Mini Excavator Operating Question

Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by thepawnshop, Apr 16, 2005.

  1. thepawnshop

    thepawnshop LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    I am demo-ing a JD 35D ZTS mini excavator and feel a bit uncomfortable on hills. What is the best way to go up and down a slope in a mini? Going up I extended the bucket as far forward and as low as possible so it didn't feel like I would tip backwards, but I used the same method for going downhill in case I started to tip forward, the arm would keep me from rolling forward.

    I just would really like to know from real excavator operators the best way to travel up and down inclines. Other than that, as a homebuilder, this is a GREAT piece of equipment. I got this machine straight from the factory with all of 2 hours on it. I know I am going to buy it, I just want to know how to drive it better!

  2. Scag48

    Scag48 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,067

    Going uphill and downhill it sounds like you pretty much have it figured out. I ran a Deere 27C ZTS on a pretty good slope last summer and that's how I approached the hills. You don't need to necessarily keep the stick fully extended, but it definately lowers the center of gravity and on a really steep slope, if the bucket was right in front of the tracks you might go end over end, so fully extended I think is the way to go. What's strange about the Deere 35D is that it only has 28 HP and the 27C has 32 HP? Kind of strange. We're looking for an excavator and have been pondering a Cat 304CR, 303CR, Deere 27C or 35D. What size bucket were you using and did the machine feel like it had sufficient power? Thanks!
  3. greywynd

    greywynd LawnSite Member
    Messages: 132

    I've owned my own mini for 4 years now, and rented them off and on for 3 or 4 more before that....If it's a really steep hill, don't forget about your backfill blade. Going down for example, what you can do (this takes some practice), put the blade downhill, and put it down to help 'level' the machine front to back. Now take your bucket, and lift the machine slightly with it, now walk the tracks and move the stick at the same'll be walking on the 'heels' of the tracks. When you reach the limit of your stick travel, let the machine back down to rest on the blade again. Make sure that you are completely perpendicular to the at all and this can get tippy fast. Also make sure that you are wearing your seltbelt when on slopes!!!! Your ROPS is not much good if you ever do go over and you end up under the machine. You can use the same technique going up a hill, but you have to go up facing backwards.....this takes some more getting used to.......

    Most important thing......take your time, and listen to your instincts.....if it feels too steep, or it feels like your getting off balance.......DON'T do it!!!!!As you spend more time on it and get used to it's limitations, you will get more comfortable. Remember, if you ever exceed these limits, there's a good chance that someone will get hurt (or killed) and we don't want to read about you in the paper.

  4. thepawnshop

    thepawnshop LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    I was using a 24" bucket (I am getting the 12" as well) and had NO PROBLEMS whatsoever moving the material...which was bucket fulls of wet material...mostly red and brown dirt. No clay, but I was demoing the machine in the rain. I also moved a lot os shale/shot rock without any hesitation. If you put the two machines by JD side by side, you would not think twice about the 35d. Yes, the 27 claims to have more horses, but it is made by a different company. The 35 kicks it in the rear on all other stats (except price...the machine I am demoing comes in @ $35,500 with 12 & 24" bucket and auger bracket (I bought an auger for my skid steer and think it will get more use in this piece than the skid). Also keep in mind that JD has quite a few improvements over what you used last year. I think you should call your local JD dealer and demo a 35 since you have already had experience with the 27. I like CAT...but they are expensive and the comparable model is a good bit more expensive than the JD. I am becoming a JD fan-boy I guess in part because the dealership/salesman is so willing to work with you. May not be the case in all markets...James River Equipment rocks!

    Try this is a link from the JD site that allows you to compare their machine to all others in the comparable class:

    Mini Excavator Comparisons

    Good Luck and thanks for the help!
  5. Scag48

    Scag48 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,067

    Yes, Cat is expensive. Although I've seen used 304CR's on Catused with 400 hrs. on them w/o a thumb for about $5,000 more than we can buy a brand new piece w/ a thumb. $35,000 sounds like a smokin' deal on that 35D, we were quoted $45,000 for a 304CR, substantially bigger than the 35D, but like I said a new one is cheaper than one is used! I will definately take a look at a 35D before we buy anything. I'm looking at a Bobcat 331 right now, 40 HP is VERY appealing and having zero tail swing isn't a huge priority for us. I'm a Cat fan but most of these excavators are pretty much the same, there are less and less differences between brands than say skid steers where we distinctively chose Cat for some features that blew Bobcat and Deere right out of the water. I'm going to feel really guilty about not buying a Cat if we don't, but price, performance, and dealer support is what we're looking for and Cat has the best dealer support. The Deere and Bobcat dealers up here would have to prove themselves to us if we were to buy a Deere or Bobcat machine, because dealer support is the most important aspect. A machine is only worth anything if it's running and that's what you're paying for when you buy a Cat, the dealer support. All in all we're going to demo a Cat 303CR so far, probably a 35D now as well. Hope everything works out for you!
  6. thepawnshop

    thepawnshop LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    Scag, have you started any demoing with the mini yet? I have put about 15 hours on the JD 35 ZTS and seriously doubt I will even bother trying anyone elses machine out I am so satisfied with it. Let me know your thoughts on the others...

