SALE PRICES & FREE SHIPPING (Lower 48 States Only) on select items. Ends May 31, 2024

How to Use Excavator Controls?

How to use excavator controls

Table of Contents:

1. Excavator Control Patterns - ISO Controls vs SAE Controls
2. ISO Control Pattern Explained
3. How Does the SAE Control Pattern Work?
4. Can I Change the Control Pattern in My Machine?
5. Basic Safety Tips on Operating an Excavator
6. Safety Comes with High Quality Equipment

There are two 'factors' that play a crucial role in appropriate excavator operation. One of them is a skilled operator and another is a correct use of operator controls. Today, we want to look closer at the latter and the operator control patterns and safety tips that will help you enjoy smooth excavator operation.

Excavator Control Patterns - ISO Controls vs SAE Controls

Explaining how the excavator controls work must start from the introduction of two types (patterns) of control systems you can find in excavators, ISO controls or SAE controls. These patterns were established by two governing bodies, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The patterns are used in machines that have digging applications, such as excavators or backhoes.

Where Are the ISO Controls Used?

ISO control pattern is the most used control pattern. It was established by the International Organization for Standardization. This non-government body sets the manufacturing standards in various fields, including management, tech, and construction. Therefore, control patterns, machine power, attachment capacity, and many other areas are outlined in a special document, ISO 10968: Earth-moving machinery — Operator's controls. ISO patterns are also called CAT controls, as they are frequently used in CAT machines.

Who Uses the SAE Controls?

SAE controls are more commonly used in machines in the USA than in the rest of the world. The reason for that is that the Society of Automotive Engineers is based in the United States. Construction standards set by the SAE are like the ISO standards. Both ISO and SAE are used by the manufacturers who make sure that the machines operate according to these codes of conduct. SAE controls are often used in John Deere machines which is why they are often called John Deere Controls. You can also come across the name 'backhoe controls'.

ISO Control Pattern Explained

ISO pattern joystick controls work in the following way:

  1. The use of a left-hand joystick (lever) helps to control the turns the machine makes. At the same time, it allows to maintain a fixed posture in the traction system and arm movements. Thanks to the left joystick you can control the proximity of the bucket to the equipment:
    - Moving the left joystick forward makes the dipper (stick) move forward (away from the excavator);
    - Moving the left joystick backward makes the dipper (stick) move backward (towards the excavator);
    - Moving the left-hand joystick to the left swings the excavator's cabin and core to the left;
    - Moving the left-hand joystick to the right swings the excavator's cabin and core to the right;
  2. The use of a right-hand joystick (lever) lets the operator control the bucket and boom movements:
    - Moving the right joystick forward makes the main boom move downwards;
    - Moving the right joystick backward moves the main boom upwards;
    - Moving the right joystick to the left makes the bucket close;
    - Moving the right-hand joystick to the right makes the bucket curl outwards and drop its load.

How Does the SAE Control Pattern Work?

Let us now analyze how to operate the machine using the SAE pattern:

  1. The left-hand joystick (lever) is used to operate the boom and swing in the following way:
    - Moving the left joystick towards you raises the main boom (upward move);
    - Moving the left joystick forward lowers the main boom;
    - Moving the left-hand joystick left swings the turret left;
    - Moving the left-hand joystick right swings the turret right;
  2.  The right-hand joystick is used to operate the dipper and the excavator bucket:
    - Moving the right-hand joystick toward you brings the dipper toward the machine;
    - Moving the right-hand joystick forward extends the dipper away from the machine;
    - Moving the right-hand joystick to the left curls bucket in (inward move);
    - Moving the right-hand joystick to the right curls the bucket out and dumps material.

Can I Change the Control Pattern in My Machine?

Some operators may already be used to operating a certain control pattern. Therefore, it would be easier to stick to it no matter the type of equipment you operate. The good news is that some newer machine models may offer a switch between the control patterns. It may come as a lever under the floorboard or behind a panel in the cab. If you are unsure, get in touch with the machine's manufacturer.

Basic Safety Tips on Operating an Excavator

Before operating any machine, no matter if it uses the ISO controls or SAE controls, the operator must ensure a safe operation. Therefore, we present you with a few best practices that will help you safely complete any job.

Step #1: Safety Check

Before starting the operation, ensure you conduct a safety check. It will indicate whether the machine is safe to use not only for the operator but also for all the others in its surroundings. This pre-operation safety check also contributes to the longer life of your equipment and detects minor problems before they turn into serious issues.

The pre-operation safety check consists of:

  1. Inspecting whether there are any hazards in the surroundings;
  2. Walking around the machine and checking whether all machine parts are undamaged, especially:
    - Under the machine (leaks);
    - The tracks (tension or loose components);
    - The boom and the bucket.
  3. Checking filters and fluid levels, including fuel;
  4. Performing lights and controls checks.

Step #2: Enter the machine's cabin

Firstly, before entering your machine ensure you secure and lock the door. That will enable you to safely use the handle to help you climb. You should have three contact points during your climb. When you sit down in the cab, perform three below actions:

  1. Put your seat belt on
  2. Close the door
  3. Ensure you know all the controls before starting the operation.

After you have sat down comfortably and safely in the cab you can start looking outside of your cab.

Step #3: Examine the surroundings 

It is imperative to always be aware of what is around your machine on the site. You must ensure the safety of other equipment and people. Look not only around but also up and examine what lies beneath the surface. There might be overhead or underground lines you might damage by moving the attachment up or by digging. If you move forward, make sure you keep your bucket a maximum of one or two feet off the ground to ensure the best visibility. To avoid damaging overhead structures lower the dipper and curl the bucket into the maximum. At such times, be aware that your front visibility will be reduced.

Step #4: Maintenance

Proper maintenance is a crucial part of keeping your equipment safe. The instructions on how to properly maintain your machine are a part of the operator manual. It will list the parts of your machine, its controls, and other features and information.

Safety Comes with High Quality Equipment

Using older construction equipment requires a lot of caution. Older parts tend to break or wear. The key to avoiding damage and malfunctions is using high-quality components and attachments. Regardless of whether you use the ISO control pattern or the SAE controls, good operation is only guaranteed by using proper equipment from a trusted supplier. If you are looking for a foolproof excavator attachment for your farming, landscaping, or construction project, our equipment is the best choice. Visit our excavator attachments section and choose the part that will increase your excavator capabilities beyond expectations.