Up-Lifting Tips to Boost Compact Excavator Performance

Just as humans perform poorly and can be seriously injured when lifting improperly, the same is true for your compact excavator. It may be far more powerful than its two-legged counterpart, but its components must be treated with care. Here are some tips and reminders to help you keep your trusty compact excavator working productively and safely.

Look around before getting to work

Jobsite conditions affect how operators work machines, especially when it comes to avoiding potential hazards. These can be different when lifting is involved, so operators must be aware of anything that could affect the machine’s stability when lifting or moving a load. Is there anything overhanging or under the machine that might interfere with movement?

Know your slope

It’s not unusual for terrain to be sloped. It’s best to level the working area first, but that’s not always feasible. Compact excavators should never travel across a slope that is steeper than 25 degrees, and it’s important to travel and lift slowly when working on any slope. Be sure the excavator’s blade is always facing downhill and positioned as close to the ground as possible to maintain a low center of gravity. Do not swing the bucket downhill, and never work crosswise to the slope, as these actions both increase the chance of a tip-over.

Know your excavator

Compact excavators have varying capabilities when it comes to lifting. You can consult the manufacturer’s lift chart to find this information – that may be incorporated in the owner’s manual but sometimes there is also a decal affixed to the machine itself for easy reference. Staying within recommended ranges is a simple way to ensure safe operation.

Each chart is created based on testing performed by the OEM, so it is specific to the compact excavator model. However, there may be multiple lift charts for a particular excavator, each one for a different configuration of arm length, boom length, track shoe width, and counterweight size.

Sometimes the lift chart also takes into account bucket size and weight. If this isn’t specified, the operator needs to figure this separately because bucket or coupler size and weight along with the lifting components and the weight of whatever is being lifted or moved all contribute to total weight at the end of the arm.

  • Lifting capacity changes depending on the lift height and swing radius. It is determined by:
    Hydraulic limitations determine how much hydraulic power is available for lifting. The lift chart will show an asterisk next to any listed capacity that is “hydraulic limited.” The allowable maximum according to ISO standard is 87% of the excavator’s hydraulic lift capacity.
  • Tipping limitations identify the machine’s stability threshold. Pushed beyond this point, the machine itself may lift off the ground while lifting a load. Capacities listed without an asterisk are considered “tipping limited” and never more than 75% of the excavator’s tipping load capacity.

The lift point is not the distance between the ground and the load to be lifted, it is the distance between the ground and the bucket pin. Or from the below-ground starting point, if that’s the case. So to figure the lift point height, you must consider the length of the lifting device, the height of whatever is being lifted, and the elevation of the load’s destination – say a transport trailer.

You also need to consider lifting radius, as measured from the swing point’s centerline. This will vary if the load is being lifted straight to the side or over the top of the machine. Using outriggers or a dozer blade also affects lifting radius depending on position during lifting.

Once you know your lifting height and radius, you can locate the appropriate cell on the lift chart to see the excavator’s rated lifting capacity for your job. The cell will be blank if the excavator has no lifting capacity based on your parameters. It is not safe to use this machine for this job.

Move loads safely

Sometimes you need to transport a suspended load rather than simply lifting and placing it. This calls for extra safety precautions:

  • Make sure the lifting apparatus is approved for your load weight.
  • Use the shortest possible lifting radius, and keep the load as close to the ground as the terrain allows.
  • Align the boom with the direction your excavator will be traveling forward before hooking up the load and try to retain this boom position even when turning, for maximum stability. If turns are required, make them as wide and slow as possible.
  • Use an excavator lift eye or similar lifting safety device.

Taking extra precautions and using smart lifting practices will help prevent costly damage to your compact excavator as well as dangerous, even more, costly accidents.