From Operation and Upkeep to Attachments and Storage
Congratulations! You bought a compact tool carrier! (Or a compact utility loader, mini skid steer, etc., depending on what you or your preferred dealer call it.) This is exciting. Why? Well, because you just purchased a machine that has huge potential in a small package. Their compact dimensions, power and attachment taking skills make compact tool carriers the ideal machine to get a whole lot done. Just imagine the possibilities…
“Maneuverability and versatility are the real drivers of these machines,” says Doug Clark, product manager — compact equipment at Wacker Neuson. “Because of their compact size and narrow width, compact tool carriers can access tight spaces that larger machines cannot reach. This makes them ideal for landscape, residential and tree service work. The industry attachment interface allows various tools to be easily attached to expand the applications. These machines can easily go beyond the bucket and commonly use grapples, augers, forks and mowers to perform a wide range of tasks for a single machine.”
But before we get too carried away dreaming about what you can accomplish, we want to make sure you know how to get the most out of your new CTC. This involves understanding how to properly (and safely) operate it, maintain it, store it and more. And we can’t forget about attachments — those really make the machine. So read on to learn how to maximize your new compact tool carrier’s ROI.
First things first, before hopping on your new machine you have to check out its operator’s manual. There you will find everything you need to know about your specific model. Don’t forget that the key to staying safe and being efficient is to use the machine for the applications it is designed for.
“Proper training will help with understanding the machine’s capacity,” says Clark. “The ergonomic controls help the operator to efficiently operate the machine by using smooth controlled movements. Visibility is also important and allows the operator to be aware of hazards and obstacles on the jobsite.”
Before you get started for the day, be sure to conduct inspections of both the machine and your work site. There’s no such thing as being too aware of your surroundings. Kyle Cartwright, product marketing manager for Toro, recommends planning tasks ahead of time to avoid issues mid-job. Knowledge from your operator’s manual and any training will help you operate the CTC safely and efficiently.
“Make sure the loads you are carrying are within the specifications of the [CTC] and only operate it at safe speeds,” he says. “Adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for operation will ensure safe and efficient use.”
Another great operation tip is to always travel with the machine’s arms lowered to reduce the risk of tipping the machine — taking special care on slopes and uneven terrain.
“As compact utility loaders are on the narrow side, it is necessary to stay conscious of the slope you are working on, especially with a load or when turning,” says Jerry Corder, product manager, construction equipment for Kubota Tractor Corp. “And just like with a compact track loader, when you have a load, make sure you have plenty of room to avoid sudden stops. Lastly, it is imperative to understand the proper way to load and unload the machine and its attachments for any [CTC]. Most have limitations on approach and departure angles.”
Operators should also make sure to completely stop the machine before entering and exiting the platform. As for turns, while CTCs are designed with a very tight turning radius, operators should prevent them if possible. This not only protects the machine, but the terrain.
“Operators should avoid tight turns whenever possible, as they can damage soft surfaces such as grass and cause premature wear on tracks and tires,” says Kyle Newendorp, product specialist at Vermeer. “Making turns more gradual, when possible, can help minimize the need for restoration work and extend the life of the machine’s tracks. In addition, operators should consider how much throttle they need to perform a certain task. Too often, operators believe that everything needs to be done at full throttle. However, throttling the machine down for some applications can give them more control and improve the loader’s fuel efficiency.”
A major reason CTCs are so popular is their ability to easily switch out a wide variety of attachments. Buckets are arguably the most popular attachment for these machines and a staple for new owners.
“Buckets help operators lift large piles of material or debris that need to be relocated or disposed of,” says Brant Kukuk, Ditch Witch compact equipment product manager. “The hydraulic power fork attachment is also popular for moving pallets and other large materials efficiently. Other attachments such as the stump grinder, backhoe and trencher help minimize the number of dedicated machines needed on a jobsite. Simply switching out attachments helps minimize the transportation and maintenance costs associated with additional machines. The versatility that attachments allow stand-on skid steer operators pays dividends on their investment.”
Beyond buckets, Newendorp says specific attachment considerations really depend on the type of work operators are doing. For instance, he says tree care professionals should have at least one or two different types of grapple attachments. Landscapers would benefit from investing in a good set of forks, an auger and a Harley rake.
