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Recent News


Recent News

Tips to Turn Your Summertime Skid Steer Into a Winter Warrior

There has been a trend in recent years toward more frequent utilization of skid-steer loaders, wheel loaders and other off-road equipment to plow snow. With a skid steer specifically, its speed, agility and lifting/dumping ability make it very productive in certain applications. Furthermore, the skid steer's ability to match with attachments such as a box plow, broom or snowthrower makes it even more useful.

To really get the most out of your skid steer, there are some things you can do to prepare in advance of the snow season—and to safeguard against throughout the season.

Oils and fluids

According to Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist for Bobcat, if a skid steer doesn't have the proper engine oil, coolant, hydraulic oil and fuel for operating in colder weather, it will not perform up to par. For example, when the temperature turns colder, it's important to have an engine oil viscosity that matches the outside operating temperature.

"Lighter-viscosity engine/hydraulic oil is typically recommended during winter months," adds Warren Anderson, brand marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment. "It allows the oil to flow more quickly to the engine when it's cold-started. Specially formulated engine and hydraulic oils are also available for operation in the northernmost regions with extremely cold temperatures."

Aron Rodman of Extra Mile Landscaping in West Bend, WI, is a 13-year veteran of the snow removal business. He changes the oil in his skid steers both before and after the snow season. "We always use a synthetic oil, Mobil 1, for both engine and hydraulic oil," Rodman relates. "Not all of my skid steers are parked where they can be plugged in, so this oil is really good for starting and operating in cold temperatures." The Mobil 1 website says this oil will remain viscous all the way down to -35° F.

Of course, users should always consult the manufacturer's recommendations when selecting oils for winter operation. The same goes for coolants (anti-freeze). "Ensure that the coolant is at the proper level and that the mixture matches the manufacturer's specifications," Anderson says. "The coolant system should also be pressure-tested."

Lubricating grease is another thing to think about as you transition to winter snow removal. Fitzgerald says it's important to have a low-temperature grease for proper lubrication on pivot points. This helps keep moisture and dirt out, while also preventing rust, freezing and seizing. Inspect these grease points every day.

"Don't overlook the hydraulic oil filters," Fitzgerald adds. They may have collected water and debris over the summer months. Changing the hydraulic oil filter before winter will help minimize future maintenance problems when you can least afford them—when it's snowing!

Fuel issues

Condensation can become an issue when the temperature begins to plummet. To guard against this, Anderson says it's a good practice to top off the fuel tank at the end of each day.

Another good practice Rodman has adopted is adding a fuel treatment to all of his diesel fuel. "We have 100-gallon transfer tanks on all of our trucks," Rodman says. "We put the fuel treatment right in those tanks. It's very helpful in the cold, especially when the skid steer has been parked for a while and you aren't able to plug it in. Then you run the risk of having the fuel line and filter gel, especially when it's 10 or 20 below. That has happened and we had to bring in a torpedo heater to heat the skid steer up. Since we've begun using the fuel treatment, though, those problems have all but stopped."

Rodman uses a product called Diesel 9·1·1, which is designed to thaw frozen fuel filters, re-liquefy gelled fuel, remove water from the fuel system, and lubricate. Another popular fuel treatment available today is called K100 (see sidebar). It is available for both diesel and gasoline.

On the topic of fuel-related issues, Rodman says he's developed one more good habit. "We always keep an extra fuel filter in each truck, because you just never know when you're going to need it."

Tires

Fuel system components aren't the only things cold temperatures can wreak havoc on. Tires are susceptible too. "When temperatures drop, so does the air pressure in tires," Fitzgerald reminds. "Low tire pressure can translate into lower lift and push capabilities. Check your owner's manual for proper psi and inflate the tires accordingly."

Rodman has another secret with respect to skid steer tires. For snow removal applications, he likes to go narrower and taller. "I use a narrower, 7-inch tire because it has better ground pressure," he explains. In turn, the skid steer gets better traction. "When you get a good amount of wet, packy snow with some ice underneath, it can be hard to maintain traction. Plus, skid steers are not real good on slopes. These narrower tires have literally enabled us to continue working from time to time, especially on long, uphill driveways."

Rodman says tire height is also important. He likes a tire that's about 4 inches taller, which helps increase ground speed. The challenge here is that this type of tire, generally speaking, will only work with skid steers that do not have a wheel well, Rodman points out.

Finally, tread and rim construction are important considerations. Rodman has taken a liking to a company in Minnesota called Westside Tire, which specializes in niche and hard-to-find tires. "They sell something called the Snow Kit," Rodman tells. "The tire has a really heavy-duty rim that is nearly impossible to bend. It also has a semi-casing with retread on top that's fairly aggressive, and heavier sidewalls that can also take a lot of wear. The regular skid steer tires we use in our landscaping operation would get really worn down fast when we used them for snow removal."

Final precautions

Before the snow season starts, Rodman says he always inspects each of his skid steers to ensure that the headlights and strobe lights are working. On his older skid steers, Rodman also inspects the seals around the windows and ceiling of the cab. He'll re-caulk as needed using removable weatherstrip caulk.

A skid steer's battery is something you should also take a look at before the snow starts falling. Have a load test performed to ensure that the battery operates at full strength under load. "Also check the battery wires and connections for any wear or corrosion because such defects could result in the loss of amps," Fitzgerald adds.

