A Quick Overview of Mini-Excavator Controls

(3.5-min read)

For the purposes of this brief overview, these controls are based a Komatsu PC35MR, but some controls may carry over to other ISO-style models.

Upon hopping into the driver’s seat, you’ll want to quickly buckle up while you’re thinking about it. A left-side joystick control will be able to disengage to drop using a side lever. The left-side lock lever will disable the control of the excavator, allowing it to operate almost like a safety on a firearm. Once you’ve closed the outside and door, and located the right-side ignition, you should be ready to roll!

The frontside display to the right will show any relevant information — including warnings, fuel levels, and the like. Air and heat controls for this particular model are on the right-side alongside the throttle knob and light controls. For those need a little adjustment in the seat to the front or back, just a bit of wiggle room exists by pulling a lever between your legs and sliding like you would in a typical automobile.

These particular excavator controls operate as many others do in a configuration known as ISO. This means that the operator has two joy-stick-like levers in front of them that have a set style of functions that transfer across a wide variety of excavator models. They are as follows.

  • Right hand pushed left results in bucket curling inward (closing)
  • Right hand pushed right results in a bucket curl outward (dumping)
  • Right hand forward results in the main boom going down
  • Right hand moving backward results in the main boom going up
  • Left hand moving left results in a swing to the left
  • Left hand moving right results in a swing to the right
  • Left hand forward results in the stick boom (“dipper”) moving away
  • Left hand back brings the stick boom (“dipper”) closer

The tracks are controlled from two pedals or levers located immediately in front of the operator. Depending on the skill of the operator, the pedals can be used to drive the tracks independently to turn or together to proceed straight forward.

The blade operation on similar smaller excavators is operated using a lever to the right, even further right than the right-side joy-stick control. Pulling back on the lever will raise the blade and pushing forward will lower it. This blade can be used to back-fill, though it is not as capable as a regular bulldozer blade. The primary use of this blade with small excavators is applying downward support of the cab while the boom and bucket are being utilized.

As far as pedals are concerned, there is a smaller left-foot pedal that opens and closes the thumb on the bucket. A smaller right-foot pedal operates to simply swing the arm left or right, depending on in what direction the pedal is pushed. This keeps the cab from needing to move with the arm.

Each action with the excavator takes foresight and planning on the part of a newer operator. With time, less foresight is required as the machine almost becomes an extension of its operator — much like driving a car.

This is by no means a complete tutorial of how to operate a mini-excavator, but rather a quick look at the controls of a Komatsu PC35MR and similar ISO vehicles.


Interested in excavation or demolition? You’re invited to learn more about the demolition professionals from DT Specialized Services out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.