The two main sections of an excavator are the undercarriage and the house. The undercarriage includes the blade (if fitted), tracks, track frame, and final drives, which have a hydraulic motor and gearing providing the drive to the individual tracks. The house includes the operator cab, counterweight, engine, fuel and hydraulic oil tanks. The house attaches to the undercarriage by way of a center pin. High pressure oil is supplied to the tracks' hydraulic motors through a hydraulic swivel at the axis of the pin, allowing the machine to slew 360° unhindered.
A skid-steer loader can sometimes be used in place of a large excavator by digging a hole from the inside. The skid loader first digs a ramp leading to the edge of the desired excavation. It then uses the ramp to carry material out of the hole. The skid loader reshapes the ramp making it steeper and longer as the excavation deepens. This method is particularly useful for digging under a structure where overhead clearance does not allow for the boom of a large excavator, such as digging a basement under an existing house. Several companies make backhoe attachments for skid-steers. These are more effective for digging in a small area than the method above and can work in the same environments. Other applications may consist of transporting raw material around a job site, or assisting in the rough grading process.
Excavators (hydraulic) are heavy construction equipment consisting of a boom, dipper (or stick), bucket and cab on a rotating platform known as the "house". The house sits atop an undercarriage with tracks or wheels. They are a natural progression from the steam shovels and often mistakenly called power shovels. All movement and functions of a hydraulic excavator are accomplished through the use of hydraulic fluid, with hydraulic cylinders and hydraulic motors. Due to the linear actuation of hydraulic cylinders, their mode of operation is fundamentally different from cable-operated excavators which use winches and steel ropes to accomplish the movements.