Tips to Keep Your Skid-Steer in Tiptop Shape

Even small machines like skid-steers and compact loaders require regular maintenance checks and specialized care to keep them running

Tips to Keep Your Skid-Steer in Tiptop Shape

An SR210 skid-steer from Case Construction Equipment dumps material on a job site. (Photo courtesy of Case Construction Equipment)

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Skid-steers are valuable equipment used on a lot of installation projects, but to keep them performing well and keep projects on track, they need proper maintenance. 

Good maintenance generally starts with the basics, like changing the oil; but contractors should also be dealing with wear-and-tear issues that come up to keep their machines running smoothly.

While changing oil is a given, John Dotto, Case Construction Equipment’s brand marketing manager for skid-steers and compact track loaders, stresses the need to pay close attention to the service intervals. “Refer to your operator’s manual,” Dotto says. “Generally there is a table with a first 50 hours system check, and beyond that, you’re looking at intervals of 250 and 500 hours.”

When it comes to simple items, like changing the oil, Dotto says the interval is usually 500 hours. “Keeping on top of that, keeping a log and marking your filters is really important,” he says.

Here are some other maintenance tips:

Know how to operate in winter

Winter conditions can put a strain on skid-steer engines if the cold weather startup procedures are not followed.

“You have to let the machine warm up so that the engine coolant and hydraulic oil reaches the correct temperature, so that you’re not abusing those systems,” Dotto says. “Hydraulic oil is pretty viscous at low temperatures and then gets thinner as it heats up. You don’t want to be running functions over relief valves with cold oil, as it can become detrimental to the life of the hydraulic system and components.

“Some machines have some cold-weather protections such as an rpm limiter to prevent revving the engine too early in a cold-start application,” he adds. “You also don’t want to let an engine idle at low temperatures for an extended period of time.”

Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer

Mechanics, be they at a dealership or a general contractor, should never hesitate to seek information from the manufacturer if they encounter a problem when repairing a vehicle.

“Modern troubleshooting is pretty sophisticated, and mechanics should lean on the resources available at the manufacturer and dealer level,” Dotto says. “We have a large service support unit that can assist by phone, email and online tools that are available at a Case dealer. Maintain that close relationship with your dealers and manufacturers, and understand the tools and resources available to you.”

Take full advantage of diagnostic tools

Built-in diagnostic systems are improving the ways that the owner, operator and technician interact with each machine. This includes telematics, and built-in sensors and electronics, that can help inform technicians of equipment issues that may affect health and performance. 

“It’s becoming more important to operators and mechanics, and to owners, to have this information,” Dotto says. “Fuel efficiency can be tracked, and technicians can keep better track of maintenance intervals and operating parameters through telematics. Certified dealer technicians with plug-in laptops and other software-related items can immediately diagnose error codes. There is a lot that can be inferred now with data from the machine that can shorten/eliminate downtime and improve overall performance.”

Take care of tires and tracks

Tires and tracks often bare the brunt of wear-and-tear issues, but ensuring job-specific systems are being used can reduce this.

“Pay attention to the severity of your applications and understand the differences in the types of tires and tracks offered by the manufacturers,” Dotto says. “Marrying the right tire to the machine will make you more productive. If you’re running in more harsh or caustic environments, such as those with manure and fertilizers, use a heavy- or severe-duty tire. If you’re working on smooth pavement most of the time, use a pneumatic tire. If you’re in a situation where cuts and punctures are a possibility, a semisolid option is a good choice. Having one or two spares on hand is a smart practice, and don’t forget to repair punctured tires. 

“Tracked machines — CTLs — are ideal for applications where greater flotation is required, such as working in soft ground or on finished lawns where you don’t want to create rutting or disturbance.”

Keep auxiliary hose connections clean

Failing to clean auxiliary hose connections, according to Dotto, is the No. 1 way that dirt and contaminants can get into your hydraulic system.

“Wiping off the connection to the attachment and the connection on the machine is a really easy step that you can take,” he says. “If you don’t have a rag on hand, use whatever it takes. It’s worth it for the life of your machine. It should always be done when you’re going to hook up any hydraulically driven attachments that have hose attachments connected to a skid-steer/compact track loader.”

After-treatment of your machine

“There are many different ways that these machines achieve Tier 4 Final emissions certification. Understanding the system on your machine can help it be more productive throughout the day,” Dotto says. “For those over 75 hp, where we run SCR technology, they have onboard diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tanks. Just knowing that the DEF needs to be topped off is crucial, and you can do that when you fill up with diesel fuel. Systems like this that do not require regeneration help reduce downtime and keep engine exhaust temperatures lower, which can be advantageous in certain applications.

“With DEF, just make sure that you know which tank you’re filling up,” he adds. “The DEF tank has a blue cap. The only fluid that goes into it is DEF, and that is another good reason to keep things clean in the engine compartment.”


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