Selecting an excavator
If you are making your first excavator purchase, it may be daunting to sift through the jungle of machine sizes, capacity and features. In making that important purchase decision, it’s helpful to consider the complete ‘excavator system’ that’s right for your purpose -- the excavator, attachments and the truck or trailer to get your gear onto the job site.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of helpful advice from equipment distributors to guide your choice of machine, so it’s important that you take time to explain what type of excavation work you intend to take on. While unexpected site conditions sometimes occur, you should be able define your needs as much as possible, such as the typical terrain, tasks and site access.
A clear brief will enable a sales technician to narrow the options and guide your choice by well-informed recommendations. Ideally, your excavator needs the power to tackle anticipated challenges; be manoeuvrable where needed and comfortable enough for an operator to work efficiently all day long in the local climate.
Will you be operating your excavator for most of the day or will it be just used to perform tasks to support other equipment? If excavation is likely to be your core business, then a well-engineered, robustly constructed machine will probably be your best option.
Is the excavator to carry out specific tasks, such as drilling for foundation pilings, breaking rock, deep trenching or craning pipes or pits into place?
In calculating your budget, whole of life cost for the equipment should be evaluated, including the number of working hours you are likely to accumulate, scheduled maintenance costs, replacement of parts like pins, bushings, linkages, tracks, undercarriage components and wear plates.
Replacement cost of bucket teeth and other cutting tools also need to be considered.
Finance costs should also be factored in to the whole of life investment calculation. Your financial advisor is the best one to consult and advise you on the options which may include purchase, rental, lease, rental purchase option or other methods.
Excavators are supplied in different power, operating weight, size and swing configurations. Conventional tail swing models have counterweights which extend beyond the tracks. This means that when rotating the excavator’s cabin, the counterweight section will extend beyond the tracks and the operator must ensure that when rotating the cabin, the counterweight will not strike any objects behind the excavator.
Zero tail-swing models enable the cabin diameter to remain within the width of the tracks through a full rotation. This means you can concentrate on digging, without the need to constantly check where you’re swinging. Models with this feature are ideal if you are operating in limited spaces or against a wall.
Other models may be described as ‘reduced tail-swing’ excavators, where the counter balance weight may still extend beyond the track diameter, but has been moved more towards centre of the machine.
If your work is likely to be digging deep trenches or on sites where long reach is needed, this will influence the range of machines and boom/stick options you will want to consider.
If you anticipate working on sites that involve overhead wires, bridges or other low hanging infrastructure, or need maximum extension by flattening the stick and boom, an excavator that offers a two-piece boom option may be the right choice.
Rubber tracks are the most common on mini and compact size excavators. Rubber tracks will provide better protection for ground surfaces if most of your work is site preparation, residential landscaping, parks and other public space works.
If your work involves demolition sites where highly abrasive ground conditions may be encountered such as broken concrete, steel or other aggressive material, you may need to consider a machine with steel tracks. This track option may be suitable if you are likely to be working on slippery and sloping surfaces such as wet clay.
A new excavator usually comes with hitch and a set of standards buckets, however if you want to get the most out of your machine, you may need to add an angle dozer blade for quick back-filling, an earth drill, rock breaker and/or twin header rock wheel.
Couplers and hitches play an important role in the type of attachments that can be operated, therefore understanding what attachments you may need to use will help define the hydraulic specifications of your excavator.
You need to think about where your business may be in a few years’ time. Purchasing a small excavator may be fine to get you started, however you may choose to take on bigger projects and you don’t want an excavator that may lack the power or features you need to grow your business.
An excavator is a great piece of engineering that can range from a basic design to one fully loaded with technology and optional features. Time taken to analyse your current and future needs will pay dividends in selecting the machine that best suits your business.