Welcome to www.oilyhands.co.uk

Also known as www.diggers-dumpers-plant.co.uk and www.flamingskoda.com

Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Towable digger v. Tracked mini digger - Advantages and Disadvantages

Most people are motivated to buy a digger because they are fed up with hand digging or are starting a self build or similar project. When towable diggers first appeared in the late 1970's there were few small diggers about.  There were plenty of larger JCB's, Fords, Whitlock's and other tractor based diggers, but they could not get into gardens or small areas.  Also builders would have to hire one in with a driver and this might mean waiting. There were a few smaller machines about such as the Smalley 5 and Thwaites Dumper Digger but these were not common. So at the time when the likes of Powerfab got going a towable digger was a great step forward.  A small machine which virtually anyone could operate and which helped small builders.  Always remember that compared to a pick and a shovel a towable digger (or any digger for that matter) is brilliant. 

Nowadays, there are thousands of tracked mini-diggers in use and they have made towable diggers obsolete for a reason. They are fully fledged machines and can do everything a towable excavator can do and more. For the infrequent or home user a second hand towable digger can still be a good budget option.

The following sets out the advantages and disadvantages of towable diggers as opposed to the modern tracked machine.

Towable Digger e.g Powerfab, Fleming, Gopher, Mantis, Roughneck

Roughneck digger


  1. Can by towed behind a normal car as only weighs typically up to 750kg.
  2. Cheaper to buy than a proper mini digger with tracks.
  3. Good for trenching
  4. Simple fabrication with no castings so easy to repair and maintain. Engines, pumps and valves can be replaced with commonly available items.
  5. Some machines such as Powerfab 125WTD have hydraulic drive so less limited than self walking machines but added complication and more parts to go wrong.
  6. Can easily be moved through a house or narrow alleyway using manpower and appropriate attachments.
  7. Good budget option as a first digger.
  8. If it breaks down you can usually drag it home for repair (good point Pete)


  1. Slew is limited to less than 180 degrees typically 130 degrees. (Note Gopher and Digger 50 do have 180 degree slew and 360 Powerfab and Mitchell Cotts available)
  2. With the stabilisers out in the wide digging position the machine is wider than a tracked digger.
  3. Tend to slide about a bit when digging in hard ground.
  4. Not good on steep slopes or for cleaning out ditches.
  5. Petrol engine, however they don't drink much fuel so this is only a small disadvantage.  (Note some are diesel.)
  6. Slow to cover longer distances on site, but this can be mitigated if you have a garden tractor or dumper to tow it about. 
  7. Later skid steer models overcome this.
  8. Second hand British machines are likely to be around 30 years old.
  9. The price of currently available new machines would easily buy a good second hand proper mini digger.

Modern mini-digger with tracks and 360 degree slew

Powerfab 360 mini digger


  1. Move about easily.
  2. Widely available.
  3. Grading blade is good for backfilling and levelling
  4. Usually have boom offset for digging in tight spaces or alongside a wall.
  5. 360 degree slew
  6. Diesel power
  7. Usually have a cab or canopy to keep you dry!


  1. Cost. You need plenty of work to justify the outlay on a good mini digger.
  2. Cheap machines within reach of infrequent user are mainly clapped out although the prices do seem to be falling a bit.
  3. Harder to maintain.  Lots of drive motors, castings, complicated seals around slew, electrics etc etc, you need to be confident that spares will be available otherwise you could end up with a very expensive piece of scrap.
  4. Parts can be very expensive.
  5. Early removable canopy models tend to be very noisy.  You have a choice, get wet or wreck your hearing.
  6. Needs a proper mini digger trailer and large vehicle to tow legally.
  7. Smaller machines i.e. less than 1 tonne can be a bit tedious for anything other than the smallest jobs as the buckets are so small.
  8. If it breaks down you are unlikely to be able to move it easily or take it home for repairs.

In summary, if your budget will get you a reasonable second hand mini digger with tracks then that machine is a clear winner. If you have a more limited budget that will get you a good second hand towable digger then that is better than a pick a shovel. If you have a really limited budget a pick, shovel, wheelbarrow, kettle, tea bags and milk can be bought for about £50!

More towable digger information