Finally, it's not a bad idea to install a new windshield wiper blade and fill up the anti-freezing washer fluid. Also, go ahead and make sure the heat and defrosting systems work. Snow removal is hard enough—don't make it any harder by not being prepared.



What Snow Removal Equipment Should You Add to Your Pavement Maintenance Business?

We know. It’s the middle of the summer and we’re trying to talk to you about snow. Trust us though. When that white stuff starts falling, you’ll be glad we helped you prepare your business to withstand the change in the weather.

Without realizing it, many construction contractors already have some of the most expensive equipment needed for snow handling - skid steers, track loaders, pickup trucks, wheel loaders, etc. You have the equipment 12 months out of the year, why not use it?

Pavement maintenance contractors also have the commercial relationships already developed to easily become a snow partner with your summer maintenance customers.

"Some larger accounts, such as Home Owner Associations, typically only look for four-season providers," Michael Frank, Senior Product Manager at SnowEx says. "By adding snow and ice control, it may give a contractor access to a larger/better customer base…one that opens the door to more clients for the pavement maintenance side of the business too."

 

Plus, with a pavement professional completing snow maintenance, you can give your customers peace of mind that you’re going to do everything you can to protect that pavement. Someone is out there doing it, why shouldn't it be you?

But before you jump into adding snow handling as a way to keep business flowing during winter, put some time and consideration into what current pieces of equipment you will use and what additional support equipment you may need.

Here’s what manufacturers say are the essential items contractors should add to their snow removal fleet.

Keeping it Compact

Since you most likely have a skidsteer that’s just sitting around all winter, there are additional snow removal options to consider.

“Contractors use compact equipment because oftentimes a pick-up truck is too cumbersome and can’t fit into tight spaces,” says Bobcat Company Loader Product Specialist Mike Fitzgerald.

This is why putting snow removal is a great business to put your compant equipment to use year-round.

"You can use a standard skid loader bucket to move snow, but if you’re getting serious about snow removal you need to step up to dedicated snow attachments," John Dotto, brand marketing manager, CASE Construction Equipment says. "The type of attachments you choose should take into account a number of factors. The size and weight of your skid steer will dictate the size snow push or plow blade your machine can handle. Consider putting on some additional counterweight, if you haven’t already, to improve traction and pushing performance in heavy, wet snow."

Attachments most commonly used with skid-steer loaders are the snow blade, snow V-blade, angle broom, push broom, snowblower, scraper, snow pusher and buckets. For further versatility, many snow removal companies opt for a snow V-blade. It can be configured five different ways — as a straight blade, V-cut blade, scoop blade and 30-degree left- or right-angle blade.

Due to time constraints, crews can’t always clear jobsites before traffic drives over the freshly fallen snow. So for snow removal jobs that require removing hard-packed snow and ice, Fitzgerald suggests using a scraper attachment. It has a self-sharpening cutting edge that easily slides under stubborn snow and ice on pavement to produce a smooth surface.

A snowblower attachment proves ideal for blowing snow away from the area, into a pile or dump truck with a truck-loading chute.

"If you’re looking to use a snow blower to throw snow away from the site, you’ll need to consider hydraulic flow rates and make sure you’ve got the correct electrical auxiliary circuits to take full advantage of all of the blower’s functions," Dotto says. "Most snow attachments come in a wide variety of widths, from small sidewalk-sized V-Plows and snow blowers, to 10-foot plus wide pushes and blades. Understanding what your machines are capable of, and the space limitations of the area you are clearing should all be considered when selecting a snow attachment."

For lighter snowfalls, attach an angle broom, which is ideal for sweeping less than 6 inches of snow. In addition to clearing snow from parking lots, sidewalks and pathways in the winter, these attachments can be used for sweeping away dirt, leaves, gravel and other debris, which makes them valuable all year-round.

"One more thing to consider for your snow removal fleet is lighting," Dotto says. "Look for lighting package options that throw light all around the machine, and consider adding additional warning lights such as beacons or four corner strobes. If you’re clearing commercial parking lots, and there is pedestrian and vehicle traffic to contend with, you’re going to want to be as visible as possible."

It’s a Push

For a pavement maintenance contractor just entering the snow business, a snow-pusher attachment may be an ideal solution. Compatible with smaller-sized skid steers, tractors and wheel loaders weighing up to 5,000 pounds, snow-pushers are ideal for clearing small parking lots, sidewalks and larger driveways. The pushers can also help reduce fuel and salt usage by increasing pushing efficiency and eliminating follow-up plowing.

“Skid steers, backhoes and wheeloaders are attractive for pushers in a big box parking lot because they move a ton of snow and they move it all to one spot instead of windrowing it,” says Doug Clark, product manager with Western Plows. “Pushers require a prime mover with a lot of torque and traction to move this weight.”

This is why it’s important to pick a pusher with the proper size and weight for the skid steer or loader as well as for the application. Bigger pushers aren’t always better.

For example, a skid steer equipped with a 10-foot pusher ideally clears narrow parking aisles and handicapped parking spaces during the day with traffic present — a common occurrence when people scramble for supplies to ride out the storm. A 19-foot loader-mounted pusher works more efficiently on large lots with wider clearing areas.