Cartwright mentions that Toro offers a full line of attachments. Here, he discusses a few options and how they can be used on a jobsite:
- Bore Drive Head: The boring unit allows you to dig under sidewalks and driveways to simplify irrigation and cable installations. Shorter rod lengths and the ability to lower the bore head below grade allow you to work in both confined and open areas, increasing your productivity.
- Vibratory Plow: The vibratory plow attachment greatly reduces a contractor’s time spent on irrigation and cable installations. The vibratory plow optimizes pipe-pulling performance while minimizing turf damage during an installation. Also, use the chuted blade and spool carrier to install wire or cable.
- Power Box Rake: The power box rake is the perfect tool for seedbed and sod bed preparation. The rotary drum on the power box rake pulverizes rough soil, cuts high spots and fills low spots in one pass; while removing rocks and debris. Pure carbide teeth design produces the best possible seeded sub-soil, which promotes superior moisture retention and rapid seed growth.
One of the best ways to maximize the life of your new compact tool carrier is by becoming familiar with the machine’s owner’s manual and recommended maintenance routine. Daily walk-arounds are vital in spotting any potential issues before they become serious — and expensive — problems. As Kubota’s Corder says, “The best way to protect your investment is to care for your machine according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.”
So, what all does that maintenance entail? Obviously, it will depend on your machine’s manufacturer and size, but a CTC’s maintenance regimen involves daily, weekly and monthly tasks. For example, Newendorp explains daily maintenance items for Vermeer’s tracked units includes:
- Check engine oil, hydraulic fluid and coolant levels
- Fill fuel tanks
- Check and service (if needed) the air cleaner
- Grease machine (specifically the boom pivot and park brake)
- Check condition of tracks
He continues breaking down weekly and monthly upkeep items, such as checking fuel lines and clamp bands (every 50 service hours) and checking the hydraulic system plus greasing the operator platform (every 100 service hours).
While maintaining your CTC may seem like a lot, Lionel Smitka, marketing manager for Kanga Loaders, offers this advice to make the schedule more manageable.
“Create a maintenance schedule with the recommended daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks and place it in your truck then get into a routine of completing these tasks on a specific day,” he says. “For example, weekly tasks are performed every Monday, monthly tasks on the first of each month and so on.”
Kukuk urges operators to remember their attachments and keep a close eye on the machine’s hydraulics. He emphasizes that frequent maintenance is the best way to stay productive and extend the life of your equipment.
“One critical aspect of a mini skid steer maintenance routine includes the upkeep of attachments and hydraulics,” says Kukuk. “A general best practice for keeping attachments operating effectively is greasing them daily. Each day as the attachment is used, an operator should use a grease gun to pump grease into the attachment until excess is visible. Additionally, keeping hydraulic fluids at a recommended level requires a regular maintenance schedule. Each day, operators are encouraged to check the fluid level and the hydraulic hose for leaks that cause low fluid levels.”
When you’re not using your compact tool carrier, it’s important to store it properly. Whether you’re taking a lunch break, calling it quits for the day or wrapping up a work season, the machine should be stored and covered to prevent weathering, discoloration or rodents setting up shop for the winter.
“Store the machine indoors if possible or use a removable cover if parking it outdoors,” says Smitka. “Depending on your location, the sun can deteriorate paint, rubber components and decals while water can start working its way into electrical components. A cover is an inexpensive way to protect your machine, and it takes seconds to put one on.”
If you plan on storing the machine for an extended period of time, it’s key to give the CTC a good cleaning and perform any necessary preventative maintenance.
“The most important thing about storing your stand-on skid steer machine is first making sure it is clean and properly maintained,” says Kukuk. “Clean machines don’t just look better — they can last longer. Before storing, owners should wash their machine with a hose on a weekly basis or as needed. A stand-on skid steer should also be stored with its attachment lowered to the ground and on a flat surface.”
Toro’s Cartwright offers a pre-storage maintenance checklist with a number of service items you are advised to do before storing your CUL. That list includes:
- Service the air cleaner
- Grease the machine
- Check the engine oil or battery, depending on the engine type
- Check and adjust the track tension (if applicable)
- Check and tighten all fasteners
- Repair or replace any worn, damaged or missing parts