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Power Box Rake Attachments Are a Step Above Ordinary Box Blades or Graders

Power Box Rake Attachments Are a Step Above Ordinary Box Blades or Graders

The power box rake attachment is a versatile landscape tool that grew out of the traditional box blade or box grader that is typically mounted on the three-point hitch of a mid-sized tractor. The blade edge of these units is fixed, or static, and grades the material in front of the blade, similar to a bulldozer blade. However, the “blade edge” on a power box rake is actually live, or active, using a rotating steel tube — called a roller — with many carbide teeth aligned in multiple rows across its surface to move the material.

A traditional box blade merely scrapes or drags the material, bringing the good materials along with the bad. The power box rake lifts and forces a wave of overburden to be raked through the carbide teeth on the powered roller and up against the resistance of an adjustable mold board, called a barrier. The attachment also employs box ends to carry, control and direct the overburden as desired for the specific application. In some cases, these box ends are fixed to protect hydraulic motor drives or adjustable and positional to add flexibility to the rake. The powered roller is what gives the power box rake its name.

One Attachment with Many Uses
Power box rake attachments are compatible with skid steer loaders or tractor three-point hitch applications. They are extremely versatile and can be used to pulverize topsoil, remove debris, finish grade, spread fill and topsoil, recondition hard soils, change grade, thatch turf areas and mix and homogenize top soils. Once the power box rake has been properly set up and adjusted, even a less experienced operator can successfully produce a model site prep and seedbed. Unlike other vegetation removal methods that tend to remove much of the workable top soil along with the vegetation, the power box rake will use the spinning carbide teeth to loosen most of the soil that is captured in the roots of the vegetation. Power box rakes are very effective at removing vegetation from turf areas. Many contractors even find the power box rake useful for drying out muddy jobsites and rejuvenating old turf.

The power box rakes are most often used in the light construction field by contractors involved in finish grading, site preparation, erosion control, sports turf and turf construction. They recognize that the inherent value of a power box rake allows them to easily replace three or four workers on the ground with hand rakes. Contractors in the residential asphalt construction field find that the power box rake is invaluable for sloping or level-grading driveways and bike trail paths. They use the attachment to knock down the high areas, fill in the low spots and pulverize the materials to the size of particle that they choose for proper compaction.

Proper Selection Is Key
Every attachment purchase requires careful investigation and feature comparisons. Foremost among these is the need to carefully match the attachment to the carrier. Just because a carrier may physically attach to the power box rake does not mean that they are truly compatible. The attachment horsepower, hydraulic flow and weight requirements must be within safe carrier operating specifications. A thorough investigation of the capabilities of your carrier must be made to assure the safe operation of your attachment. It is always helpful to work with your equipment dealer or manufacturer to determine proper fit.

Three basic questions must be answered for every attachment:
1. Can the attachment properly attach to the carrier?
2. Does the horsepower or hydraulic flow requirements of the attachment fall within the safe operating range of the carrier?
3. Does the operating weight of the attachment fall within the manufacturer’s recommended operational guidelines for the carrier?

Once the proper sized power box rake attachment is selected for the specific carrier, the next decision is the drive method. The roller can be driven in one of three different ways: direct motor hydraulic drive, hydraulic motor to chain reduction drive or PTO-to-clutch drive. Selecting the right power box rake for your application will depend on your choice of carrier and your preferred drive method. Have a discussion with your equipment dealer, your industry associates and your team to pin down your favorite for the operation at hand.

Tractor rear-mounted applications usually utilize a PTO drive through a shaft and clutch system that provides good mechanical transfer of power with little power loss. Rear tractor-mounted applications are generally easier to operate, but have diminished flexibility in shaping, creative grading and digging versus a front-mounted unit. In addition, PTO drive units are very unforgiving in the event of a severe shock load to the drive line caused by hitting a large object or engaging the drive at full speed.

Skid steer loader front-mounted applications utilize a hydraulic motor system driven via the auxiliary hydraulic flow of the carrier. There is some slight loss of mechanical efficiency in a hydraulic system, but the hydraulic drive will be more forgiving when faced with a severe shock load to the system. The traditional method utilizes a hydraulic motor through a heavy-duty chain reduction to power the roller. Another popular drive method utilizes a direct hydraulic motor drive, with the shaft of the motor or motors connected directly to the roller itself.

Know Your Attachment
All attachments have unique operating characteristics and require a careful and thorough read of the operator’s manual prior to safe operation of the attachment. With power box rakes, it is even more important to read these operations tips as many operators will not be familiar with the attachment. Choose a manufacturer that pays careful attention to safe operation of their attachment. The manual should not only cover proper setup and adjustment of the machine, but also operational procedures for safe use of the power box rake. Most will have detailed application techniques that will help get maximum efficiency from your new power box rake. As an example, finish grading will require different application angles and attitudes of the attachment than pulverizing topsoil will. In the case of the power box rake — reading is believing.

Enhance Mini Skid Steer Performance with Attachment and Hydraulic Maintenance

From small landscaping projects to large-scale drilling jobs, mini skid steers increase ROI on a variety of jobsites. Of course, regardless of size or job type, the effectiveness of a mini skid steer depends on its working order. Practicing regular maintenance should help further extend productivity. It’s also key to extending the useful life of a mini skid steer (sometimes called a compact tool carrier or compact utility loader depending on the manufacturer). One critical aspect of this maintenance routine goes beyond the machine itself and includes the upkeep of attachments and hydraulics.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Outlining the basic design of a mini skid steer helps explain the routine maintenance that keeps the machine running efficiently. Most important to note is that all mini skid steer attachments and tracks are in part powered by the hydraulic system. Issues with the hydraulic system can cause major complications with attachments and general machine operation. One recommendation to keep in mind: Before a project even begins, match the flow rate of the hydraulic system with what is needed to operate the attachment. An incorrect match can reduce the efficiency of the attachment by decreasing how quickly the machine operates or how well the attachment works.

This mismatch goes beyond a hit to productivity, as the attachment will consistently not operate as designed, decreasing the hydraulic efficiency of the attachment. Issues with the compatibility of an attachment and a mini skid steer can also cause immediate downtime. For example, if a low-flow attachment is put on a high-flow hydraulic system, the machine’s system can overpower the attachment, causing motor seal failure and immediately stop operation. Once the attachment or mini skid steer is damaged, productivity and project failure are not far off.

Routine Maintenance Goes a Long Way

Beyond best practices for attachment operation, mini skid steer operators should follow routine-maintenance best practices for attachments to improve efficiency and longevity. A general best practice for keeping attachments operating effectively is greasing them daily. Each day as the attachment is used, an operator should use a grease gun to pump grease into the attachment until excess is visible.

Each attachment usually has its own maintenance routine. A good place to start is the operator’s manual, which details the regular maintenance that optimizes performance. The most common attachments and their recommended maintenance include:

  • Pallet forks: Inspect forks before each use for damage or wear that require immediate attention.
  • Plows: Inspect for loose hose or fittings, and check the blade for wear or cracks.
  • Tillers: Lubricate the bearings and inspect tines for damage.
  • Trenchers: Check for worn teeth and proper chain tension in order to reduce the amount of binding.

While mini skid steers are designed for longevity, there are rare cases when the loader arms will require maintenance. For a unit that is used regularly, checking the loader arms every few months for cracks and wear will keep the machine in proper working order. Attachment lock pins for the loader arms should be checked whenever an attachment is installed. These pins are responsible for engaging the attachment. Operators can ensure a proper installation by checking whether the bottoms of lock pins are visible under the attachment receiver plate.

In addition, operators should examine where the hoses couple to the machine for dirt or debris. Contaminated quick-couplers can lead to hydraulic system failure even for machines designed to filter the fluid coming from the attachment.

Each attachment usually has its own maintenance routine. A trencher will require operators to check teeth and chain tension after each use.

Don’t Overlook Hydraulics

Keeping hydraulic fluids at a recommended level requires a regular maintenance schedule. Each day, operators are encouraged to check the fluid level. When low, enough fluid might not be available to power equipment, causing the fluid to overheat. Low fluid levels might also indicate a leak.

Another daily maintenance recommendation: Check the hydraulic hose for leaks that cause low fluid levels. Before powering the machine, operators should visually inspect the hose for frays. After a visual inspection, the machine should be powered to visually inspect the hose again. If an operator thinks there is a leak, they should not test the hose with their hand, which can cause a hydraulic cut. A piece of cardboard or other surface can reveal whether the hose is releasing fluid. If there is a leak, the hose should be replaced before use.

A regular maintenance schedule also helps to reduce contamination in the hydraulic system. When a mini skid steer is used for the first time, the hydraulic filter should be changed after 50 hours of use. The first 50 hours are the breaking-in period for machines, which causes initial contamination buildup. A new filter removes the contamination and allows the mini skid steer to function normally. After the first change, hydraulic filters should be changed every 250 hours. Prior to 250 hours, buildup on the filter won’t greatly affect performance. Fluid will bypass the filter once it’s full, which adds contamination.

Hydraulic fluid should be replaced in 500-hour increments. The quality of fluid can deteriorate from being heated and cooled during normal operation, decreasing its ability to flow properly. As fluid continues to deteriorate, operators will notice decreased efficiency from the attachment and tracks.