Contractors use a formula based on acres and pushing capacity to determine productivity ahead of time. This creates a strategy for operator schedules and determines priority when it comes to clearing properties according to size.

For example, if there is 3-in. of snow on the lot a 10-ft. containment plow with a pushing capacity of 13 yards will take roughly 30 minutes to clear anywhere from two to three acres. A contractor using a 16-ft. model with a 28-yd. capacity can estimate the same job in the same weather conditions to take about half the time. This formula changes depending on snow conditions and characteristics, such as wet snow, which takes longer to clean, but it gives a rough timeframe with which to work and helps determine the amount of pushers and machines needed.

Pick-Ups & Plows

However, the problem with a compact piece of equipment is that it’s not as easy to transport quickly from job to job since each location requires moving the equipment on a trailer. This is why some contractors prefer to use a pick-up truck with a snow plow for snow removal as it’s much more versatile.

"Assuming a contractor already owns a medium duty truck, they simply need to buy a snow plow package," says Mark Klossner, Vice President of Marketing at BOSS Snowplow. "The mount system can be mounted to the frame of their existing trucks and easily removed when not in use."

As a pavement maintenance contractor however, it’s your job to choose a plow for your pick-up that’s going to be kind to the pavement underneath the snow.

“Snow plows traditionally come with steel cutting edges that are known to leave streaks and divots in the pavement,” Clark says. “Snow plow manufacturers make a number of different products that are more surface friendly like a poly or rubber-cutting edge on the plow. These will not damage the underlying surface.”

The size of the plow and equipment you use will vary depending on the size of the area you are plowing. If you’re installing a plow on a pickup truck, plow recommendations are based on the Front Gross Axle Weight Rating (FGAWR) of your vehicle – which is the maximum allowable weight that can be placed on the front axle. The snow plow you use on your vehicle should comply with the FGAWR recommendations.

Straight blades and v-plows (v-blades) will both get the job done, but v-plows have the ability to angle and direct snow. Straight blades are still the biggest seller and often can be more affordable than v-plows, but v-blades can be a better option for handling frozen snow.

Depending upon your pavement’s configuration, you may also consider the versatility and convenience afforded with a snow V-blade, which some manufacturers have built for multi-directional use as a straight blade, V-cut blade, scoop blade and a left- or right-angle blade.

“For every v-plow you add, make sure you have at least three to four straight blades,” Clark says.

Ice Control

Taking snow removal one step further, many contractors add a salt spreader to their business.

"Not only will spreading salt provide a more all-encompassing service to your customer, but you’ll also increase your workload," Frank says. "Whereas pushing snow relies on snow falling in the first place, controlling ice is a winter-long battle, regardless of how much snow flies. Every company is faced with the concern of liability if someone gets injured on their property.

"If you just look at CDC statistics identifying roughly 800,000 people are hospitalized each year due to a slip-and-fall injury, and that the overall medical costs for these injuries hits about $34 billion each year, it makes sense for business owners to take precautions to not only prevent injuries, but to also make it clear that they went through the proper procedures to try and alleviate a hazard. Because of these common business concerns, by having the ability to spread salt and sand on a property, in addition to clearing snow, that’s a major leg up over a contractor just offering snow control."

A salt spreader attachment can be mounted in a UTV's cargo box or in the form of a pick-up tailgate spreader or a hopper. This can be used to spread salt and sand on sidewalks and pathways, making it ideal for more snow removal tasks for buildings and grounds applications.

BOSS recently launched a new product called the QuickCube system for skid-steers that helps contractors overcome many of the obstacles to growth and profitability in the ice removal business.

"The system utilizes poly totes that hold about 1,000 lbs of salt and are weather proof," Klossner says. "The totes can be pre-filled with salt and staged at a customer’s location along with a skid steer. When the winter weather hits, the operator simply travels to the job site and operates the skid steer to spread the salt. In addition, the contractor can purchase a box plow for the same skid-steer, which can be quickly attached to the skid steer for plowing and then quickly switched back to the QuickCube system for salting."

If you're spreading salt with a pick-up, efficiency is key.

“If you’re starting out with one to two lots, a tailgate spreader is great,” Clark says. “Once you have four to five lots, you should look in to a salt hopper. Tailgate spreaders do not handle bulk salt, you’re emptying each bag into the spreader. With a hopper, you can get more done faster.

“When it comes to snow removal, you want to look for anything that’s going to increase your efficiency,” Clark says. “If you can do anything to improve how fast you’re moving snow, like putting down more salt or adding a wide-out plow, it will result in faster plowing. This means you can attack other contracts more quickly, bringing down your marginal costs and allowing you to be more profitable.”

Pre-Wetting as an Investment

Another growing trend in snow and ice control is the use of brine.

"If you’re currently spreading salt to counter ice, the first logical step to incorporating brine would be to add a pre-wet system to your spreader," Frank says. "This introduces liquid brine to the granular material being spread to accelerate the ice-melting process and to help keep the material from bouncing off the pavement being treated.

