What is a Skid Steer, and What Jobs Are They Appropriate For?

What is a Skid Steer 

Skid Steers, otherwise known as skid loaders or bobcats, are extremely versatile pieces of machinery with a wide range of options. A variety of attachments provide utility for an assortment of applications. Tracked models can ensure maximum usability even in muddy, or otherwise unfavorable terrain, while wheeled models provide superior speed and precision. Knowing your workplace conditions and job demands are important for choosing the right skid steer, and attachments.  

A New Holland 227 Skid Steer with tracks

Choose between tracked or wheeled driving skids depending on your ground conditions. Muddy, sloppy conditions favor tracked skid loaders as the extra surface area helps them to “float” over the muck, and prevent bogging down. Additionally, in wet, soft, grassy areas where minimizing impact to the surface being driven on is important tracked skid steers drastically reduce the ground pressure of the skid by increasing the amount of surface in contact with the ground. In better conditions, wheeled skids offer slightly more precise control over the skid. Also, they typically are faster, allowing for more productivity and better results. Skids steers turn by, as their name suggests, skidding the left- or right-side tracks or wheels while the opposite side continues its motion. This method of turning, as opposed to turnable wheels like a car, give skid loaders a zero or even negative turning radius, perfect for tight spaces. 

Skid Steer Rental
A New Holland L220 Wheeled Skid Steer

What Can Skid Steers Do 

Skid Steer’s versatility allow them to perform a wide variety of jobs. Some of the more common uses with just a bucket include hauling mulch, dirt, gravel, and other loose bulk items. They are also capable of grading, medium-duty landscape work, and some farm work. A very common use for skid steers is snow removal, as their buckets make them ideal for both pushing and lifting snow.  

A wide variety of attachments can also be used for specific job. Augers make drilling post holes for fences or signs a breeze. Trenchers make digging trenches for piping, drainage, and other projects quick and easy. Stump grinder attachments will allow you to clear out areas full of cut trees to make the space usable. Harley rakes, or power box rakes, are great for prepping ground for seeding, and levelling off difficult ground. Fork attachments allow you to use skids to move pallets, creating a unique cross between industrial use, and all terrain usability, perfect for loading, unloading, and moving pallets at an undeveloped job site.  

A skid steer equipped with an auger attachment

When Not to Use a Skid Steer 

While skid steers are often a great way to get a job done, there can be scenarios where they are not the best choice. One such example is for heavy duty jobs. Skid steers are great all-around medium-duty pieces of equipment, but there can be jobs that are just too big for them. For example, prying up concrete slabs at a demolition site will almost for sure overload the hydraulic and structural capacity of a skid loader. Skid steers typically do not have the capacity to lift or break concrete slabs. That being said, hauling away broken up concrete slabs is a perfect use for skid loader. 

While a skid steer can do many jobs, if you only need it to do one there are sometimes more specialized pieces of equipment. For example, if you only need to dig a trench and don’t need to haul away the dirt, specialized trenchers exist that are often lighter and cheaper, while still getting the job done in a similar fashion. Similar equipment exists for stump grinders. Overall however, neither of these pieces of equipment have the versatility of the skid steer.  

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