Part of determining the appropriate size skid steer is determining how much power you need to buy. Generally contractors look at a machine’s horsepower but O’Brien says that, especially in the case of skid steers, torque is more important.
“People are becoming more educated to it [torque] on trucks and the same applies to skid steers. Torque – how hard the engine can turn that crank – is really what does the work, and it often does it at a lower engine speed,” O’Brien says. “So torque is really the spec they should be looking at rather than horsepower.”
Bifani agrees. “Power isn’t always about horsepower,” he says. “Horsepower is really about the speed of getting the work done where torque is about the ability to get work done. Torque is power.”
O’Brien says that smaller skid steers manufactured today with electronic engine controls have much more torque than previous machines. “So today you might want to consider a smaller model than what you may have been looking at for horsepower.” He says contractors don’t usually run their equipment at full RPMs and a high-torque machine enables them to run the engine at a lower speed – resulting in greater fuel efficiency.
Fitzgerald, however, says don’t place too much emphasis on torque. “I look at it as much broader than just getting the maximum amount of torque,” he says. “That’s very important but I don’t think that’s the most important thing to consider.”
The impact of hydraulics
Bifani explains that flow is the volume of hydraulic oil moving through the system and pressure is the ability to get the work done. “You want to have enough pressure to operate the various systems without lugging down your engine,” Bifani says.
All skid steers come with a standard hydraulic package matched by the manufacturer to the skid steer size, and that package works fine for a lot of work skid steers do.
“If you’re just milling a small area once in a while you can get by with the standard hydraulic package, but if you’re going to be asking the unit to operate planers a lot or pavement saws a lot then it’s probably worth your while to step up to a higher-flow hydraulics,” Fitzgerald says.
O’Brien says auxiliary hydraulics – which can include a high-flow system and often increased hydraulic pressure – enhance the versatility of the machine by enabling it to use larger and more powerful attachments. But if you’re not using it for that type of work all the time then it might not be worth the additional expense of an optional hydraulics package to be more productive.
“Standard hydraulics on small equipment will run a broad range of attachments but on our medium and large frame machines we offer a high-flow option,” O’Brien says. “We also offer an enhanced high-flow that provides higher flow and higher pressure and this enables them to run high-production versions of our cold planers.”
Getting the most out of attachments
Hydraulics are important because they run the attachments, and attachments maximize the use of any single machine and result in greater productivity.
“You need to have the right flow of auxiliary hydraulics in order to power the different tasks,” Bifani says. “Otherwise the attachment may work, but it won’t work efficiently. With a cold planer you really need to keep the drum moving to be effective because if the drum slows down it won’t be cutting effectively.”
Bifani suggests that when considering attachments contractors look at two main specifications for choosing a skid steer unit — rated operating capacity and auxiliary hydraulic flow. “You want to have the right size loader for the particular attachment,” Bifani says. “There is a weight to attachments. If an attachment weighs 2,400 pounds you don’t want to be carrying it around with a 2,200-pound loader.”
Fitzgerald says that high-flow machine attachments provide the best productivity and the best job -- if you do that job frequently. “If you just do it occasionally you can get by with standard attachment and standard flow,” he says. “Or maybe it’s more reasonable to rent in that case.