the winter when things are quiet in the garden but sometimes the timing doesn’t always work out.

Even though I was able to look over this old piece of power equipment before I bought it, you never know for sure if it is worth taking a chance on. The pressure of an auction adds another dimension to the decision making process.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience repairing small engine equipment so, even though this tiller didn’t run at the time I bought it, I still was pretty confident I could bring it back from the brink of death.

It looked pretty rough on the outside. There was oil-soaked dirt caked all over the engine. The tines were wrapped almost completely in tough grass and weed stems. The handles and other metal components were beginning to rust.

On other hand, all the parts were there and the controls worked smoothly. The engine turned over and felt like it had the right amount of compression. All those positive things out weighed the negatives.

The first thing I did when I got it home was cut away all the tangled debris from the tines. Then cleaned the dirt and oil off of the the rest of the machine.

I took the cover off of the gearbox and it’s inner workings looked in great shape.┬áThe spark plug was pretty old and needed to be changed.

This Mantis has a two-stroke engine. The exhaust ports on two-strokes are prone to plugging up with carbon deposits. Fortunately there were not a whole lot of deposits to contend with.

If your two-stroke engine is hard to start,check the exhaust port for carbon deposits by removing the muffler.

If your two-stroke engine is hard to start, check the exhaust port for carbon deposits by removing the muffler.

Also, fuel was not getting to the engine, indicating a carburetor issue. I had to weight the pros and cons about rebuilding the carburetor compared to buying a new one. Since I didn’t know the history of the machine I ended up getting a new carburetor.

I’ve been lucky so far that all of the parts I needed are still available, that’s not always the case with these older machines.

In the next day or so I should have everything put back together and ready to go.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.