How to Prevent Your Mini Excavator From Tipping Over

Excavators are a great tool to help you dig stumps, lift heavy objects, dig holes, compact dirt, and more. This heavy equipment can make short work of even the most painstaking tasks, but they don’t come without their own issues and precautions.

Just like any other piece of heavy machinery, you need to be careful when operating these. If not operated carefully, you risk tipping your mini excavator over and hurting yourself and others around you; not to mention the financial loss you’d suffer.

The best way to prevent your mini excavator from tipping over is to ensure that it is on solid, flat, DRY ground and second, by not overloading it when lifting objects. However, that’s not all. We’ll explore ways of ensuring safety when operating your mini excavator and discuss some safety features 8th generation mini excavators boast.

Common Reasons That Mini Excavators/Diggers Tip Over

For this section, we would like to point out that we did not go around tipping excavators or pushing them to their limit just for the kick of it. A study published by Wayne State University used years of data to compile these reasons, which we’ll elaborate here for you.  

Inadequate Safety Precautions

The most common reason for mini excavators (and large ones as well) was that the safety precautions necessary for the operation of such heavy equipment weren’t followed. From the ground they stand on all the way to what they’re lifting, every factor needs to be considered.

For example:

  • Parking your excavator on wet ground and lifting heavy equipment
  • Parking your excavator on loose soil and digging near it
  • Parking your excavator at an odd angle (elevated from one side) and lifting heavy objects
  • Lifting objects heavier than an excavator’s capacity. Only lift objects that weigh at most 80% the weight of your excavator
  • Hitting a hole or a ditch
  • Raising the bucket too high
  • Starting the excavator in gear
  • Overheated diggers due to poor maintenance

In other words, don’t do this (yes, this is a full-size excavator – but the same principle applies!):

A digger excavator demolishing a building from a height
A digger excavator demolishing a building from a height

Inadequate Safety Training

According to the study, inadequate safety training given to workers and not enough practical application results in a 250% increase in the chance of an excavator accident. While operating excavators for small tasks such as pulling out stumps or preparing the fill for plants is fine, if you’re going to perform heavy-duty tasks with your mini excavator, it is usually a good idea to go over the safety instructions first.

Inadequate Equipment

Using the wrong equipment for a task increases the risk of accidents by 110% according to the study. For example, using small shears to cut bigger trees can lead to trees falling on top of the excavator, since the smaller sheer will first make a cut on the excavator’s side.

Poorly Maintained Machinery

An old rusty excavator
An old rusty excavator

Using poorly maintained mini excavators or attachments increases the risk of mishaps by 150%. We discussed how rust and improper maintenance can lead to mini excavators not turning over, but that’s not the end of it. The slightest delay in feedback from your control panel to the arm, either because of circuit issues, improper oiling, rust, or parts breaking apart, can have life-threatening results.

General Tips For Preventing Mini Excavators From Tipping Over

A tipped toy excavator

To ensure that you are operating mini excavators properly, here is a step-by-step guide on how to start working with it.

  1. Step 1: When getting in, use a three-point system to climb. This means you should always have at least three points of contact with the excavator. Two hands and one leg.
  2. Step 2: Sit down and look around. Make sure there is no one around the work site and, more importantly, that there is no rain.
  3. Step 3: Put your seatbelt on and close the door.
  4. Step 4: Check whether the mini excavator is in neutral or not. Start the machine.
  5. Step 5: Wait for the engine to settle. While the idle throttle comes back to normal, look at the display in front of you. Make sure there are no warning lights and, more importantly, check how much fuel you have left.
  6. Step 6: Flip the safety lock. 
  7. Step 7: Firmly grip the joystick to the right and raise the boom up. Don’t swirl it, lift it up horizontally and slowly. Move it up and put it back down. Listen for any sounds. Lift it back up and do the same horizontally.
  8. Step 8: With the joystick, bring the boom down until your bucket is just a few feet above the ground. Open and close the bucket.
  9. Step 9: Swing the boom and the cab slowly.
  10. Step 10: Now, start driving. Make sure the blade of your excavator and its boom is extended upwards. Use the pedals to move forward.
  11. Step 11: Once you have repositioned yourself, lower the blade again. This will help you stabilize the machine.

To make sure there is very little room for error, ensure the following before operating:

  • You have read the instructions manual and safety manual thoroughly
  • Call 1100 before digging to know where utilities lines are
  • Make sure your mini excavator is in prime operating condition
  • The ground is solid before driving on it or digging near it.

Remember; common sense goes a long way when operating mini excavators, or any heavy machinery for that matter!

Some next-generation (8th gen) excavators come with added safety features that prevent them from tipping over. These may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Loader safety legs (stability legs) that you can extend to hold on to the ground firmly
  • Enhanced joysticks that respond better to driver feedback and are able to lift heavier loads relatively slowly, but more stably
  • Skid and stick steer interchangeability
  • Airbags, in case the excavator does tip over
  • Hydraulic thumbs to shift between digging and picking without leaving the cab, and more
About Charlie D Paige

Charlie is a massive DIY fan, with dozens of DIY projects under his belt - ranging from tiling to electrics, and concrete pads to walls. Charlie loves tinkering, seeing how things works, the outdoors and playing with power tools... so is it any wonder that he's completed so many DIY jobs over the years?

Charlie loves spreading his hard-won DIY experience with the world via this blog.