Around the farm, a skid steer functions like a Swiss Army knife. But the long hours and taxing chores demand proper maintenance.
“Skid steers are capable of many jobs, but you want to do what it takes to ensure it can get those jobs done, and that includes greasing,” says Chris Knipfer, Bobcat ag application marketing manager.
Although many grease points are visible on the outside of the machine, don’t let the ones that are out of your sight be out of mind. As an easy reminder, many manufacturers post a periodic maintenance chart inside the machine’s rear tailgate or access door.
“Grease at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. If you hear a squeak in between those times, stop immediately and grease that joint,” says Dean Stewart, district manager of John Deere Commercial Worksite Products.
As with any piece of equipment, routine maintenance ensures proper performance. Farmers should use the same regimented maintenance approach with their skid steer as they do with their tractor.
“They check the oil in the tractor on a regular basis, but it seems that skid steers get overlooked,” says Mark Huizer, sales manager at Hackert Sales, a Gehl and Terex dealership in Sully, Iowa, that services all makes and models of skid loaders. “Check the hydraulic and engine oil weekly and follow what the manual says for oil change intervals.”
Monitoring a machine’s fluids is key to its performance. Hydraulic oil runs almost everything on a skid steer except for the engine.
“Using synthetic oil in applications that it is not designed for can cause reduced seal life,” Stewart says. “Use the manufacturer’s recommended lubricants.”
In addition to greasing and checking fluids, monitor the air filter. “New air filters are designed with tighter tolerances; you should not attempt to clean the filter. That may only damage the filter medium and result in more dust and debris getting through,” Stewart says. “Replace the filters when the warning light indicates it’s plugging.”
Attachments. “One area to pay particular attention to is the attachments,” says Kirk Dilly, product training specialist for Gehl Company. “The area is low to the ground and it’s where the machine gets the dirtiest and receives the most abuse, so check to be sure it is lubricated.”
Switching between attachments can lead to leaking hydraulic oil and increase the chance of contamination.
“When unhooking an attachment, clean the two hydraulic hose ends. It is a good habit to connect the two ends when not in use to decrease the chance of dirt getting into the system when reattaching. It also stabilizes the oil between the two sides,” Stewart says.
Hackert Sales’ Huizer stresses the importance of matching the attachment to your skid steer. To further ensure safe operation, Bobcat’s Knipfer adds, “keep the load as close to the ground as possible and understand what you’re picking up and how much it weighs.”
Operation. A skid steer’s versatility means it’s called to work multiple times a week. “To prolong its life, don’t run it wide open all day. Avoid stressing the machine, and the machine will run smoother,” says Gehl’s Dilly.
After a dusty or dirty job around corrosive materials, wash the machine. “Lift the cab and wash the drivetrain,” Huizer says. “There’s a potential for fire if chaff builds up around engine components.”
If your machine has an enclosed cab and climate control, there are additional maintenance steps. “Blow out the cab’s air intake filter. The air conditioning condenser needs to be blown or washed as well. If the compressor gets too hot, it’ll shut down the machine,” Huizer says.
The whole point of maintenance is to prevent problems. “A quick check in the morning could save a lot of downtime later on in the day,” Knipfer says.