4 Tips to Select the Right Excavator Bucket

A look at four key factors that influence which bucket is right for your application.

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Several factors can help excavator operators improve their productivity during everyday construction tasks, but the single biggest contributing factor typically circles back to choosing the proper excavator bucket for the application.

There can be a tendency for some excavator operators to gravitate toward using a standard bucket in all applications. However, this approach may negatively impact the operator’s productivity. For example, using a standard bucket rather than a trenching bucket in trenching or deep digging applications may result in decreased efficiency.

According to Lee Smith, Doosan attachment product specialist, prior to selecting a bucket, it is important for operators to consider the application the bucket will be used in, the density of the heaviest material, the accessories that can be used and the coupling systems for easy attachment changes. Operators should also check that the bucket chosen does not exceed the machine’s operating capacity.

Tip No. 1: Choose a bucket type with soil conditions in mind

There are two primary bucket types for contractors to choose from: heavy-duty buckets and severe-duty buckets.

Heavy-duty buckets are the most common excavator bucket type because they work well in a variety of soil conditions, such as clay, gravel, sand, silt and shale. The buckets are manufactured with high-quality, abrasion-resistant material, durable side cutters for extra strength and protection and bottom wear pads.

Severe-duty buckets are best suited for excavator operators who are handling abrasive materials in heavy or severe digging and truck-loading applications. The buckets are manufactured with abrasion-resistant material for added protection and strength when digging in loose rock or pit and quarry operations. The buckets’ side cutters, shell bottoms, side wear plates and weld-on wear shrouds all consist of abrasion-resistant material. In addition, reinforced gussets help strengthen the machine-fitting joints on the buckets to promote uptime.

Additional abrasion-resistant components manufactured in severe-duty buckets include theutting edge, front wear pads and rolled wear strap.

Tip No. 2: Select a bucket style to suit your digging needs

There are three primary bucket types for use with excavators, according to Smith. They are trenching, ditching and angle tilt buckets.

Trenching buckets can easily dig narrow, deep trenches while maintaining excellent breakout force and contributing to fast cycle times for the excavator. The buckets are built with abrasion-resistant material for reduced weight and offer high-strength side wear plates and bottom wear straps for added durability.

Ditching buckets have a similar profile to standard digging buckets, but have a wider, deeper profile for smooth operation in sand and clay. In addition, the buckets provide optimal versatility when loading material, grading, backfilling, cleaning ditches for improved drainage and working on slopes.

Standard features of ditching buckets include a lift eye for lifting applications, weld-on side cutters and a reversible bolt-on cutting edge that leaves the work area smooth when the job is completed.

Angle tilt buckets are versatile and cost effective when used in finishing, grading and land-clearing applications. The buckets can be rotated 45 degrees either direction of center and are equipped with an adjustable tilting speed with auxiliary flow control valves.

“When using angle tilt buckets, operators are able to easily grade or level an area without having to reposition their excavator as frequently, making them more efficient,” Smith says.

Angle tilt buckets have a variety of other features, including:

  • Heavy-duty components for greater strength and power
  • Uptime protection via the spill guard and cylinder guards
  • Universal hydraulic connections to easily attach or detach hydraulic lines

Tip No. 3: Add accessories to customize buckets

Excavators may be operated to lift, carry and place pipe using a bucket’s lift eye. This is common among utility contractors working on wet or dry utility projects and placing pipe in an open trench. An operator should always refer to the excavator’s load chart to understand the machine’s capability for over-end and over-side lifting needs.

Some manufacturers, such as Doosan, offer a power tilting coupler that can eliminate the need for multiple attachments and manual labor on a jobsite. Depending on the excavator model and applications, a power tilting coupler can be angled 90 degrees left or right for up to 180 degrees of flexibility.

“Increased attachment flexibility can help operators save valuable time because they may not need to reposition the excavator as frequently while working, or stop to change attachments to perform certain tasks,” Smith says. “This is especially beneficial when working under or around objects, such as an underground pipe.”

This attachment can be most useful for those working in general excavation, underground utility, grading and erosion control applications.

Another key to getting the most productivity from an excavator is the investment in a quality attachment change system, which is optional on most manufacturers’ machines. According to Smith, investing in a quality attachment connection system, such as a quick coupler, can expand your attachment versatility and produce higher utilization rates.

“Depending on the ground conditions and density of the material, a utility contractor may need a ditching bucket at one location, a trenching bucket at another or an angle tilt bucket at the next,” he says. “Quick couplers make it that much easier and faster to change buckets and other attachments while on the jobsite.”

Operators are also more likely to use the right size bucket if they can quickly switch between buckets to best match the trench width.

Side and bottom wear plates, sidebar protectors and side cutters are other bucket accessories that help decrease wear on the bucket, keeping the machine running as long as possible to protect that investment.

Tip No. 4: Inspect wear items and replace parts

Maintaining excavator buckets is just as important as following regular maintenance schedules on the excavator itself and should not be overlooked. Smith recommends daily inspection of the bucket teeth, cutting edges and heel of the bucket for obvious wear or breakage. Bucket teeth should be replaced before they wear down and the bucket adapter is exposed. In addition, inspect the wear shrouds for component wear andreplace if needed.

“There are many replaceable wear items on a bucket, so it is crucial that when operators are completing a general inspection they replace those items to help prolong the life of the bucket,” Smith says. “If the bucket shell is worn beyond repair, equipment owners should replace the bucket.”