The Top 5 (Must Have) Skid Steer Attachments

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A skid steer purchase is a huge investment and if done right can add a lot of value and also give you good returns. However, buying just the skid steer is one-half of things, buying the right attachments for the machine is the other part. Skid steers can operate hundreds of attachments right from the hydraulic implements such as brooms, backhoes, etc. to the non-hydraulic attachments like pallet forks, buckets, etc. However, owning all of them is next to impossible. So, which attachments should you choose? Here are the top 5 must have attachments that every skid steer owner should buy.

Augers

The most popular attachment for a skid steer is probably the auger. The ease of use, power and productivity of the auger makes it the ideal tool for digging precise holes. The auger can dig deep into the ground without any damage to the soil around, thanks to its corkscrew shape. While the depth the auger can dig partially depends on the host equipment, however, typically you can dig to a depth of up to 72 inches using the auger attachment.

 

The auger is available in several duty options — basic, heavy duty and extreme — and the best option depends on the ground condition and also on the size and depth of the hole required. However, before you actually begin digging, you must ensure that the auger attachment will perform as per your requirement and that it is compatible with the power source. This essentially means that the skid steer should have sufficient pressure ratings and hydraulic flow to provide adequate power to the auger.

 

Another important decision to make is the auger drive. The rotation of the auger is powered by a chain drive, direct drive or a planetary drive. The most powerful drive ideal for tough jobs is the planetary drive, which is also the most expensive. Chain drives are fairly inexpensive compared to planetary drives and are also not very powerful, but they offer enough power for most digging jobs. So, if you are planning to dig plenty of holes but don’t want to invest a lot, then a chain drive is the best option. A direct drive is the least expensive option, although, this is suitable for light-duty applications and for smaller machinery.

 

The size of the auger depends on the hydraulic flow rate and this determines the power supply to the auger. The lower-end drives having the best operating flow rates ranging between 10-14 gpm can accommodate smaller sized bits, while upper-end models deliver flows between 30-45 gpm and are required to operate large sized auger bits raging between 36-48 inches in diameter. Apart from the drive, the options of auger bits are also important and they come in varying styles having capabilities.

 

Usually, light-duty bits work well when the soil is loose and not compacted, while heavy-duty bits are suitable for frozen or compacted ground and clayey soil. The most commonly used augers are drive-in teeth, bolt-on teeth and bullet teeth. Bolt-on teeth augers are suitable for ground conditions that are light to moderate. The drive-in teeth make use of a boring head made of cast steel with a soft hammer and a rubber piece for tough ground such as frozen ground, asphalt, heavy clay and fracturable rock. Rock augers make use of bullet carbide teeth and are suitable for digging solid rock and concrete.

 

Backhoes

You don’t really have to spend a lot of money to dig a large hole or miss timelines. Usually, for jobs such as digging basements, trenches, drainage ditches and footings, the job is done by a mini-excavator. Now, you can now make use of a backhoe attachment to make your skid steer work as a multipurpose taskmaster. You can operate the backhoe attachment either from inside or outside the cab or/and integrate the controls of the skid steer or have their own controls. While the backhoes which are boom-controlled i.e. which is operated using the levers of the skid steer fall short in terms of the breakout force and the arm reach, the single-cylinder design that is used to run the bucket curl requires only around 11 to 22 gpm and these are quite affordable too.

 

Some of the backhoe attachments have their own controls, which allows you to control it either inside your skid steer’s cab or from outside it. The backhoe comes in 2 operating patterns – SAE or ISO and this can easily match the specifications of a compact excavator. However, the increased versatility of the backhoe makes it more expensive and also makes greater demands on the skid steer.

 

The operator of the skid steer must exit the cab of the machine and sit on the seat of the backhoe attachment in the case of “out of the cab” controlled attachments. And sitting at the top of the backhoe attachment, the operator can maneuver the attachment using the excavator type of controls and get a dig depth of up to 11 feet.

 

Trenchers

When you are slicing through tough earth, it is very important to find a balanced trenching attachment for the job. When it comes to applications such as farming, landscaping, light construction work and installations and repairs around your home, a skid steer trencher can be a very powerful tool.

 

However, since the trencher is expensive, you must first evaluate your requirements and expectations by considering a few factors. The most important factor that you must consider is the width and depth of the trencher for the particular job. Most trenchers are versatile and are designed for multiple applications, so you must ensure all your job requirements are in place before you go out and buy or rent a trencher. This will enable you to determine the proper trencher model for you.

 

A small skid steer has the ability to dig a trench 36 inches deep and 10 inches wide. And, if the job is larger, you can choose a trencher attachment for a larger skid steer having digging capabilities between 24-60 inches deep and 6-12 inches wide. Depending on your requirements, the boom length of the trencher ranges from 30-60 inches.

 

Since trencher attachments work on pressure and flow, it is important to know the skid steer’s capabilities.

  • For a small skid steer, the flow requirements are around 8-20 gpm and hydraulic pressure between 1,750-3,000 psi.
  • For mid-sized skid steers, the flow ranges between 10 and 40 gpm and pressure from 2,000-4,200 psi.

 

Since the soil conditions vary from one location to another, you must use the digging chain according to the soil conditions. There are different types of digging chains:

  • Standard Chain: For damp and loose soils.
  • Full Rock and Frost Chain: For rocky or frosty soils.
  • Half Rock and Frost Chain: For mixed or harder rocky soils.
  • Double Anti-Back Flex Chain: This is ideal for drier and harder soils.
  • Bullet or Terminator Chain: Very dry and hard soils.

