Choosing Between Reciprocating, Rotational and Drum Aerators

Reciprocating vs. Drum AerationWhen it comes to soil aerators, you have three choices in design: reciprocating, drum and rotational. Which technology works best for residential lawns? Which one works best for large areas like parks and campuses? Is it worth the extra cost to go from a drum aerator to a reciprocating aerator? Here’s what you need to know to pick the right Billy Goat aerator design for your needs.

The Types of Aerators

Drum Aeration

A drum aerator is a large cylinder covered in tines. Some aerators are heavy enough on their own to force the tines into the soil, while others can be filled with water to add weight. This is the oldest design on the market, and thanks to its mechanical simplicity, the cheapest. Billy Goat’s AET60 functions like a drum aerator, but it uses tine stars instead of a drum. Weight is added by folding in the extensions or placing bricks or water jugs on top of the aerator platform.

Rotational Aeration

The aerator is supported on wheels connected to a chain drive. This drive system spins tine stars. This increases the number of holes that the tines can make. It also separates the weight of the aerator from the tines, making them easier to lift out of the ground. Billy Goat’s AET48 is a rotational aerator.

Reciprocating Aeration

A reciprocating aerator has tines that move up and down. Since the tine motion is independent of the aerator’s speed, it’s easy to change the hole density. Reciprocating aerators only need a few tines. This concentrates wear, requiring more frequent tine replacement. However, the tines are easier to access and replace than drum and rotating aerators. Billy Goat’s PLUGR and AE-Series models are reciprocating aerators.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type of Aerator?


– Increasing hole density makes it possible to aerate an area in one pass, while other machines need to make two passes.
– The tines don’t need to be lifted out of the soil when turning, reducing turf damage and greatly speeding up work in small areas and around landscape features.
– It’s the only design that can aerate in reverse.
– Density can be varied by changing ground speed. This is handy for making more holes in areas that need to be reseeded, as well as relieving compaction in high traffic areas.

– Only practical for small machines.
– More expensive than other aerators.


– Works faster than a reciprocating aerator when covering large stretches of ground.
– It’s easy to scale up the size of an aerator. There are stand-alone walk-behind and stand-on ZTR models as well as trailers ranging in sizes that can be pulled by anything from a lawn mower to a large tractor.

– Tines must be lifted out of the ground, either physically or by using a hydraulic lifter. Failure to do so can damage turf and sprinkler systems.
– Lots of tines to maintain.


– High hole density, requiring fewer passes than drum aerators.
– Easy to adjust weight to get the right amount of soil penetration.
– Billy Goat’s AET aerators mount tine stars on supports that can swivel. Once unlocked, the trailer can turn in the soil. However, the supports have to be locked back into place before the next pass.

– Only available as a trailer attachment, so it’s not a practical option for small jobs.
– Needs considerable power to pull, requiring a tractor.
– More expensive than drum aerators.

Which One is Right for Me?

Reciprocating aerators are perfect for most lawn care tasks due to their small size and flexibility. These should be your first choice for professional landscaping or rental in suburban areas.

If you need to aerate large areas, including cemeteries, facility grounds, or play fields, drum and rotational aerators are your best options. The maneuverability of rotational aerators make them the best choice overall, if you don’t mind the added cost.

No Matter What You Choose, We Can Help You With Your Billy Goat Aerator

From tines to major components, Billy Goat Parts has the OEM parts and accessories to keep your equipment running. Despite our name, we’re more than just a Billy Goat dealer. We’re also an authorized dealer for Tuff-Torq, Honda Engines, and Briggs & Stratton, so we’re able to offer replacement parts for everything on your equipment. Ordering is easy, too. Our site has sections for common replacement parts, and our search engine can find compatible parts for your model. We even have factory parts diagrams built into our site, so you can see exactly what you’re ordering, and where it fits. We can ship your order to any address in the United States or Canada. Visit us at

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