Whether you’re able to drive and work a skid steer yourself or need to hire someone to do that for you, skid steers can save you endless amounts of time and effort for major earth moving or general lifting jobs, if you’re tackling a larger DIY project. Skid steer and track loaders are available in a range of sizes and power possibilities as well as having attachments for other jobs such as mulching, flailing and sweeping.
Skid steers you can hire will range from things like mini-excavators that are only 36 inches wide to 10 foot wide or bigger. Being qualified to drive and use such plant machinery is important; after all you could do quite a bit of damage with even a mini excavator if you don’t know how to handle it.
Hiring Skid Steers
Of course that doesn’t mean you have to pay someone else to for it for you, as the better skid steer hire companies can also arrange for you to be trained in using any of the equipment they hire out.
Even if you are an experienced skid steer operator ask the rental company to take you through the controls of the machine you’re hiring out, if they can’t do that, then perhaps you should be renting from somewhere else.
Better still ask for a ‘test drive’ before agreeing to their terms. Finally, when hiring out a skid steer be sure to read the hire agreement carefully, regarding your liabilities in the event of the skid steer being faulty in its use or you damaging it.
Using the Skid Steer
As with any DIY/home enthusiast job – safety should always come first. No matter how tempting it might be to have the kids around watching you operate the skid steer, they’re better off out of the way. Also, in most states it will be illegal for anyone under 18 years of age to operate the machinery. Having taken delivery of the skid steer run through the recommended safety procedures and familiarize yourself with the controls before starting up the engine.
Whatever it is you’re doing, start off small. Whether it’s using a dozer blade to scrape a surface level, a bucket attachment to scoop up and move something or an auger for fence posts etc.; begin by trying to make the movement of the skid steer and its attachment as small and slow as possible. Get the feel for operating the skid steer – before you start trying to whizz around on it like you’ve been constructing highways for years!
Here we’ll quickly run through some of the more common skid steer attachments that are used:
Auger – available in chain and planetary drives they’ll bore a hole through earth and soft friable rock. They can drill vertically or at angles as required.
Back-Hoe – usually have a 180 degree swing and are used to excavate and scrape trenches or holes, as well as infilling existing ones. The bucket invariably has teeth ahead of a cutting blade to help prevent the blade from becoming clogged.
Bale spear – is rather like an eating fork, having prongs to lift bales of farmyard material, cloth and paper etc.
Breaker – a power hammer to break up rock or an existing road type of surface.
Brooms – can be regular brooms with simply a dust damping system or they can have a bucket to store the sweepings in whilst the machine is in operation.
Buckets – come in a variety of sizes and designs. Examples include short buckets designed to cut as much as collect material to high volume buckets and tooth edged ones for loosening compacted soil.
Dozer blades – used to scrape a surface level, moving the material to one side as it works.
Mulching heads – these will shred tree branches and stumps up to 12 inch diameter.
Photos by Buck, Creative Commons Attribution License