Get More Value From Multipurpose Buckets

The versatility of a 4-in-1 bucket saves time and money in demanding skid steer and compact track loader applications.

If you are trying to dump into a truck that exceeds the lifting height capacity of your machine, you can simply open the jaws of a 4-in-1 bucket and let material flow out
If you are trying to dump into a truck that exceeds the lifting height capacity of your machine, you can simply open the jaws of a 4-in-1 bucket and let material flow out

Multipurpose (4-in-1) buckets have become popular skid-steer attachments. As their name implies, these buckets can perform multiple functions because the bottom and sides of the bucket separate from the back.

“Versatility is the biggest benefit of a multipurpose bucket as opposed to a general-purpose bucket,” says Ashby Graham, JCB skid steer and compact track loader product specialist. “A multipurpose bucket can dig, load, spread, grade, grab and doze vs. simply dig, carry and dump material like a general-purpose bucket.”

“Contractors can accomplish more tasks with one attachment when they rely on a multipurpose bucket,” agrees David Steger, Takeuchi-US product and training manager. “When a skid steer is equipped with a 4-in-1 bucket, contractors don’t have to change attachments or haul additional attachments around with their machine. This saves time, space on the trailer and ultimately money.”

Application is Key to Selection

Before selecting a multipurpose bucket, ask yourself two very important questions: what tasks do you need to perform, and what size bucket will those tasks require?

“If excavating and moving dirt is your main application, a general-purpose bucket may be sufficient,” says Steger. “However, if you are performing clean-up, general utility construction, residential construction or any other application where you are moving dirt and debris, a 4-in-1 bucket becomes advantageous.”

“If the contractor needs to perform multiple jobs, such as those tasks found on a demolition project, a multipurpose bucket is a good choice,” says Graham. “A multipurpose bucket will allow the operator to grab larger material and doze smaller material during cleanup, all with one attachment.”

Because of their clam-style design, multipurpose buckets can operate like a grapple to pick up materials that can’t be handled with a standard bucket. The serrated grapple edges are effective for moving logs, beams, concrete chunks or other bulky materials.

“Skid steers with 4-in-1 buckets are able to dig and grab material with the same attachment,” says Steger. “Grabbing material is the 4-in-1 bucket’s biggest advantage.”

When open, the back of the bucket can also serve as a dozer or box blade. “If you’re doing trench work, the straight-edge dozer blade of the 4-in-1 bucket works well for backfilling,” says Ron Peters, CEAttachments product manager. “You can reach across the trench with the bucket open and use the backside of the bucket to pull material in.”

With the jaws closed, a multipurpose bucket operates like a standard bucket. However, it has the added ability to dump at maximum height. “If you are trying to dump into a truck that exceeds the lifting height capacity of your machine, you can simply open the jaws of a 4-in-1 bucket and let material flow out,” says Peters.

The jaws of the bucket can also be used to sift and filter debris, adds Steger.

Keep the Design in Mind

Multipurpose buckets are available in standard and heavy-duty models. Heavy-duty 4-in-1 buckets incorporate larger cylinders, additional hose protection and reinforced buckets.

According to Peters, heavy-duty multipurpose buckets are appropriate for medium to large skid steers above the 1,700-lb. class range. The application and material density will determine when a heavy-duty model is needed. “Hard, dense material is better worked with a heavy-duty bucket, while lighter material, like sand, is easily worked with a standard 4-in-1 bucket,” he indicates.

To make sure you are purchasing a quality attachment, Graham suggests checking the bucket to ensure the hinges and pins are a heavy-duty grade to better distribute the load. The bucket should have mounted springs on the top to protect the hoses from being damaged during operation. He also recommends considering tooth bars or bolt-on edges to extend the bucket edge life.

“It’s important to purchase a bucket with the hydraulic cylinders set in and protected from dirt build-up and debris,” says David Aldrich, dealer development manager for Paladin. “Multipurpose bucket cylinders are exposed and, by the nature of the bucket’s function, could be damaged. Make sure the cylinders are shielded.”

Hose routing should be run internally through the bucket as much as possible to avoid being snagged and damaged. Paladin’s 4-in-1 bucket hoses are run through the torque tube of the bucket. CEAttachments’ hoses are encased in a sleeve for extra protection. The company also offers an optional hose saver kit to mount on top of the bucket to hold hoses out of the way.

Inspect the jaw of the bucket prior to selection. “A curved jaw is able to grab and retain material, such as logs, better than a straight jaw,” Steger points out.

“The visibility of the cutting edge is also a factor to consider when purchasing a 4-in-1 bucket,” says Aldrich. “Always purchase the bucket with the best visibility to the cutting edge and clamping areas.”

Size for Lift and Width

When it comes to sizing, a multipurpose bucket is no different than a general-purpose bucket.

“The operator needs to make sure the bucket is at least as wide as the machine,” says Graham. “Unless the operator is limited by a width restriction, they should choose the largest bucket possible, but stay within the rated operating capacity of the skid steer. Doing so will help them move more material in a lesser amount of time, improving productivity and lowering labor costs,” she explains.

Make sure you don’t exceed the rated operating capacity of the host machine. “Weight and balance of the overall machine are important,” Steger emphasizes. “A skid steer can only pick up so much weight before it becomes unstable. If a skid steer has a 2,000-lb. lift capacity and the bucket weighs 1,000 lbs., the machine can only pick up 1,000 lbs. of material. You should always keep the lift capacity of the skid steer in mind when choosing a bucket.”

Take Note of Weight and Cost

Although multipurpose buckets offer advantages over general-purpose buckets, there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Because of the mechanics required to open and close the bucket, there is lost volume with a 4-in-1 bucket. Reinforced cutting edges and hydraulics also add to the weight. For example, CEAttachments’ 72-in. heavy-duty dirt bucket weighs a little over 700 lbs., whereas its 72-in. standard-duty 4-in-1 bucket weighs 900 lbs. The added weight, in turn, reduces the weight of material the machine can carry.

In addition, 4-in-1 buckets can cost up to two or three times as much as similar-sized dirt buckets. “Multipurpose buckets are more expensive than general-purpose buckets, but the operator must understand and appreciate the added value that this type of bucket can provide,” Graham states. “The multipurpose bucket may be able to pay for itself over time due to lower labor costs and increased productivity on the job.”

Peters agrees, noting, “Many contractors who have made the investment in a 4-in-1 bucket find they rarely use their standard bucket. Because they can do so many things with a 4-in-1 bucket, they often find they need to leave the seat much less frequently, because the machine can pick up things that the operator used to have to get out of the machine to do.”

“There are pros and cons to every piece of equipment used on a construction site,” Aldrich comments. “A multipurpose bucket may be more expensive, heavier and provide less payload than a general-purpose bucket, but it has so many more functions than a standard bucket. Those functions far override any disadvantages. A 4-in-1 bucket on a skid steer can be a cost-effective and time-saving addition to almost any contractor’s equipment lineup.”