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Excavator Basics

Compact excavators are powerful digging machines. With advanced hydraulic systems, compact excavators (also known as mini excavators) often outperform larger tractor loader backhoes and offer greater flexibility to place spoil or load a truck.

Tail Swing Configurations

Tail swing refers to the rear overhang of the house as the compact excavator rotates on the undercarriage. Different configurations offer choices for lift capacity, maneuverability and spoil placement.

Conventional Tail Swing

  • Rear of the house extends 6 inches or more beyond the width of the tracks through slew rotation.
  • Offers the greatest lift capacity, but the ability to rotate and place spoil can be limited if working in tight spaces.
  • Generally has a narrower stance (width), affording improved access through doorways, gates, property lines or other restrictions.

Minimal Tail Swing

  • Rear of the house extends as much as 6 inches beyond the width of the tracks.
  • In tight spaces, minimal tail swing models provide improved flexibility, to slew and deposit spoil.

Zero Tail Swing (ZTS)

  • Rear of the house stays within the width of the tracks through full rotation.
  • Offers the greatest flexibility to slew and deposit spoil.
  • Greatest protection against inadvertent contact with surround objects.

Compact Excavator Components

As you compare compact excavator models, it's important to understand their key components:


  • Contains the operator's compartment, engine and hydraulic pump and distribution components.
  • House and workgroup "slew" (rotate) 360 degrees on the undercarriage.


  • The legs and feet of the compact excavator.
  • Rubber or steel tracks surround the drive sprockets, rollers and idlers that propel the machine.


  • The boom, dipper (or arm) and an attachment.

Backfill Blade

  • Used for grading, leveling, backfilling, trenching and dozing.
  • Depending on its position, it can be used as a stabilizer for the machine.