Next Certificate Program Start: 04/22/2024  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 05/06/2024

Next Certificate Program Start: 06/06/2022  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 07/05/2022

Next Certificate Program Start: 04/22/2024  |  Next Associate Degree Program Start: 05/06/2024



My Excavator Won’t Start: Common Causes & Solutions

Is your excavator not working and you aren’t sure why? Common excavator problems, such as a disconnected battery or clogged fuel lines, prevent the machine from working properly. But don’t worry; we’re here to help. Let’s take a closer look at what excavators are used for, common excavator problems, and how to address them to restore operation.

Table of Contents

Top Uses of Excavators


Excavators have attachments with teeth-like edges that allow them to dig up dirt and other materials from the ground. Two common earthmoving applications include digging trenches and grading landscapes.

  • Trench digging: Excavators dig trenches to lay foundations, install wires and pipe systems, and plant seeds for agricultural purposes. Digging trenches with an excavator is much quicker than doing so manually.
  • Landscape grading: Excavators grade, or level, landscapes to prepare them for various construction projects.

Material Handling

Operators can attach a clamp to the end of an excavator to dig up and transport materials that otherwise would not fit in the bucket. Excavators can also be equipped with taller cabs and heavier counterweights to maximize visibility and stability for material handling.


Excavators with a breaker attachment can be used for demolition purposes. This attachment is durable enough to break through concrete, stone, and other hard materials without sacrificing stability or safety.

Underground Excavation

Underground excavation, also called tunneling, is the process of digging underground to form passageways. Operators can use a bucket and hydraulic auger attachments to dig deeper and faster than they could with just a bucket.

Underwater Operations

Some excavators are created specifically for underwater applications, such as digging holes for bridge posts and tunnels for pipe systems. These excavators are equipped with attachment arms and roller chains that make navigating underwater environments easier.


Excavators equipped with shears, mulchers, and other attachments are used to clear paths, trim trees, and remove other obstacles in the forestry industry.

use of excavator
Top Uses of Excavators

Debris Removal

Excavators aren’t just used to remove dirt and other materials. They’re also used to remove debris. Buckets, clamps, and other tools can be attached to the excavator to remove materials such as concrete and wood.

How Hard Is It to Operate an Excavator?

Operating an excavator is no more difficult than operating another piece of heavy equipment. Plus, it gets easier over time with proper training and practice. The more you operate an excavator, the more confident you will be doing it.

Common Reasons Why an Excavator Won’t Start

  1. Oil thickens during cold months
    Low temperatures can cause the oil in an excavator’s engine to thicken and form clogs that prevent it from starting. Adding high-quality synthetic oil to the engine can prevent this problem because its viscosity doesn’t change when the temperature drops.
  2. The starter isn’t working
    A malfunctioning or broken starter could prevent the excavator from turning on. Here’s how to check if the starter is the problem:
  3. Make sure the battery connections on both sides of the cable are secure
    Turn off any lights, machinery, and other electrical components
    If the excavator features a starter solenoid switch, inspect it for damage
  4. The excavator’s battery is dead or disconnected
    A malfunctioning or dead battery can also prevent the excavator from starting. Check the battery voltage on the charger. If it doesn’t show any charge, you might need to replace the battery. We recommend always having a charged spare battery on hand as a precaution.
  5. Fuel lines are clogged with dirt or debris
    The pilot light, fuel pump, or carburetor could be malfunctioning. If you confirm these components are functioning properly and the excavator still won’t start, make sure the starter is on and not jammed or producing sparks. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to call a professional.
  6. The engine has a mechanical problem, such as low oil pressure
    Decreased engine power, a high-pitch noise coming from an idle engine, a hot engine, stalling, and failure to start are all warning signs of low oil pressure. If you notice these or any other concerning signs, stop using the excavator and seek assistance.
  7. Electrical problems, such as faulty wiring
    Faulty wiring is another common cause of an excavator not starting. You can check for faulty wiring by seeing if the starter switch is turned to the “on” position and testing the battery voltage.

What to Do When an Excavator Frequently Fails to Start

Consult the Operator’s Manual

Every excavator comes with an operator’s manual. This document contains valuable information such as how to operate it, take care of it, and troubleshoot common excavator problems. If you notice the starter isn’t working, the battery is dead, the wiring is faulty, or something else, consult the operator’s manual.

Contact a Service Technician

If the owner’s manual doesn’t have the answers you need, contact a service technician who can identify the problem and provide a solution. Whether your excavator simply needs routine maintenance or more in-depth repairs, they can help you. Be sure to contact a technician as soon as you notice a problem to minimize damage to your equipment.

What to Do When an Excavator Frequently Fails to Start
What to Do When an Excavator Frequently Fails to Start

How Can I Become an Excavator Operator?

  • Explore Excavator Operator Education Requirements
    You must earn your high school diploma or GED to apply to an excavator training program.
  • Develop Specific Excavator Operator Skills
    You will develop essential excavator skills, including spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination, in your chosen training program.
  • Complete Relevant Excavator Operator Training and Internships
    Upon completing a training program, you can take an exam to earn your excavator certification. The career services team at HEC will help you secure an internship that will equip you with additional skills employers look for in job candidates.
  • Prepare Your Resume
    Now it’s time to find a job. Our career services team will also help you build a resume, conduct mock interviews, and complete all paperwork required to secure employment.

Become a Certified Excavator Operator

Are you ready to become a certified excavator operator? Enroll in a heavy equipment training program at Heavy Equipment Colleges of America to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to secure a job in your chosen industry. Our excavator operator training program will teach you how to operate an excavator, maintain it, and troubleshoot common problems. Apply now to get started.


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