 

"Beyond pre-wetting systems, there are dedicated brine sprayers that are designed to mount in the beds of everything from UTVs to large flat-bed trucks. Though brine can be sprayed to treat ice after it has formed, one of the most popular uses for this equipment is to spray a brine solution in advance of a snow event – otherwise known as “anti-icing.” When the liquid evaporates, what’s left is a fine film of salt on the pavement surface. As snow falls, it is unable to form an ice bond to the pavement, which makes plowing snow after a storm much easier. Furthermore, this practice uses about a quarter of the salt as spreading granular material on top of ice, meaning you’re able to clear snow down to the pavement more effectively with lower effort and investment." 

If you have any questions about getting in to the snow removal business, there are many avenues to help you. 

"A new snow and ice contractor join an association like the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) at the beginning," Klossnew says. "SIMA’s library of resources, training and tradeshows will help a new snow and ice contractor quickly gain the skill sets needed to be successful in the industry."



Grade School: Skid Steer Blades, Box Scrapers and Rakes Tackle Soil Preparation

Contractors use many tools and attachments for grading, leveling and removing debris from a site. Each one offers its own unique features and benefits to specific applications, not to mention pricing. A few such attachments for site preparation, restoration, leveling and more include the skid steer grader blade, skid steer box scraper and powered landscape rake.

Grader Blade

Skid steer grader blades are the ideal tool for the contractor looking to control the finished grade to within 1/4 of an inch. These units may be operated with or without a laser system depending on the accuracy required. Generally speaking, most models have similar features and specifications. Skid steer grader blades feature a steel moldboard located beneath the frame and gauge wheels in the front to assist with its operation. The blade is adjustable through hydraulic cylinders that allow the operator to control the height, tilt and angle of the blade while it is in operation. Some grader blades are equipped with a laser system allowing the operator very precise control over the grading operation.

The moldboard is designed to create a flat level surface, and most times the skid steer grader is operated as a means of finishing the grade that was started by other site prep tools. Some contractors use the grader blade as a tool to create better drainage next to farm lanes or access roads by allowing the blade to create shallow ditches to control water drainage.

A skid steer grader blade is operated, either manually or with a laser, by lowering it to the height at which the grade is to be set. It then pushes any higher material as the unit moves forward. During this forward movement the grader smooths down or moves any excess material to the side of the moldboard. By angling the moldboard, excess material moves away from the blade, leaving a small ridge of material, which will be leveled with the next pass. When laser control is used, the laser system controls the movement of the moldboard through the cylinders by continually making the smallest of adjustments to maintain the grade.

Box Scraper

Another tool that assists contractors in controlling the finished grade is a skid steer box scraper or grading box. These units may also be operated with or without a laser, and some brands also can interface with a GPS unit. They are designed to control the depth of the material being moved and are generally a ridged angle mount. The grader box is mounted under the unit’s frame with gauge wheels in the front, providing stability and balance. When operating the unit in manual or laser/GPS mode, the cutting edge is lowered to the grade height and the unit is driven forward with the box, gathering material that is being spread or removed from the area. The material is pushed forward and smoothed with any excess material deposited at the edge of the worksite.

When using a laser system to control the depth, the grading box hydraulics are controlled to maintain the position of the cutting edge. When driving the unit forward, the automatic control system (laser) constantly senses the laser beam and uses that information to keep the cutting edge at the required height.

A skid steer powered landscape rake (also known as a power box rake) is a versatile tool allowing the operator to grade, level, rake and remove debris to prepare the seedbed.

Powered Landscape Rake

When doing a landscape project, one of the first tasks is to create manageable dirt. A skid steer powered landscape rake (also known as a power box rake) is a versatile tool allowing the operator to grade, level, rake and remove debris to prepare the seedbed.

Skid steer models range from 5 to 8 ft in width and are equipped with a roller (rotor) that is hydraulically driven. The rotor is equipped with teeth generally of carbide (some use a composite material) which are welded in a pattern to loosen or work the soil, providing the release of the optimal amount of moisture from the soil, preparing it for seed or sod. The power rake is equipped with a material bar which can be adjusted by the operator to determine the amount of material that is allowed to flow over the rotor and remain in the seedbed. Controlling the size of material allowed to flow over the rotor determines the size of rocks, roots or debris that are removed. They also have end plates that when installed can gather the material that is moved by the power rake to the end or edge of the work area for removal.

When pulverizing topsoil, such as compacted soil or hardened baseball diamonds, the power rake is positioned to take the gauge wheels off the ground so only the toothed roller is contacting the ground. In this manner, it performs in a tilling fashion to loosen the soil. Once the surface has been loosed, the process of removing debris can start. Generally when removing debris, the material bar is set close to the toothed roller to reduce the amount of rock and debris that is allowed to move over the roller. The gauge wheels are used to set the operating depth of the toothed rotor. With the side shields installed as the unit moves forward, the debris is collected and moved to the end of the work area for pickup. The power rake can set at an angle to windrow the debris or straight to move the debris to the end of the work area.

Powered landscape rakes can also be used to spread fill or topsoil prior to finish grading. During the finishing process, the roller is set so the teeth are barely touching the surface, and as the unit moves it creates dimples in the surface, creating small water pockets to help with seed growth.



How To Choose The Right Skid Steer Grapple Attachment

If you’re buying a skid steer grapple, make sure to consider these ideas before and after purchase.

A skid steer grapple attachment is an excellent way to carry awkward materials with precision and efficiency. Oddly shaped items (like rocks, logs or piles of concrete), can be moved more easily and efficiently with a grapple. Bucket attachments can be used to carry objects, but they won’t perform as well as a grapple.

