With the advent of the quick-attach system on skid steers, users have a whole array of attachments open to them. Just because it fits on the skid steer, however, doesn't mean it's the best solution.
"The universal quick-attachment system - for skid steers, compact track loaders, compact wheel loaders and compact tractors - is the same mounting on machines with a wide range of weights, hydraulic capacities and rated operating loads," says Jim Koch with Paladin. "Attachments, on the other hand, are designed to work with a relatively narrow range of specifications. There's nothing to prevent a rental customer from mounting an attachment on a machine and attempting to operate it. Just because the skid steer can mount it, doesn't mean the attachment can be effectively operated by that machine."
Robbie Angel, compact product specialist at JCB Inc. agrees, adding, "Just looking at the physical size of a skid steer will generally not tell the whole story on what that particular skid steer is capable of running."
This is the challenge for rental businesses, says Koch. "Right-sizing" - making sure the attachment is the right size for the skid steer operating it - helps "ensure that your skid steers and attachments are protected and your customers are satisfied with the performance of what they rent," he says.
What's the worst that could happen if a skid steer isn't properly matched to an attachment? "If an attachment is not sized properly, it can mean the machine and attachment will underperform, slowing the contractor's work or making his work less efficient," says Greg Rostberg with Bobcat. "Or, a machine may not be able to operate an improperly sized attachment at all. An improperly sized attachment may create an unsafe work situation when it's in operation. Attachments also vary in durability based on the machine they are approved on; using a standard-duty attachment on a larger machine may cause damage to the attachment."
It all boils down to an unsatisfied customer and /or broken equipment - neither of which is acceptable.
Avoiding common pitfalls
Some of the factors affecting attachment capability of a skid steer include the size and weight of the machine, the engine horsepower, the rated operating capacity and the hydraulic flow, says Rostberg. "Hydraulic flow is very important as some attachments require minimum flows to operate properly or can take advantage of high-flow hydraulics," he says.
Hydraulic motors are sized to perform in a fairly narrow range of flow ? not enough flow can cause poor performance, too much flow can cause damage.
For example, using a cold planer with a lower-than-required flow capacity will lead to premature breakage and wear on the cutting tips. Using an auger that requires more flow than provided will overheat both the attachment and skid steer.
Auxiliary hydraulic flow and pressure varies greatly from smaller to larger loaders and from one manufacturer to the next. The manufacturer's operating manual is the best place to look when matching a skid steer to an attachment.
Attachments also typically list minimum and maximum flows and pressures. "Attachment manufacturers publish specifications or fit up charts that specify what hydraulic output is required to operate their attachments," says Koch. "The charts will list the attachments with different hydraulic capacities and ranges of hydraulic output required. Some heavy-duty attachments require high-flow options on the loader. Some of these attachments require a third line to relieve back pressure. The loader must be equipped with these options to operate the attachment and prevent damage."
Ron Peters with CEAttachments says instructions must be given to customers at the point of rental to ensure proper sizing. "If a customer is using a mid-range attachment, such as a broom, it could be used on a standard-flow machine; they would need to attach both of the hydraulic hoses. But a high-flow attachment, such as a cold planer or a snow blower, would usually need three hydraulic lines and absolutely need a high-flow machine; there's no way a high-flow attachment could operate on a standard-flow skid steer."