Outstanding Performance Made Easy

Keeping attachments in working order and maintaining a regular maintenance schedule for hydraulic systems directly impacts the productivity of a mini skid steer. When operating properly, these machines deliver exceptional performance and productivity for a wide variety of jobsites — from small landscaping to larger underground construction jobs.

Conquer Dust Mitigation with the Proper Broom or Sweeper Attachment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new rules related to exposure to silica dust on construction sites — those rules went into effect on June 23, 2016, and compliance for construction sites is required by June 23, 2017. These rules apply to any site that will “drill, cut, crush or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone.” Other cities, sites and developers have their own rules about airborne particulate on the jobsite — rules that may disqualify contractors from participating if they don’t engage in approved dust mitigation practices.

This doesn’t apply to every construction site, but it does add significant weight to the selection process for broom and sweeper attachments for skid steers, compact track loaders, compact wheel loaders and backhoes. While relatively basic attachments, there are considerations to keep in mind when making your selection. And with new rules and regulations in place to protect workers and the community, erring on the side of greater containment and prevention may be your best bet.

An angle broom operates at an angle to the left or right and pushes material off the surface and away from the machine. An angle broom has a cylindrical brush head that spins too.

Broom Styles and Options

There are generally three styles of brooms — push, angle and collector (or pickup). The push broom, which like it sounds, is a giant broom head that simply pushes down and pushes debris forward; it’s also the most economical option. An angle broom does exactly what its name implies too: It operates at an angle to the left or right and pushes material off the surface and away from the machine, but an angle broom also has a cylindrical brush head that spins. This style is common in snow removal and with municipalities simply looking to sweep off shoulders or roadways. There are also select turf applications where these brooms may be used. This style of broom does not offer any capture ability and therefore may not be advantageous in applications where dust mitigation is a priority. These would also generally not be appropriate for indoor applications or for use in residential neighborhoods where it could result in material being pushed into yards and driveways.

A collector is likely more appropriate for most construction sites where the goal is the collection and pickup of debris from the site. This includes sites where airborne particulate and debris cannot be swept to the side or where environmental laws and regulations require the suppression of dust and debris. They are also more suitable for use with heavier, clunky debris that cannot be easily removed by an angled sweeper. As it relates to rules and regulations — and the types of sites a contractor will be able to work on — a general rule of thumb is that a collector/pickup broom will be suitable for working on a broader range of jobsites than an angle sweeper.

There are additional options and components to consider with collector sweepers. Water systems emit a fine mist that helps knock down dust, making the collected material heavier and stickier. These systems are effective but add a little extra time and cost to the equation; they require water storage somewhere on the machine (often on the roof or somewhere on the back of the machine) and the appropriate plumbing to pump the water into the broom. An additional factor, important in some sensitive areas, is the introduction of a fine slurry coat to the pavement through the process that could have storm water run-off implications. Water kits are also available for angle sweepers but are not as common.

Waterless systems attempt to capture the dust and material within the structure of the sweeper but can still be quite dusty. Waterless systems have evolved over the years to further improve collection and keep dust levels down. The most common of these older technology systems features high-volume suction that pulls the material into the unit and filters it through a particulate filter. These are effective, but when a system takes in a high volume of air, that air needs to escape somewhere — and with these systems, you still get dust that escapes into the surrounding environment. Newer waterless systems feature a high-pressure, low-volume fan that is used merely to create a negative air pressure within the body of the broom that effectively eliminates the airborne particulate from escaping the container. That lower air volume maintains air circulation at levels where it’s not pushing more air through than it can handle — ultimately keeping more of the particulate within the unit and making it easier to fall within jobsite or local standards and regulations.

Hydraulic and Electrical Capabilities

All sweepers operated by compact construction equipment can be operated off the standard auxiliary hydraulics available with the machine. A 14-pin electrical connection may also be required. Many sweepers come completely contained with the pickup and disconnect hoses routed and the electrical kit already installed. These are not particularly complicated attachments to implement.

Sizing Suggestions

The major sizing consideration with brooms is width. A good rule of thumb is to select a broom that is as close to the width of the tires and tracks as possible. Anything wider than the tires or tracks may limit accessibility to certain areas. Anything smaller than the tire/track width results in less surface area coverage — especially if it’s an angle broom which, when angled up to 30 degrees, actually covers even less area as the machine moves forward, and may even be offset to the left or right on some machines.

Brush Media

There are generally three types of brush media available on today’s construction brooms: polypropylene (poly), a poly and wire brush combo and an all-wire brush. The all-poly brush media swiftly moves material from the surface and is the least aggressive brush composition — ideal for snow, turf applications and any surface that a contractor doesn’t want to scratch, such as sealed concrete, cement floors, etc. A combo poly/wire is more aggressive and is better for dirt and debris on hard pavement and surfaces that can withstand a more aggressive brush. All-wire brushes are available but are not as common because they can be too aggressive to surfaces.


The filter in a collector broom works by sucking airborne material through the filter media, and that material then falls down into the collection chamber either during normal operation or with the use of an optional “shaker” feature that can be triggered by the operator in the cab. Newer technology filters are easily removed, easily washable, cleaned and replaced and come in a variety of micron sizes to control the amount of particulate that escapes out into the jobsite. The smaller the micron rating, the more material it will filter out and the less dust/particulate it will emit into the atmosphere.

Auger Buckets Provide Cement Delivery For Your Skid Steers

When it comes to mixing and dispensing heavy, viscous yards of concrete with a skid steer, nothing works better than an auger bucket. But an auger bucket does more than concrete work. It also eliminates the backbreaking labor of mixing, transporting and dispensing wildlife feed, sand, asphalt, agricultural grains and washed gravel (3/4 in. maximum). Good auger buckets have a quick-attach frame on either side to control the discharge from the left or right and come complete with a 2- and 3-ft chute, hoses and couplers.

When purchasing an auger bucket, you will need to make a decision on a mixing or dispensing bucket. Seeing how the mixing bucket is only a few hundred dollars more and does both jobs, most customers will choose the mixing bucket so they can handle any task. To operate the auger bucket, you will need a skid steer with a minimum of 12 gal per minute (gpm). Always operate the bucket at idle speed. As you add heavier materials, you may need to increase the speed so the auger will not stall. Operating the auger in reverse will mix your materials. Once you have the consistency you are looking for, stop the auger. This will hold the material inside the bucket. Transport the material to the desired location and run the auger forward to empty the material from the bucket.

The applications for the auger bucket are many. Some customers use the auger bucket on a feed lot to mix and feed livestock. Others have used the bucket to mix their own concrete by combining sand, aggregate and cement or by simply using bags of mixture. This gives you complete control of the slump, and you never have to worry about the quality of the concrete in the truck traveling from the plant to your jobsite. Several people have mixed their grass seed and fertilizer and dumped it into a spreader. You can use it for sandbagging to prevent flooding. Use it to line landscape beds, driveways or mailboxes with decorative rock or fill the bucket with corn and refill deer feeders which are normally 6 to 8 ft tall. Asphalt companies have used the auger bucket to patch roads, bridges, parking lots and lots more. The auger bucket can also be used to reach difficult areas for footings, slabs, sidewalks, fence posts, sign posts, deck posts and piers. Auger buckets make great rental tools.

A rental business would need to make sure the bucket is cleaned thoroughly between rentals to ensure longer auger and bucket life. Most concrete trucks cannot get to many locations due to the size and weight of the trucks, so the auger bucket can save time and money and eliminate the need for a pump truck. They are also mostly maintenance free. There is usually only one grease zerk used to lubricate the motor seal.  The zerk is typically located in the motor mounting plate. Grease the motor seal after every 40 hours of use. Thoroughly clean the auger bucket after each use and apply a water based, non-corrosive releasing agent. On site, dump 5 gal of water in the bucket and run it in reverse to get most of the material out of the bucket. This will allow the bucket to be transported back to the shop where it can be hosed out completely. Just remember: Do not allow concrete to dry or water to freeze in the bucket.

If you take care of it, an auger bucket can be a great addition to your skid steer’s attachment arsenal. Most auger buckets have a half-yard capacity. A half yard of concrete weighs around 2,000 lbs and can be emptied in about 50 seconds. The bucket capacity can be increased to 3/4 yd as long as your skid steer can handle the extra weight. The bucket also has the ability to self load from loose piles. This unique implement does a lot of work. If you’re in the concrete business, you should definitely check one out.

How to Properly Pick a Planer Attachment for Your Skid Steer and Track Loader

How to Properly Pick a Planer Attachment for Your Skid Steer and Track Loader

Demand is growing for the cold planing of asphalt and concrete surfaces in limited applications, such as trimming around manhole covers, smoothing a surface, feathering in joints and removing paint lines in metro traffic lanes and commercial parking lots. Contractors who are being drawn into this market are utilizing small dedicated machines that have a relatively low price point — that is, skid steers with cold planers attached. Contractors gearing up to enter this market might consider the following guidelines as equipment purchase decisions are weighed.

Skid Steers or Track Loaders?

Conventional industry wisdom is that skid steers are better carriers for a cold planer. However, some cracks have opened in that theory. The general concern is that when working on hard surfaces — that is, asphalt and concrete — tires and tracks wear out more quickly than when they are being maneuvered on soil, leading to additional costs. Tires are cheaper to replace than a track.

Many people are wanting to buy compact track loaders. But if they want to maximize the dollar, a skid steer is better suited for production because it can work on hard surfaces.

