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Experts’ Tips: Skid-steer reliability

December 16, 2019 -  By
Skid-steer (Photo: New Holland Construction)

MAINTAIN Consistent upkeep helps keep skid-steers productive. (Photo: New Holland Construction)

Maximizing skid-steer loader productivity largely comes down to selecting the right type of machine for the application. Good preventive maintenance that helps minimize downtime is also key. In both regards, tires and tracks deserve a lot of attention.

Diaz Group in Chicago has a fleet of 50 leased skid-steers with another 15 on the way. While the majority are used for snow removal, 10 are allocated to landscaping.

“We prefer tires because we mostly work on pavement,” says Rafael Diaz, co-founder and president. “Our equipment manager inspects the tires and checks pressure every morning before a machine heads out.”

“In the winter, we park our skid-steers at the properties we service,” adds Ruben Diaz Jr., co-founder and vice president of business development. “The operator is trained to check tire pressure before starting the machine up.”

The LaurelRock Co. in Wilton, Conn., chooses to operate track machines because they are used exclusively for landscaping, and tracks generally perform better on delicate surfaces. “We prefer a track with a slightly less-aggressive tread,” says Mike Palmer, design/build construction manager.

At LaurelRock, standard operating procedure is to power-wash a loader after each day’s use. Equipment operators are also responsible for greasing lube points and checking for dirt buildup on a daily basis. Finally, operators are trained to inspect for rocks and other debris that might become lodged in the track system.

Four experts from skid-steer manufacturers offer some additional advice on how to get the best performance and longest life out of loader tires and tracks.

Case Construction Equipment

George Mac Intyre (Photo: Case Construction Equipment)

George Mac Intyre

George Mac Intyre
Product manager

We know that Y-turns aren’t cool and take longer to execute, but they provide considerably less wear to rubber tracks and tires than counterrotation does. Y-turns also tear up the ground less, which saves cleanup time when working on finished lawns. Properly inflated tires ensure proper and efficient operation of the machine and also prevent potential damage to the rims and tires caused by underinflation. Similarly, maintaining proper track tension is important to ensure the tracks stay on and operate as intended. Cleaning out abrasive materials at the end of the day and checking tracks/undercarriage/rims for excessive wear also helps extend track life. Abrasive materials wear on components, so checking daily allows you to catch possible weaknesses before they result in downtime.


Kevin Coleman, Caterpillar

Kevin Coleman

Kevin Coleman
Senior project engineer for skid-steer loaders

Maintaining proper track tension will increase the life of not only the track, but also other undercarriage components such as bearings, seals, idlers wheels and midwheels. Running a track too loose can result in reduced track life, while running a track too tight can put additional stress on the track and other components in the undercarriage system. Operating technique is another component of maximizing track life. For example, making a quick change in travel direction by counterrotating can ingest material into the undercarriage and may cause unnecessary wear on the tracks and undercarriage components. Three-point turns are a good way of turning, when practical. Also, try not to spin the tracks when digging. This causes accelerated wear and can lead to cuts in the track.

JCB North America

Ashby Graham

Ashby Graham

Ashby Graham
General manager for product marketing

It’s important to match machine to application. A tracked machine used mostly on concrete with lots of spin turns will cause premature wear. Alternatively, a wheeled machine used for debris-clearing jobs is more likely to get stuck, and its tires are susceptible to cuts and punctures. It’s also important to match tires or tracks to the application. A solid tire will last longer than a pneumatic tire on a site with numerous puncture hazards. How you operate the machine also will affect tire and track life. Spin turns will cause wear faster than three-point turns for tracked machines, and repeated spin turns to the same side may lead to uneven wear over time, especially on wheeled machines. Finally, proper track tension should always be maintained.

New Holland Construction

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson
Skid-steer loader and compact track loader product marketing specialist

Tracks are the most expensive wear item on a compact track loader. As part of daily maintenance, operators should check their condition. Keeping them free of caked-on mud and rocks will aid in the daily inspection. Also keep an eye on track tension. One of the quickest ways to untrack or damage a track is through poor tension. Operators can also influence tread life by maintaining stability and traction. Skid-steers are made to skid, but overly aggressive steering can cause tires and tracks to wear faster. Use sweeping turns when possible. Operators should try to keep all of the machine’s tread on the ground to achieve the most effective traction. If uneven tire wear is ever seen, rotating tires will lengthen their lifespan.

LM Staff

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