excavators at a construction site

What Could Go Wrong with Excavators? A Lot!

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Excavators are heavy machines used to dig holes, move different types of materials, and more. In other words, it’s a piece of standard equipment in construction. Without it, you will struggle to get things done and even increase the project’s cost because of delays.

Over the years, machines like excavators have undergone major upgrades to make them more efficient, user-friendly, and practical. Despite these, they can still break down.

Fortunately, many companies now specialize in heavy equipment repair, working on various models and brands. But it doesn’t hurt to know the signs something is wrong with your equipment.

How Do Excavators Work?

Before you learn about its problems, here’s a refresher on excavators. An excavator is a hydraulic machine with a high-power engine, a big cab sitting on top of the boom, and an arm with a bucket.

The arm itself is made up of two pieces: the upper and lower. The bucket sits between these pieces, and hydraulic cylinders can raise or lower it, just like a car jack. The arm is connected to the upper part of the boom through a pivot point at the base.

The cab is high up for good reason. When you’re sitting up so high, visibility is pretty good. You can see just about everything that’s happening down on the ground or in an area where you might be digging, and you can do it from a safe distance.

Sometimes the cab is even outfitted with a second set of controls that allows the operator to work remotely. The machine can then be controlled remotely by someone who isn’t in danger of being injured by the moving bucket and arm.

People use excavators to dig holes for basements, irrigation systems, wells, and swimming pools. They’re also used in demolition work. And when they aren’t doing any of that, they’re usually being repositioned to do some other kind of work, such as grading or removing snow.

Problems with Excavators

Excavators, like any other machine, are prone to technical and operational issues:

1. Getting Stuck in the Mud

If you’ve ever seen an excavator stuck in the mud, you know why it’s considered one of the top things that could go wrong with them. The arm is so heavy and so tall it’s difficult to move without getting some purchase on solid ground. Some machines use a wheeled base, but others have evolved to be better suited to digging in soft or rocky soil.

excavator near a building

2. Slipping Off High Curbs

You might think that with the arm extended out above the cab, an excavator would have no problem getting over most curbs, but it can still happen. The bucket might not always extend high enough to clear the curb, or there might be a cross slope.

Once the cab starts to make contact with the curb, it will keep going until something arrests its progress. And if that happens to be a car, you can imagine the results might not be good for driver or excavator operator.

3. Failure of the Hydraulic Pump

It’s important to remember that the hydraulic system relies on the engine. If the engine isn’t running, all you’re left with is a heavy chunk of metal with some hydraulic cylinders attached to it.

Common problems with the hydraulic pump include:

  • Failure of the Hydraulic Valve – the valve components might not be working together as they should, resulting in a power output that’s too low to keep up with the demands placed on it.
  • Liquid Leakage – if your excavator has liquid-filled hydraulic hoses, there’s a good chance those liquid lines fail at some point. It can be difficult to track down exactly where the leakage is happening, but it’s something that needs to be checked before moving on.
  • Inadequate Oil Supply – if the hydraulic pump isn’t getting the oil it needs to function, that’s usually a sign that things are about to go south in a hurry.
  • Failure of Hydraulic Lines – the same oily liquid that runs through your hydraulic pump flows through all other components of your excavator. If any of the lines that contain that liquid are leaking, it’s just a matter of time before the oil is completely gone.

4. Incorrect Operation

Just because you have a pair of controls in your cab doesn’t mean that you know how to use them correctly. And just because another person is operating your excavator remotely doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing it right either.

Sometimes the person operating the excavator gets confused about which controls to use for what task. No matter how many buttons or pedals there are on your cab, you can’t operate them all at once.

There’s also the chance that someone might not be familiar with this type of equipment, and if they’re being distracted by other events, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with problems caused by incorrect operation.

In many cases, excavators can be dangerous machines to operate. The chance of having problems with the equipment increases every time you use it, which is why good preventative maintenance and quick repair are important.

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