George Chaney, JCB skid steer/compact track loader North American sales manager, says the choice isn’t as clear as that. He acknowledges that fear of premature track wear and resulting higher costs has most contractors employing skid steers. “But people also are finding that track loaders actually work better than wheeled machines for planing because tracks eliminate the bouncing effect that comes with operating on tires.”

Chaney cites the market in Italy where nearly half of skid steer and compact track loaders sold have high-flow hydraulics and are used for asphalt work, with a growing percentage being compact track loaders. “There still are a lot of apprehensions, but cold planing on tracks is a market that will continue to grow as people see the performance from compact track loaders.”

Kevin Scotese, product manager for skid steer loaders at Volvo Construction Equipment adds, “I’ve seen a lot of customers who previously owned wheeled machines switching over to tracked machines because of the smooth operation during cold planing and the increased stability they offer on inclines.”

Drum Size and Hydraulic Flow/Pressure?

The planer drum — inside of which cylindrical or bladed carbide teeth bite into concrete and asphalt pavements — come in widths ranging from 12 to 40 in. For patch jobs and other spot applications, narrower drums will suffice. For bulk production jobs, however, contractors commonly use drums in the 30- to 40-in. range.

But the wider the bite, the more hydraulic horsepower is required to smoothly chew up and spit out the material. Skid steers/track loaders with standard hydraulic speed and flow rates (10 to 30 gpm) can handle narrower cold planer attachments, but larger machines with high-flow hydraulics (31 to 41 gpm) are needed for the wider drums.
Scotese says, “It’s important to match the cold planer with the machine and ensure the cutting depth required is within the capabilities of the machine’s hydraulic performance.”

All Deere skid steers and track loaders, for example, have the hydraulic capacity to handle a 12-in. planer drum. Larger Deere skid steers, such as the 330G and 332G models, are popular because they have the capacity to operate wider planers, the largest Deere planer drum being 30 in. wide. The 332 can be configured with enough hydraulic horsepower to push fluid through lines at the rate of 41 gpm.

At JCB, standard flow on its carriers is sufficient to operate planers up to 18 in. wide — and high-flow systems are an option on all models except its very smallest one. Chaney says the 225 skid steer is a popular JCB machine that “will handle up to a 30-in. cold planer quite well.” The 36- and 40-in. planers are best used on larger JCB models.

Cooling Capacity While Planing?

Cold planing is hot work and puts a continuous strain on a loader’s hydraulic system. When a unit overheats, it shuts down — and so does production. However, Chaney says that even though cold planing can heat up a system, JCB engineers have it handled.

“We design JCB machines to operate with high flow, and we test them as if a planing attachment is working at a peak maximum limit,” he says. Still, he adds, “Planing is really not that demanding because the machine is moving so slow. A worse situation is in forestry where mulcher heads are spinning on a long boom with full hydraulic flow, and the machine is being driven up and down hills. By comparison, planing is not a big deal.”

Zupancic says Deere skid steers and track loaders can handle a 30-in. cold planer running wide open all day in ambient temperatures of up to 110 degrees. The skid steers have side-by-side radiators so that one radiator isn’t pulling hot air from the air, providing sufficient cooling. He adds that periodically clearing debris from radiators using the machine’s reversible cooling fans helps radiators do their cooling work.

For units unable to keep cool and run under stress, the answer might be add-on units like the Loftness Cool Flow. Loftness introduced its cooling attachment in 2007 specifically for use on skid steers, but it works on any kind of machine. It can reduce the temperature of a hydraulic system by 15 critical degrees so the machine keeps operating, according to Bill Schafer, Loftness product development supervisor.

“As with any application — but especially in applications with a lot of hydraulic flow — it’s important to keep an eye on the hydraulic temperature gauge,” Scotese says. “All machines are designed with cooling capacity for the maximum flow at the maximum pressure, but a used machine may have debris blocking airflow through the radiator, which can have a serious impact on cooling capacity.”

Fluid is routed through the Cool Flow unit at up to 45 gpm and a pair of 11-in. fans disperse the heat. While the cooling unit usually is mounted on the skid steer rooftop, engineers have discovered that it can be mounted vertically or horizontally and function equally well.

Operating Tips?

Cold planer attachments are not cheap. They range in price from around $10,000 for a 12-in. drum up to $28,000 for a 40-in.-wide model. To ensure that buyers get the most for their money, loader manufacturers offer a “creep mode” in which planers can be run at full rpm at exactly the right speed without overrunning the cut. In JCB skid steers and track loaders, creep speed can be increased in increments of one percent to ensure the attachment is maximizing its cutting. Then there are some basic operational guidelines: Select the proper cutting bits for the material being cut. On deep cuts, don’t try to consume all the material in one pass. And if attaching the planer to a unit, consider riding on solid tires to minimize bounce.

Attachments of Winter: Your Skid Steer Was Made for Snow Removal

Fall is finally here: You’ve just finished that overseeding project, you’ll be tilling the garden one last time before winter sets in and your mowing is winding down. Time to winterize your skid steer and mothball it for five months, right? Heck no. Your skid steer was made for snow removal. Here’s what you need and what you need to know.

There are a variety of attachments available for snow removal. Each does the job a little bit differently, but all of them turn your skid steer into an efficient tool for combating Old Man Winter. Choosing the right piece of equipment depends a lot on preference and task. Before we get started, a word of caution: It cannot be stated strongly enough that performing snow removal tasks is ripe with opportunities to hit unseen objects. Snow covers everything, hiding obstacles that pose dangers to both operators and equipment. If you are removing snow at a new location that you are not familiar with, explore the area thoroughly before beginning. If possible, examine the area prior to snowfall and mark obstacles that will create problems later.


The simplest and most economical tool for snow removal is a snow pusher. A snow pusher is essentially a large box that captures the snow as you push forward. It offers a much larger capacity than the skid steer bucket and can be ordered with a steel or rubber composite scraper edge on the bottom of the moldboard. The rubber edges on snow pushers are able to flex and pass over obstructions under most conditions and offer protection to the asphalt or concrete below.

Because of the volume of snow that a pusher can move, they make quick work of parking lots and other large, open areas. Snow pushers do not windrow snow like traditional angled blades do — they push straight forward — and pile snow at a chosen location. Widths vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but small pushers start at about 4 ft up to large commercial pushers that can be 30-ft wide or wider; obviously, wide pushers are for large high-horsepower skid steers. Skid steer models are generally going to be in the 6- to 8-ft range with moldboards from 18 to 30 in. high.

Optional equipment that make snow pushers more versatile include pull-back blades that allow you to rotate the box 90 degrees and rake snow away from garage doors or buildings. Abrasion-resistant skid shoes are available from some manufacturers as well as side markers to help locate the corners of the pusher in deep snow. Skid steer pushers can start at $2,000 and go up to $2,800 depending on size and options.


Front- and rear-mount blades have been a staple of snow removal for decades. They are simple, easy-to-use and most are versatile enough to serve a dual purpose in the months when snow is not an issue. Blades come in a variety of sizes. Blade styles include a fixed blade, angling blade, trip blade, trip-edge blade or a six-way blade.

Optional equipment that make snow pushers more versatile include pull-back blades that allow you to rotate the box 90 degrees and rake snow away from garage doors or buildings.

 Front blades come in varieties with moldboards or edges that trip, angling options, or models that transform into V-blades, also called six-way blades. A quality front-mount blade with hydraulic capabilities can start at around $2,400 and go up from there.


The ultimate in skid steer snow removal is a snow blower. Skid steer snow blowers work much the same way a two-stage, walk-behind snow blower works. Gearboxes driven by the skid steer hydraulics deliver power to the auger and impeller. The augers direct snow to the center of the blower and into the impeller. The impeller throws the snow upward through a chute. Snow blowers can have manual, hydraulic or electric chute rotation, allowing the operator to direct snow to a desired location. Adjustable deflectors on the chute also aid in directing the snow. Snow blowers allow operators to move snow quickly in one pass. Options like cutting edges and skid shoes allow users to outfit their blowers for the task at hand. Three-point snow blowers can start at $4,500 and go up to as much as $8,500.

Final Thoughts

No matter what you pick to remove snow, your skid steer will make the task easier. Some simple reminders for snow removal: Inspect the area, dress appropriately and perform recommended maintenance on both your implement and your skid steer. Snow removal can be hard on your equipment, especially if you are also using a de-icer.

The corrosive properties of de-icers mean that it’s imperative that you properly clean and lubricate the exposed contact points. Manufacturers offer a suggested maintenance schedule in their operator’s manuals. They are meant to be followed, but use in snow may require more frequent maintenance. Clean your equipment after every use. If you are using an implement with a gearbox, make sure you check oil in the gearboxes prior to use, grease drivelines and pivot points before and after use, replace wear items like skid shoes when worn and touch up the paint to prevent rust. With proper care, your snow tools will last for years to come.

Trencher Attachments for Skid Steers/Track Loaders Are Perfect for Quick/Shallow Jobs

A small loader with a trencher attachment is perfect for precision cuts and small utility runs on crowded jobsites. Dig trenches for utility and irrigation systems or power and water lines. Trench close to buildings, walls, fences and other objects, and do it with a machine you already have in your fleet (a skid steer or compact track loader).