GRAPPLE VERSATILITY

These unique skid steer attachments have various uses. They are used for landscaping, farming, construction, logging, road construction and recycling applications. A skid steer grapple can be used to work with almost any type of material.

What makes it special is the lower part of the attachment can easily scoop up loose debris like dirt or sand and is perfect for cleanup operations. In addition, the large tines along the upper jaw can easily grip many different types of large objects such as railroad ties and large rocks.

A BUCKET IS NO SUBSTITUTE

When a loader is equipped with a standard bucket and is used to pick up or move logs and brush, there will be problems. The tipping of uneven loads, loose objects (like rocks) falling out of the bucket in addition to unwanted topsoil removal will be a pain to deal with.

Anyone who has used a bucket for a job it wasn’t suited for can relate to these difficulties. Jobs a skid steer grapple could have accomplished in half the time. A grapple attachment will improve material control and decrease time on the job site, thus lowering cost.

PICKING THE RIGHT GRAPPLE

Plenty of thought should go into choosing a skid steer grapple attachment suitable for your needs. Many people are only interested in price. Price is an important factor, but there are many other things that need to be considered beforehand.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the price includes cylinders, fittings, hoses and couplers. Some manufacturers don’t include these in the price and you will end up forking out more money than you originally thought.

Since there are hundreds of attachment manufacturers and thousands of different grapple models to choose, making a choice can be difficult. To help with this buying process, consider these ideas before and after purchase.

1. DETERMINING SPECIFIC NEEDS

Answer these questions:
What is your application? What do you plan on doing with it? Will your grapple be used for removing brush, trees, logs, manure, asphalt, concrete, scrap, recycling or other materials?

There are many different grapples designed for different applications. The attachment suited for your application should always be considered before purchase.

People working in scrapyards will need a different grapple than people working in forests. Remember that the functions, efficiency and capacity are greatly affected by the design of the grapple.

 

 

2. GRAPPLE CONSTRUCTION

Grapples are exposed to a lot of stress so they must be built strong in order to last a long time. Most skid steer attachment manufacturers will say they have the “best quality”, making it difficult to determine who actually makes high quality products.

Words of advice: buy an attachment based on the quality of materials that are in it and how it is constructed … not by the brand. Every attachment manufacturer or dealer should be able to tell you exactly what is in every attachment they sell.

Here are some specific things to look for to help determine grapple quality.

Tine Yield Strength – Yield strength measures the stress steel can withstand before it remains permanently deformed. A minimum yield strength of 50,000 PSI should be considered. Anything less and the grapple tines may bend or break in high stress areas. The higher the yield strength the better.

 

Tine diameter is not everything. Look at the yield strength rating before looking at diameter. A larger diameter sounds good but it is not the whole story.

For example, a 2” thick 1018 Cold Finished round stock (55,000 PSI) will not be as strong as a 2” thick 1045 Cold Finished round stock (80,000 PSI).

Reinforcement and Steel Type – Look for extra reinforcement inside the bucket on solid bottom grapples and gussets at tine tips for skeleton style.

If the tines are designed without gussets look for thicker steel and an inverted “T” shape tine on skeleton style. For round shaft style tines refer to the PSI rating and the diameter.

Laser Cut Steel – Laser technology offers superior cutting abilities compared to plasma. More specifically, laser cutting offers tighter tolerances, which leads to better quality. Overall, laser cut parts are more consistent and precise, ensuring snug joints and smoother moving parts.

Cylinder Pins, Cylinder Rods and Wear Parts – Even though these parts make up a small part of the machine they are extremely important. Look for parts that can easily be replaced and are easy to grease. These are wear parts and over time they will need serviced and replaced, so it only makes sense to make sure they are easy to get to. 

3. OPEN “SKELETON” VS. SOLID BOTTOM BUCKET

OPEN BOTTOM

An open “skeleton” bottom allows for smaller unwanted material to fall through between the tines. Brush grapples and rock grapples will have an open bottom that will sift the dirt and unwanted debris out.

Also, many skeleton grapples will have a cross member (or front comb) at the tine tips. A cross member is a piece of metal that spans across the bottom tines of a skeleton bucket to increase overall strength.

 

Grapples without cross members at the tine tips will allow material to be penetrated more easily than grapples with cross members at the tine tips. As mentioned above, the grapple tines on a grapple with no cross member should be made of a thicker, higher grade of steel since there is less structural support.

SOLID BOTTOM

A solid bottom grapple will capture material for complete removal. With a solid bottom grapple there are no spaces for debris to fall through. That’s what makes these types of attachments a great choice for recycling and scrap yard applications.

4. SELECTING A SUITABLE SIZE

Work will be completed quicker when the required load is adequately carried by the size of grapple you select. Something large enough should be chosen so the trips needed for transporting things would be optimized.

Choose a grapple too small and you will have to make more trips, which results in higher operating costs. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. The grapple should be big enough for what you need to do but not too big that the machine can’t effectively use the attachment (see #5 below).

5. APPROPRIATE FOR THE MACHINE

It is important to fit the grapple to the machine so it’s not underutilized or overloaded. In order to find a suitable fit you have to know the loader capacity. Some grapples will be too big or too small for your skid steer.

