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Choosing a skid steer loader

03/16/2011 @ 10:22am

Since its introduction more than five decades ago, the skid steer loader has evolved from a machine that mainly functioned to remove chicken manure to a multi-purpose workhorse that maneuvers around in the tightest of spaces.

As these agile machines have made their way to an increasing number of farms, more and more manufacturers have responded by offering consumers myriad choices. But with so many to choose from, selecting the right skid steer to meet the needs of your operation can be mind-boggling. In addition to a variety of manufacturers, you also must take into account all the options, add-ons, and work tools available for these machines.

8 Questions To Answer

Before you consider any make or model of skid steer loader, answer these eight questions to determine a starting point in selecting a machine.

1. What type of work or chores will you need to tackle? “Start with what you will use the machine for. Are there any constraints in terms of physical size, such as width and size of machine? Are there narrow corridors you have to maneuver in? The answers to these questions will narrow down your choices,” says Chris Knipfer, Bobcat marketing manager.

Bigger is not always better. For many, the biggest advantage of a skid steer is its ability to squeeze into tight spaces.

“On top of that, what you plan to attach to the front of the machine will also impact the size of skid steer you choose,” Knipfer notes.

2. Do I need a machine with vertical lift or radial lift? If you do a majority of your work at eye level and above, vertical-lift-arm machines might be your best option because they typically have greater rated operating capacity than radial-lift-arm for a comparable-size machine, more maximum lift height, and the maximum bucket reach comes at maximum lift height.

If your work is done at eye level or below, radial-lift-arm machines are better because they get their maximum bucket reach at eye level, and they have fewer linkages. So when you're working with attachments — specifically buckets — if you're trying to do a fine grade, a radial-lift-arm machine accomplishes that easier.

3. What attachments will I need? A wide variety of attachments is available. When you're looking at work tools, ensure that the ones you need are available for the skid steer you buy. If you already have several, you may want to purchase a unit to accommodate them.

Remember that just because a tool will mount on the machine, doesn't automatically mean it will perform well.

“It's important to fit the attachment to your machine so you don't over- or underutilize a machine. For instance, if you just buy a bucket, make sure it is big enough for what you need it to do but not too big to where the machine can't effectively use it,” says Knipfer. “When you get into the advanced attachments that have controls, make sure those controls are matched to the capabilities of the machine.”

Some tools, like stump grinders or large augers, require extra hydraulic capacity to operate. Standard-flow versions of these tools may be available but may not have the muscle of high-flow units.

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