Hit construction pay dirt with the right excavator

Excavators feature a boom, a bucket and a driver's cab on a rotating platform. This platform, sometimes called a "house," rests atop tracks that allow the vehicle to move about a job site. One part tractor, one part steam shovel, excavators are often at the core of medium and large construction projects. For that reason, it's important to know exactly what to look for when shopping for and inspecting an excavator. Having the right know-how can save a buyer loads of money.

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Buying an Excavator

Certainly, there's always the option of buying a new excavator. However, many firms simply don't have the cash to constantly keep a fully upgraded line of machinery, so purchasing a used excavator (be it a hydraulic excavator, bucket wheel excavator or crawler excavator) is often the best option.

The most important part of buying a used excavator is the inspection process—never buy a piece of heavy machinery before closely examining it. When inspecting a used excavator, be sure to check these components:

  • Engine. Look closely for leakages or soot. Have someone start the engine and pay attention to strange noises or trouble starting. The presence of any of these issues could indicate that the engine is in poor shape and may require extensive work or replacement.
  • Cab. As with buying a used car, it's important when buying a used excavator to pay attention to welds or evidence of body repair work. This could indicate some sort of accident took place in the excavator, which could in turn mean there may be mechanical issues with the unit. Also, check other components associated with the cab, from the boom and bucket right up to the stick and seat.
  • Tracks. It's crucial to inspect the tracks and check for wear. Certainly, most used excavators will show some wear, but extensively worn rollers and sprockets could indicate trouble ahead.

Once the unit has been started, check for smoke coming from the exhaust. If it passes that test, then be sure to put the machine through the same kinds of movements that it will be performing on a job site. Have an operator move the bucket back and forth, checking to make sure the action is smooth and that the gears and bearings are in proper working order. Make sure to drive the excavator a short distance to ensure that the drive system is fully functional.

Get the Most for Your Money

Buckets, grapples and thumbs look like part of the excavator, but technically, they're separate pieces that attach to the arm for different jobs. When buying an excavator, make sure you know which excavator attachments come with it and which ones you may need to purchase separately. Generally, you should get at least the standard bucket with the machine, but you may want to bargain for other attachments if possible.