Equip Your Mini Tool Carrier

Attachments often make the machine.
Nowhere does that ring truer than with a compact utility loader. As one
of the smallest tool carriers on the equipment market, compact utility
loaders (also called mini skid steers and compact skid steers) are
designed to run 60 or 70 different implements — hydraulic attachments
like trenchers and augers and non-hydraulic implements such as buckets
and pallet forks.

The entire idea behind the compact utility loader is offering
versatility in a small package. With the right set of attachments, this
little tool carrier can replace a whole crew of manpower, working in
confined residential areas and other constrained, machine-demanding
jobsites. Contractors can drop all of those “one-job-only” work tools
(such as dedicated augers, trenchers and wheelbarrows) and start using
one machine for a multitude of tasks.

In order to properly outfit your mini tool carrier correctly, you will
need to find and select the right collection of attachments. Without
the right tools, a compact utility loader is just a slow way to get to
work. Attachment size, hydraulic output, lifting capacity, added
features and of course cost will all play in the purchasing formula. To
help, CE gathered some of the most popular options for attachments in
the compact utility loader industry.

Augers

An auger can be a landscaper’s or fence installer’s best friend. You
can take the backbreaking work out of planting trees, boring postholes
and digging by hand in hard-packed soils. Compact utility loader auger
attachments come in two configurations — direct hydraulic drive and
planetary auger drive. Customers should choose the best drive for the
soil conditions. If you’re digging in hard clay or rock, a planetary
drive with a lower speed and higher torque should work best. A direct
hydraulic drive is often used in most other soil types at less of a
purchase price.

“Planetaries are preferred by the customer,” says Mike Lumbers, senior
product manager with Ditch Witch. “Auger sizes go all the way up to 30
or 36 inches. That’s the diameter. For the depth, you can actually get
extensions. Without extensions, I think you can go up to about 4 feet
in depth. Those are mainly used for planting trees — where you can make
a quick hole, drop it in and not have to do a lot of digging.”

Most auger diameters of flighting range from 4 to 36 in. at a 4 ft
depth. Extensions can be added to go deeper if the job requires. Some
augers are sold with a universal swivel, which allows operators to
auger on a hillside, getting a level hole while working on an incline.
Further versatility is provided through customizing the auger with
replaceable dirt or tungsten teeth to suit your ground conditions or
specialized bits such as rock bits or a soil spade. Price: $1,500-$4,000, depending on drive and diameters.

Buckets

Dozing, grappling,
leveling, digging, loading and dumping — buckets have many
applications. Take the typical construction or industrial bucket for
instance. It’s the strongest bucket for compact utility loaders, good
for everything from material handling to excellent bucket breakout
force. It’s heavy-duty and more expensive. Designed for less strenuous
applications, the light material bucket moves large capacities of
mulch, snow and other light materials. These are large capacity buckets
for loading and handling light products. They also have high backs to
help push snow and penetrate mulch piles.

Other bucket options include the 4-in-1 bucket and extended dump and
rock buckets. The 4-in-1 bucket replaces the wheelbarrow, leveler and
much of the hand labor that can cause injuries around the
jobsite. Pulling stumps, spreading topsoil, raking and lifting railroad
ties or rocks is made easy with this attachment.

It’s excellent for landscaping or even construction as the opening
bucket jaw often provides an extra 18-in. dump height. For all of these
applications, the 4-in-1 bucket pays for itself at a nice price
(usually around $2,000).

Before purchasing a bucket of any sort, be sure to double-check the
operating capacity and tipping load specifications on your compact
utility loader. Carrying too much in a small loader can hurt your
bucket and your machine. Price: Buckets vary from
$200-$3,500, depending on the gauge of steel used, extra hydraulics
required and bucket-edge style (teeth, rippers, smooth, rock, etc.).

Carryall Leveler

Owning a compact utility loader is all about added flexibility.
Sometimes even the attachments have dual usage — like the carryall
leveler. As the name suggests, the carryall leveler attachment can
either assist in leveling landscape surfaces or in carrying work tools
and other items.

“Some people use it as a carryall, if they’re bringing or carrying
stuff back and forth to their jobsites from their trucks,” says Greg
Lawrence, product manager for Toro’s Dingo line of compact utility
loaders. “And you can also use it for leveling. If you’re filling a
trench, you can use it to level an area for grading.”

For a cheap price, professionals can pick up this dual-use,
non-hydraulic attachment and carry fertilizer, nursery plants, garden
bed borders, pallets of flowers and other landscape or general
construction tools and supplies.

This simple, L-shaped attachment with bars (usually made of heavy-duty
steel construction) is also ideal for preparing and leveling topsoil
for turf or paving. The carryall leveler’s low cost and ability to haul
more than quadruple the amount a person can carry has made it a popular
implement.

“A leveler is a
non-hydraulic, inexpensive attachment and it really has a lot of
functions,” says Lisa McCarley, dealer support manager at Compact Power. Price: $400-$600, depending on size and configuration.

 

Trenchers

Getting down and dirty in a trench with a shovel can make for a long,
hot summer day. Instead, why not try hooking up a trencher attachment
to your compact utility loader? You can dig trenches in a variety of
soil conditions with many choices in digging chains — rock, frost, cup,
shark tooth and more. Typical trenchers can dig down to 36 in. deep,
which is good for trenching irrigation, fiber optics and landscape
lighting. Compact Power makes one of the industry’s largest compact
utility loader trenchers at 42 in. in length. Most trencher attachments
range in width from 4 to 12 in., with the most popular size being 6 in.
Like augers, trenchers also have drive options.

“As far as trenchers, we offer both high-speed and a high-torque
options,” says Lawrence. “Obviously with high-speed, depending on your
conditions, you’re going to be able to trench a lot faster. High-torque
is for rougher conditions — when you’re going to see more rocks and
it’s going to give you a little bit more force.”

Besides drive and size, professionals can also select an offset
trenching attachment, which allows the boom to offset for odd digging
applications. Dual augers and a trench cleaners are also available, as
well as under-road borers and vibrating plows (for pulling irrigation
pipes or wiring). Price: $3,000-$6,000, depending on size
and configuration.

Quick-fit
attachments designed to enhance the efficiency and productivity of your
compact utility loader is the name of the game. The OEMs and
independent, third-party manufacturers are creating more innovative and
sturdy attachments each year. These attachments are geared toward the
compact utility loader’s versatile hydraulic systems, running in the
neighborhood of 12 to 15 gpm (2,500 to 3,250 psi). Today’s
professionals have more versatility in a smaller package than ever
before.

“Attachments continue to grow,” says Lawrence. “As far as the machines,
they are still in their infancy stage. They’ve been around for only
seven years and there’s a lot of growth and change. They’re evolving —
whether it’s increased flexibility as far as what they can do or ease
of use with control patterns. And it’s going to continue to grow.”

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