John Deere builds added protection right into its new D Series skid-steer and compact track loaders. "A hydraulically driven cooling fan with a reversing option will automatically reverse direction to blow out the machine engine and hydraulic cooler cores," says Gregg Zupancic. "This would otherwise need to be blown/cleaned out manually and regularly while operating in any harsh, dusty, dirty environment.
"Keeping the machine coolers free from debris will ensure optimum operating temperatures," he adds, "and provide longer overall life to engine and hydraulic components."
Options are available to protect external components, as well. "When using a skid steer for clearing land, you should protect the tires with tire liners, and heavy-duty applications may require over-the-wheel rubber or steel tracks," says December.
"If contractors are considering a compact track loader for its increased flotation and pushing power, but know they will use the machine in an environment that might lessen the life of rubber tracks, a steel track may be an option," adds Odegaard. "Bobcat offers a steel track undercarriage on its largest compact track loaders that is ideal for applications such as land clearing and forestry work."
The company also offers a specialized forestry kit. "Bobcat's forestry kit is required for use with the forestry cutter attachment," says Odegaard, "but is also a good option for contractors to have for similar applications in which machine doors, windows, lights and other components require extra protection."
Of course, protecting the operator is the first priority. "When going into a land clearing operation, the machine needs to be equipped with an impact-resistant/severe-duty door. This is typically a non-glass door," says Doug Laufenberg, product manager for attachments, John Deere. "Deere offers a Severe Duty door that incorporates a Lexan material and polycarbonate coating for scratch resistance."
Other options offered by the company include a Level II FOPS protection plate to protect the operator from falling limbs; add-on side and rear screens; cylinder and hydraulic coupler guards; and an add-on belly pan and heavy-duty rear bumper.
Attention to detail
Keeping your loader and attachments in safe, productive condition calls for vigilance.
"Know what your attachment is designed for and do not use it for anything other than the specific purpose," advises December. "If the job at hand is pushing dirt and your attachment isn't designed for pushing dirt, don't use it."
He also reminds operators to check visibility all around the machine (360°) as often as possible. "Land clearing involves uneven terrain that can creep up on you with sudden depressions," he points out.
Paying attention to details can pay dividends in the long run, Schaefer asserts. He cites a few examples.
Brush shredding operations will naturally cause airborne debris to accumulate on hot spots in the engine compartment, as well as any screened areas and radiators on the power unit. This accumulation can cause engine and hydraulic system overheating and potentially become a fire hazard.
"It is imperative that all screens and shields be opened up regularly, and the entire machine - including all radiators and oil cooler cores - be cleaned out with compressed air or a pressure washer," Schaefer emphasizes.
The same airborne debris that causes problems for these components is also a constant menace to polycarbonate windshields and side windows. "If not kept clean, the lack of visibility will surely affect your efficiency of operation," Schaefer notes. "But more importantly, it could become a serious safety factor."
Yet, constant cleaning, even with a spray cleaner, can scratch the windshield surface. Schaefer advises rinsing off the worst of the debris with water prior to wiping it away. "Some customers have reported good results removing the scratches in polycarbonate windshields with an automotive buffing wheel and a buffing compound typically sold for renewing poly headlights, airplane windshields and so forth," he adds.
Pay particular attention to debris clean-out in critical areas. "Anytime the carbide tips, knives or a shear bar on an attachment are removed for service, take special care to thoroughly clean out the mating surfaces with a scraper or, if possible, clean the area with compressed air or a pressure washer," says Schaefer. "Any debris accidentally left between the surfaces could keep bolts from properly holding these critical components in place.