There was once a time when mini excavators were considered to be toys by most heavy equipment operators in the past. Today, things have changed and these tiny yet powerful machines have earned the respect of every construction and utility contractor on the planet. The machine boasts of a remarkably small footprint, precise operation capability and low cost.
Since they are easy to use homeowners can easily get them from a rental business. This makes the occasional weekend landscaping project a lot quicker.
Trying out the machine
Before you even do anything take the machine for a test drive. Even though Minis are very stable you should still try it out on level ground because there is always the danger that they will be overturned.
Get familiar with the controls
Once you mount the machine you should see the arm rest / control located to the left of the operator’s seat. You need to pull the lever on the front upwards and the whole thing will swing upwards and then back. You should hold on to the handhold which is attached to the rollover frame, then step on the track, and slowly pull yourself up over the deck, then slightly take a swing into the seat. Once you are seated pull the armrest down, then push the release lever to make sure it is locked in place.
Once in the operator’s seat familiarize you with all the controls, operator’s restraint system and gauges. There should be an ignition key located on the console towards the right or even overhead. Note this in your head and continuously keep an eye on the oil pressure, engine temperature and the fuel level when running the machine. Also don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.
Get the right machine for your project
The mini excavators available today come in an array of sizes that range from super compact that weigh around 4000 pounds to much heavier weights that barely squeezes into the mini class. If you are just digging a small ditch for some DIY irrigation or you have a small space then the smallest size available will work best. However, you should opt for a 3 or 3.5 ton excavator for larger landscaping projects like the Bobcat 336.
Using the machine
To use the machine simply start the engine. When the engine is running you should be careful of not bumping any of the sticks you see, since even the slightest movement of the controls will cause an instant reaction from the machine.
To start maneuvering the machine ensures that the front blade and the whole hoe boom are fully raised then push the steering control levels towards the front or forward. If there is some grading work to be done then use the bulldozer blade, this can be controlled with one stick in every hand.
However, since the sticks are located in close proximity to each other they can be gripped with just one hand which you can twist to push or you can pull the sticks when in motion which allows your right hand to raise freely or be lowered by the dozer blade so that this can be held at the right height when you are working.
The dozer blade can be lowered when you push the control handle forward in front of the console located on the right of your unit. Hold both the joysticks but make sure not to move until you’re ready. You may want to either lower or raise the boom section first. This can easily be done by pulling the joystick on the right backwards to raise it and then push it forward to lower it.
By moving this left or right you can pull in the bucket or you can throw it out (for dumping). Simply lower or raise it a few times and roll it a few times to get a feel for the machine.
The left joystick can be moved forward and then the secondary one onboard will swing away from you. When you pull the stick in it will swing the outer boom towards you. A very normal combination to scoop dirt from a hole is to lower the bucket directly into the soil and then pull it back with the right stick.
Mark has been a heavy machine operator and general contractor for over two decades. He has lots of experience with excavation machines and provides regular training to newbies.