It’s no surprise that the earth auger is one of the most popular and widely used attachments by construction professionals all over the world. Auger attachments consistently rank in the top five most purchased and rented attachments in the construction industry. Augers are typically one of the first attachments needed on the jobsite and are used in a wide variety of ways. Need to install two miles worth of new fencing to enclose livestock? Get the auger attachment. Planting 100 new evergreen trees to create a natural windbreak? Get the auger attachment. Need footings to support the new playground equipment at the city park? Get the auger attachment. You get the idea. The auger attachment is a proven popular choice, and it has been adapted to outfit almost every type of prime mover imaginable.
Although the auger is not a complicated attachment, it does require a level of understanding to ensure you’ve got the right tool for the job. We’ll explore some tips to ease the selection process, maximize productivity and ensure the highest level of return on investment possible.
First and foremost, be safe around your auger attachment. Ensure you know where, and more importantly what, you are drilling. Auger bits and underground utilities do not mix. Always have the jobsite marked for underground utilities and hazards. A quick call to the local utilities can be a life saver. Even though the site may be clear of underground utilities, be prepared for the occasional large rock or pesky tree roots. Both obstacles can be overcome, but they can also be harmful to your auger attachment if not handled correctly. Be patient and feed the auger bit into the ground a little at a time, and you will find that in most cases the obstacle can be conquered.
Another area to be aware of is the jobsite terrain. If you are drilling on uneven ground or on an incline, use outriggers to stabilize the prime mover. Last, but by no means least, are the safety guards. Safety guards are there for a reason. Don’t remove them! Entanglement in an auger can happen quickly if the operator is not paying attention. The auger doesn’t need any help from you to do its job. Stay clear when the auger is in operation, and let the auger do the work.
Understanding the correct terminology can be half the battle when selecting an attachment. Generally, when a dealer or manufacturer refers to an “auger,” they are describing a complete attachment, which consists of: a prime mover mount, a drive head and an auger bit. For key words and possible alternative terms, please refer to the image on the below:
Pairing an auger attachment to your prime mover starts and ends with the hydraulics. Understanding your prime mover’s hydraulics is paramount to maximizing your auger attachment’s potential. Hydraulic pressure and flow are the life blood for any construction attachment, and the auger is no exception. When hooking up the hydraulic lines, do a quick test to verify that the auger rotates in the correct direction. The auger should rotate in the digging direction when the primary hydraulic position is activated on the prime mover. Also, it’s important to be aware of the need for a case drain line. A case drain may be required on larger auger attachments with higher torque output. Excessive hydraulic back pressure will result if a case drain is required and not properly installed. Taking a few minutes to guarantee that your prime mover has an adequate auxiliary hydraulic circuit will save you time, money and frustration in the long run.
Auger Bit Selection
Selecting the right auger bit is critical to getting the most from your auger attachment. The auger attachment is only as good as the auger bit being used. Understanding your ground conditions and what type of auger bit to use is highly important. The two most common types of auger bits are simply referred to as dirt and rock bits. Dirt bits are more widely used and are the more economical of the two. Dirt bits are used in easy to moderate soil conditions such as black dirt, compacted sand and some clay. Dirt bits can extend their range to compacted clays and frozen ground when outfitted with hard-faced or carbide tipped teeth.
Rock bits are made for just that, rock. They are used in difficult drilling conditions and are most productive when used in conjunction with auger drives that have higher torque outputs. Rock bits typically use rotating carbide tipped teeth and can be used to drill holes in asphalt and concrete that doesn’t contain rebar. When selecting an auger bit be sure to know your ground conditions. Don’t be surprised if you need to call an audible and upgrade your auger teeth or even upgrade from a dirt bit to a rock bit during the drilling process.
Following the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations is always a good idea. Proper maintenance will ensure the auger attachment is always operating safely and at peak performance. Both the auger drive and auger bit require periodic maintenance. The majority of auger drives on the market use a planetary gearbox which requires gear oil. Each manufacturer’s recommendation is different, but the gear oil should be changed on regular intervals. Changing the oil will ensure the proper oil level is being maintained and that the gears are properly lubricated.
Don’t forget the auger bit needs just as much attention as the auger drive. The auger bit teeth and pilot bit are ground engaging items and are designed to eventually wear out. It’s important to always check the condition of the wear parts and replace if worn or damaged. Running an auger bit with worn or damaged wear parts can cause added stress on the auger drive and the auger bit flighting. Most auger bits are designed to cut clearance, given the auger teeth are in good condition. A 12-in. diameter auger bit will actually drill a 13.5-in. diameter hole. This allows the auger to be removed from the hole easily without compromising the hole that was just drilled. If the teeth are not kept in prime condition, the clearance will be diminished and removing the auger will become difficult, causing excessive wear on the auger bit flighting.
Knowledge is power, and now that you have a little more knowledge of the auger attachment, it’s time to get to work! As a quick reminder, be sure to do the following prior to drilling: Properly survey your jobsite, verify the hydraulics on your prime mover are ready to support the auger drive and ensure the wear parts on the auger bit are in top drilling condition. Complete all of the above, and you will be punching holes in the ground in the most effective manner possible.