Keep your skid-steer fleet in top working order with these tips

March 9, 2023 -  By
Checking wear items regularly is crucial to ensure a skid-steer operates properly. (Photo: Kioti)

Checking wear items regularly is crucial to ensure a skid-steer operates properly. (Photo: Kioti)

Scheduled maintenance not only maximizes a skid-steer’s performance but also reduces unplanned downtime, boosts resale value, reduces expenses and improves operator safety.

Create a checklist

Landscape professionals should reference the maintenance information in their machine’s operator’s manual and keep records to prevent issues down the line, says Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager of compact equipment at John Deere. The manual will help them create a checklist for what to inspect and also where to locate each touchpoint.

Before running a skid-steer, operators need to walk around the equipment to inspect for damage, debris, exposed wiring and the machine’s frame, as well as check in the cab, to ensure things like the controllers, seat belt and lights work properly, Gribble says.

What to inspect

Operators should check all oil and coolant levels, look for hydraulic leaks and lubricate all pivot points, says Gerald Corder, product manager of construction equipment at Kubota.

“With hydraulic, that system does not utilize a high system pressure like the boom, bucket and aux circuits,” Corder says. “Because the cylinder sees less pressure, any buildup of corrosion or wear that causes binding may keep the pins from properly locking and may cause safety issues.”

Check fuel/water separators at least weekly to minimize water in the fuel, and change filters at the suggested intervals, Corder adds. 

“For fuel filters, make sure that filters with a 5-micron or better rating are used to optimize the life of common rail fuel system components,” he says.

The biggest wear parts of a skid-steer loader are the tires, says Mike Fitzgerald, marketing manager with Bobcat. “Tires are also one of the major operating expenses for skid-steer loaders, so it’s critical to take good care of these assets,” Fitzgerald says. “Make sure to inspect tire pressure and keep it at the recommended PSI — not over or under.”

Other areas to monitor include inspecting the water separator, checking hoses for damage/wear and ensuring all safety equipment is present and working, says Jason Boerger, senior product line manager for Kioti.

Teams should keep an eye on pins and bushings to identify and address concerns, Boerger says. They also need to monitor ground-engaging components and accessories like buckets, teeth, cutting edges and attachments.

Don’t overlook

The most overlooked daily maintenance item for skid-steers is greasing, Boerger says. 

Gribble recommends keeping grease in a truck nearby to reduce downtime.

Cabin air filters should also be cleaned and replaced as necessary. “Often, when we hear that the HVAC is not working effectively, we can typically correct the issue right there by looking at the air filters,” Corder says.

On pilot-operated skid-steers, maintenance personnel often forget that the pilot control system has its own filter separate from the main hydraulic filter. 

“If neglected, this can cause a loss of control for the driver and front functions if the filter gets plugged,” Corder says.

Another area that’s not visible is the final drive chain case, which includes fluid that needs changing at regular intervals, Fitzgerald says. Some models use mechanical linkages to control machine movement and loader lift arm function and may require occasional lubrication to operate properly, he adds.

Contractors also should check alternator and AC compressor drive systems. 

“Inspecting the belts for cracking and wear, checking for grooving on pulleys and checking for rotational rough spots on idlers and tensioners will help keep those systems running,” Corder says.

Remember to note worn or damaged components and tackle those issues as soon as possible. 

“Being proactive about handling any concerns or even minor damage will go a long way to keeping the machine healthy and operating for years to come,” Boerger says

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