When trenching holes through tough terra firma, it’s important to find a balanced trenching attachment for your application, and it’s always good to have options. One of the most important things to consider is the trencher’s depth.

•    Light- to medium-duty trenching jobs most likely require a standard-flow attachment with a 2- to 3-ft dig depth.

•    Medium- to  heavy-duty trenching jobs most likely require a 4- to 5-ft dig depth trencher, which usually comes standard with manual side-shift and may feature high flow as an option.

•    Heavy-duty trenching jobs definitely need a 3- to 5-ft dig depth trencher, which often feature hydraulic side-shift for trenching close to buildings, dual augers to move spoil away from the trench and high-flow hydraulics to cut with aggression.

Trenchers typically have three determining factors, boom length, chain width and the type of teeth. Common boom lengths are 36 and 48 in., chain widths are typically 6 or 8 in. and the most common tooth is the cup style. These sizes are common across manufacturers, but some manufacturers offer several models and size options depending on the application of the product.

Typical flow and pressure requirements for small skid steers range from 8 to 20 gpm with hydraulic pressures ranging from 1,750 to 3,000 psi. Typical flow and pressure requirements for mid-size to large skid steers or track loaders range from 10 to 42 gpm with hydraulic pressures ranging from 2,000 to 4,200 psi.

Most trencher manufacturers offer a variety of digging chains. Because soil conditions vary from location to location, matching the digging chain with the soil conditions can make all the difference in a successful trenching operation. Most manufacturers offer digging chains for usage in almost all soil conditions and in almost all weather conditions. Terms and nomenclature vary from brand to brand, but some of the most popular digging chain categories include: standard, rock and frost, anti-flex back, terminator, shark and beyond.

•    Tooth every station (TES): This chain is designed for standard digging conditions, light to moderately compacted, sandy, loam soils and loosely packed gravelly soils.

•    Tooth every other station (TEOS): This tooth pattern is designed to give the most production in wet, sticky conditions such as gumbo, wet clay, etc.

•    Rock and frost (50/50): This chain is for extreme rock conditions or to complete service work when temperatures are not so favorable. The rock and frost chain will give the highest production in frozen ground, highly compacted soils and rock, allowing the cup teeth to pick up and clean the trench. This chain is very aggressive in tough conditions but is not as productive in the lighter, normal digging conditions.

•    Shark tooth chain (70/30): This chain should be applied in compacted soils, light frozen ground, baked hard clay, shale or rocky soils. The aggressive shark teeth will slice, break and relieve the tough soils, allowing the cup teeth to follow and clean the trench. As with the rock and frost chain, the 70/30 chain will not be as productive in the lighter, normal conditions as the TES chain.

•    Full shark tooth chain (100 percent): This chain is recommended in fracturable rock, shale, caliche or conditions with little or no loose soil.

Chain sizes for trenchers are quite varied too, depending on the type of soil, depth desired and application or end-result you are looking for. They usually vary from 6- to 12-in. widths and from 24- to 60-in. depths. The 6-in. wide chain can dig depths from 24 in. up to 60 in. Generally speaking, the wider the width, the less depth that can be achieved. The 8-in. wide chain will dig depths of 36 and 48 in., and 10- to 12-in. wide chains typically dig depths up to 36 in.

Most trencher manufacturers offer many features and benefits. For starters, look for the highest quality hydraulic motor amplified by a bullet-proof planetary gearbox. Some units feature direct motor drives and others feature chain reduction drives. Direct drives often offer more chain speed but lose out in long-term durability and the all-important area of torque. Heavy-duty chain reduction drives (similar to those that propel skid steer loaders) offer a dependable and economical method of maximizing digging power at an affordable cost.

Look for trenchers that have augers designed with a large diameter; these move material from the side of the trench, limiting the amount of spoil falling back into the trench. Make sure there is quick and easy access to the grease cylinder for tensioning the chain. Ask about the crumber; standard on most trencher models, these help to remove soil from the trench and provide a clean, smooth trench bottom. Also, does the trencher have reverse rotation? Is it capable of reversing the chain direction, and does it stall when reversing? Then, ask about side-shift, which provides attachment flexibility when working next to a building or objects. Manual and hydraulic side-shift are usually available, depending on the model.

Trencher attachments are one of the most common tools you can attach to your skid steer or track loader, which is good news because that means there are lots of options. Just make sure you know how to operate it.

For optimum performance, operate the trencher at the manufacturer’s recommend boom angle. Spartan models use 65 degrees for best productivity. Start your trench ahead of where you need to be at full depth, angle the trencher about 45 degrees and lower the trencher as you reverse the loader at a rate not to bottom out the crumber. Once you are close to the desired depth, increase the angle to 60 to 65 degrees and continue your trench. Keeping the spoil auger above ground will increase horsepower available for trenching. Always refer to your trencher operator’s manual for safety tips and manufacturer recommendations for proper operation and tips.

Land Clearing with Loaders

Using a compact track loader with different land-clearing attachments can revolutionize a construction professional’s business, enabling them to bid on larger projects and work in all weather and ground conditions.  Attachments can turn one machine into a mulitpurpose tool to help contractors maximize profits.

A loader and a land-clearing attachment, such as a mulching head, are an ideal combination for site-preparation and clearing applications, as well as utility and right-of-way work, brush clearing for fire breaks, and fire prevention.  Land clearing attachments paired with a compact track loader can offer contractors the ability to grapple, shear, hammer, break, crush, cut, compact, and scoop up debris on a variety of jobsites. And these attachments also play a large role in handling the debris during the clean-up process, loading the material into trucks to haul away.

What to Consider

When choosing attachments for a compact loader, it is important to pay particular attention to the attachment’s flow requirements. Attachments that require continuous hydraulic flow, such as augers, brooms, or mulchers, do not work as efficiently if the compact loader’s hydraulic specifications do not meet the attachment’s needs. In this case, the demands of the rest of the compact loader’s systems can result in sluggish attachment operation or may cut hydraulic flow to the attachment altogether. This can be very frustrating to owners and operators who are tryin got increase the usage of the equipment.

Flow and pressure work together to increase the productivity of the unit and determine how efficient the unit will be when carrying high-demand attachments. Unfortunately, the auxiliary hydraulic pressure PSI is often overlooked in the selection process.  Most contractors are only concerned with the flow capabilities of the unit and they seldom consider the pressure and how this affects the overall performance of the attachment. That said, contractors need to be sure that the pressure of the unit matched the specification of the attaachment—too much flow can damage the hydraulic drive motors and solenoids inside the attachment. If the attachment does not have enough pressure, it will not perform correctly.

Once the amount of pressure needed is established, contractors then must consider the flow and pressure as a combined force and how this will affect their productivity. By being able to calculate the hydraulic horsepower of the unit, contractors can then pick the best unit for maximum productivity. Calculating hydraulic horsepower is simple: take the GPM, or flow of the unit and multiply it by the PSI, or pressure, and then divide that toal by the constant, which is, 1,714. Here’s an example to better illustrate: A unit with 45 GPM and a pressure of 3,800 psi would have a hydraulic HP of99.7 [(45X3,800)/1,714=99.7&91;.

Other factors or conditions that contractors need to consider when selecting a loader and attachments include the size of the project, how many acres need to be cleared, and the type of material that is being cleared. Underfoot conditions (rocky, muddy, frozen, swampy) and slope also will dictate which type of machine to use.

Inventory Management

Dedicated equipment is great to have in an equipment fleet if the contractor’s main business require the use of that equipment the majority of the time. But what if a contractor needs equipment with more versatility? One way savvy business owners can better manage their fleet inventories versus cost of equipment acquisition is to think differently when it comes to equipment offerings and utilization. Equipment utilization is the key to a profitable bottom line.

What if contractors could instead invest in a multipurpose tool, such as a compact track loader with a mulching head attachment, to handle site-preparation applications and other tasks as well? How much more utilization could be achieved per unit? How would that increase profitability?

Another benefit a compact track loader with a land-clearing attachment offers is job site manueverability because they are smaller than dedicated mulchers and offer more flexibility because they can run a variety of attachments.

Adding attachments to perform profitable tasks is always a good financial decision simply because attachments cost little compared to the revenue stream they can see as a rsult of performing more tasks on the jobsite. To get more done on every jobsite performance-matched attachments for compact track loaders—including augers, backhoes, mulchers, rotary brooms, buckets, dozer blades, pallet forks, power box rakes, stump grinders, trenchers, vibratory rollers, and rakes—are ideal tools for contractors to use with their compact track loaders when working in land-clearing and site-prep applications.

Make Your Skid Steers All Season Ready with Over-the-tire Rubber Tracks

Over-the-tire rubber tracks (OTT) give conventional skid steers the extra mobility to do more jobs in more places. With an ever-growing range of attachments, skid steer owners always have the right tool for the job. But many owners overlook one of the most useful of skid steer attachments: One that gives tough traction to the ground and superior floatation when needed it most.

The Spartan OTT tracks improve a loader’s flotation by five times over the same machine running on its usual pneumatic tires. When the job calls for traction and mobility in mud, on soft soil, or in deep snow, the skid steer’s flotation will determine whether you’re up to the job, or stuck.

OTT tracks are very effective in deep snow or muddy conditions. Like any good skid steer attachment, OTT’s are also designed for easy-on, easy-off installation in as little as 20 minutes.