 

6. DEPENDABLE DEALER AND MANUFACTURER SUPPORT

Do I know a dependable dealer for the grapple I’m interested in?
Choosing the right dealer can be as crucial as selecting the right attachment. Something on the grapple will eventually wear out or need replacing. Even if you fix attachments yourself, you are not going be capable of manufacturing the parts that need to be replaced.

It’s important to have a dealer and manufacturer who is experienced and can quickly provide the parts and answers to your questions.

GRAPPLES MAKE WORK EASIER

From raking and clearing brush to landscaping and site cleanup, many tasks can be simplified with a skid steer grapple attachment. Finding a proper skid steer grapple should not be stressful. If the above ideas are kept in mind, you can find a highly efficient, durable and safe grapple for your operations.



Snow Blower vs. Snow Plow

Snow blower or skid steer snow plows...what should you use? It is a question often asked by skid steer loader owners before every winter season. The answer depends on the kind of work the operator wants to do, and what his customers want him to do with the snow. Can the snow be piled up or does it need to be spread around? Will the skid steer snow blower suit their needs, or will the snow plow?

Anyone who grew up in in the northern part of the US remembers the giant mountains of snow in the grocery store and mall parking lots when they were kids. Sometimes these mountains seemed almost as tall as the store itself. A lot of kids climbed the giant snow piles, playing king of the mountain, and heaving snow balls at each other. Some of these piles were so big, they would last well into May.

Two problems, from an adult's point of view, is that 1) these piles take up valuable parking spaces, which if a retail store already has limited space, it can be made even worse if the piles are larger than normal; and, 2) if the snow melts, the water can refreeze creating dangerously icy conditions for people walking in the area. This is especially a problem in smaller parking lots , like at an office building or school. Even today, regular plow operators do not have much choice. They need a place to pile the snow.

Skid loader owners do have a choice. They can attach a traditional snow plow to their skid steer loader, or they can use a skid steer snow blower. A skid steer snow blower is a much larger version of the walk-behind type. A skid steer snow blower can blow the snow into grassy areas, far from the parking lot. This keeps most of the snow off the parking lot, which saves parking spaces. It also means the water drains away from melting snow, and keeps it off the lots, so it will not freeze over.

Snow removal can be a good source of income for skid steer loader owners. The powerful skid loader and skid steer snow blower or snow plow is a better tool for the job than a pickup truck and plow. But should you buy a skid steer snow blower or plow?

Despite the piles, the snow plow is still a useful skid steer loader attachment. If it were not a useful snow removal tool, it would not be so widely used. A snow plow can push a tremendous amount of snow off a surface in a short amount of time. It is good for snow removal on streets and in neighborhoods.

But the skid steer snow blower can go where no snow plow can. Nearly every neighborhood, street, and parking lot bears the marks of winter, a series of plow cars — deep cuts in the asphalt or lawn, caused by the sharp edge of the plow blade. To be fair, snow plow pros have a difficult job, avoiding curbs, lawns, and other obstacles when they are all covered up with the white stuff, but a skid steer snow blower can avoid most of that.

A skid steer snowblower can be driven right up onto sidewalks and pathways. It can be driven into tight spaces and driveways without damaging the underlying surface. And, thanks to the adjustable snow chute, the snow is removed, blown, and evenly distributed where you aim the skid steer snow blower chute. This means you can blow snow farther away from the parking lot and avoid making the space-wasting piles.

Skid steer snow plows are great high-volume snow removers. But when it comes to precise removal, a high quality skid steer snow blower is ideal. Still, there is something nostalgic about the snow piles.



Boring Work: Learn to Pair an Auger Attachment to Your Prime Mover

Boring Work: Learn to Pair an Auger Attachment to Your Prime Mover

It’s no surprise that the earth auger is one of the most popular and widely used attachments by construction professionals all over the world. Auger attachments consistently rank in the top five most purchased and rented attachments in the construction industry. Augers are typically one of the first attachments needed on the jobsite and are used in a wide variety of ways. Need to install two miles worth of new fencing to enclose livestock? Get the auger attachment. Planting 100 new evergreen trees to create a natural windbreak? Get the auger attachment. Need footings to support the new playground equipment at the city park? Get the auger attachment. You get the idea. The auger attachment is a proven popular choice, and it has been adapted to outfit almost every type of prime mover imaginable.

Although the auger is not a complicated attachment, it does require a level of understanding to ensure you’ve got the right tool for the job. We’ll explore some tips to ease the selection process, maximize productivity and ensure the highest level of return on investment possible.

Safety

First and foremost, be safe around your auger attachment. Ensure you know where, and more importantly what, you are drilling. Auger bits and underground utilities do not mix. Always have the jobsite marked for underground utilities and hazards. A quick call to the local utilities can be a life saver. Even though the site may be clear of underground utilities, be prepared for the occasional large rock or pesky tree roots. Both obstacles can be overcome, but they can also be harmful to your auger attachment if not handled correctly. Be patient and feed the auger bit into the ground a little at a time, and you will find that in most cases the obstacle can be conquered.

