Guide To Excavator Attachments

Learn about the various attachments that can enhance an excavator in multiple industrial applications.

This Article Includes

  • Excavators are the Most Versatile Type of Heavy-Equipment
  • Different Types of Excavator Attachments and Their Use?
  • Powering Your Excavator Attachments
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Excavators are the Most Versatile Type of Heavy-Equipment

Excavators come in many different variations, shapes, sizes, and weights; and they are responsible for performing most of the tasks that are accomplished by heavy construction equipment at a job site. One of the first steps to capitalizing on the incredible versatility that excavators provide is important to know the different types of attachments and what they can be used for. Besides being used in many industries, excavators serve many specific purposes that range from digging, grading, dredging, drilling, material handling, removing vegetation, and more.

Along with the many different excavators that are available, there are also numerous attachment types for use to do specific tasks. Without having an understanding as to what attachment is best for your specific needs, a lot of time and money can be wasted accomplishing a job that is less quality than required. With that said, let’s get into this subject and learn about the different types of attachments available, and the functions and utility that each provides.

What are the Different Types of Excavator Attachments (AKA Worktools)?

There are many different types of excavator attachments. Some are more common and can be used for a range of different tasks, and others are specialized and only suited for a specific purpose. We will begin with the attachments that are more common, and then go through the more specialized attachments.



Are typically referred to as the most standard excavator attachment. There are a number of different types of buckets depending on the task required. There are wide buckets, slim buckets, buckets with teeth for digging, and smooth buckets for materials handling.

Digging Bucket: #1 Most Popular Attachment
Originally, all digging and grading buckets were affixed with teeth. The teeth on a bucket are used for digging in hard compact soil. They come available in a number of different widths and are also well suited for rocky environments. Auxiliary power is required.

Rock Bucket: #2 Most Popular Attachment
These buckets are considered the heavy-duty version of the digging bucket. They have hardened teeth and the body of the bucket is designed for very abrasive and rugged applications. Auxiliary power is required.

Grading Bucket: #3 Most Popular Attachment
Similar to the digging bucket, these buckets have a flat straight edge, no teeth, and are better suited for grading, leveling work, ditching, and producing a smooth surface. Usually a lot wider than a digging bucket, these buckets can tilt to create angles and have a shallower profile to avoid overloading the excavator with the increased weight of the material. Auxiliary power is required.

Trenching Bucket:
Designed with a thinner profile, these buckets can dig trenches for installing pipelines and cables, while at the same time avoiding too much disturbance to the surrounding soil. This precision allows for less time and cost for restoring the soil to the previously dug trench. Auxiliary power is required.


V-Bucket / Trapezoidal Drainage Bucket:
V-Buckets are shaped like a “V” and are for specialized projects. They are great for digging v-shaped trenches where expensive concrete bond sand is used for encasing power lines and cables. In some types of soil, v-buckets are used so that the sides of the trench do not need extra shoring to keep the sides of a trench from collapsing inward. Auxiliary power is required.

Riddle Bucket (AKA Shaker or Skeleton Buckets:
These are buckets that are designed with holes or times located at the bottom of the rear of the bucket shell. Riddle buckets allow the dirt and rocks to be separated which can save time and money since this can occur within the bucket and not require another procedure once the material is dumped.

Tilt Ditching Bucket:
Another specialized bucket is fitted with a hydraulic cylinder that enables side-to-side movement. This feature enables the operator to create banking while allowing the excavators reduced movement, which increases efficiency and decreases time when making dirt banks and complicated soil features. Auxiliary power is required.

Compaction Wheel – Mechanical

This attachment is used to compact the area at the bottom of a trench, or in other types of grading and excavating where compacting the soil is required. In some situations where other compaction techniques like using vibratory machines are ineffective, compaction wheels can be the only solution available. This is the case when compaction is needed for materials such as hard soil or clay. No power is required.


Being an addition to other excavator attachments, thumbs help to secure materials by providing a clamping force to hold the material within an attachment, such as a bucket. The thumb would be positioned above the top opening of the bucket, then the thumb is closed, coming into contact with the contents within the bucket and holding the contents in place. This extends the material handling capabilities. Auxiliary power is required.



Featuring a hydraulic spiral blade, auger attachments enable an excavator to drill and dig holes quickly and efficiently. Augers are commonly used in construction and landscaping and are excellent choices for constructing fence posts and building supports. Augers also come with a choice of different materials depending on how hard the material is that requires holes to be drilled.

Standard Bit:
This is a general-purpose bit that can be used for all earth drilling jobs. They are available in different sizes for different purposes and different weight excavators. Auxiliary power is required.

Industrial Bit:
This is a professional-grade auger bit that can withstand the grueling day-to-day use of constant drilling. This auger bit is the perfect choice when reliability and durability are a must, and delays due to broken and worn-out bits cannot be tolerated. Auxiliary power is required.

Tree Bit:
These bits are tapered; they are a larger diameter at the top portion and gradually become smaller in diameter towards the bottom tip of the bit. These are typically used in landscaping and for drilling holes to plant trees. Auxiliary power is required.

Rock Head Bit:
These bits are the strongest bits available and are ideal for drilling into extremely hard materials such as frozen ground, hard compacted soils, and clay, as well as fracturable rock. They are designed with heavy-duty bullet-style teeth that are capable of making their way through some of the hardest materials that some might think are impenetrable. Auxiliary power is required.