Sure, safe footing

An embedded iron core and an engineered wing profile keep the tracks securely attached to the tires and avoid de-tracking on tough terrain. An internal traction rib maximizes the fit between the track and the tire tread, so it runs efficiently without slippage and without undue wear on the tire tread or sidewall. By taking on the load when the ground surface is treacherous, OTT tracks can actually extend the life of your standard tires.

By giving the machine a light footprint with a resilient touch, the OTT tracks won’t damage or scratch surfaces like steel tracks as they can travel and work on asphalt driveways, paved decks, residential lawns and sports turf. The skid steer can move in, do the job and roll away without leaving a trace.

From job to job, season to season, mobility conditions are always changing. But with Spartan OTT tracks, a skid steer becomes more versatile in whatever application it's running.

Choosing Work Wheels

With a versatility and popularity that’s unmatched in the marketplace, skid steer loaders are the Swiss Army knives of compact equipment machines.  You can throw on whatever tool is required to get the job done – buckets of all shapes and sizes, augers, pallet forks, rototillers – easily and in no time.  This versatility can also present challenges from a tire perspective when you don’t know precisely what the machine will be doing or where it will be working.

Tires are typically the most expensive consumable item on a skid steer loader, so it pays to acquire some knowledge before tire shopping. Whether you’re a weekend warrior digging a swimming pool in the backyard or a professional building a road, choosing the right time from the options out there will minimize your costs and headaches and maximize your machine’s performance.

Choices, Choices

Tires for skid steer loaders fit into three broad categories that we’ll look at. Actually, make that four categories, more on that later. First, there are two pneumatic (air) tires options on the market. Of those, there are bias ply tires, which are the most popular tire option found on the majority of the more than 1 million skid steer loaders in North America active in the field today. Second, there are radial tires.  These are typically more expensive, barely used, rarely purchased and tend to be more of an after-thought in the market these days.

Third, there are solid tires, which are a rising trend and becoming increasingly relevant.  Together, bias ply and solid tires constitute approximately 98 percent of the market for skid steer loader tires, so we’ll focus on them. Before that, it’s worth mentioning that there’s another type of tire out there (the “plus one” we alluded to). They’re called non-pneumatic tiers, and models include the recently launched Michelin Tweel. Picture rubber bicycle-like spokes supporting the tire tread around it, and you’ll start to get the idea behind this new breed of tire. Although they haven’t been adopted in any broad fashion yet, their cutting-edge design could provide a glimpse into the future of tires.

Bias Ply Pneumatic Tires

Bias ply tires have earned their popularity because they’re a cost-effective solution and offer a wide selection in terms of different styles and tread patter options. For your average landscaping or construction job and other general purposes, bias ply is the go-to tire.

Solid Tires

Solid tires are all about durability. As their name suggests, they’re solid all the way through. You would be looking to these tires for your more extreme-duty environments where an air-filled tire would be insufficient to hand the demands of that particular application.  You’ll find solid tires rolling in scrap yards, mines and demolition sites among other more severe locations where what’s required is durability, longevity and a flat-free operation. Many solid tires are designed with embedded small holes (or apertures) to allow for more suspension and increased ride comfort.


When it comes to pneumatic tires, some users opt to have them filled with a polyurethane compound. This is what’s known in the industry as foam-filled tires or simply filled tires. A two-part polyurethane is mixed together to create a thick maple syrup looking blend that’s then pumped into the tire to completely replace the air in the cavity. Once cured, you’ve basically turned your pneumatic tire into a solid tire and can expect it to perform like the latter in terms of ride quality and flat-free operation.

Foam fill can be an aftermarket add-on later at your local dealer, so you don’t need to make that decision at the time of machine purchase. The process is not cheap (it can range between $170-300 per tire), so you would need a real flat tire issue or flat tire aversion to have it be a viable option to consider. It’s also always best to foam fill when the tire is new, or nearly new, to get the most out of them and your investment. When a machine is purchased from a major manufacturer, like Bobcat or Case for example, it will typically come with bias ply air-filled tires. But just like ordering a car from a dealer, there are many options available, including tires. If you’re clear what you’ll be using your machine for, you can spec it with your tire of choice.

Price Points

When it comes to tire price, there’s a whole spectrum for both bias play and solid. Toward the cheaper end, you will have lighter-duty tires with less rubber and typically lacking most of the added performance features found in more mid-range and higher-end models. They’re priced aggressively because they serve a part of the market that’s more about upfront price than longevity or solving problems. As you move up the spectrum toward more premium products, you’ll start to see heavier-duty tires with different tread options and the use of more premium rubber compounds. Performance, durability and longevity benefits are what really set higher-end tires apart from their lower-end counterparts.

Over-the-Tire Tracks

Technically they’re not tires but over-the-tire track (OTTs) systems deserve a spot on this list. With OTTs you basically wrap and then connect a rubber track around both sets of front and rear tires. In as little as 20 minutes you can convert your skid steer loader into what’s essentially a track loader.  It’s an easy on/easy off attachment that gives your all the performance and benefits of what a track machine can do, but only when you need it. With a wider footprint, tracked machines have increased maneuverability and stability and thrive working in deep off-road muddy conditions where traction and floatation solutions are required.

Finally, Talk to Your Dealer

The best advice for a skid steer user, whether you’re a one-machine operator or you’ve got a whole fleet on the go, is to work with your local tire provider. Develop a good working relationship with them and engage in a conversation about what it is you’ll be doing with the equipment. Talk openly about past experiences with brands and any pain points you might be feeling. Are you someone who’s intolerant of flat tires? Are you having traction issues? Do you want to have the longest lasting tires on the market or do you just want cheap, round and black?

Remember there’s no perfect tire for every application, and there’s usually trade-offs involved. But if the dealer has a robust understanding of the various conditions and variables that are in play, he’ll then be in a good position to zero in on an optimal recommendation for your needs.

Dirt Focused: Tractor Attachments Made for Working the Earth

A variety of equipment can be used to transform landscapes on today’s jobsite. From skid steers to compact excavators, there is always a machine that can tackle the most difficult tasks. While these machines are useful, purchasing construction-grade equipment may not make sense for your business. For simple, everyday earth-moving jobs, contractors may already have a solution in their fleet: a compact utility tractor.

Often looked at as a machine for large property maintenance, compact utility tractors can be equipped to perform almost any job through a variety of attachments. From power rakes to loaders, compact utility tractors can easily tackle those difficult dirt jobs without a huge expense or a need for extra fleet space. With a wide range of attachments and attachments available, contractors should select a few essentials to invest in. For dirt-focused applications, we have developed a list of what contractors should consider purchasing to get the most out of their compact utility tractors.


One of the most popular attachments in the contractor segment, a loader transforms a compact utility tractor into a heavy-lifting machine. From moving dirt to carrying heavy materials like gravel, loaders offer the benefits of a specialized machine like a skid steer without the added cost of owning one. Additionally, loaders can be transformed with a variety of attachments, like grapple buckets or light material buckets, allowing operators to perform tasks like picking up tree stumps and branches or moving large amounts of light fluffy material such as tree bark or mulch.

When purchasing a loader, select a solution that meets your business’ needs. What are you planning to do with the loader? For example, do you need to load materials into a truck? Look for a loader that boasts the reach necessary to do so. Other factors include bucket breakout force, cycle times and lift capacity. Once you pick a loader, consider the other tasks you may encounter on a jobsite. Should you invest in those additional attachments? Many contractors find value in attachments like pallet forks or multi-purpose 3-in-1 buckets. Regardless of your situation, there is an option that can meet your needs.

Rotary Tillers

Do you regularly work on projects with tough soil conditions? Do you ever need to mix soils together for seedbed preparation? Do you need to loosen soil prior to finish grading? Consider a rotary tiller. Rotary tillers are multi-purpose tools that can tackle everything from small flowerbeds to large lots and fields. They can help with weed control, soil mixing, soil aerating, soil leveling and many other tasks.

Do you think you will be using the tiller frequently in rough environments? If so, look for a heavy-duty model that can withstand the most difficult tasks. Pay extra attention to the frame and gearbox, which will be absorbing most of the stress from the job. If you only plan to use the tiller every once in a while, you may be able to save some money by purchasing a lighter-duty version.


If your company is regularly tasked with projects that require cleanup, grooming or material spreading, consider purchasing a landscape rake to simplify the job. Standard-duty rakes can be used on lower horsepower tractors for smaller jobs like spreading loose gravel or grooming a sod bed. If you think that a task is going to be more difficult, look at medium-duty rakes that are constructed with a heavier frame and stronger tines.

If you regularly work with challenging soils that are covered with rocks or other debris, a power rake may be the best solution. Power rakes incorporate several tools into one. They can be used as blades for grading, landscape rakes for clearing or as pulverizers for breaking up tough clumps of soil. They have special features to simplify the job, like adjustable gauge wheels to control depth, hydraulic angling and roll-back barriers to control the level of pulverization.


Another tool for grading is a blade. Most manufacturers offer a variety of blade solutions depending on your application. Rear angled blades are ideal for smoothing surfaces by forming windrows of material and moving them across the jobsite. Just like many of the other attachments we have discussed, rear angled blades are offered in both standard and heavy-duty configurations and they can be optioned with hydraulic angling to allow for adjustments on the go.

