When it comes to selecting buckets, the options can seem limitless. That’s because excavators can tackle a diverse range of projects. There really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to utilizing excavator buckets across different jobsites — even across a range of projects on the same site.

Three of the biggest considerations to keep in mind when selecting a bucket are:

  1. The quality of the bucket and its features
  2. Bucket size
  3. Matching the bucket to the application

Whether you’re well-versed in excavator buckets or still learning, you’ll find value in these tips. That’s because the consequences of using the wrong bucket can be significant. If you don’t have the right bucket for your specific application, you’ll likely see lower productivity and fuel efficiency. You could also have premature wear of the bucket.

Bucket Quality

All buckets are not made equal, so you’ll want to do your homework to ensure you get the best bucket for your needs. One thing to look for is features that promote durability and reduced wear, such as wear strips that protect the bucket’s sides and back, and side cutters that protect the bucket’s cutting edge and improve penetration.

And don’t forget about what’s on the edge of the bucket to engage the ground and the material. If you don’t have the right edge or teeth, you won’t be able to do your job the way you want. For example, general purpose buckets typically have teeth, which is great for excavating. But if you’re doing grading or landscaping work, Volvo offers a bucket with a bolt-on edge to help give your work a smooth finish. For extremely compact material, on the other hand, you may need pick-point teeth. Also look at the tip radius — a short tip radius produces enhanced break-out force which reduces wear on the bucket and a long tip radius offers greater bucket capacity.

Volvo recently launched an all-new premium tooth system that not only increases productivity and fuel efficiency, but is also more wear resistant and much easier to fit, thanks to a hammer-less pin design. The teeth feature a new locking system that has a reusable locking pin, which locks into place simply by twisting it a quarter turn. You just place, push and twist — that’s it. With a system like this, you won’t always be in the market for a brand-new bucket.

Picking the Right Size

There are a lot of factors that go into picking the right size of bucket, including:

  • Application: I’ll get into applications in greater detail below, but you want to maximize your bucket size for the application so that you can get more work done quicker. You can go too big, though, and hurt your productivity. A bucket that’s too large can slow cycle times, especially when moving high-density material. Also, digging a 24-inch trench using a 36-inch bucket would, obviously, be counter-productive.
  • Material Type and Density: The material you’re working with and its density factor into how much you can actually pick up, which in turn affects the bucket size. As noted above, having too much of a high-density material in your bucket can hurt cycle times.
  • Excavator Specs: The excavator’s size, configuration, desired reach and other specs help determine bucket size. It stands to reason that you wouldn’t put the same size of bucket on a 14-ton excavator as you’d put on a 75-ton machine. At Volvo, we have bucket sizes listed for our machines to ensure proper sizing is simple.
  • Haul Truck Capacity: In order to fill up trucks as quickly as possible in the fewest number of passes, match the excavator’s productivity and bucket size with the capacity of the truck. You’ll get more done in less time, lower fuel consumption and reduce wear on your machines.

Matching Your Bucket to the Application

Matching your bucket to the application will save you time and money. So, let’s go through some common bucket types and how they’re used:

  • General Purpose: General purpose buckets (some simply call them digging buckets) are designed for use in a large variety of ground conditions for all digging jobs. They easily handle materials such as topsoil, clay, sand and dirt, as well as tougher grounds with gravel and loose stones. They’re designed with teeth for efficient excavating and higher digging forces. On general construction and excavation sites, digging buckets are most common. And depending on the application, the bucket might have additional wear components to handle heavy or abrasive materials.
  • Heavy-duty: Reinforced heavy-duty buckets provide productive digging in compact materials like blasted rock, hard-packed clay and stone. They can also handle gravel, ripped basalt, shot granite, high-silica sand, sharp rock and other dense materials. Volvo buckets are manufactured using high-strength AR400 steel. Abrasion Resistant (AR) steel is extemely hard and makes for more durable, impact-resistant buckets. The bucket has an all-round heavier and tougher build than the general-purpose version. Heavy-duty buckets are typically used in applications like rock quarries for loading and rehandling. They allow operators to fill haul trucks as quickly as possible in the fewest number of passes.
  • Ditching/Grading: Ditching (or grading) buckets have smooth edges designed for ditch maintenance, landscaping, backfilling and slope shaping and are optimized for filling, soft material digging and moving material around. You’ll see them used a lot in road construction. They’re also ideal for work done in a creek bed — drain holes allow water to filter out, removing added weight. Ditching and grading buckets tend to be wider, and with a flat cutting edge, they’re ideal for landscape finishing work and utility projects.

Customization and Quick Coupler Options

Buckets can also be customized with different types of teeth, side cutters, additional guarding, even different shapes to improve penetration. In Florida, for example, we’ve customized buckets with a spade nose, which is like a flat tooth. It creates a flatter edge which helps with the type of soil they dig in.

Volvo buckets are available as a direct fit or with Volvo quick coupler interfaces. If you’re planning to switch out attachments often, buying buckets with universal quick couplers is important so your operators can switch out attachments fast and easy, on any brand of excavators you’re running. If you only run Volvo equipment though, our dedicated S-type couplers are the best option for enhanced performance, including better breakout forces and capacities.

Learn more about Volvo buckets here, and if you have additional questions, just post a comment below.


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