When there is a need to break up hard surfaces such as pavement, concrete, and other hard materials, the hammer attachment is the best choice for the job.  They are also well suited for demolition and breaking up a rock in a quarry.  They are available in different sizes depending on the job requirements and excavator size.  Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) required.


Pile Drivers

This attachment is also referred to as a vibratory hammer and is used for driving posts, pilings, steel sheet piles, and other prefabricated materials into the ground.  They are also used for extracting posts from the ground as well.  Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) required.


Excellent attachments for tearing through tough materials, rippers are also used for breaking up the frozen ground and demolishing buildings and other structures.  Ripper teeth and shanks are designed to penetrate incredibly stout materials and can withstand the most demanding jobs.  No power is required.


Dredge Pumps

For dredging and removing sediment from rivers, lakes, ponds, and harbors, dredge pumps are the only attachment that can get the job done.  Dredge pumps are designed with a cutter head at the inlet of the pump that is used to cut breakaway material at the bottom of a waterway; then pump the material to a floating sectional barge or other floating platforms, or a predesignated area for further processing or disbursement.  These pumps are capable of pumping very large solids, and extremely difficult to pump heavy slurries.  These are ideal attachments for standard or amphibious excavators.  A hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) is required.


Hydraulic Shears

These attachments are efficient tools for demolishing steel structures and are capable of cutting steel plates and steel girders.  Hydraulic shears are an excellent choice where creating sparks and flames must be avoided when shearing and cutting.  They can also be used for dismantling things such as automobiles, ships, and airplanes.  Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) required.


Couplers are an essential component when working with attachments.  They affix to the end of the boom/stick assembly and allow a way to quickly and efficiently switch between different types of working attachments without the use of another person.  Couplers can improve versatility, and some are designed with automated locking mechanisms that can be operated from within the excavator cab.

Mechanical (manual) Coupler:
This type of coupler directly pins to the boom and has a higher breakout force than pin grabber couplers. Less popular than other types of couplers, these are mostly used on smaller excavators. They offer a tighter fit for attachments and are less costly than hydraulic versions. If the breakout force is greater than what a hydraulic coupler can provide, mechanical couplers would be the best choice. No power is required.

Hydraulic Coupler:
These couplers can be used by a single operator and be manipulated from the cab of an excavator. Due to this, they are safer to use than a mechanical coupler. Hydraulic couplers offer greater versatility; the operator can change from one type of attachment to the other with a flip of a switch. They are also better for larger excavators because of the increased difficulty of changing larger attachments when using manual couplers. Less time used switching out attachments means the more time the excavator can be used for performing the intended task. Auxiliary power is required.


Tilt Coupler:
These attachments are efficient tools for demolishing steel structures and are capable of cutting steel plates and steel girders.  Hydraulic shears are an excellent choice where creating sparks and flames must be avoided when shearing and cutting.  They can also be used for dismantling things such as automobiles, ships, and airplanes.  Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) required.

Pin Grabber Coupler:
Pin Grabbers can either be mechanical or hydraulic and are designed with one pin, and a slide that can be fitted to multiple attachment fittings types. It is common for manufacturers to design their excavator attachment with a different geometry where the attachment connects to the coupler. These design of pin grabber couplers are meant to alleviate this issue and can be affixed to any manufacturer’s excavator attachment. Something to consider is that pin grabber couplers can reduce the breakout force of an attachment resulting in less digging power. Auxiliary power is required.

Powering Your Excavator Attachments

Most excavators attachments require only a minimal amount of power for operation.  However, there are some attachments that require a greater amount of power, and in some cases, are more powerful than the excavator can provide.  In these situations, there are external power sources that are used to ensure there is adequate power supplied to the excavator attachment to perform the job intended.  This section provides details on the main types of power source options available for powering your excavator attachments.  

No Power

Some attachments do not require power to operate.  Any movement of the attachment is provided by the hydraulic cylinder on the Stick only. 

Auxiliary Power

Auxiliary power is generated straight from the excavator motor, which in turn, powers all of the hydraulics on the excavator. Auxiliary power is first used for all the primary functions of the excavator, and any leftover power can be used to power the attachments connected to the end of the boom/stick assembly. Auxiliary power is scaled to the size of the excavator; larger excavators provide greater auxiliary power.  

When an excavator attachment tool needs additional power beyond the AUX lines, you step up to an HPU to supply the needed dedicated power.

Hydraulic Power Units (HPU)

HPU’s also referred to as hydraulic power packs, can be independent units or affixed to the excavator close to the engine and counterweight.  They can provide power ranging from 50 HP to over 1,000 HP.  HPUs are independent power systems that consist of a diesel-powered engine, pump, motor, and hydraulic fluid reservoir.  They power the hydraulic system that controls the movement of the attachments to perform the desired tasks.  

Optimize Your Excavator.

How HAWK Excavator Can Help

Considering all of the challenges a construction company faces daily, from project to project, it is critical that your operation be outfitted with the best excavation equipment available.

HAWK Excavator is a Manufacturer of Long Reach Excavator Kits, RTK GPS Position Systems, Amphibious Undercarriages, and Modular Barges. We have decades of experience with heavy-duty excavator equipment to enhance and optimize excavation projects worldwide.

Top Product Upgrades for Excavators

All HAWK products are simple to install to your excavator to assist with a wide range of excavation, construction, and dredging projects.  

The top requested product is a conversion from standard to long reach.

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