Box blades are another solution that allow contractors to easily grade and level dirt. They are one of the more common attachments found on a jobsite. Box blades work differently than angled blades because they are able to carry a stockpile of material along with them as they move across the site. While grading, if the box blade passes over a low spot, it will deposit some of the material that it is carrying to bring the surface up to grade. If the box blade passes over a high spot, it will cut some of the material away and add it to the stockpile to bring the surface down to grade. For tougher conditions, some box blades have built-in scarifier teeth to help loosen the soil prior to the blade passing over it.


Combining power with excellent visibility and precision, backhoes are typically used for installing underground utilities or for moving large amounts of soil below grade. Depending on your needs, you will want to select a backhoe that offers the digging depth and digging force needed to complete the job at hand. For added ease, look for a model that has a quick-attach system that will allow you to connect the unit to your tractor within minutes.

Now that you know your options, how do you determine which attachments are right for your business? First, reach out and talk with your equipment dealer. Not only will they be able to determine which tractor is best for your desired application, but they also will be able to outfit it with the right attachments and help guide the financing/payment process.

Do your homework before heading to the dealership. Develop a list of your current machines and the jobs they handle. Then take a look at the jobs you’d like to use the new attachment to complete. This will help your dealer quickly identify your business needs and suggest equipment that makes the most sense for you. Some of the questions your dealer may ask you are:

1. What is the job or intended application? What is the terrain of the jobsite like?
2. Is this a one-time task or do you anticipate similar jobs in the future?
3. What are your budget parameters? Have you considered financing?

Once you select the tractor and attachments you want to purchase, work with your dealer to identify the best payment method for you and your business. Often times dealers will allow you to include attachments in addition to the tractor in financing plans, so it is advantageous to find a dealership that can offer you everything you need in one stop.

By choosing the right attachments, contractors can elevate their compact utility tractors into multi-purpose machines. Assess your options, do your homework and chat with your dealer. Your compact utility tractor will be doing different tasks before you know it, and your bottom line will thank you.

Three Attachments That Just Work Better with Tracks than Wheels

Compact track loaders are built like little Sherman tanks. Engineered with a dedicated undercarriage, these tool-carrying cousins of the skid steer can attack a lot of jobsites a skid loader just can’t (and some it can, just better). For example: When it comes to winter work, track loaders excel at snow removal, being heavier and having more tractive power. When it comes to dirt work, tracks generate more power and precision to move and smooth earth in grading operations. Same with land clearing: Compact track loaders can crawl through jungles and spearhead the abrasive job of brush cutting better than wheeled units. Track loaders just need the right attachment to conquer each of those missions — a snow blower, brush cutter and blade — three implements that work better on a compact track loader than a skid steer.

Snow Blowers

Compact track loaders extend seasons. During the wet weather months, these track machines can work earlier and later where skid steers can’t (because tracks have better flotation, so they don’t tear up surfaces or get stuck). In winter, heavier track loaders are just better for snow removal, and many manufacturers offer snow tracks for increased grip during the chilly season. Equip a track loader with a snow blower attachment, and you’ll have a nimble, high-powered snow removal machine.

“The size and performance of any attachment dictates the size, type and specification of the machine on which it will be used,” says George Chaney, JCB North America’s sales manager for skid steers and compact track loaders. “This is particularly true with snow blowers, which come in a wide variety of sizes. The larger and heavier the attachment, the larger the machine required to operate it. Compact track loaders possess increased lift capacity and stability compared with skid steer loaders, so they’re better able to handle larger snow blowers. Larger snow blowers require more hydraulic pressure and flow to be able to throw the snow greater distances, so high-flow machines are preferred. Having a unit with an enclosed cab with a heater and wipers is definitely preferred over open canopy designs for obvious reasons.”

For snow depths larger than 2 ft, snow blowers provide the best solution to relocate the material so the path can be cleared. Snow blowers are the perfect attachment for clearing snow from driveways, sidewalks or any area a track loader will fit. They can also blow snow into trucks that can haul away the material (an optional truck chute kit is often available). The typical in-cab electrically controlled adjustable chute rotates left and right, and the deflector controls the height of the discharge, allowing you to position the material exactly where you need it to go. Most snow blowers range in size from 4 to 8 ft, and they can throw snow up to 45 ft.

Snow blowers are available for standard- or high-flow hydraulic units, but we suggest a high-flow auxiliary function for most loaders. High-flow models capture the increased available hydraulic horsepower to power through the deepest drifts and the heaviest snow to throw farther. “There are numerous snow blowers that work fine with standard auxiliary hydraulics — 18 to 24 gpm — but the larger, higher productivity units which throw snow greater distances usually require 25 to 35 gpm,” Chaney adds.

Be sure to look for a hardy, replaceable cutting edge and adjustable skid shoes, which can be set to scrape pavement clean or higher to remove snow from gravel lots and driveways. If using a snow blower on material high in moisture, it is important to check the shoot often for clogging. If not cleaned properly before storage, the snow and ice in or on the unit can freeze and cause damage. Because they ain’t cheap.

“Snow blowers for compact track loaders can range in price between $8,000 to $15,000, depending on size, width and features, such as manual or hydraulically actuated discharge chute rotation,” Chaney says.

Brush Cutters

In contrast to snow, land clearing and mulching head applications are “hot” segments for compact track loaders. Professionals are buying track loaders with mulching heads, and they’re clearing right-of-ways and land for commercial or housing developments. Skid steers just won’t work in that sector because of unstable terrain in the forest, and a track machine outfitted for brush cutting (an attachment and proper protection) is considerably cheaper than the $100,000-plus dedicated brush cutter machines in the industry.

Perhaps the most important advice for buying a brush cutter is to go with the company you trust most. Which manufacturer will provide the best support after the sale? The answer to that question will likely be the best attachment for you. When purchasing a unit, the biggest options to consider are variable-rate piston motors, which can dramatically enhance performance, and shear bars, which allow more consistent sizing of material. There is also the choice between carbide teeth and steel blades. Steel blades offer better cutting performance, but they require frequent sharpening.

For the cutter itself, there is a tooth for any application — from working around rocky conditions to specifically cutting down trees.

First off, make sure the compact track loader’s lifting capacity and front, auxiliary hydraulic system matches the mulcher. Some manufacturers offer units for both standard- and high-flow compact track loaders, but the latter is more popular. Talking about compact track machines, forestry mulchers can require flows from a minimum of 13 gpm (standard flow) all the way up to the heavier, high flow that requires up to 45 gpm. Of course before operating, the track loader itself should have a comprehensive protection kit (brush cutting requires serious safety precautions). Here’s a common checklist of safety equipment: an exhaust cover to prevent debris entering the engine bay; cab-glass reinforcement and metal mesh covers; front work light protection; a loader hydraulic hose and auxiliary coupler guards; air conditioning; FOPS guard with side protection; and a cooling pack guard.

For the cutter itself, there is a tooth for any application — from working around rocky conditions to specifically cutting down trees. When it comes to picking a safe brush cutting attachment, many different types of heads are available in the market today (each manufacturer is a little different). Your buying decision needs to be based on the application (your customers’ needs), operating costs (fuel and consumable knife costs) and maintenance requirements (time). For light brush and maintenance mowing, there are the rotary, deck-type mowers with two large swinging blades, but they tend to be less effective in heavier material.

For this article, we will focus on mulching heads designed for heavy-duty brush shredding applications, such as land clearing for fire breaks, real estate development and right-of-way maintenance. In this arena, horizontal drum rotors with fixed cutters have emerged as the most popular type of head. The fixed teeth always maintain the correct angle of attack, and the material size you can handle is limited only by available horsepower and the size of the equipment carrying the head. Units often come in common sizes such as 60, 66, 72, 76 and 90 in.

For customers working in the most demanding applications, we offer an auxiliary hydraulic oil cooler attachment. Brush cutters may generate a lot of heat, especially in hot work environments and under heavy use. An auxiliary oil cooler can provide enhanced cooling to increase efficiency.

Blades of All Sorts

There are many blades to choose from for a compact track loader — V, snow, box, grader and dozer. Although each is designed to do a specific task on a jobsite, the main function of any blade attachment is to push and level material (two operations usually done better with a compact track loader). A V-blade attachment is one of the most versatile blades available. This attachment uses the variable angle blade as a V-plow, scoop, straight snow blade or an angled snow blade.

Angled grader blades are popular for doing leveling for concrete or asphalt or just general site prep work like this.

“A V-plow blade attachment is designed with two independently variable blade halves to let the loader operator quickly adjust the attachment from inside the cab to angle left, right or V-plow to match the blade to the needs of the job,” says Gregg Warfel, district sales manager at Terex Construction Americas. “It is engineered to give contractors the ability to use a compact loader to move and push large amounts of material efficiently. Contractors should consult with their equipment distributor to be trained on how to operate the attachment — in forward and reverse, as well as how to use the float function. By carefully selecting the right blade attachment for the job, contractors can increase their profits and the attachments will pay for themselves. Maximizing utilization rates while lowering acquisition costs — that is the name of the game.”

Angled grader blades are popular for doing leveling for concrete or asphalt or just general site prep work on the jobsite. These blades can either be angled manually or remotely using the unit’s auxiliary circuit. Compared to straight blades, these blades offer a wider contact area to the ground and great grading capabilities, as well as the ability to adjust cut depth on the go. Because they excel at excavation, dozing and grading tasks, dozer blades can be used in everything from site prep to finish grading. These heavy-duty blades allow the operator to use their compact track loader like a small finishing dozer.

