Until recently, most manufacturers offered manual controls in backhoe loaders. Today, most manufacturers have pilot controls as optional equipment in order to meet the demands of the tech-minded.
A traditional backhoe with manual controls boasts a much simpler design than its equivalent pilot control model. Machines with manual controls have the control levers mechanically connected to the spools in the control valve.
There are a few key factors that determine whether a customer purchases a machine with manual or pilot controls. The increased difficulty of designing and manufacturing a machine with pilot controls results in a higher price tag on machines equipped with this feature. For companies that need fleets of equipment, it would thus be more economical to get them with manual controls.
Although manual controls seem like outdated technology, many operators continue to prefer them over pilot controls. One of the reasons is that experienced operators like the feedback they receive from the hydraulic system when using manual controls.
Pilot controls come with their advantages, too. They allow operators to quickly and easily switch from a backhoe to an excavator operation pattern. In addition, pilot-control machine operators enjoy less lever effort. This reduces fatigue and improves overall comfort.
The advanced nature of pilot controls allows manufacturers to offer additional features beyond the controls. For example, automatic boom lock is available from select manufacturers. This feature unlocks the backhoe boom when the pilot controls are activated. Pilot controls also allow an operator to take advantage of an automatic stabilizer option. This feature automatically raises the stabilizers with the push of a button, similar to automatic windows in a car.
Most manufacturers have the pilot controls pod-mounted. This means that when an operator is facing the back end of the machine, two pods, one on each side of the operator, would be pulled toward the operator to start manipulating the back end of the machine. An alternative to this traditional design was to mount the pilot controls directly to the seat of the machine. This saves the operator from leaning forward to reach for either pod.
However, this is beginning to change, as more rental customers are asking for pilot-control backhoes. Furthermore, the ability to offer models with pilot controls allows operators the option to switch from backhoe to excavator controls. As a result, there is customization of the control pattern to suit their preferences based on the work at hand.