If you walk into a dealership to purchase a particular brand of compact utility loader (also referred to as a mini track or skid-steer loader) and its matching brand attachment, all of the challenges associated with getting the right fit are already resolved by the manufacturer.
For example, Toro engineers and designers have done the work upfront to precisely match the company's 35+ attachments to its line of wheeled and tracked Dingo compact utility loaders. This enables you to realize the best performance from each. "All the attachments we offer are thoroughly tested on our different machines," says Greg Lawrence, Dingo product manager, Toro. "They go through a rigorous testing process to ensure you're mating the attachment to the machine properly."
Each attachments is designed with the carrier in mind. "We spend a lot of time making sure we're maximizing the potential of the attachment, and to ensure it fits the machine properly from a hydraulic and design standpoint," Lawrence states.
The same type of match-making philosophy is honed at Compact Power, where all of its more than 50 attachments have been designed to complement the Boxer line of compact utility loaders.
But what if you want to purchase an attachment from an aftermarket supplier? With the popularity of quick-attach plates, you have the ability to quickly and easily mix and match attachments and machines. But you will want to keep a few things in mind to ensure you get the performance you expect.
Be aware of weight
One of the biggest advantages of a compact utility loader is its ability to maneuver in tight spaces. These units often replace physically demanding work that could only be completed by hand with a wheelbarrow and shovel. As such, you don't want to compromise the machine's ability to accomplish such tasks by weighing it down unnecessarily, or by adding a cumbersome attachment that sacrifices maneuverability, stability and visibility.
Weight is a very important issue with this size of machine, asserts Lyle Helvie, president/owner, Terra Power Attachments. "It's more of an issue with this compact size vs. a traditional skid steer," he says. "That's because contractors want to do similar or the same types of jobs that a standard skid steer can do. While you can do the same job, you have to consider that you can't do it as quickly because you have a smaller machine."
And you certainly don't want to try to use attachments designed for full-size skid steers in an attempt to speed that process. While compact utility loaders continue to gain in horsepower offerings - with some now topping the 30-hp threshold - they still aren't designed to carry their larger cousins' attachments. "Look for attachments designed specifically for minis," says Helvie. "The list of options continues to grow."
Refer to the manufacturer's rated load and tipping capacities to ensure you don't overload the host machine. "If your attachment weighs too much, you can defeat the purpose of a compact utility loader. It can disrupt your jobsite because you're struggling to pick up the attachment," says Lawrence. "Also, if the attachments you use to pick up materials are too large or too heavy, you will limit your ability to lift with the machine because the attachment itself is taking too much of its lift capacity."
Overloading the carrier is not only counterproductive, it can cause damage to the machine. In particular, if the loader runs on tracks, trying to carry too much weight can damage the internal track components, notes Bill Meutze, technical manager, Compact Power.
Impact on stability
Overloading the loader can also compromise stability. "While most machines won't break due to overloading, you do need to be concerned about tipping," says Meutze. "Consider the weight of the attachment, as well as how much any material being carried in a bucket would weigh."