Well, yes, but not as much as I would have liked. The 2022 heat wave hit here in Arizona and it was over 110F every day until today. However, today I had to repair my chainsaw instead of working with the excavator.
But I have managed to do some things around the house. I moved a whole lot of rocks out of the way, Built a little road to get around, dug out some brush, and that kind of thing. I know that I'm preaching to the choir here, but tools are great to have. I think I mentioned that I bought it because I was tired of renting equipment and having a multi-hundred dollar bill when I returned it. You can't get good with it only spending a few hours under pressure, and you never quite get the entire job done. I wanted my own, and indulged myself and bought the darn thing. I don't regret that decision.
If you consider following my path, I have a few recommendations:
1. Don't get too big a machine. My Ford tractor is huge and very powerful, but it doesn't fit anywhere. I have to jockey that thing around a LOT to position it for work. Then, when I have to move it, I have to be careful not to take out a fence or something.
2. Excavators are fun and they can pick up heavy things. However, you have to have a thumb to do it easily. You can drag a bucket across the ground and a rock will just slide along avoiding the bucket like it suddenly became sentient and decided not to cooperate. A thumb solves that problem. Thumbs are also really good for picking up brush and moving it.
3. Avoid all the fancy electronic bells and whistles. Sure little short joysticks are fun and cool looking, but the damn things break leaving you with a machine to fix. The electronics on these machines have to be able to take the heat, cold, rain, mud, etc and cost a lot. Simple hydraulics are the best for people like me. I want to use the machine, not order parts for hundreds of dollars and wait forever for them to arrive. Hydraulic parts are simple and available all over the place.
4. Get an older machine. One from the '80s won't have a mess of equipment to lower emissions. A friend of mine had his brand new tractor in the shop for a month to get the emissions equipment working correctly. Avoid that dilemma if at all possible.
5. Diesel may be expensive right now, but it stores well and doesn't explode. Get a diesel engine on your new tool. They run cooler, last a long time, and are already fuel injected. Great little motors that don't plug up with gum from ethanol additives that dissolve gaskets. Remember above where I mentioned having to fix my chainsaw? Yep, the ethanol dissolved the gaskets in the carburetor.
6. Educate yourself about the common problems. This is something that you can't get from youtube. People let their machines set outside in the weather and the hoses rot. Hydraulic hoses are not cheap and most of them are custom-made. These things will drive you nuts on a machine that hasn't been used in a long time. If you check back on this blog you'll find where I rebuilt cylinders on the garage floor. It can be done, but that means you're fixing it instead of using it.
For most people, a 4000-pound machine will do everything they want to do with it. It can lift several hundred pounds and move it around. Trailers are cheaper for them. I picked up a used tandem trailer that will carry it just fine locally without any trouble.
Unfortunately, they can be a black hole for money. There are attachments that can make everything easier, but they cost big bucks. A grooming bucket that lets the dirt go through while the bigger rocks get stuck is great for clearing rocks, but they cost hundreds. Consider digging a hole and scraping the rocks into it with the claws instead. A quick-connect so you can change the buckets easily is great to have, but have you looked at how much they cost? You can pound a different bucket in place for a lot less money. A smaller or larger bucket is great to have, but unless you find one abandoned in an empty field, it's gonna cost you a bunch. Sure you can build one and that would be fun, but have you looked at the price of quarter-inch steel lately? Welders are getting cheaper, but steel isn't.
I love my excavator and it has made things possible that simply weren't before, but I must discipline myself constantly to keep the urge for a new item for it under control. For me, being able to climb up on it anytime I want to and tear out a cactus is exhilarating. Not having to reserve it at an equipment rental place and picking it up at 7:00 AM from a clerk that hasn't had enough coffee is worth a lot. Let's not talk about getting it back on time. That really sucks.
Of course, my yard is starting to look like a used farm equipment lot!
By Dave Thompson, New River, Arizona
Published: June 21, 2022