CE Conversations: How to Select an Auger Attachment System for Your Skid Steer or Tractor

Holes must be dug. Luckily for tool carriers like skid steers, track loaders and tractors, there are a variety of attachments that can tackle earthwork projects — buckets, trenchers, backhoes and beyond. When it comes to precision holes that go straight down, auger attachment systems are great tools to bore an accurate hole for fences, footings, trees and a variety of other installation projects. Picking the correct auger configuration is the latest topic in our new video series called Compact Equipment Conversations.

CE publisher Keith Gribbins has a virtual sit-down with Glenn Danuser, co-owner of the Danuser attachment brand, discussing how to choose an auger attachment system for skid steers, track loaders and tractors, while touching on some of Danuser’s coolest new offerings. After you enjoy the new video above, feel free to peruse below for more information on Danuser’s new EP Auger System and a bonus story from the pages of Compact Equipment magazine, written by Danuser on how to select an auger attachment system for a utility tractor.

Danuser’s New EP Auger System

In February, Danuser announced its new EP Auger System offering high torque and quick, easy maintenance for construction applications. Planned for release this spring, the new EP earth auger is a robust, American-designed planetary gear drive and motor rated up to 3,500 psi, which delivers greater torque for drilling through hard, compacted surfaces. The planetary also features easily accessible check and fill plugs which means fast, simple maintenance.

“The EP Auger System is built with a Danuser planetary manufactured to our engineering design, creating a planetary with up to 42 percent more output torque strength than competitor models,” said company co-owner Glenn Danuser in the press release. “We’re also offering an array of models, ranging from 6 to 35 gpm and from 1,500 to 3,500 psi, making this a very versatile tool for the construction industry.”

Danuser added that hoses are routed out of the top of the drive unit, secured with bulkhead nuts, to allow for deeper digging in tighter spots with better hose protection. All drive units ship with 45-degree fittings installed. Other improvements include a beefy skid steer quick-attach mount which fits both skid steers, track loaders and front-end loaders. A hose holder spring kit is included on skid steer and offset tractor loader mounts.

Other features of the EP Auger System include:

  • 2-in. hex output spindle.
  • Quick-attach mounts that offer an adjustable cradle with two positions for transporting at 15- or 30-degree angles.
  • Mounts that are available for skid steers, tractors, front-end loaders, backhoes and excavators.
  • A five-year warranty and a lifetime warranty covering the unit from output spindle pullout.

Now, Let’s Learn How to Choose a Tractor Auger System

complete PTO auger system

The widespread adoption of tractors equipped with power take-offs (PTOs) and three-point hitches following the Second World War allowed the first powered attachments to come into use, and chief among these early attachments was the posthole digger. Though their dominance is now challenged by hydraulic auger systems mounted on skid steers, backhoes and excavators, posthole diggers — or, as they are more commonly called today, auger systems — powered by tractor PTOs are still in common use around the world, and a PTO auger system can be a good choice for the farmer, rancher or large estate owner.

PTO auger systems have a straightforward design that allows for one-person operation from the tractor seat. A typical PTO auger system utilizes a gearbox with ring gear and pinion to transfer the rotation from the PTO driveline through a right angle to drive an output spindle, where the auger bit attaches. The ring gear and pinion function as a gear-reduction to multiply torque, allowing for more effective digging. The gearbox is mounted to a boom and yoke arrangement, which allows for the raising and lowering of the posthole digger. Most PTO auger systems incorporate shear bolts or pins to reduce the possibility of damaging the gearbox, driveline and auger bit, though some make use of slip clutches or other torque-limiting devices.

PTO auger systems should be selected based on the size, horsepower and three-point hitch of the host tractor. Typically, manufacturers rate their PTO auger systems with tractor horsepower ranges — for example 20 to 40 hp for use with a small tractor with a Category I three-point hitch. Auger bits should be selected based on desired hole diameter and depth. Fence posts will require 4 in. diameters up to 18 in. diameters for large corner posts, while tree planting may require a 30-in. diameter auger. PTO systems are less effective at larger diameters, and hydraulic auger systems are preferred for holes above 30 in. in diameter. It’s also worth putting thought into accessories, such as hydraulic down-force kits, which add pressure to the auger bit to assist digging in difficult ground conditions, and auger extensions, which can be added for deeper hole depth. A complete PTO auger system with auger bit can command prices between $500 for a house-brand, low-quality unit up to $4,000 for a top-of-the-line model.

Safety is of the utmost importance when operating any attachment, including PTO auger systems. Everyone involved in the assembly, operation, transport, maintenance and storage of a PTO auger system must be aware, prudent and properly trained in its safe and proper use and should read and understand the instructions in the operator’s manual and on the safety signs. A rotating driveline or auger bit poses an entanglement risk with a potential for serious injury or death. The entanglement risk becomes greater when the shear bolt or auger retaining bolt is replaced with one that does not meet the original equipment manufacturer’s specifications.

Posthole diggers include safety signs and guards for auger adapters, auger extensions, gearbox inputs and PTO drivelines. Before operating, ensure all shields, guards and safety signs are in place. If your three-point auger system does not have these safety items, be sure and contact your equipment dealer or auger system manufacturer. Never operate a posthole digger with anyone near or in contact with any part of the attachment, PTO driveline or auger bit. No one should be within 25 ft of a posthole digger when it is started or in use. Absolutely never use body weight or any body part to “help” position or force the auger into the ground.

PTO auger systems are easy to use, but using them safely and effectively requires a cautious operator who recognizes potential hazards, follows reasonable safety practices and operates the posthole digger per the instructions stated in the operator’s manual. Prior to digging any hole, call 811 to have underground utility lines, pipes or cables marked. Clear the area of objects that could wrap around the auger bit or might be thrown. Mark out where holes should be dug. Be sure to perform all pre-usage maintenance and be aware of all safety hazards. When transporting the PTO auger system to the worksite and between holes, make sure to keep the PTO disengaged and the three-point hitch raised high enough for the auger bit to clear the ground.

When ready to dig, lower the three-point hitch until the auger point rests on the ground. Make sure all bystanders are at least 25 ft away from the auger. When you engage the PTO, start with the tractor engine at idle and increase the PTO speed as required to allow the auger bit to penetrate the ground. Lower the three-point hitch to continue digging the hole, holding back against the auger screw-suction when necessary. Every 12 to 18 in., raise the three-point hitch to partially remove the auger bit from the hole, aiding the dirt removal process. Once the hole reaches the desired depth, allow the auger bit to dwell in the bottom of the hole for a moment to further clean out the hole. Then disengage the PTO and raise the auger bit from the hole.

Complete PTO Auger System

complete PTO auger system

As with any attachment, regular maintenance following manufacturer’s specifications is vital to a long, trouble-free service life.

Check the auger system for loose fasteners and worn auger cutting edges and points before each use. A worn cutting edge or point will have rounded surfaces, making penetrating the ground more difficult, especially in hard digging conditions. When changing augers or adding an auger extension, coat the inside of the auger adapter liberally with grease. Check the universal joint, bushing and gearbox lubrication levels at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals and take care to use the correct lubricant. A common false symptom of seal failure is leakage due to the use of incorrect lubricants. If in doubt, ask an equipment dealer or the auger system manufacturer for guidance.

Though their heyday is now past, the proven durability and dependability of PTO auger systems ensures them a continuing place in the stable of attachments. With some research of the options and safety requirements, a PTO auger system can save labor and time on lots of operations.

Shane Kincaid is the customer service manager at Danuser.

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