understanding backhoe controlsBackhoes are one of the pieces of heavy equipment commonly used in construction sites and have the versatility to be used in different jobs.

You can complete a multitude of tasks including the laying of pipes, digging of trenches, demolition, grading of road surfaces, backfilling, and leveling. This equipment is a must-have for any project.

For that matter, it might be worthwhile to learn how to operate this equipment if you’re a beginner.

Understanding how to operate backhoes starts with familiarizing with its controls. The backhoe controls differ depending on the type and brand of machine you will be operating.

The standard controls are as follows:

  • The left-Arm Lever – has very simple tasks to do, it controls the boom of the equipment. Pull the lever to lift the boom; push the lever to lower the boom to the ground; tug the left arm lever left or right to move the swing sideways. It is just that easy.

  • The Right-Arm Lever – the main function of the right arm is to control the stick (which is the arm of the equipment that is connected to the bucket) and the bucket of the machine. Pull or push the lever to move the stick and bucket towards or away from the operator; move the right-hand lever to the left to curl the bucket in the operator’s direction, example when digging or trenching; move the lever to the right it pushes the bucket away from the operator. At first, you may find it hard but with just a little practice, you can easily familiarize controlling this lever.

  • The Stabilizer selector Control – you can’t miss this control, its location is between the right and left arm levers; this control controls the backhoe’s stabilizer thus its name. The stabilizer’s left lever controls and left stabilizer while the right lever controls the right. If you will operate in rough terrain, you can control both of them separately from each other.

  • The Throttle Control – the throttle control knob controls the RPM of the engine. If your backhoe is equipped with an attachment, it may require more RPM from the engine, this is where the throttle control comes in handy.

  • The Boom Unlock – as its name says, this control locks or unlocks the boom. It keeps the boom in a stationary position until you’re ready to go, you unlock it and start digging.

Since there are differences in how to operate this machine, it would be nice to read the owner’s manual of the equipment you will operate so that you get acquainted with the location of controls.

If you will operate a standard backhoe, there are only four motions to control: bucket rotation, dipper rotation, boom elevation, boom swing. Every brand has different control schemes for articulating these four motions.

Here are Some Short Videos Explaining Everything in Detail

Buttons and Levers You'll See in the Backhoe Cabin

Mechanical Vs. Pilot Controls

With the advent of pilot controls, you will see machines with this kind of a feature nowadays. Although, back in the day, mechanical control is the norm and what operators are familiar with. Through the years, many manufacturers have introduced the pilot controls. Now, let us dig the differences between these two controls.

Mechanical control (aka wobble sticks)

  • Backhoes with mechanical controls, which most operators would say, are easy to operate because of its straightforward design. With that being said, this is what most operators want to operate to become efficient at work and to get the job done.

  • If you want to purchase a backhoe with mechanical control, you would be amazed that its price is much lower than a backhoe with pilot control. If you’re tight on a budget, you would end up buying machines with mechanical control.

  • Backhoes’ awesome power comes from its hydraulic system. If you will operate a backhoe with mechanical control, you would easily feel the pressure on the levers and controls, with that you can easily pause the work when you stumble upon hard materials while digging to avoid damage to the bucket or boom.

Pilot Control

  • Pilot control has its distinct advantage as well. The most obvious is that you can switch from a backhoe to an excavator very easily.

  • It has additional designs beyond the standard mechanical control giving the machine extra features to get other jobs done. For example, the features can be connected beyond the servo system.

  • Backhoes with pilot controls have fewer levers or sticks in the cab, reducing the effort of the operators to operate the machine.

  • It has an automatic stabilizer system so that with just a simple push of the button, the stabilizer raises.

If you would want to learn to operate a backhoe, you need to specify which control you want to be familiar with. We strongly recommend starting with a mechanical one before jumping on to the pilot control because of its simplicity in operation and features.

Some Guides on How to Operate Backhoes Safely

Safety is always a priority when operating a backhoe or any type of heavy equipment. So if you’re just practicing, it is a prerequisite to do these things in order to be safe while behind-the-wheel:

  • First and foremost, you need to be properly trained before operating backhoe. If you have not taken the training yet, have someone to assist or train you.

  • Never ever leave the cabin while the backhoe is running

  • Perform pre-operational inspection to ensure that every parts and component are in good working conditions otherwise, you could damage the machine or post a hazard to other people.

  • Never let anyone go underneath the bucket or machine

  • When operating on a slope, keep the bucket lowered to maintain visibility.

  • The cab is intended for one operator only, it should be ridden by several other people.

  • When operating in a congested area, reduce the speed, otherwise, you could bump the backhoe and create damage to the equipment or to other property.

  • When preparing and setting up for digging work, make sure that the stabilizers are placed in a solid base.

Now That You’re Familiarized with Backhoe Controls, Prepare to Take the Training Program

Now that you are aware of the backhoe controls and how to operate this equipment, I guess, you want to be an operator. If that’s the case, then we can assist in achieving your goal.

On this website, we made directories of heavy equipment operator training schools in different states and countries – a handy feature so that you would not have a hard time looking for one if you like to take the training.

You will find here as well the answers to frequently-asked questions beginners have in mind entering this profession, just go and browse through the topics found in the menu or in the blog section.

Those are the handy features you will find in this resource – aside from that we also guide you through the process of becoming a heavy equipment operator so that it would not eat much of your time and effort getting into this occupation.

Where Can You Learn How to Operate Backhoe?

In Local Community College or University

If you want to learn to operate heavy equipment such as backhoes, excavators, loaders, and other construction equipment, the local community college or university offers a program for that. Since registration is on a first-come-first-serve basis, you have to be an early bird. What I like about enrolling in community college is they form partnerships with contractors in the industry in the development of the program – you’ll be assured of quality training that is worth you paid for.

In Heavy Equipment Operator Training School

No place is specialized in giving training other than the heavy equipment operator school, also called a trade school. Every state has one, so if you would like to contact one of these schools in your area, we provided lists of these schools. Follow this page.

What I like about getting into their program is that you can finish it in just 6-8 weeks, in the span of time, you could be specialized operating variety of construction equipment. The cost of taking the training isn’t cheap, you could end see yourself spending thousands of dollars. But you could easily recuperate your expenses in no time since operators are well paid in the industry.

In a Union

Learn while you earn. This is the advantage of getting into the union apprenticeship program. It takes about 3-4 years to complete the heavy equipment operator training program offered by a union. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is the most popular. Actually, there is one local in every state; if you would like to enroll in their program, just like I said, you need to be an early bird since the opening of enrolment or registration can happen in just once or twice a year. You don’t want to miss your opportunity. To know more about becoming an apprentice, See this Page.

In an Equipment Rental Company

The equipment rental company also conducts training for operators but not as comprehensive as the previous options. If you just would like to train in a backhoe, for example, you could easily finish it in just a few days. Just contact the nearest company in your location, set an arrangement, you could finish the training in just a few days.

To Conclude This

Once you get acquainted with the standard backhoe controls, you can operate in no time. It is not as hard as it seems.

The controls can easily be familiar with, in just an hour or two, you could find yourself operating the backhoe like a pro.

Always stay safe, always follow the safety guidelines in place on-site. We always wish you good luck!