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  1. #1

    Default Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    Just brought this home yesterday and thought I'd post my "one day, one hour of running" review.

    My prior experience: 15 years of on-and-off tiller usage, including an old counter-rotating Troy-bilt Horse (best tiller I ever used), BCS rental units (nice, but dang pricey), and a Mantis tiller (too small to do anything worthwhile with, but my wife thinks it's cute :-).

    Garden: 5000 square foot market garden, due for expansion to 7500 sq. ft. this fall (heaving tillage (plow-n-disc) in the fall, rototill in the spring).

    Reason for purchase: need to till up beds of spring crops and plant fall crops, tired of renting tillers ($75/day for the BCS at the local rental yard adds up), and refuse to get beat up by the Mantis.

    Overall impression: a decent piece of equipment for the price paid ($699, on sale, + $130 for the 3 year extended warranty).

    Assembly: pretty easy. About the only thing to do is to put the handle on, which went well. I tend to take my time so it took me a while, but that's just me. You don't need to be a mechanical genius, just need to know how to use a socket wrench.

    Setup: easy. Added a little 10W-30 oil to top it up and that was about it.

    Engine: runs well. Started third pull (first two forgot to engage the choke). Reasonable power.

    Transmission: a bit stiff, but not horrible to shift. Seemed to be getting easier to get into gear after the first half-hour or so, or maybe I was getting the hang of it.

    Tillage quality: Good in reverse rotation mode, not too hot in forward, as one would expect. Drag stake worked well to keep tiller from jumping in forward mode.

    Negatives: Tire lugs aren't deep enough to allow for good traction. Need to push it along a bit to help it get a grip. (In fairness, I was tilling some nasty-wet-slick dirt - had medium/heavy rain yesterday, although surface was fairly dry this evening - and I was running it fairly deep, hole 6 out of 8. Hey, it's a new toy and I wanted to play - um, "work"... :-).

    Positives: It runs, it busts the soil up. What more can you say?

    Observations: I'd read a bunch of reviews of this tiller and the nearly-identical Husqvarna so had some idea what to expect. Took the belt cover off, bent down the belt retaining tabs, and measured the belt (51-3/8 inches, or 130.5 cm for those who are interested) before I even put gas in it. Put some Loctite on the screws when I put the belt shield back on. Topped it up with oil (took maybe half a cup to fill it). After taking it around to the far side of the garden I gave it a chance to tear up some never-before-tilled (at least by me) soil. Handled it well. Engine tends to surge in reverse-rotation mode, but not in forward rotation. I suspect the belt is slipping, which may improve or get worse as time passes. We'll see, as I'll be giving this thing a workout. After the first pass I shifted to neutral to spin the thing around, then put it back into reverse-rotation mode and...engine died when I tried to make it go. Hmmm... Tried it again - same result. Double hmmm... Put it into forward rotation mode and all was well. More hmmm... Finally figured out that when I tried to put it into reverse-rotation gear I'd actually ended up between gears, the tranny locked up, and the engine died. When I was *careful* to get the transmission indicator right on the little black mark it worked fine.

    On a scale of zero to five I'll give it a three-and-a-half. It does what it says it'll do, but it's not as solid as the old Troy-bilt or the BCS. Sadly you can't get a "real" Troy-bilt anymore (why, no, I'm not an MTD fan - how'd you guess?), and the *cheapest* BCS costs 2-1/2 times what I paid for this machine. (I'd love to get a BCS, but I'd have to sell my old Fords (an 8N and a 3000, thanks for asking) to pay for it, and then what would I do for aggravation? :-)

    Final analysis: so far, so good. Worth the bucks (but I got the extended warranty, just in case :-). I'll try to follow up as I spend more time with this machine.

  2. #2
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    360
    Location
    Boiling Springs, SC
    Tractor
    MF 2823

    Default Re: Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    Did you check the foam prefilter on the air filter before you used it to make sure it was oiled? My Husqvarna came without the prefilter oiled and I didn't notice until I did the first oil change after a couple hrs use--without the oiled prefilter it had sucked some dust through the paper element. I oiled the prefilter and all has been well since.

    Is this the new model that uses a LCT (I think that's the name) engine, or does it have a B&S engine?

    Enjoy your new toy
    Simplicity ZT4000
    Shindaiwa T195s, Redmax HB250
    Northern 48" core aerator, Rug'id 250# spreader

  3. #3

    Default Re: Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    Here we are, almost exactly a year later, and I can give a follow-up on the 900 series.

    It's been working well. I tilled a bit over 10,000 square feet with it this spring and besides busting a few shear pins on the tine drive when I "found" some rocks and chunks of wood it's been doing fine. The only problem I've had that downed the tiller happened two days ago, and it's relatively minor.

    Here's what happened - I was out doing some re-tilling of the garden, getting the first set of snap peas tilled in so we could replant that area with more peas and some brussel sprouts. I'm going along good, tiller's doing fine, till-till-till - then suddenly, mechanical CLUNK! and the engine dies. And that's where I blew it - instead of checking out the tiller to make sure everything was OK, I just said "Huh..!", yanked on the starter cord, and engaged the tine-and-wheel drive. OK, still going OK, got down to the end of the row, released the handle to disengage the drive and...the tiller kept going! Agggh! I'm trying to hold the dang thing back because it's only a couple feet from the electric fence around the garden, telling my wife to shut off the engine, she's looking all over to find the switch, etc, etc. OK. Stop laughing. It wasn't *that* funny. Well, OK, maybe it was... :-) My point being...um, did I have a point..?

    Sooooo...once the engine was shut down I did what I should have done in the first place - I *looked at the tiller carefully*! Found that the drive belt had jumped off the idler and was sort of wrapped around the idler support. Once I engaged the drive the idler couldn't go back to the 'disengaged' position even though I released the engagement handle - the belt was much stronger than the spring. The problem was that the nut which secures the idler support pivot shaft had vibrated loose, even though it had a sort of star washer that *should* have kept it in place, but we all know how much those are worth. I looks like the part itself is fine, just needs a bit of Loctite on the threads to keep it in place. Ran out of time at that point, so tonight I've got to fix that up then let the Loctite set overnight. Also gotta go to NAPA and grab another belt.

    Anyways, besides this minor issue (which could have been fixed with a touch of Loctite if I'd known to do it) the tiller is still working fine.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    @Baucom - it's the LCT model. So far the engine has been solid - needs choke to start, even when warm, but runs fine.

  5. #5
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    360
    Location
    Boiling Springs, SC
    Tractor
    MF 2823

    Default Re: Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    Your issue of the idler pulley assembly coming loose is the exact same problem I had with my Husqvarna, and so far that has been my only problem too (in a little over 2 yrs now).

    That would be something for anyone who buys a AYP built rear tine tiller to go ahead and pull the belt cover and loctite that nut as a preventive measure when new, as it seems it isn't an uncommon occurence on these tillers. Otherwise they seem to be pretty solid machines in their price range.

    Glad to hear the LCT engine is holding up well.
    Simplicity ZT4000
    Shindaiwa T195s, Redmax HB250
    Northern 48" core aerator, Rug'id 250# spreader

  6. #6
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    360
    Location
    Boiling Springs, SC
    Tractor
    MF 2823

    Default Re: Craftsman 900 Series Rear-Tine Dual Rotating Tiller (model 917.299080) review

    Check out the 2nd paragraph in post #5 in my thread below. It pretty much echoes your description of the idler pulley coming loose to a word.

    http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/h...long-post.html
    Simplicity ZT4000
    Shindaiwa T195s, Redmax HB250
    Northern 48" core aerator, Rug'id 250# spreader

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