But it’s not just dirt work. As mentioned earlier, track loaders excel at snow work, so snow blades are popular as well. Snow blades can be as narrow as 3 ft or as wide as 10 ft, depending upon the size of the loader, and can push a tremendous amount of snow at high speeds. For contractors using a snow blade, adjustable skid shoes allow the operator to vary the height of the plow edge on various surfaces. Compression trip springs let the operator disengage the plow when encountering solid or heavy obstacles, such as rocks. All of these different blades (with the exception of the snow blades) can be wired up to receive laser coordinates, giving the attachments the ability to read X and Y axes to get the final grade within a tenth of an inch.

Compact loaders offer a light footprint with extreme traction for finish work in dozing applications versus conventional wheeled machines. Costs for automated guidance equipment — such as lasers, 3D and GPS systems — vary in price. Laser systems generally retail under $15k while 3D and GPS systems can range in the tens of thousands of dollars. Picking a system depends on the type of work that is unique to the contractor. A person can’t go wrong with lasers if they are doing flat/sloped subgrades, parking lots or sports fields. GPS and 3D systems are great on uneven finished terrain, yet are able to do flat/sloped work as well. All electronic systems will come with a monitor that can be mounted in the cab or on the dozer. Most systems only need a 12-volt power and hydraulic source from the machine. All of the automation features will come from the receivers’ signals, then feed into the control monitor.

Caterpillar Creates a New Category of Compact Equipment - the Xtra Tool Carrier (XTC) Lineup

When I arrived in Peoria last week for Caterpillar‘s spring press event, I was not anticipating the release of a completely new category of construction equipment. I blame Tier 4 diesel engine emissions for my lack of expectations from equipment manufacturers. Because machine makers have concentrated so much on after-treatment systems for off-highway diesel engines, big new innovations have been few and far between of late. When I sat down in the indoor arena at Cat’s Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center near Peoria, I was ready to yawn and watch some new updated machines with a few higher specs and a lot of focus on electronic-driven operation and service technologies for payloads, machine automation and safety and eco functions.

Instead of yawns, Cat dropped some jaws with the release of its Cat 304.5E2 XTC mini hydraulic excavator — the first model in the Xtra Tool Carrier (XTC) lineup. The closest comparison might be Ditch Witch’s old XT1600 excavator tool carrier, which is no longer produces, but these are totally different machines. Built on an E2 platform, the 304.5E2 XTC is a Cat mini hydraulic excavator with an innovative attachment coupler interface engineered into where the dozer blade normally sits. It’s a universal, skid steer-style coupler (manual only) that allows for use of compact loader tools including a general purpose bucket, multi-purpose bucket, forks, dozer blade, brooms, power box rakes and trenchers. Coupler operation is controlled through a flick of the XTC switch on the right hand console in the operator station. Then the standard right hand joystick becomes your loader. I operated the XTC extensively, and it’s the real deal.

“Did the customers ask for this? No, they didn’t. This is us,” explained Greg Worley, senior project engineer for Caterpillar global mini hydraulic excavators, at the event. “It’s our concept, our thought process. We go out and visit customers all the time, and part of our job is to look at the customers’ job applications and think of how we can invent something to help them be better. Some customers are very good at inventing things themselves, and sometimes we partner up with them, but in this case we looked at customers and came up with the idea of versatility, taking two machines, an excavator and a skid steer, and making them into one.”

The result is something quite unique. While it was a learning curve to place dirt into the XTC’s attachment bucket for transport, which entails bringing the boom very close to the unit, I got the hang of it fairly quickly. A clam-shell-style bucket is definitely needed to dump the spoils, as the excavator doesn’t really have enough lift height to dump a normal bucket, but despite that, I could definitely see its many benefits. The 304.5E2 XTC is aimed at eliminating two machines when possible, allowing operators to achieve improved productivity in material carrying applications and reduce backfilling times with just a mini ex. Imagine an urban construction situation where you need to dig for a pool and have nowhere to place the spoils. An XTC can dig, hold and carry that dirt back to the truck. Consider a utility project that requires lots of pipe. Attach a set of pallet forks to the XTC and save time and extra machinery by transporting pipe with the digger. Once you’re finished with the project, attach a broom to the XTC and clean everything up.

 “Now, this isn’t a skid steer,” said Worley. “I’ve been asked already, how many different skid steer work tools work on this? I’m going to say everything, but we do have an approved list … As far as I’m concerned, the sky’s the limit. The question is: Does it meet your expectations or no? That’s what we’re going to find out. We’re going to market very differently with this machine. It doesn’t go into production till August, won’t hit the ground till September, we’ll have customers on it at GIE+EXPO in October. So for the next six months, we are creating a market. But I’ll tell you this, every time I get on it I find a new way to use it.”

The 304.5E2 XTC also includes the standard features and benefits of the E2 model lineup — automatic two-speed, 100 percent pilot controls, great bucket rotation, blade float and the safety built into every Cat mini excavator. Also, the unit includes the excellent COMPASS monitor system, which includes a passcode protected security system, adjustable auxiliary flow control and a site reference system all as standard. There is also a rear view camera option. When it comes to the undercarriage, the unit has been re-engineered for added stresses.

“We’ve beefed up the entire framework,” explained Worley. “The last thing we need is to take something to market that fails, so we’ve spent a long time doing all the structural side of that. You’re going to have increased wear on the rubber belt because you’re going to be using it more. You might run 800 to 1,000 hours on a normal mini excavator belt, but on the XTC you might run 400 or 500 hours, depending on your load-and-carry operations. We have also increased the rollers as far as longer life and higher quality because, once again, while we’ll have increased wear on the belt, we don’t want anything failing and wearing out prematurely on the undercarriage.”

Of course, the 304.5E2 XTC wasn’t the only machine Cat released at its spring press event. Just as impressive to me as the XTC was the Variable Angle Boom (VAB) for the Cat 308E2 excavator (above). I spent most of my time operating the VAB, and I loved the versatility it adds to the digging process, allowing operators to dig closer and further away from the machine using a foot pedal. While providing a maximum dig depth of 169 in., the VAB extends the 308E2’s maximum reach by 30 in. to a total of 306 in., compared with the standard boom-and-stick configuration; dump clearance is extended by 56 to 239 in. In addition, the VAB allows the 308E2 to work closer to the blade and tracks, resulting in added lift capacity when working in confined areas. Using both the joysticks and VAB foot pedal, I discovered new and inventive angles to dig with minimal practice required.

“You’ll get greater reach of about 2.5 ft and greater height of about 4.5 ft,” explained Jennifer Hooper, marketing development engineer with Cat. “In addition to the reach and height, you can get closer to the machine, so the whole working envelope is impacted. The dig-to-blade component is pretty substantial, so a lot of people use them for like broom-and-dustpan-style cleanup. If you want to work in one lane of traffic or work near the verge when brush cutting, you can maintain that closeness to the machine itself with a Variable Angle Boom.”

Lots of other equipment were released and open for operation at the event — it’s a Cat event we’re talking about here — including wheel loaders, soil compactors, material handlers and the cool new 630K Series wheel tractor-scrapers (we’ll cover the latter in a big way soon), but Cat’s small excavator options stole the show. Unfortunately, you’ll need to have some patience with these machines. The VAB is available to order in April with shipment in August (on the ground at dealers in September), and the XTC will be available to order in May with shipment in September (on the ground at dealers in October).

Keith Gribbins

The Top Compact Tractor Attachments

So you bought a compact tractor, now what? Now the fun begins: You get to pick the tools that will pair with your new tractor to help accomplish all types of tasks. Isn’t that why you invested in the tractor? To complete a job more efficiently and to give you back some of that precious time work and chores demand?

Mowing, landscaping, grounds maintenance and even gardening is made easier with the proper tools. When picking implements, make sure they’re not only the right tool for the job, but also make sure they’re the right tool for your tractor. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. Bigger implements require more horsepower and lifting capacity, sometimes more than your compact tractor may be able to deliver. Most implement manufacturers offer recommended horsepower ratings based on experience and testing in real-world conditions — make sure you follow those recommendations. Even something as simple as six tines on a three-point tiller can gobble up valuable horsepower! Read on and discover some of the more popular implements for compact tractors.

Grass Maintenance

The term “mowing” covers a broad range of tasks, and your compact tractor is ideal for accomplishing most of them, all as long as you pick the mower best suited for the task. Grooming mowers act like a traditional lawnmower. They feature lawnmower-style blades, discharge clippings either to the side or rear and have high blade tip speeds. Grooming mowers come in sizes from 48 up to 90 in., or for the largest compact tractors, three-deck models are available. Grooming mowers are best suited for campuses, sports fields or estates where turf appearance is important.

Pastures, roadsides, pond dams and ditches are all places that a rotary cutter would feel at home. Rotary cutters, or rough-cut mowers, cut grass and small saplings. They don’t leave behind a well-manicured lawn but offer a cost-effective, grass-maintenance solution. They feature free-swinging blades and stump jumpers to protect the gearbox and driveline from the inevitable contact with immovable objects. Sizes range from 42 up to 84 in. A quality rotary cutter can cost $1,200 and go up to $3,900, while a grooming mower of similar quality starts at $2,400.

