How To Operate A Mini Excavator

If you are involved in demolition work or landscaping chances are you need an excavator. Excavators are a brilliant piece of machinery but often standard and larger-sized models can be difficult to maneuver and need a wide-open space to gain access to a building site.

For smaller projects, mini excavators are great as they can be placed on a trailer and transported to the building site easily while also being compact and not taking up a large amount of space on-site, where space is often limited.

In this guide, we look at what a mini excavator is, what it is often used for, and also the basics of how to operate a mini excavator.

What Is A Mini Excavator

Mini excavators are a more compact model of the standard excavator. They range in size from 11 to 19 tons and have the basic abilities that a larger model would also possess.

They can be found with wheels or tracked and usually feature a standard backfill blade. A reduced tail-swing makes this machine easy to manoeuvre and can make tight turns that larger models could not.

Mini excavators are often used by construction workers that complete smaller demolition projects such as breaking up swimming pools, trails, sidewalks, and asphalt driveways. These projects can often be completed within a day.

Landscapers may also use mini excavators when levelling a garden space or digging a small pond. The work that mini excavators can carry out will depend on the load weight that it can take but generally, you will be able to complete digging, backfilling, levelling, trenching, and grading work using these types of machines.

How To Operate A Mini Excavator

Before you can operate a mini excavator you will need to complete a course to become a trained operator. While mini excavators may look simple to use there is still a lot to be learned before sitting in the operating seat. Below we outline the basics of how to operate a mini-excavator and also explain the different parts of the machine.

Basic Parts Of A Mini Excavator

  • Track Pad or Wheels – how you move along the surface
  • Cab – where you will sit to operate the machine and where the controls are
  • Boom – connects the cab body to the bucket, can extend to reach the bucket out further
  • Bucket – holds the rumble and dirt
  • Blade – positioned along the edge of the bucket to cut and dig into the ground

Basic Operations Guide

  1. Carefully enter the operating seat, put your seatbelt on and close the door if there is one fitted on the model you are operating.
  2. Turn the keys in the ignition, which will start the machine.
  3. Once the machine turns on it is essential that you check the display for any warning lights and also check fuel levels.
  4. If your fuel levels are ok and no warning lights have come on, take the safety lock off.
  5. The joystick is used to raise and lower the boom. Pull the joystick back to raise the boom and push the joystick forward to lower the boom.
  6. The same joystick is used for opening and closing the bucket. In most models, you will move the joystick to the right to open and to the left to close the bucket.
  7. The joystick is also used to move the excavator’s stick, operations will vary between models.
  8. To turn, or swing, the cab to the left and right you will use the joystick again. Operations will vary between models so check the manual for further instructions on this movement.
  9. The pedals on the floor of the operating cab are used to move the machine forwards and backward. Ensure the blade is up when driving and place the blade back down to help stabilize the machine once you have reached the new position.

Top Tips

Here are some useful tips that will benefit your work with a mini excavator.

  1. Test the machine on-site before beginning a project to make sure the ground can support the machine and also to check that there are no balancing issues that may cause the machine to turn over when completing work.
  2. Make a plan on how you will complete the project. When making your plan, focus on how you will get the machine to the building site as well as your approach to complete the project and getting the machine back out from the site. Often projects that are not planned in advance can end with the machinery being boxed in which can be costly to resolve.
  3. Complete a safety check every day to ensure your machine is operable. Check your coolant and lubricant levels as well as your tracks or wheels. Safety should always be considered when operating heavy machinery such as mini excavators.


Are Mini Excavators Easy To Use?

Mini excavators are smaller versions of standard excavators so it will still be necessary to take a course on how to operate one before doing so. Excavators have a lot of internal switches and settings and it is important that you fully understand what these do to work the machine properly and safely.

Courses tend to take at least three weeks to complete. Once completed, you will have the necessary knowledge to operate the machine and so you may find it easy.

Mini excavators are easier to manoeuvre than standard-sized excavators so if you are switching from a standard to a mini you may notice a difference between operating the two. When operating machinery there are a lot of safety rules that must be obeyed to keep both yourself and those around you safe.

When you become familiar with operating machines your skills will develop making it simpler to focus on the task at hand but you must always be aware of your surroundings and complete your work safely.

Is A License Needed To Drive A Mini Excavator?

If the excavator is driven on a public road you will need a license, however, if you are only driving it on-site you do not need a license.

Before operating a mini excavator you will need to complete a course after which you will be given a proof of training certificate, which you may be asked to show before starting work at a building site. A certificate of competence may also be required.

Ryan Genkin
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