Another area to be aware of is the jobsite terrain. If you are drilling on uneven ground or on an incline, use outriggers to stabilize the prime mover. Last, but by no means least, are the safety guards. Safety guards are there for a reason. Don’t remove them! Entanglement in an auger can happen quickly if the operator is not paying attention. The auger doesn’t need any help from you to do its job. Stay clear when the auger is in operation, and let the auger do the work.

Terminology

Understanding the correct terminology can be half the battle when selecting an attachment. Generally, when a dealer or manufacturer refers to an “auger,” they are describing a complete attachment, which consists of: a prime mover mount, a drive head and an auger bit. For key words and possible alternative terms, please refer to the image on the below:

 

Hydraulic Compatibility

Pairing an auger attachment to your prime mover starts and ends with the hydraulics. Understanding your prime mover’s hydraulics is paramount to maximizing your auger attachment’s potential. Hydraulic pressure and flow are the life blood for any construction attachment, and the auger is no exception. When hooking up the hydraulic lines, do a quick test to verify that the auger rotates in the correct direction. The auger should rotate in the digging direction when the primary hydraulic position is activated on the prime mover. Also, it’s important to be aware of the need for a case drain line. A case drain may be required on larger auger attachments with higher torque output. Excessive hydraulic back pressure will result if a case drain is required and not properly installed. Taking a few minutes to guarantee that your prime mover has an adequate auxiliary hydraulic circuit will save you time, money and frustration in the long run.

Auger Bit Selection

Selecting the right auger bit is critical to getting the most from your auger attachment. The auger attachment is only as good as the auger bit being used. Understanding your ground conditions and what type of auger bit to use is highly important. The two most common types of auger bits are simply referred to as dirt and rock bits. Dirt bits are more widely used and are the more economical of the two. Dirt bits are used in easy to moderate soil conditions such as black dirt, compacted sand and some clay. Dirt bits can extend their range to compacted clays and frozen ground when outfitted with hard-faced or carbide tipped teeth.

Rock bits are made for just that, rock. They are used in difficult drilling conditions and are most productive when used in conjunction with auger drives that have higher torque outputs. Rock bits typically use rotating carbide tipped teeth and can be used to drill holes in asphalt and concrete that doesn’t contain rebar. When selecting an auger bit be sure to know your ground conditions. Don’t be surprised if you need to call an audible and upgrade your auger teeth or even upgrade from a dirt bit to a rock bit during the drilling process.

Maintenance

Following the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations is always a good idea. Proper maintenance will ensure the auger attachment is always operating safely and at peak performance. Both the auger drive and auger bit require periodic maintenance. The majority of auger drives on the market use a planetary gearbox which requires gear oil. Each manufacturer’s recommendation is different, but the gear oil should be changed on regular intervals. Changing the oil will ensure the proper oil level is being maintained and that the gears are properly lubricated.

Don’t forget the auger bit needs just as much attention as the auger drive. The auger bit teeth and pilot bit are ground engaging items and are designed to eventually wear out. It’s important to always check the condition of the wear parts and replace if worn or damaged. Running an auger bit with worn or damaged wear parts can cause added stress on the auger drive and the auger bit flighting. Most auger bits are designed to cut clearance, given the auger teeth are in good condition. A 12-in. diameter auger bit will actually drill a 13.5-in. diameter hole. This allows the auger to be removed from the hole easily without compromising the hole that was just drilled. If the teeth are not kept in prime condition, the clearance will be diminished and removing the auger will become difficult, causing excessive wear on the auger bit flighting.

Knowledge is power, and now that you have a little more knowledge of the auger attachment, it’s time to get to work! As a quick reminder, be sure to do the following prior to drilling: Properly survey your jobsite, verify the hydraulics on your prime mover are ready to support the auger drive and ensure the wear parts on the auger bit are in top drilling condition. Complete all of the above, and you will be punching holes in the ground in the most effective manner possible.



Auger Buckets Provide Cement Delivery For Your Skid Steers

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.



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.

Filters

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.



How To Choose The Right Skid Steer Grapple Attachment

If you’re buying a skid steer grapple, make sure to consider these ideas before and after purchase.

A skid steer grapple attachment is an excellent way to carry awkward materials with precision and efficiency. Oddly shaped items (like rocks, logs or piles of concrete), can be moved more easily and efficiently with a grapple. Bucket attachments can be used to carry objects, but they won’t perform as well as a grapple.

GRAPPLE VERSATILITY

These unique skid steer attachments have various uses. They are used for landscaping, farming, construction, logging, road construction and recycling applications. A skid steer grapple can be used to work with almost any type of material.

What makes it special is the lower part of the attachment can easily scoop up loose debris like dirt or sand and is perfect for cleanup operations. In addition, the large tines along the upper jaw can easily grip many different types of large objects such as railroad ties and large rocks.

A BUCKET IS NO SUBSTITUTE

When a loader is equipped with a standard bucket and is used to pick up or move logs and brush, there will be problems. The tipping of uneven loads, loose objects (like rocks) falling out of the bucket in addition to unwanted topsoil removal will be a pain to deal with.

Anyone who has used a bucket for a job it wasn’t suited for can relate to these difficulties. Jobs a skid steer grapple could have accomplished in half the time. A grapple attachment will improve material control and decrease time on the job site, thus lowering cost.

