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Tips for Buying, Operating and Maintaining a Thumb Attachment for a Mini Excavator

  • Published Tue Jul 31, 2018

A thumb attachment can dramatically increase the versatility and performance capabilities of a compact excavator.

A relatively inexpensive investment, a thumb can allow an excavator to handle a variety of high-precision material handling, land clearing, utility and road building applications. Below are a few quick tips on buying, operating and maintaining a thumb attachment for a mini excavator.

Buying
In terms of buying and spec-ing a thumb for a mini excavator, the most basic and important thing to consider is that it has to match the bucket. It's not as simple as taking a thumb and putting it on a machine with any bucket—they have to match. Depending on the size of the thumb and the size of the machine, thumb attachments for mini excavators typically have two tines.

The thumb needs to be aligned with the bucket to make sure that it’s in sync when you're rotating in—you want to make sure that the tines mesh or intertwine with the bucket teeth. This goes for both manual (rigid) and hydraulic thumbs. Business owners should work with their equipment dealer to determine the best thumb solution for their application needs.

Operation
Operating of the thumb and the bucket together, the technique all depends on the application. Operators should always familiarize themselves with the operator’s manual. Like any piece of equipment, it’s important to know its capabilities and limitations.

Pushing a mini excavator and its attachments beyond its recommended lifting capacity can damage the thumb and bucket, and negatively affect total cost of ownership (TCO) over the course of the machine’s lifetime.

Maintenance
Operators should make the bucket and thumb a part of their everyday walkaround machine inspection. In order to prevent unnecessary wear, areas around the pins and bushings should be cleared of dirt and debris. Also, check the operator’s manual for regular grease intervals for the pins/bushings/coupler—keeping these components properly lubricated will extend the life of the attachment.

Operators should also regularly inspect the thumb and bucket teeth for wear. Operating an excavator with worn out teeth on the bucket essentially causes the machine to work against itself, reducing productivity, consuming more fuel, more man-hours and eventually leading to more downtime. Today’s business owners understand that maintenance is one of the key components of minimizing TCO, and getting the most efficiency and reliability out of their fleets.

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