Aerator Is Not Pulling Plugs – Causes & Fixes

Lawns that get substantial foot traffic will benefit the most from aeration. If your aerator failed to pull plugs when you needed it to, you are probably wondering why and how you can fix the problem. We researched this issue to provide you with answers.

Here are the reasons why your aerator may fail to pull plugs and how to fix each issue:

  1. Clogged tines: clean aerator and remove debris from tines before use or storage
  2. Dull blades: sharpen blades with file
  3. Improper assembly: ensure correct alignment of components
  4. Lack of hydration: aerate after light rain when lawn is damp

In this post, we'll cover the reasons listed above in detail so you can identify any issues with your aerator. Continue reading as we discuss these problems along with their common fixes.

How Does Aeration Benefit Your Lawn?

The Green Camp

Aeration promotes topsoil development beneath the grass and reduces fertilizer and pesticide waste. The grass grows robust, healthy, and bright.

The transport of oxygen, water, and nutrients through the soil is accelerated. It strengthens roots and improves water absorption from irrigation and rainfall. It prevents the buildup of thatch as well.

What To Do When Your Aerator Isn't Extracting Plugs

A pile of dirt plugs from the sports field

Aeration is an effective method for removing plugs of dirt from your lawn. It creates deep areas that encourage healthy, strong roots.

At times, the aerator may not work effectively. It may fail to extract plugs. Here are the probable reasons for this and how to solve them:

Tines Clogged By Debris

Your lawn aerator can become blocked with mud. Debris-like dry soil clumps left on the machine after use are frequent causes of clogging. Poor maintenance can accelerate the deterioration and produce obstructions.


Before use or storage, clean the tines of any debris. For little chunks, a quick rinse should do the trick. For large chunks, a full scrub may be required. After cleaning, allow the lawn aerator to dry completely before storing or using it.

Dull blades

removal of old grass and soil aeration with a scalifier

Dull blades indicate poor work performance. For example, you might obtain excellent finishing on one side and significant blockages on the opposite side. It follows that your lawn aerator gets clogged by a buildup of soil and grass.


To sharpen the aerator blades, use a file. You can ask an expert to polish your aerator blades for better results.

Improper Assembly

Your aerator is comprised of several metal parts, and faulty installation could prevent it from operating as intended.

Make sure that the front sides of the spoons are evenly distributed, curved, and pointed in the same direction toward the ground. Your aerator won't pull plugs if they are moving the wrong way.


Check that each metal component is fitted together correctly. Reviewing the owner's manual can help you with this task.

Lacking Of Hydration

Dead Grass

Aeration depends on moisture, which is essential for the upkeep of any lawn. A lawn that's difficult to aerate typically needs it the most. You'll have difficulty operating your machine if you attempt to aerate extremely dry, compact grass.

Aerating an excessively moist lawn can be just as difficult. To achieve the best results, it is crucial to have a lawn that is sturdy enough to preserve the cylindrical hole shape while also being soft enough to allow for the extraction of long plugs.


Aerating in the spring, following light rain or showers will typically yield the best benefits. To maximize the benefits of aeration, wait until your lawn is damp but not soggy. To guarantee even, consistent aeration, always make numerous passes.

Man inspecting lush green lawn

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

While constant watering and mowing are necessary for lawns, aeration is not as frequently needed. Although the exact frequency is difficult to predict, yearly aeration will help your lawn the most.

Depending on the lawn type, the best times to aerate cool-season grass, such as Kentucky bluegrass, are springtime and autumn, between March and May or August and November.

Some industry professionals advise aerating in the fall so that overseeding can be carried out simultaneously.

On the other hand, the best aeration period for warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda grass, is from mid-spring to early summer.

Waiting until after the initial spring mowing is recommended. Keep trimming, fertilizing, and hydrating your lawn as necessary. Aerating won't fix all of your issues, but it will help your lawn become stronger and more pest- and drought-resistant.

Fresh gardening green Bermuda grass smooth lawn with curve form of bush, Aerator Is Not Pulling Plugs - Causes & Fixes

Guide To Lawn Aeration 

Your lawn must receive the nutrition it needs in order to thrive. It is essential to know how to care for your lawn both before and after aeration.

Fortunately, it's not too difficult. The guidelines for what you should do before and after aeration are as follows.

Preparing Your Lawn For Aeration

  • You should mow the lawn before you aerate and water it.
  • Aeration should be performed two days after a thorough watering of the lawn. Compared to dry soil, loose soil is easier for the tines to dig into. The tines won't be able to efficiently pierce the ground if the dirt is dry.
  • You should postpone aerating after a long period of rain. Soil that is too damp will adhere to the inner surfaces of the tines rather than falling gently back into the lawn.
  • Mark any potential obstacles in the way of aeration, such as sprinkler systems, cabling, septic lines, etc.
  • Consider going over your yard two times or more. This guarantees a more complete, uniform covering.

Caring For Your Lawn After Aeration

  • Allow the soil plugs to decay on the grass so they can eventually trickle back into holes that the aeration machine made in the soil. In two to three weeks, they will typically be broken up by your lawn mower and worked back into the ground.
  • Following aeration, fertilize your lawn right away to replenish the nutrients in the roots. As a result, the lawn can adapt to the summer heat. Having a lush, thriving lawn also helps to keep weeds at bay.
  • Reseed the lawn, paying careful attention to the thin spots. Following aeration, the seeds blend with the soil plugs and have easier access to uncompacted soil.

Types Of Lawn Aerators

Aeration is labor-intensive work, and it gets more difficult when you have a large lawn. 

The best option for a big lawn is to use a lawn-care service. They'll make sure your lawn is properly aerated and take the essential actions to keep your grass flourishing all year long.

You can aerate your grass yourself if you have a smaller lawn or if you are confident in completing the project. Read below to learn about lawn aerator tool options.

  • Automatic Aerator

Motors power automatic aerators. The best alternative, if you choose to take this approach, is usually to rent an aerator from a home improvement retailer.

Before bringing the machine home, request a tutorial on how it operates.

  • Manual Aerator

Garden aerator with spikes

Aerators that you operate manually are powered by you. One of these is a shoe aerator attachment. The two more common types of aerators are core aerators and portable spikes.

View this shoe aerator on Amazon.

  • Core Aerator

Lawn core aeration on tall fescue grass

You should strive to achieve core aeration. This aeration technique eliminates tiny cylinders of soil about three inches deep. Both air and water can enter the soil through the holes left behind, promoting the development of wholesome grass.

  • Spike Aerator

Small holes are made in the ground by spike aeration, but since the spikes do not eliminate any dirt, all you are doing is making the problem worse by adding more compacted dirt. Avoid this approach, since spike aerators are ineffective.

Check out this spike aerator on Amazon.

Summing Up

Preserving the health and beauty of your lawn requires regular aeration. Maintaining your lawn with an aerator can be easy if you have a good understanding of the common issues that can arise with the device and how to fix them.

Be patient once your lawn has been aerated. You probably won't see any changes immediately. Usually, it takes two or three aerations to see a visual effect.

Here are related articles that you may want to read:

How Deep Does An Aerator Go?

Can You Aerate In The Rain? Should You?

How To Use A Landscape Rake To Level A Lawn

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