 

There are several features and advantages offered by trencher manufacturers. Some trenchers have the direct motor drive feature and others have the chain reduction drive. The direct drive offers greater chain speed but loses out in terms of the long-term durability and torque. A heavy-duty chain reduction drive offers an economical as well as dependable way of maximizing the digging power at a very affordable price.

 

Buckets

Usually, all skid steers are equipped with an all-purpose bucket known as a dirt bucket. Dirt buckets are sturdy and strong and are used mainly to move rocks, dirt, debris and other materials such as gravel, sand, castings, etc. Most manufacturers make use of the dirt bucket to perform the testing and rating i.e. lifting capacity, breakout forces and operating loads of the skid steers. The dirt bucket usually has a rounded back which facilitates the easy spreading of material. However, apart from the dirt bucket, there are other types of buckets too.

 

Combination Bucket

A combination bucket is a multifunctional attachment for a skid steer that can be used for various purposes such as:

  • A bucket for carrying, loading and dumping.
  • A grapple that can help to handle objects such as stumps, logs, etc.
  • A clamshell for leveling, spreading and dozing material.
  • Combination buckets are available with teeth or without them and some of the models are equipped with cutting edges that are replaceable on the rear of the dozer and clamshell blade.

 

Auger Mixing Bucket

This is designed to facilitate easy transportation and dispensing of concrete and it also eliminates the labor of mixing the cement. You can also use it for sand, washed gravel, asphalt, agricultural grains and wildlife feed. Some of the units are equipped with a frame that can be attached on both sides to control the discharge from either right or left and they also come along with a 2- or 3-feet chute, couplers and hoses.

 

Concrete Placing Bucket

These buckets are designed to carry and place concrete neatly, quickly and accurately in tight spaces where a cement truck cannot enter. The concrete placing bucket is suitable for pouring formed columns, backyard patios and footings. Usually, these buckets are available in capacities of 1/2- and ¾-cubic yard.

 

Grapple Bucket

If you need to move piles of odd-sized debris such as in demolition sites or you require a firm grip on a big object such as a log or a rock, it is best to use the grapple bucket. The upper portion of the bucket can handle uneven loads because of the presence of the two grapple arms with individual cylinders. Some grapple buckets have an open area below instead of the regular floor plate that lets the fine materials like dirt and debris to fall through.

 

Snow or Light Material Bucket

These are ideal to move light materials like mulch, snow, bark chips, landscaping materials and agricultural products such as manure, feed, etc. These buckets usually have the highest capacity, around 13-60 cubic feet and have straight sides so that they can penetrate the materials easily. Light material buckets are excellent for landscapers for big projects and they are used mainly to handle bulk materials, plowing or loading.

 

Rock Bucket

It is a good idea to have a rock bucket on the worksite if the job requires sorting and sifting of material, removing large debris or clearing stones from the site. Rock buckets are designed with slats on the top, bottom and sides of the bucket. While digging and grading, the rock buckets retain the rocks and debris, while the fine dirt and sand are dropped back onto the site.

 

Grading or Low-Profile Bucket

This bucket offers the best visibility of the cutting edge; however, the capacity of this is quite low, around 10-18 cubic feet. Grading buckets are mainly used for grading applications because they offer good visibility. But, the small height of the bucket and the longer extension to the front of the bucket may reduce the bucket’s rated lift capacity.

 

Rakes

There are many kinds of rake attachments available for the skid steer depending on the requirements of the job. And, you must choose the proper rake attachment that can help to improve your productivity.

 

Grader Rake

If you are starting a landscaping product, the most important thing required is manageable soil. Grader rake attachments are equipped with evenly spaced, strong tines that can separate the debris in order to clean up the site and level out compacted soil. Grader rakes are ideal for jobs that require clearing coarse material like rocks, bricks, sticks and roots from the worksite.

 

However, this attachment is not suitable for preparing the soil for the purpose of grass seedlings because there are long striations created by the tines which cause the seed to fall too deeply into the ground causing the creation of stripes in the lawn. Grader rake attachments are extremely versatile and also easy to operate; however, you should take care to the select the width according to the skid steer.

 

Auto Rake

Once the excess debris is cleared and the area has been leveled, the soil can be prepared for seeding. Auto rakes make use of a bucket either with a bar having teeth or with a rake chain in order to remove the smaller debris and rocks from the loose soil and sift the top layer of soil so that it is ready for sod or seed.

 

You can collect the debris, transport it and dump it using the auto rake. However, before you use this attachment, ensure that the area does not have large tree branches, boulders, logs, lumber, wire, etc. which is too big for the bucket or that can get coiled around the chain of the rake. You must also ensure that the soil is loose and any areas that are compacted has been tilled to a 2-inch depth or more.

 

Preparator Rake

This attachment has the combined capabilities of the auto rake and the grader rake into a single attachment and it can facilitate rock removal, clean up and soil preparation. The rake has a bi-directional rotating drum which carries the debris and rocks into the bucket — which is perforated — that sifts the dirt, tills and fluffs the ground efficiently and grooms the soil. The preparator can be used for jobs like foliage removal, rock collection, soil roughing and tilling, etc.

 

Power Box Rake

This is probably the niftiest rake attachment as it combines 4 attachments in one letting you rake, grade, level, remove the debris and also prepare the ground for sod or seed. This rake can also help to remove weeds and old lawns for renovating the lawn.

 

We have just discussed the most important skid steer attachments and there are hundreds more. So, you must determine the type of projects that you will be doing most often and then decide on which attachments are a must have for you that you should definitely invest in.

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