Mechanical digging chain drives on older models are just not as user friendly, particularly when striking an obstruction. They’re hard on the mechanical components and on the operator. But according to Leonard, even some hydraulic machines have their flaws. “Some hydraulic trenchers in the industry are outfitted with micro switches, so that when the clutch levers or bails are released, they will stop the chain and either kick the wheels into neutral or stop the engine,” she says. “These controls are very difficult to work in rocks and roots as you can’t operate the chain without engaging the wheel drive.”
When an operator strikes an obstruction while operating a Barreto trencher, however, Leonard says they can drop the clutch lever, stopping the wheels and chain drive, while the engine continues running. “The operator can then activate a separate manual digging chain lever that will operate the digging chain in forward or reverse to cut through or dislodge an obstruction while the wheels remain safely locked. The operator can then engage the clutch (engaging the wheel or track drive) intermittently until they work through the root or rocky area. Once the obstruction is cleared, the operator can then engage the digging chain and ground drive together and continue trenching at normal speed.”
Collins at Ditch Witch adds a complaint about an oversensitive clutch can simply be a sign that maintenance is needed. “Older machines use a single lever to go forward or back, with neutral in the middle, and over time, things just need adjustment,” he says. “Always refer to the operator’s manual for the right maintenance intervals.”
Good maintenance can makeall the difference
The consensus among all parties is that older walk-behind trenchers are not always a picnic to operate, but they get the job done. Fortunately, manufacturers have made numerous advancements to create new machines that are easy and simple for all operators to use.
Improved equipment goes a long way toward enhancing the rental experience for customers, but it doesn’t end there. You need to be sure you maintain your equipment according to the operator’s manual. “My biggest complaint is poor maintenance of equipment,” says Lloyd Reese, a DIYer from South Carolina. “I really hate to have to repair something I rent before I can get any work done.”
Reese recalls renting a walk-behind trencher and the digging chain was loose. “It jumped off and I had to adjust it,” he says.
For his part, when Hagerty was unsatisfied with the performance of the trencher he rented, he made sure to point out its failings when he returned it to the rental company, but his frustrations only grew when his complaints fell on deaf ears. “I asked for a partial refund of the rental price,” he recalls. “The manager became very defensive and basically blamed me for the difficulties I had.”
He continues, “Although the customer is not always right, I believe any business needs to be sensitive to the experiences their customers have with their business.”