A mini excavator is useful in most any situation where a moderate amount of digging is required. Much faster and easier than hand digging, and able to squeeze into sites where standard backhoe loaders cannot, the mini excavator is a welcome addition to anyone in need of trench work, or just a simple hole in the ground. Most mini excavators have dual joystick controls for the backhoe portion, which consists of the main boom (closest to the machine frame), the dipper stick (the second portion of the backhoe arms), and the bucket (which curls in or extends outward from the dipper stick). Two separate travel levers that operate the crawler tracks that propel the machine. Consult the owner's or renter's manual prior to operation.

Step 1

Site the machine so you are within boom reach of the desired starting point. Push the two travel levers forward to move the machine forward in a straight path. Returning your left lever to neutral, or pulling it back, will turn the machine right. Pull both levers straight back to travel in reverse. Experience will allow you to set up almost to the maximum reach, helpful for very long trenches.

Step 2

Set your stabilizers down, if equipped. Most minis have a front "bulldozer" blade Push the control lever for this forward to drop the blade. Continue pushing the lever until the blade lifts the machine slightly. This helps stabilize the excavator during hard digging operations and rapid boom swings. First time operators should set the engine speed at 1/2 to 2/3 of full throttle until they become acclimated to the machine.

Step 3

Push the main boom lever (typically the left joystick) forward to move the main boom away from you. Extend it about halfway through its range of travel. Push the dipper stick lever (right joystick) forward. Stop when it is about 2/3 through its range of travel.

Step 4

Push the main boom lever forward again. At this point, the bucket teeth should be close to contact with the ground. Curl or open the bucket--usually by moving the right joystick left or right respectively--to get an optimum digging angle. For most soils, this would be about a 45-degree angle to the ground.

Step 5

As you make contact with the ground, pull on the dipper stick lever as you curl the bucket inwards. As the bucket fills with soil, curl to a level point to reduce spillage.

Step 6

Pull on the main boom lever, which will raise the bucket out of the ground. Adjust your bucket and dipper stick as required to clear the work area. Swivel your boom, usually by turning the left joystick left and right, to move the dug soil into a pile away from your trench.

Step 7

As you gain experience, you will be able to do steps 3 through 6 almost simultaneously. Increase your throttle speed as you gain a feel for the controls.

Step 8

When your trench reaches the proximity of the mini excavator, pull all levers to retract the main boom and dipper stick close to the machine, raise your stabilizer and reset the excavator, near the far reach of the boom. Continue digging.

Step 9

To cover the trench, retract the main boom and dipper stick into its most compact form. Carefully move the mini excavator into position to push soil with the "bulldozer" blade. Do not drive over the trench until soil has filled the hole. Use the crawler tracks of the mini excavator to pack the soil into the trench.