PICKING THE RIGHT GRAPPLE

Plenty of thought should go into choosing a skid steer grapple attachment suitable for your needs. Many people are only interested in price. Price is an important factor, but there are many other things that need to be considered beforehand.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the price includes cylinders, fittings, hoses and couplers. Some manufacturers don’t include these in the price and you will end up forking out more money than you originally thought.

Since there are hundreds of attachment manufacturers and thousands of different grapple models to choose, making a choice can be difficult. To help with this buying process, consider these ideas before and after purchase.

1. DETERMINING SPECIFIC NEEDS

Answer these questions:
What is your application? What do you plan on doing with it? Will your grapple be used for removing brush, trees, logs, manure, asphalt, concrete, scrap, recycling or other materials?

There are many different grapples designed for different applications. The attachment suited for your application should always be considered before purchase.

People working in scrapyards will need a different grapple than people working in forests. Remember that the functions, efficiency and capacity are greatly affected by the design of the grapple.

 

 

2. GRAPPLE CONSTRUCTION

Grapples are exposed to a lot of stress so they must be built strong in order to last a long time. Most skid steer attachment manufacturers will say they have the “best quality”, making it difficult to determine who actually makes high quality products.

Words of advice: buy an attachment based on the quality of materials that are in it and how it is constructed … not by the brand. Every attachment manufacturer or dealer should be able to tell you exactly what is in every attachment they sell.

Here are some specific things to look for to help determine grapple quality.

Tine Yield Strength – Yield strength measures the stress steel can withstand before it remains permanently deformed. A minimum yield strength of 50,000 PSI should be considered. Anything less and the grapple tines may bend or break in high stress areas. The higher the yield strength the better.

 

Tine diameter is not everything. Look at the yield strength rating before looking at diameter. A larger diameter sounds good but it is not the whole story.

For example, a 2” thick 1018 Cold Finished round stock (55,000 PSI) will not be as strong as a 2” thick 1045 Cold Finished round stock (80,000 PSI).

Reinforcement and Steel Type – Look for extra reinforcement inside the bucket on solid bottom grapples and gussets at tine tips for skeleton style.

If the tines are designed without gussets look for thicker steel and an inverted “T” shape tine on skeleton style. For round shaft style tines refer to the PSI rating and the diameter.

Laser Cut Steel – Laser technology offers superior cutting abilities compared to plasma. More specifically, laser cutting offers tighter tolerances, which leads to better quality. Overall, laser cut parts are more consistent and precise, ensuring snug joints and smoother moving parts.

Cylinder Pins, Cylinder Rods and Wear Parts – Even though these parts make up a small part of the machine they are extremely important. Look for parts that can easily be replaced and are easy to grease. These are wear parts and over time they will need serviced and replaced, so it only makes sense to make sure they are easy to get to. 

3. OPEN “SKELETON” VS. SOLID BOTTOM BUCKET

OPEN BOTTOM

An open “skeleton” bottom allows for smaller unwanted material to fall through between the tines. Brush grapples and rock grapples will have an open bottom that will sift the dirt and unwanted debris out.

Also, many skeleton grapples will have a cross member (or front comb) at the tine tips. A cross member is a piece of metal that spans across the bottom tines of a skeleton bucket to increase overall strength.

 

Grapples without cross members at the tine tips will allow material to be penetrated more easily than grapples with cross members at the tine tips. As mentioned above, the grapple tines on a grapple with no cross member should be made of a thicker, higher grade of steel since there is less structural support.

SOLID BOTTOM

A solid bottom grapple will capture material for complete removal. With a solid bottom grapple there are no spaces for debris to fall through. That’s what makes these types of attachments a great choice for recycling and scrap yard applications.

4. SELECTING A SUITABLE SIZE

Work will be completed quicker when the required load is adequately carried by the size of grapple you select. Something large enough should be chosen so the trips needed for transporting things would be optimized.

Choose a grapple too small and you will have to make more trips, which results in higher operating costs. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. The grapple should be big enough for what you need to do but not too big that the machine can’t effectively use the attachment (see #5 below).

5. APPROPRIATE FOR THE MACHINE

It is important to fit the grapple to the machine so it’s not underutilized or overloaded. In order to find a suitable fit you have to know the loader capacity. Some grapples will be too big or too small for your skid steer.

A Root Rake Grapple on a CAT® 262C (operating capacity of 2,700 pounds) would be a great combination.

If you don’t know your skid steer’s loader capacity go here to find out. If you cannot find it there, a basic Google search for the specs usually works. Feel free to contact us as well.

6. DEPENDABLE DEALER AND MANUFACTURER SUPPORT

Do I know a dependable dealer for the grapple I’m interested in?
Choosing the right dealer can be as crucial as selecting the right attachment. Something on the grapple will eventually wear out or need replacing. Even if you fix attachments yourself, you are not going be capable of manufacturing the parts that need to be replaced.

It’s important to have a dealer and manufacturer who is experienced and can quickly provide the parts and answers to your questions.

GRAPPLES MAKE WORK EASIER

From raking and clearing brush to landscaping and site cleanup, many tasks can be simplified with a skid steer grapple attachment. Finding a proper skid steer grapple should not be stressful. If the above ideas are kept in mind, you can find a highly efficient, durable and safe grapple for your operations.



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.

Pushers

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.

Blades

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.

Blowers

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.