Part 1 - How to run an Excavator for Beginners. What you Need to know to get started

Stan: Alright, guys. We are going to be talking about everything excavators, and we're gonna be talking about how to run one of these. Now, I'm gonna be coming at you guys from the point that I've been doing this for 27 years with no formal training. The only thing I gotta say about it is, I've been able to survive that many years running an excavator. But, I wanted to call in a pro. Somebody that actually teaches people how to run excavators, and that's where I got Danny from Volvo in.

Stan: Danny, hey buddy.

Danny: Stan, thanks man.

Stan: Thank you. Thanks for doing this. Now, Volvo is the one putting on the training for us today. By the time you're done, what Volvo hopes to accomplish, and what I hope to accomplish is that you guys can hop inside one of these, be familiar and comfortable enough with the machine, that you can safely get through to the end of the workday without hurting yourself, without hurting anybody else on the job site, and without hurting the piece of equipment.

Stan: So, this, guys, is going to be a very thorough training video series. Without wasting any more time, Danny, let's get into it.

Danny: Okay.

Stan: What's the main components of an excavator that these guys need to be familiar with?

Danny: Okay. We can start at the front of the machine. Okay?

Stan: Boom arm.

Danny: Yep.

Stan: Stick. Bucket.

Danny: Yep.

Stan: Got it.

Danny: Okay.

Danny: Then, you get into your undercarriage, which is your X-frame undercarriage and your tracks.

Stan: So, if you guys are buying your own machine, you want to kind of, as a rule of thumb, you always want to look at where your idlers are, because the machine is designed to really be used over the idler.

Danny: Idlers, in the front, which is this sprocket here. You can see it's a smooth sprocket. 

Stan: Okay.

Danny: Okay. That's how you know the front of the machine, 'cause, typically, you're gonna be digging over the idlers.

Stan: Why is that?

Danny: It's designed and reinforced in the front for the digging purpose. And, also, you have your drive motors in the rear, which is these with the sprockets.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: And it has ... There's more weight in the rear. You have to look at the excavator. Here's your counterweight.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: Here's more weight with the sprocket.

Stan: The machine is designed to really be used over the idlers, right?

Danny: Typically, yes.

Stan: Typically.

Danny: I'm not saying that you can't dig anywhere else. But, typically, that's where you would, most likely, want to be digging or operating the machine.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: For the maximum stability.

Stan: Oh, good to know.

Danny: This is the cab on the excavator. Then, you, of course, have your access points to enter to check your engine oil, which is basic entry to that.

Danny: You have your power disconnect, turning the batteries on and off.

Danny: Counterweight, on Volvos, we typically have a rear camera which is standard on our equipment. And, also, included there's a side camera on it, as well.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: And, then, you have your hydraulic tank, which is here.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: You have a sight glass in here. So, typically, when you're going around a machine you'll check your fluids as you go. 

Stan: And, this sight glass, Danny, is what?

Danny: Is the hydraulic at full level for the machine.

Stan: Okay. So, there's ... Guys, when you're running an excavator, there's more than just engine oil that we've got to worry about. All of the cylinders on the machine run off from hydraulics, and that has its own separate oil reservoir.

Danny: Correct.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: Yep.

Stan: So, that's something good to know about. 

Stan: So, the oil level in the tracks in separate?

Danny: Correct.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: It's totally separate.

Stan: We should probably cover that for these guys, as well. So, when you guys are out looking at your own machine, make sure you check all of these individual components, 'cause it's all part of the process, right?

Danny: It is.

Stan: Yeah. Alright, guys, we've done the pre trip. You're hot and ready to get in the seat of the excavator, and you hop up there, and maybe it doesn't feel quite right. There's two controls patterns that we need to discuss. The first one is called SAE, the second one is called ISO, and they're not the same.

Stan: Imagine this: if you've ever driven a stick car, take the stick, and have it on the right side, and then go to a different country and take that same stick, and put it on the left side. You'll be totally bass-ackwards, before you know it, and upside down in a ditch if you're not careful.

Stan: But, most of these excavators, as well as backhoes, have a pretty quick and easy way of changing the control pattern.

Danny: On our machines, in the cab when you're in, you can look at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It'll tell you what pattern, SAE or ISO. If it's not in the pattern that you want, you would have to get out, and basically what you do is you pull this out, and push ... Let me swap hands. And, that's basically, from SAE to ISO.

Stan: Before you start learning how to run an excavator for your very first time, be familiar whether you're in SAE or ISO, because once you learn how to run it in one pattern, you're not gonna be able to switch over to another very easily. Okay? Whatever you start out with, you're almost gonna be stuck with that for the rest of your life.

Danny: So, Stan, can I recommend one thing?

Stan: Yeah.

Danny: I would recommend ISO pattern, because no matter where you're at, that's a well-known pattern. Typically, SAE is gonna be a backhoe loader pattern. Okay?

Stan: That's what I learned on. I hop in an ISO machine, and I'm like, "Oh my god, I can't. Somebody save me from this thing."

Stan: Okay, so, now we've covered the main components of the machine. Right, Danny? Is there anything we missed with that?

Danny: I think it's pretty much the main component. 

Stan: So, we know what you're getting into. But, before you fire it up, what's the basics we should be doing?

Danny: Okay. Things that you want to do is check out your fluids, before your start your workday. 

Stan: Okay.

Danny: That's the main thing you want to do. Other thing is, a lot of guys want to grease their machine each day, before they start the operation.

Stan: Okay.

Stan: Okay, so, let's go inside. I see a big red lever.

