Skip to Content

How to Move an Excavator that Won’t Start: 2 Main Reasons and Their Solutions

Sharing is caring!

An excavator can be a helpful tool when you need some major digging for your garden. However, like any other equipment, it can malfunction as well. One of the most common problems excavator owners faces is that their excavator does not start. There are several reasons behind it, and it can be very frustrating. Keep following our guide to learn how to move an excavator that won’t start.

If you face any issue with starting your excavator, it must be addressed as soon as possible to avoid potential injuries or breaking down of equipment. Not knowing how to troubleshoot or properly manage malfunctioning equipment can lead to bigger issues and be dangerous. We are here to help with how to move an excavator that won’t start with our simple instructions.

How to Move an Excavator that Wont Start

Common Problems Why the Excavator Won’t Start

Following are the two most common reasons why your excavator won’t start. We will discuss each problem in detail and explain the solutions on how to move an excavator that won’t start.

For your assistance, we have linked a video tutorial to help you understand what to do when an excavator doesn’t start.

  1. The first issue you may encounter is that the engine won’t crank. It means that when the key is twisted, nothing happens. This issue may be caused by a safety feature that may be preventing it from starting up or some other technical issue.
  2. The second common issue is that the engine will crank when the key is twisted, but it does not start. There might be several reasons causing this issue.

How to move an Excavator that Won’t Start

Follow the instructions on how to move an excavator that won’t start and resolve the issues that might be preventing it from starting.

1.      How to Move excavator if the engine Doesn’t Crank

One of the most common reasons the excavator won’t move is the built-in safety features. Before you begin, check the position of the shift lever. A shift lever is a safety instrument that has been introduced in numerous newer generation models of excavators.

This safety measure aims to prevent the engine from starting when it is in gear. You may experience an abrupt push which may cause an injury or damage to the surroundings. And the risk of breaking the axle pertaining to the high power of an excavator always remains. Follow these simple steps to learn how to move the excavator when you face this particular issue:

  1. Locate the safety plug of your excavator situated between the floorboard and the clutch bar.
  2. Use an open-end wrench of ¼ inches or any size you need to open the nut and turn it counterclockwise to undo the nut.
  3. Now take a wire cutter or pliers and cut the red and black wires protruding from the switch box. Strip the covering of these wires.
  4. Finally, connect these two wires and ensure the connection is secure and tight. Wrap them with tape to secure them, and you are done!
Crescent X6 Ratcheting Wrench Set 7 Pc. Combination With Spline Open End
  • Turn nuts and bolts without removing the wrench from the fastener with the ratcheting open ends
  • Fits 6 common styles of fastener - Hex, Square, 12 pt. , E-Torx , Rounded Hex, and Spline
  • Contains metric 8 mm, 10 mm, 12 mm, 13 mm, 14 mm, 15 mm, 17 mm sizes
  • Smooth handle profiles let you comfortably apply more Torque to the fastener
  • Laser-etched size markings makes identifying the correct tool quick and easy

If the issue persists even after checking the switch lever, you need to check the battery. You might find some white-colored substance accumulated on the connectors of the battery. It is caused by lead sulfate or anhydrous copper sulfate. If this is the issue, disconnect the battery and thoroughly clean these two terminals.

The next step is to check your battery voltage by using a multi-meter or the main panel. It will keep several potential problems away with starting the excavator.

Now check the circuit breaker and the battery switch on either side of the excavator. A screwdriver or tester is enough to check this. Just ensure the battery is connected while you test the connection. While you test the voltage, ask someone to crank the engine. The readings on the voltmeter may indicate the following:

  • If it shows 0 reading, the issue is most likely in the connector or the battery. It may also indicate a faulty ignition switch circuit.
  • If the reading is between 0 to 8, your battery needs a replacement. Use a substitute battery, or try charging your battery.
  • A reading between 8 to 12 indicates a jammed engine. It means that the resistance is extremely high in the circuit. Try and locate the overheated wire in the circuit. If you cannot find any wire, you will need professional assistance.
  • If the reading is greater than 12, the battery is not the issue. The real issue is the starter which might have undergone corrosion.

Pro Tip: If you encounter an issue due to a jammed engine, stop cranking it. It may result in damaging other parts, such as pistons.

2.      How to Start an Excavator When Engine Cranks But Won’t Start

After resolving the first issue, now let us consider any other possibilities. When you twist the key, your engine will crank, but it will not start. If you face this issue, do not over-crank the engine. It may worsen the problem and overflood the engine with excess fuel. Take a pause of at least 20 seconds between every 5-8 seconds bursts.

Since your engine is turning, it rules out any issue with the battery.

The engine runs on four main things: fuel, compression, air, and ECU. We will check for all these factors one by one.

  1. The air might not be a problem if you ran your excavator a day before, but it is not starting now. However, if it’s been a long time since you ran it, examine it for clogged air filters or a blocked exhaust. Dust or condensation may cause this problem.
  2. If your excavator was working without smoke, rule out any compressor issue. If you notice any smoke, you might have oil leakage, and the compressor may be filled with oil. You will need professional assistance here.
  3. Closed-off supply valves or fuel clogs are other issues. There might be a possibility that you accidentally blocked the O-ring or bumped a shut-off valve. Check the positions of valves and the fuel levels too.
  4. Pull the fuel pipe out located near the filters. Once it is out, open it and check if the fuel flow is sufficient. If you notice that the fuel flow is sluggish, you have the issue of a clogged valve.
  5. Clogs cause the RPM of the excavator to reduce, which inhibits the excavator from starting. Clogs might be caused by air or frozen fuel. Get a thorough inspection of your fuel pipes to get rid of clogs.


Faulty equipment can be a major hindrance to your work. It can cause frustration and lead to even more serious problems. If your excavator is not starting up, not knowing what to do may lead to potentially serious damage and injuries. There can be multiple reasons why your excavator is not starting. You will have to check for each issue and eliminate its possibility.

Operating heavy-duty equipment is no piece of cake. It is very important to know what you are doing to ensure your and the equipment’s safety. We have enlisted several problems and solutions on how to move an excavator that won’t start. Leave your queries in the comments below!