How to Use a Mini Excavator: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Use a Mini Excavator: A Step-by-Step Guide

27th Dec 2023

How to Use a Mini Excavator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Operating a mini excavator, such as the Kubota U17, demands a combination of technical expertise and practical finesse. This comprehensive guide will meticulously guide you through every step, starting from pre-start safety inspections, all the way to the intricate art of digging, and ultimately concluding with the proper shutdown procedures. Shall we embark on this enlightening journey? Let's get started!

Step 1: Safety Precautions

Before you hop on the machine, it's crucial to ensure both you and the excavator are ready for the work ahead. Taking appropriate safety precautions can help prevent accidents and ensure a smooth operation.

  • Check fuel and fluid levels: The last thing you want is the excavator stalling in the middle of a task. Always check the fuel and hydraulic fluid levels before starting. This will ensure that the machine has enough fuel to complete the job and that the hydraulic system is properly lubricated for optimal performance.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear: Protecting yourself is essential when operating heavy machinery like an excavator. Make sure to wear a hard hat to protect your head from falling objects, safety glasses to shield your eyes from flying debris, high-visibility clothing to make yourself easily visible to others on the worksite, and steel-toe boots to protect your feet from potential hazards.
  • Clear the work area: Safety is paramount when operating an excavator. Before starting any work, ensure that the area around the excavator is clear of obstacles that could disrupt the machine's operation or pose a safety hazard. This includes removing any debris, ensuring there are no overhead power lines, and marking any underground utilities to prevent accidental damage.

By following these safety precautions, you can create a safer working environment and minimize the risk of accidents or injuries while operating an excavator.

Step 2: Initiating the Mini Excavator

Now that you're fully prepared and the area is free from obstacles, it's time to set the mini excavator in motion.

  • Pre-start checks: Before starting the engine, ensure that the parking brake is engaged and all controls are in the neutral position. This will help maintain safety and prevent any unexpected movements.
  • Starting the engine: Insert the key into the ignition and turn it to the right. As you do so, you might feel a subtle click, indicating that the engine is ready to come to life. Wait patiently for a few moments, and soon enough, you'll be greeted by the powerful roar of the engine, brimming with energy and ready to tackle the tasks at hand!

By paying attention to these pre-start checks and engaging the engine with care, you'll ensure a smooth and efficient operation of the mini excavator.

Step 3: Operating the Controls

Knowing the control layout is crucial for smooth operation.

  • Control layout: The Kubota U17 typically has two main joysticks. The right joystick controls the boom and bucket, while the left joystick operates the arm.
  • Understanding control functions: The right joystick moves the boom up and down when pushed forward and backward. Moving it left and right tilts the bucket. The left joystick extends and retracts the arm when moved forward and backward.

Step 4: Digging with the Excavator

Now that you have the controls at your fingertips, it's time to dig in and start your excavation process!

  • Positioning the excavator: Before you begin, make sure to position the machine on a level surface, approximately a meter away from the specific area you plan to excavate. This will ensure stability and optimal maneuverability during the digging process.
  • Using the boom, bucket, and arm controls: To start digging, you will need to lower the boom and extend the arm of the excavator. This will allow you to reach the desired depth. Once in position, tilt the bucket to engage the digging action. Remember, the boom and arm controls give you the flexibility to adjust the depth and angle of your dig, ensuring precise and accurate excavation.
  • Digging techniques and best practices: When operating the excavator, it is important to maintain a slow and steady pace. This approach not only ensures efficient digging but also reduces the risk of overloading the bucket, which can lead to unnecessary strain on the machine. By taking your time and being mindful of the bucket's load, you can optimize the digging process and minimize wear on the excavator.

Remember to always prioritize safety and follow proper operating procedures when using the excavator. Happy digging!

Step 5: Shutting Down the Mini Excavator

Once the work is completed, it is important to follow the proper procedure to safely shut down the machine. By taking the necessary steps, you can ensure the longevity and optimal functioning of the equipment.

  • Parking the excavator: Lower the bucket to the ground, making sure that the machine is positioned on a stable and level surface. This will prevent any accidental movements or tipping during the shutdown process.
  • Turning off the engine and securing the controls: After parking the excavator, it is time to turn off the engine. This can be done by switching off the ignition and removing the key. Additionally, it is important to ensure that all controls are in their neutral positions. This helps to prevent any unintended movements or potential hazards when the excavator is not in use.

By following these steps, you can safely and effectively shut down the mini excavator, promoting its longevity and ensuring the safety of yourself and others around the machine.

Common Mistakes and Challenges

Even experienced operators, who have spent years honing their skills, can occasionally make mistakes. Here are some common ones to avoid in order to maintain the smooth operation of your machinery:

  • Forgetting to check the fuel level: It may seem like a small oversight, but running out of fuel can not only disrupt your work but also potentially harm the engine. Regularly checking the fuel level ensures that you have enough to complete your tasks without any interruptions.
  • Not wearing appropriate safety gear: When operating heavy machinery, safety should always be your top priority. Neglecting to wear the necessary safety gear, such as helmets, gloves, or safety goggles, puts you at risk of serious injuries. Always make sure you are properly equipped to handle any unexpected situations.
  • Improper use of controls: Each control on your machinery serves a specific purpose. Using them incorrectly can lead to inefficient digging, potentially causing delays in your work and even damaging the machine itself. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the controls and their functions to ensure smooth and efficient operation.
  • Overloading the excavator bucket: It can be tempting to load the excavator bucket to its maximum capacity to save time and effort. However, overloading the bucket puts unnecessary stress on the machine's components and can significantly reduce its lifespan. It's important to follow the recommended weight limits to prevent any damage to the excavator.
  • Neglecting regular maintenance: Just like any other piece of machinery, regular maintenance is crucial to keep your equipment in optimal condition. Neglecting routine check-ups and maintenance tasks can lead to unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs. By staying on top of maintenance schedules, you can ensure that your machinery operates efficiently and minimize any potential issues.

Remember, by being aware of these common mistakes and challenges, such as improper maintenance, inadequate training, and failure to follow safety protocols, you can be better prepared to avoid them and keep your machinery running smoothly for years to come.


Operating a mini excavator like the Kubota U17 requires a mix of knowledge, skill, and attention to detail. By following these steps, which include conducting regular maintenance checks, undergoing proper training, and strictly adhering to safety guidelines, you can ensure the safe and efficient use of your mini excavator. Remember, every task is an opportunity to improve your skills and become a more proficient operator. So, put on your safety gear, grab the controls, and get ready for a successful and satisfying digging experience! Happy digging!

If you want to get your own mini excavator, check out The Khazana's selection here.