Danny: This.

Stan: That's important. The reason I point that out, before we even get started. Do you notice why it's big and it's red?

Stan: Tell me about that.

Danny: So, you'll notice it, when you get in. When it's down like this, if the machine is running, these are not operable. It basically locks out the hydraulic controls so you can enter and exit the cab safely if it's running. 

Danny: If it's in this position and running, these will become active. 

Stan: Okay. Like I was saying, Danny does formal training for Volvo, product training. I've done 27 years of running, and one of my rule of thumb is, anytime somebody comes my way, comes near me in my machine, before I'll do anything, carry on a conversation or even say hi to them, I flip that down.

Stan: The reason I flip that down is because it's easy to have somebody come to the side of a machine, and you can't hear them 'cause it's running or somebody else is back there, and you lean over, and that whole machine starts to move. And, all it takes is one small mistake that can change a person's life forever.

Danny: It can.

Stan: This, automatically, just flip it down, carry on your conversation, wait 'til they're outside of the swing radius of the machine before it's gets swung up. It's never any other way, and it's worked for me.

Danny: Very good principle.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: Absolutely.

Stan: So, I did something right.

Speaker 3: Yeah, you're on.

Stan: Alright, Dan the man and I, we're gonna for a ride and take you guys with. So, let's start running an excavator.

Danny: Let's get it.

Stan: Alright.

Danny: Alright.

Stan: Dan, what-

Danny: Okay, on your left control, for ISO control, if you push it forward the stick goes out. If you bring it back, the stick comes in. If you move it to the left, it will rotate the cab. If you go to the right, of course, it goes to the right. 

Danny: On your right control, full back is up with the boom. Forward is down with the boom. If you go in to your leg, left, would be curl the bucket so you can hold material in. If you go to your right, it is dump the material out.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: That was the control.

Stan: The power modes, Danny, we're talking about hydraulics and power modes.

Danny: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Stan: You got I, which stands for idle.

Danny: Yep. Like idle or warm up the machine. Basically, or if you're lifting. AF is for lifting, fine grading, you need to be slow but precise movements. Go is for general loading. Okay? And, you can use it, set the dial here. So you have G1, G2, G3 and G4, and that's just general everyday loading type applications.

Danny: If you're in hurry and you're wanting to load faster, you can go all the way up into H, it's heavy. You have a lot of flow, but you don't have max pressure. If you get in a bind where you need to bust through hard rock, hard dirt, you can basically push the button here on the joystick, and then it will actually turn on high flow for nine seconds. And, then, you can-

Stan: Turbo mode.

Danny: ... dig through that hard material, then it goes back to flow and you start your movements back fast again.

Stan: Got it.

Danny: That's typically a Volvo excavator.

Stan: Okay.

Stan: And, other excavators will have other controls, different meanings to them. So, just get familiar with. You're gonna have more power, you're gonna have ... Some have power, some have precision. But, there's a balance in almost all of them.

Danny: Exactly.

Danny: So, it's basically we've already walked through the controls. What they do, that's basic on all excavators. The other thing is your controls for your tracks.

Stan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danny: So, basically, you can run them with your feet. Forward and reverse. Or, you can control it with your hands. So, basically, you're gonna move one track, keep one steady, that's gonna turn right, that's gonna turn left. Just depends on which way you-

Stan: Okay, so, Dan, what were you saying about the track drives and climbing hills?

Danny: Okay, typically, Stan, when you're gonna climb steep, steep grades, you want to put the track motors in front. 'Cause, remember, we talked about it earlier, where it's weight weight in front, and when you're climbing a hill, you want to keep your boom and stick in the front, and low to the hill so you can ... All your weight's in the front, which keeps you safe on the hill.

Stan: Nice. So, the track drive, guys, let's go back. That's back here. Idlers are up front.

Danny: Yep.

Stan: Climb a hill, Dan the man.

Danny: Okay.

Stan: Okay, Dan, if you wanna quit, I gotta ask you questions. That wasn't a very steep hill. So, you could just drive right up that with your boom arm in the air. If it was a steeper hill, would you tuck that in, and spread it out? Try to get your weight forward of the machine?

Danny: You would want to spread ... Yes, you would want to put the bucket out as far as you can. If it's real steep, I've seen guys get a scoop of material in the bucket to help hold the front end down.

Stan: Okay, now you came down with the drive motor in the back.

Danny: Exactly.

Stan: Okay.

Danny: But, notice how I had my bucket in the front of the machine, and had it down low to the ground.

Stan: Yep.

Danny: That way, if the machine starts to tilt, it's basically just gonna hit the bucket, the bucket will slide along the ground as you come down, and you're fine.

Stan: Alright, guys, well, we've covered a lot of ground today. A big thanks goes out to Danny, the crew from Volvo. Thank you so much. Without these guys, this wouldn't have been possible. If you guys want more information on Volvo equipment, or Volvo excavators, go to their website. I'm gonna put a link down below to this. Make sure that you stick around, because this is a two part series. So, we're gonna be covering so much ground, we wanted to make sure that we got everything included for you guys, so check out both parts. 

Stan: Now, this, guys, is not replacement for training. Make sure you go out and find training. Right, Danny?

Danny: Absolutely. Or, refer to the operator's manual.

Stan: Okay. Refer to the operator's manual, and have somebody else walk you through it in face-to-face. But, this is a good start.

Danny: Exactly. Yep. Thanks for having us.

Stan: Yes.

Danny: Yep.

Stan: God bless, you guys. Go get 'em.



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