Grooming mowers and rotary cutters are powered by the tractor’s power take-off (PTO). Power is transferred to the gearbox by a driveshaft. The driveshaft typically comes in one of two styles — slip-clutch or shear bolt — to protect the tractor from damage. Slip clutch models must be maintained and frequently “slipped” to ensure they function as intended. Shear bolt units require less maintenance but do require the operator to carry spare bolts to get back up and running.

Gardening 101

Another popular implement among compact tractor owners is a rotary tiller. Rotary tillers make seed bed preparation an almost effortless task. When choosing a tiller however, there are many options to consider — forward or reverse, chain or gear, slip clutch or shear bolt, just to name a few. The first option to consider is whether a forward or reverse till model is best for you. In most cases, a reverse till model leaves a more desirable seed bed, depositing larger clods on bottom and fines on top. However, reverse-till units are not recommended for rocky soil conditions. The reverse rotation brings rocks to the surface, and significant damage from rocks being pulled under the hood can occur.

The tiller drive system is another option to consider. Rotary tillers are available as chain or gear drive and both types perform equally well. The real consideration is repairs, should they be necessary: chain-drive tillers are more easily repaired on a weekend — many hardware stores can supply a chain and are open on Sundays — while gear-drive models can require significant downtime to get parts. Driveline options mirror rotary cutters — slip clutch or shear bolt — and are a matter of preference.

Sizes vary by manufacturer but typically range from 42 to 74 in. Purchase a tiller that covers the tractor’s tire tracks. Even better, look for a model that offsets to more easily till next to fences or buildings. A quality, three-point tiller for your compact tractor can start at around $2,000 and go up from there depending on size and features.

Plan on spending about $1,200 per foot on a seeder, considerably more for an over-seeder because of their precision.

Plant the Seed

Popular among contractors are seeders. Several companies make seeders ideally suited for compact tractors. From all-purpose seeders that work in new soil, existing lawns, pasture renovations or food plots to seeders exclusively suited for new lawn seeding and over-seeders that do just that (they over-seed), there are a host of options to consider when buying a seeder. Some seeders offer three seed boxes — a main box, plus a small seeds box for seeds like clover and a native grass box for “fluffy” seeds like brome — to accommodate a variety of seeds. Additional boxes can be expensive add-ons; know what you need before making the seeder investment.

Additional features to consider are drive options, roller options, ease of calibration, accuracy and capacity. Seeder widths begin at 4 ft and go up from there. Plan on spending about $1,200 per foot on a seeder, considerably more for an over-seeder because of their precision. Seeders are an investment, in most cases too big of an investment for homeowners. Unless you are a seeding professional, the better route might be a rental outlet in your area or check with your local dealer; they sometimes have used or demo units they rent to weekend warriors.

Get Dirty

Dirt working implements are a must with compact tractors. Not only do they offer their owner economical tools for a host of dirt-related chores — grading roads, maintaining ditches or backfilling around foundations — but they also move snow. Depending on individual needs, every compact tractor owner should own a blade, box blade or grading scraper. Blades are versatile tools with many uses. Box blades easily move large quantities of dirt or rock. Grading scrapers offer fool-proof maintenance of gravel roads. Well-built dirt working implements start at around $600 for a 60-in. blade and go up from there.

Final Thoughts

A final piece, once your stable of implements has grown to include several units, is a quick-hitch. Quick-hitches make hooking and unhooking implements less time-consuming. Most quick-hitches allow hook up from the seat of the tractor with no help from others. Simply back up to the unit, raise your three-point arms and allow the pins on the implement to settle into the receiver lugs. If it’s a PTO unit, shut down the tractor and safely exit to finish hookup. A quality, American-made quick-hitch can start from $200 to $400.

You know your tractor will last longer if you perform routine maintenance; implements are no different.

Manufacturers offer a suggested maintenance schedule in their operator’s manuals. They are meant to be followed. Check oil in gearboxes, grease drivelines and pivot points, sharpen or replace blades as needed, replace wear items when worn and touch up the paint to prevent rust. With a little care, your implements will last for years to come. Now, visit your local dealer and find the implements and attachments matched to your tractor; buy one, or two or more and get the most out of the compact tractor you invested in.

How to Maintain a Mulching Head Attachment

Few attachments undergo the harsh operating conditions of a mulching head. Between the abrasive work, the debris-filled environment and often hot weather, these attachments have to be built tough to handle all the abuse. But no matter how tough they may be, all mulching heads need regular maintenance to operate at peak performance and live a long service life. Of course, each manufacturer may offer different maintenance recommendations, so it’s important to read the operator’s manual for specific instructions and service schedules. Nonetheless, here are several universal tips that apply to most any mulching head.

Coming Clean

One of the most basic maintenance recommendations for a mulching head is to keep it clean of debris. Check the unit before and after use, and keep a close eye during operation as well. Even though some branches, sticks or other small debris hung up in the housing may not seem to affect performance, they’re likely wasting precious horsepower by restricting the rotational spin of the rotor. As a result, less horsepower is available for the actual job, more fuel is consumed and excessive heat is generated in the hydraulic system. Equally important is keeping the power unit (track loader or tractor) free of debris. Pay special attention to the radiator, oil cooler, exhaust and other areas that could cause overheating or perhaps even start a fire.

When cleaning the attachment and power unit, inspect the entire machine for any visible oil leaks, worn hydraulic hoses or bad wiring that could fail during operation. Also, check for loose hardware, particularly the knife bolts. It’s not unusual for the vibration of a mulching head to rattle some bolts loose, so be sure to tighten them regularly. Operating with knife/tooth bolts loose can result in permanent damage to the welded holder, causing costly repair and downtime.

Tooth Care

Every day it’s also important to check the cutting teeth to ensure optimal performance. If you’re using carbide or carbide-tipped teeth, then no sharpening is necessary. Simply replace the teeth as they wear. Always be sure to replace the teeth in pairs (the damaged or worn tooth as well as the tooth on the opposite side of the rotor) to keep the rotor properly balanced. If the mulching head has hardened steel blades, which have become more popular in recent years, then the blades will need to be checked daily and sharpened often to maintain their superior cutting performance. If the blades are reversible, the operator can alternate cutting edges to reduce sharpening frequency.

Some mulching heads are designed so the blades can either be sharpened while attached or detached from the machine. If sharpening them on the machine, a ratchet strap may be used to keep the rotor from turning. Using a hand grinder or other machine shop equipment, lightly grind each blade, being careful not to generate excess heat by grinding one blade too long, which can ruin its heat-treated properties. If the blade’s coloring changes to blue or brown while sharpening, it means the temper has been removed, and the blade will no longer hold its cutting edge. Additionally, sharpen each blade equally to help maintain rotor balance. If the blades were removed from the rotor for sharpening, return each one to its original location for balancing purposes.

Generous Greasing

Lubrication is another critical maintenance item often requiring attention every eight hours. It’s ideal to grease the rotor bearings at the end of the day when the bearings are warm, rather than in the morning. Generally, rotor bearings can’t be over greased, so apply grease until grease starts to purge from the bearing. In addition to the rotor bearings, the belt tensioner must also be greased but only about every 50 hours of operation. Check the owner’s manual for the proper amount of grease to apply. If these zerks are over lubricated, the grease may transfer to the belt, causing it to slip. As a result, the operator could experience loss of rotor rpm and power. Greasing the belt tensioner can be a great opportunity to also check the belt tension, which is typically recommended every 100 hours.

With the side cover already off, a person can quickly measure the spring tension and adjust as needed. Recommendations may vary by manufacturer, so check the operator’s manual for detailed instructions.


If the mulching head has hardened steel blades (like to the right), which have become more popular in recent years, then the blades will need to be checked daily and sharpened often to maintain their superior cutting performance.

Pre- and Post-Season

When putting a mulching head in storage for the winter, be sure to clean it thoroughly and lubricate all parts on the machine. Replace all worn or damaged parts, and touch up any exposed metal with paint to help prevent rust. Finally, relax the drive belt tension, lower the support stands and put the unit away in a clean, dry area. If desired, the push bar can also be moved up to storage position. At the beginning of the next season, check again that all components are well greased and that no parts are damaged. Tighten all bolts, nuts and screws, and then adjust the drive belt to the proper tension. After that, install the mulching head to a power unit to test it before getting started on the job. Make sure the rotor rotates the proper direction, as illustrated on the machine. If it starts spinning backward, reverse the hydraulic couplers on the power unit. Furthermore, ensure the skids are adjusted to the desired height.

Proper Operation

Even after routine service has been completed and the mulching head has been tested, don’t stop thinking about maintenance. When running the machine, keep in mind proper operating procedures to reduce the risk of maintenance issues down the road. For instance, do not mow areas that are littered with debris such as bottles, metal objects, rocks and wire, which can prematurely wear the cutting teeth or even damage the machine. Additionally, do not operate the mulching head above the rated rpm to avoid damage or safety concerns.

Finally, as always, keep safety in mind when operating mulching heads. Keep all body parts away from the machine when the power unit is on, and do not allow any people or animals within 300 ft of the work area. Additionally, be careful when lifting or tilting the mulching head, which increases the risk of flying debris. In the end, it doesn’t take a gear head to maintain a mulching head. It just takes discipline to keep the machine clean, the components greased and the blades sharpened. Ultimately, all the time spent on routine maintenance will likely be gained back through increased performance and reduced downtime.