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    Earthmoving with a Skid Steer

    Published on 20 February 2020, Thursday, 4:14 AM
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    A skid steer is a diesel-powered, highly-manoeuvrable earth-moving vehicle with a large bucket on the front. A typical skid steer has four wheels, however, there are models with caterpillar tracks rather than wheels. Skid steers are also known as “bobcats” after a popular brand.

    Both are earth movers, rather than hole diggers. They’re great for landscaping or clearing demolition debris, and have the best manoeuvrability of any machine.

    We'll take a look at these features of the skid steer, but we’ll begin with the reason for its name.

    Why the name ‘skid steer’?

    The name ‘skid steer’ will become clear as soon as you drive one. On a regular vehicle, a steering wheel connects to the transmission and turns the wheels in the direction you want to go.

    But a skid steer has fixed wheels that always face forward. It turns by powering the wheels on one side or the other, dragging the non-powered wheels sideways (hence “skid” steer).

    This means a skid steer can “pirouette”, turning on the spot in a zero-radius circle. That makes it highly manoeuvrable in tight spaces – the main reason why it’s so popular.

    What are they used for?

    Skid steers come in small, medium and large sizes. The smallest is ideal if you need to get one up the narrow side of the house for a backyard job. But where possible you should choose the largest one, since they get the job done more quickly.

    Skid steers are the ultimate mini earth-mover. They are used in landscaping to move soil or rocks, and because they can turn in a small space, they suit even the smallest garden.

    The skid steer can collect site rubble from demolitions or DIY projects, and it's also ideal if you need to level uneven ground.

    Why not a mini loader or excavator?

    The skid steer has several advantages over excavators and mini loaders. It’s more versatile – an excavator or digger is not designed to move materials, but a skid steer can be used for some digging projects.

    A skid steer is more powerful than a mini loader, which are only used for the lightest jobs. It’s a great combination of power and manoeuvrability, the reason it’s remained popular ever since the skid steer concept first appeared in 1960.

    • Earthmoving using the Skid Steer since 1960.

    Tracks or wheels?

    Apart from how they move, the track and wheel versions of skid steers are indistinguishable. Both come with a bucket loader on the front. Which one you use depends on the terrain.

    You would need a tracked version in sandy, wet or muddy conditions because it has better grip. The tracks also spread the weight of the skid steer over a broader area, keeping it on top of the sand or mud.

    Are skid steers easy to operate?

    Instead of a steering wheel, the skid steer is operated with two joysticks. One moves the machine forward or backward and turns it. The other lifts and lowers the bucket and controls its tilt. The driving compartment has a full roll over protection canopy for operator safety.

    The Kennards Hire team will give you instructions on how to drive the skid steer before you leave the branch, however the operators manual must be read as well before operating the machine.

    You don’t need to have a special licence if you are using the skid steer for private, non-commercial projects. However, you do have to be deemed a “competent operator” by the Kennards Hire team.

    You can’t drive a skid steer on the road. Smaller ones are transported on a trailer, while the larger ones need a truck. Your Kennards Hire team will tell you which method is necessary for the model hired.

    So, for your earth moving project consider a skid steer for its manoeuvrability and versatility. Whether it’s clearing rubble or moving boulders into place for your garden terrace, Kennards Hire’s skid steers are the practical choice.

    Nathan Mills portrait image
    Nathan Mills
    Nathan is a seasoned Kennards Hire team member passionate about empowering DIYers in their projects. He loves everything DIY and brings together years of equipment and project experience to help customers get the right tools for their next job.