How To Use an Auger to Dig a Hole

How to use an auger to dig a hole isn’t complicated.   

If you have a bunch of holes to dig, digging them by hand takes too much time and energy.  Instead of taking months to get those holes dug, a powered post hole digger will get it done in a few days. 

So, how does a post hole auger work and how do you use one to dig a hole? 

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How Does a Post Hole Auger Work? 

post hole auger works by using sharp metal blades on a large drill bit to drill into the dirt.  These blades are powered by either a gas, propane or an electric motor that supplies torque to the drill bit and blades.  You apply pressure to the trigger and the blades and bit will bore into the ground, creating a nice evenly shaped hole for you.

How to use an Auger to Dig A Hole: Using an Earth Auger 

How to use an earth auger or post hole digger is easier than you think.  It isn’t hard to use a post hole digger if you follow along with our steps below to get your holes drilled fast and easy. 

  1. Make sure your auger blades are sharp and you’ve filled your auger with the right fuel ratio (if using gas)
  2. Primer your engine a few times
  3. Pull the cord fast to get it started (you might have to do this a few times)
  4. Place your auger bit right in the center of the hole you want to dig
  5. Start applying pressure on the trigger to spin your auger bit
  6. Hold on tight to the handlebars as your auger gets grip on the dirt
  7. Enjoy as your auger rips into the dirt digging your hole for you

Do I Need a Post Hole Digger? 

Using a post hole digger for some of your projects would speed it up and require less physical effort.  Fence posts and drilling holes in the ground for posts are the main use of post hole diggers.  

Dirt augers are versatile tools and uses for a post hole digger include landscaping, planting trees, building structures, laying down foundations for decks, and planting bulbs (the mini versions). 

How do You Start a Post Hole Borer? 

Gas and propane powered post diggers have pull starts.  You would prime the engine first and then pull the rip cord, just like on a lawn mower or small outboard motor. 

Electric diggers are more rare.  They are started with the push of a button and use batteries to power them.

​Will a Post Hole Auger Cut Through Roots? 

Yes and No.  It depends on 2 things: the torque of your digger and the size of the roots.  Some augers are built to have more torque and need to be handled by two people when drilling.   

Those types of augers are ready to chew through most roots.  But, be careful of the kickback from the auger when you hit and are chewing through those roots and keep a tight grip on your handlebars. 

The size of the roots is sometimes too big for an auger to get through.  Roots can be tough.  If you are stuck because your soil is full of roots, grab a digging bar and break through and remover roots when you hit them.  You could also use a Root Slayer Shovel, which is a shovel that’s modified with a pointy blade and sharp edges.  It’s made just for this purpose.  

Remove the chopped up roots from your hole and continue using your auger. 

Check out our detailed post on digging through roots and how to dig in hard ground.

Tips for Using a Post Hole Digger 

Our auger tips for using a post hole digger should help you along to become more of an expert at drilling post holes. 

  1. Always mark the center of the hole where you want to drill 
  2. Make sure your safety is always on if you’re not drilling 
  3. Start the auger and keep it at 90 degrees at all times so you get a straight hole 
  4. Try not to lean your body on your auger, this way if you hit roots/rocks the kickback from the auger won’t hurt you or throw you to the ground​
  5. Keep your auger blades sharp so that when you drill, the job gets done fast and you don’t burn out the motor 
  6. Make sure to use your blade guard and keep the blades clean when not in use 
  7. Always store your auger at 90 degrees, and don’t let the blades rest on the floor

How Long Does it Take to Drill a Hole with an Auger

The time it takes to drill a hole with an auger can vary depending on several factors such as the size of the auger, the type of soil or material being drilled through, and the depth of the hole. A rough estimate for drilling a hole with a hand-held auger is around 15 minutes to drill a hole 1 foot deep and 6 inches in diameter. However, the time can vary greatly depending on the specific circumstances.

Is it Hard to Use an Auger

The level of difficulty will depend on the specific type of auger, the size and depth of the hole being drilled, and the soil or material being drilled through.

Using an auger can be physically demanding and may require some strength and skill. Manual augers, which are typically used for small-scale projects such as planting trees or installing fence posts, require manual labor to turn the auger and can be tiring to use for extended periods of time.

Powered augers, which are used for more heavy-duty projects such as drilling holes for foundations or utility lines, are powered by gas, propane, or electricity and require more skill to operate safely.

How do You Dig a Straight Hole with an Auger

Digging a straight hole with an auger is important, here are the Pro recommendations for getting your hole straight the first time.

Use a stake or a string line to mark the spot where you want to drill the hole. This will help you to keep the auger on track as you drill.

Dig a small starter or pilot hole with a shovel. Most if not all post hole augers come with a center point that you place in the middle of your hole and it grips the ground and guides the auger through.

Start your hole slowly at first, going easy on the throttle while keeping your auger as level as possible.

Using a magnetic post hole level can be super handy here and we recommend it.

Why is my Auger not Digging

One of the reasons could be that the blades are dull and aren’t able to dig into the ground as well as they should. Sharpen those blades using the step by step instructions in our detailed post. There are many other reasons for an auger not drilling, maybe the soil conditions are too tough, maybe the gas is stale, maybe the battery is dead, or the carbs need to be cleaned.


How to use an auger to dig a hole can be done in no time flat as long as you follow along with our step by step instructions to get those holes dug deep. 


Is digging a hole with an auger easy?

Working with an auger requires a bit of physical fitness because you have to hold the heavy auger up in a 90 degree angle to the soil and then handle it while it drills. Drilling a few holes is relatively easy, but for drilling many holes, you may want a helper.