    Here is a deal for you if you are going to stay Cat, though:

    Used Cat 303

    Seems like an awesome deal!
  7. Scag48

    Scag48 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,067

    I did start demo'ing actually. We had a 303CR brought up yesterday and we worked it 3 hours pulling up 2500 pound rocks on a site we've been on. I liked the machine for the size of machine it was, but I am very leary that it will lift what we need it to lift. I could lift 800-900 pound rocks right in front of the blade maybe 6-8 inches off the ground and even then the machine was real tippy when trying to travel, and forget about swinging over the side. Now here's a strange story, my dad called the dealer this morning for prices on a 303CR. Sales guy says "oh yeah, I've got a 304.5 up in your area that you guys could just pick up at the site and take out to use for a few days." Turns out, this machine was digging a foundation for a garage right next a lawn that I was going to mow, so I knew exactly where it was before I even needed to. It's a small world. Anyway, we loaded the 304.5 and hauled it a rock quarry that we're going to be snagging some rock to use to install a retaining wall this weekend. I was VERY impressed with the 304.5. The thumb is larger, like I assumed. The problem with the 303 is that it was tough to even grab some 800 pound rocks, the thumb just wouldn't grasp around it. I was lifting 1,000 pound rocks EASY with the 304.5 over the front, stick all the way out, 4-5 feet in the air and then swing over the side, no problem at all. My dad says the 304.5 is too big of a machine, and I told him that the 304CR that we are looking at will be a little wider by about 3 inches and will weigh just a little less than the 304.5. We're waiting until next week for the 304CR because they didn't have one on hand, they were all rented out. It just happened that we could get a 304.5, but it was nice to get a feel of how much these machines will lift.

    Dad keeps changing his mind on why we're buying this machine. He says he's buying it strictly for digging ponds and general digging tasks. 3 days ago, we were buying an excavator to build retaining walls and load dump trucks/our dump trailer faster/easier than our skid steer, according to the old man. I'm trying to convince him that a foot and a half worth of width isn't going to make much difference for us, it can on some jobs but at less than 5 percent of our sites actually restricting us to a 5 foot wide machine, I don't think it's worth buying a machine that we're going to grow out of.

    So I've compiled a list of pros and cons:

    303CR pros:
    -Easy to transport via tiltbed trailer - This is so much faster to load and unload than our goosneck w/beavertail
    -Small footprint
    -Light machine, overall length is very little

    303CR Cons
    -Won't lift adequately sized rocks for a 4 foot wall
    -Won't load the rocks that we'll be getting at this quarry into our dump trailer, we'd have to bring our skid steer to help out and even that would be a pain

    304CR Pros
    -Lifts adequately, according to 304.5, I'm assuming lift capacity won't vary too much, I was WAY impressed with the 304.5, so even a slight decrease in lift capacity of a 304CR compared to a 304.5 would be more than enough to satisfy our lifting needs
    -Will load a dump truck, the 303CR will not
    -Will handle a 30" bucket
    -More horsepower!
    -Will physically grab the rocks, the 303 struggles to grasp an 800 pound rock
    -Will give me a machine to buy from dad when I'm out of college, I plan on going into excavation

    304CR Cons
    -More expensive by about 10K
    -Burns more fuel
    -Have to haul on our goosneck, which is a PITA and somewhat not setup for this machine right now, but some modifications to our ramps will fix that

    Wow this is a long post but I'm updating. So we're doing this wall job this weekend and we'll have both machines onsite and I'll show my dad that the 303 just won't be able to cut the mustard building walls, but then he'll probably just say something like "well that's not what we're buying one for", right after he told me that's what we need one for last week. :dizzy: Thanks for the input guys!
  8. thepawnshop

    thepawnshop LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    OK, Skag...after reading your stellar review of the Cat 304 CR, I called our local Cat rep and he is bringing one out on Tuesday for me to try out. I owe it to myself to make sure I am getting the best bang for my $$$$. Be sure you share any other mini observations you may have and I shall do the same!
  9. 2004F550

    2004F550 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 272

    Standard machines can usally lift more and are more stable then ZTS house machines, if you don't definatly need the ZTS then dont buy...we do so we bought a Bobcat 435 ZTS...but if ur in open area, regular like the 304.5 is the way to go
  10. Gravel Rat

    Gravel Rat LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,544

    It must be different down in the States because Cat machines are going to the way side and Komatsu is moving into areas that were Cat dominant. If you want your Cat machine repaired you will be waiting a few days for a service guy to show up. Cat wants you to haul your machine to their shops to get repaired.

    If I was going to get a mini machine it would be a Kubota with steel tracks it would be a 161 model.

    As for working on slopes with a mini is take your time and use the blade and bucket as meantioned already. The biggest problem is those rotten rubber tracks they are terrible they don't grip loose dirt or slippery surfaces what so ever. You don't want to get in a situation where you start sliding down a slope like a tobogan or where you are sliding sideways where you run the risk of flopping on the side. As already meantioned if it doesn't feel comfortable don't push it the pucker factor when your butt cheeks tighten up tells you if it doesn't feel right. There are alot of places where I will go in a 35,000lb fullsize excavator where I don't dare with a mini just because a 8000lb mini is so tippy.

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