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The 9 Parts of an Excavator

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: August 31, 2023 Updated: November 25, 2023 • Filed Under: Equipment and Machinery

We spend a lot of time talking about various pieces of construction equipment. Often, we use multiple terms, such as parts of an excavator, and don’t necessarily explain what they mean. Well, many of our readers do, but not all of them.

With that, we wanted to do something about it. One of the most common pieces of construction equipment is an excavator — one piece we discuss often — which can be used in various applications. 

We’ll look at the nine parts that make up an excavator and how each contributes to its overall performance. 

Excavator ParkFunction
UndercarriageProvides stability and consists of crawler tracks and an idler.
HouseAccommodates the engine, operator’s cabin, hydraulic pump, and other components.
BoomExtends the reach for digging operations and can move up and down.
StickIncreases the reach and is crucial for deep digging.
BucketLocated at the end of the stick and used to scoop up material.
EnginePowers the excavator, often using a diesel engine.
Hydraulic CylindersLift and manipulate the boom, stick, and bucket.
Operator’s CabProvides protection and control for the operator.
CounterweightKeeps the excavator balanced when lifting or moving heavy objects.
This table shows the various components and parts of an excavator and describes their functionality.

Of course, some of these components are similar across the fleet of construction equipment. For example, a bucket loader also has a house and an operators cab, but doesn’t necessarily have a counterweight.

With that, let’s get into the details of each of these components.

Undercarriage of the Excavator.

Excavator Undercarriage and Tracks

The undercarriage is the base of the excavator and sits on the tracks, providing the machine with stability. The undercarriage is comprised of two main components: a pair of crawler tracks and an idler that keeps tension in each track.

Everything else on the excavator is built upon this stable platform, allowing for safe and efficient operation.

House.

The house sits atop the undercarriage and accommodates the engine, operator’s cabin, hydraulic pump, and other core components. This key excavator component protects the operator and components while also providing a platform to mount the arm, boom, and other attachments.

Boom.

The boom, or the front arm, is connected to the house and provides an extended reach for digging operations. A hydraulic cylinder can move it up and down, allowing the operator to move material from one place to another.

This is what makes an excavator such a versatile machine and gives it the ability to perform various tasks.

Stick (or Dipper).

Excavator Parts - Boom and Bucket

Connected to the boom, the stick further increases the reach of the excavator and is crucial for deep digging. Hydraulic cylinders also control this and provide additional stability to the machine.

Bucket. 

Moving down the excavator, the bucket is located at the end of the stick and is used to scoop up material. It can come in various sizes and shapes, depending on its intended purpose.

The bucket is essential for excavating and preparing land, allowing the operator to move large amounts of material in a single operation. Although we listed the bucket as part of an excavator, it’s an attachment. We’ll get into attachments more later.

Engine.

The power of an excavator lies in its engine. While it may differ between models, diesel engines power most modern excavators. Diesel engines offer plenty of power to complete tasks safely and efficiently. While we haven’t seen electric-powered excavators, we have seen electric skid steers hit the market. So we think the ol’ diesel engine will be around for a while.

Hydraulic cylinders.

How does an excavator lift such heavy loads and move them around? That’s all thanks to its hydraulic cylinders. By using pressurized fluid in these cylinders, the excavator can easily lift and manipulate the boom, stick, and bucket. Operators should regularly service and check the cylinders for leaks.

Operator’s cab.

As you’d think, the operator’s cab is located on the house and offers protection from weather and noise. It also provides a comfortable place for the operator to control all of the excavator’s movements, allowing them to work efficiently and safely. 

Counterweight.

While it’s not a part of the excavator itself, the counterweight is an important safety feature. As its name implies, this weight keeps the excavator balanced when lifting or moving heavy objects. Most excavators have a counterweight. Operators should ensure they’re properly secured for safety.

Attachments for an Excavator

We didn’t want to list attachments as parts of an excavator because they’re interchangable. So, we decided listing them separately was more fitting.

  • Buckets: The all-stars in the excavator attachment lineup. Equipment operators use buckets for digging, scooping, and dumping soil or other materials. They come in various shapes and sizes – from general-purpose buckets for earthmoving tasks to heavy-duty rock buckets designed to handle abrasive conditions.
  • Breakers: Our breakers are like the power-packed boxers of the excavator world. They deliver hard-hitting blows to break concrete, asphalt, and rocks. Ideal for demolition projects or construction sites where breaking through tough surfaces is necessary.
  • Augers: Consider augers as your excavator team’s efficient drill sergeants. They bore into the ground to create precise holes for planting trees, installing fence posts, or setting up foundations. Their spiraling design makes digging easy and quick.
  • Grapples: The strong arms of the excavator attachment family. Grapples are perfect for handling, moving, or sorting materials on a construction or demolition site. They can pick up and hold everything from logs and rocks to debris and waste.
  • Compactors: Compactors are the pacemakers of the excavator world. They pack down soil, gravel, and asphalt, creating a solid surface. Ideal for road construction, landscaping, or preparing foundations for buildings.
  • Rippers: Rippers are sharp claws that tear through hardened soil and frozen ground. They’re the go-to tool when you break up tough, compacted material or start digging in difficult terrains.

If you can imagine it, an excavator can do it — with the right attachments. For the most part, the only attachment you’ll ever need is a bucket. You might need to change out the teeth of the bucket for different tasks, but you can do almost anything with a solid bucket.

You’re an expert on the parts and components of an excavator.

The versatility and efficiency of an excavator are built upon a complex assembly of numerous parts and accessories. Each component plays a crucial role in its function, from its robust undercarriage to its supple hydraulic cylinders. 

On top of all that, the various attachments available further enhance the excavator’s capabilities, allowing it to adapt and excel in a wide range of tasks. Understanding these components and their functions can help operators use these powerful machines to their full potential, ensuring safe, efficient, and effective work in every project they undertake.

About the Author

Matt Avatar

Matt

Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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