I had read horror stories about how difficult walk-behind trenchers can be to handle, so I was a little nervous about renting one this morning. Well that combined with the fact that the last time I rented a piece of equipment, hauling it home was a legitimate nightmare.
I’ll go ahead and tell you about that incident first. A few years ago I rented a Bobcat with a bucket to move some stone. I could have had them deliver it, but that costs extra and takes longer. Besides I, being a manly man, had a truck. A black (of course) 90 GMC Sierra regular-cab short-bed 4x4 with a shit-ton of miles and no front bumper for reasons unknown to me. It had a trailer hitch on it, but I don’t think I had ever towed anything with it before. If I remember right, it didn’t even have the proper wiring setup for the lights. But we hooked it up, and away I went. Bobcats are heavy. And even though it was a double-axle trailer, they put the thing all the way to the front of it so the tongue weight must have been insane. A few miles from my home, the bolts holding the hitch onto my truck RIPPED THROUGH THE FRAME, and the tongue of the trailer hit the ground. Just the rear bolts ripped through, so the hitch was still held on by the front two, but the whole thing was now dragging on the road. Through shear will, and whatever power was left in that 200k Chevy small block, I managed to drag the thing home. The safety chains got under the tongue and were sheared off from grinding the pavement. The Sparks must have been fantastic! After I got home I unloaded the Bobcat, used it to cram the hitch back in place, and pick up the trailer to attach it to the bumper ball. I bought new chains out of my own pocket, and towed it back to the rental place using the bumper without incident. For months you could see the marks on the road as evidence of the embarrassing affair. To this day, I wonder why we use frame-mounted hitches when this episode proved that bumpers are actually stronger, at least on old trucks.
So you can see why this last ordeal, combined with horror stories online about trenchers lurching out of control, had me a little shaky about the whole situation. But everything went quite well, despite the kid at the rental place hooking the trailer up like this:
The chains weren’t long enough, so he just hooked them together behind the ball. Luckily, the ball didn’t come undone, because I’m quite certain this fail safe would have failed. But I made it home without any incident that would have left me liable to the Department of Transportation for road surface damages. So with that aside, and the Dingo unloaded, how did it do?
It’s a walk-behind. Actually, it’s a walk-in-front, because you use it backwards. Kind of weird, but it works.
Pretty simple. Across the top you’ve got throttle, choke, and ignition. On the bottom you’ve got chain control (left for reverse, right for forward), then the unit movement control (whole thing forward for forward, whole thing back for reverse, twist for turning), loader control (up-down for up-down, left-right for pivot), and parking brake.
It kicked butt. I had about a hundred foot trench to dig, and it did it in about half an hour. I had it back at the rental place in well under the three hour window that gets you half your money back. Overall I was impressed with how easy this thing was to use and how quickly it got the job done. I never felt like I was out of my league using the Dingo. Plus, it did not eat my baby. Bonus!
Here’s some time-lapse dashcam footage of me doing the trickiest part where two trenches had to meet at an intersection. Notice the end when I realize that I can’t get the trencher back to the truck without crossing the trench I had just made, and after some contemplation finally decide to go all the way around the house with it.