While buying a bucket for your skid steer may not require the same kind of investment in time and money as selecting its host, choosing and using the right bucket can go a long way toward getting the best possible performance from the pair.
Bucket choices offered by skid-steer manufacturers are numerous. There are also a large number of will-fit suppliers specializing solely in attachments, including buckets. Given all these choices, you may either become thoroughly confused, or find a bucket - or possibly two or three - that best accommodates your needs.
To ensure the latter happens, start the selection process by evaluating your application for the bucket. Will you be using it mostly for loading, spreading, digging, handling loose material - or maybe a combination of them all?
Buckets tend to generally fall into four categories: general purpose, light material, multipurpose and specialty. Specific terminology for buckets varies between manufacturers, so ask your representative about the characteristics of each one to ensure you're getting the right fit.
Material density and weight
For the bulk of applications, a traditional dirt bucket - a.k.a., construction, industrial or general-purpose bucket, depending on whom you talk to - is likely the best choice. It is by far the most commonly used type. But even here you need to make decisions. Do you need extra strength and durability? How about teeth? What size do you need?
Dirt buckets generically are good choices for digging and moving dirt and rocks. But the material's density and ground conditions will dictate if you need to upgrade to a heavy-duty dirt bucket. Constructed from a greater thickness or higher grade of steel, this bucket type is designed for harsh applications that need added durability.
"It's made for more severe, rugged use such as on a track loader or a larger skid-steer loader with more power, traction and force," says Kelly Moore, product manager for skid-steer loaders and compact track loaders, Gehl.
Of course, when you add strength to a bucket, you also add weight. This in turn reduces the weight of material you will be able to carry.
For example, CEAttachment's heavy-duty 48-cu.-ft. dirt bucket weighs about 950 lbs., which is about 400 lbs. more than a comparatively sized standard-duty bucket. "You wouldn't want this heavy-duty version on an 1,800- or 2,000-lb. lift capacity machine," says Ron Grimstad, product manager, CEAttachments. "You've used up almost half of your lift capacity in the weight of the bucket. So unless you're handling packing peanuts, you can quickly overload the machine."
The limiting factor in buying any bucket is the weight and density of the materials you're lifting. "Are you hauling rocks or mulch?" asks Doug Laufenberg, product marketing manager for attachments, John Deere.
Look for the cubic foot rating on the bucket to make sure you don't overload the machine capacity, which can stress the engine and drivetrain. Depending on the carrier, overloading may also eliminate your ability to roll back the bucket.
"But even worse, it compromises safety," notes Moore. "Carrying more load than intended for a given size loader can cause the back end of the loader to lift off the ground and operate in a very unsafe mode."
When it comes to capacity, Grimstad realizes it may be tempting to opt for more than what is actually needed in an attempt to get work done faster. "But that may hurt the performance of the machine," he says. "Sometimes it's a balance between capacity and cycle times. It may be possible to do more work with a smaller bucket because you aren't constantly overloading your machine."
More capacity vs. breakout force
When capacity is an issue, you may want to consider a low-profile dirt bucket. Low-profile buckets have a longer lip, which in some cases offers more capacity. Some contractors also like these buckets because they have a lower back, which enhances visibility.