Featured in: ProContractorRentals
By Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch compact equipment product manager
From a compact landscape project to a larger-scale, heavy duty jobsite, mini skid steers provide great value to rental owners – especially when the equipment is at peak performance and reliable. Downtime can hurt the bottom line, so machine effectiveness is dependent upon uptime.
To help rental centers increase ROI and maintain uptime, mini skid steers have been updated and designed for reliable, low-maintenance operation. Even tough equipment, however, can run into an issue when not properly maintained. To get the most of these machines, rental owners should follow best practices and perform regular maintenance.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Maintenance
Outlining the basic design of a mini skid steer helps explain the routine maintenance that rental owners can follow to keep machines running efficiently. Most important to note: All mini skid steer attachments and tracks are, in part, powered by the hydraulic system. Issues with the hydraulic system can cause major complications with attachments and general machine operation.
One recommendation to keep in mind: Before a renter leaves with the machine, make sure that the flow rate of the hydraulic system matches what is needed to operate the attachment. An incorrect match can reduce the efficiency of the attachment by decreasing how quickly the machine operates or how well the attachment works.
This mismatch goes beyond a hit to a renter’s productivity, as the attachment will consistently not operate as designed, decreasing the hydraulic efficiency of the attachment. Issues with the compatibility of an attachment and the unit can also cause immediate downtime, bringing the renter right back to the rental center. For example, if a low-flow attachment is put on a high-flow hydraulic system, the machine’s system can overpower the attachment, causing motor seal failure and immediately stopping operation. Once the attachment or mini skid steer is damaged, productivity and project failure are not far off.
Routine Maintenance Goes a Long Way
Beyond matching hydraulic system and the attachment, renters should follow routine-maintenance best practices for attachments to improve efficiency and longevity. The first rule of thumb to ensure safe procedures is to read the operator’s manual, which is loaded with important safety and practical, machine-operation information.
Each attachment available for the Ditch Witch line of mini skid steers has its own maintenance routines. A good place to start is the operator’s manual, which details the regular upkeep that optimizes performance. The most common attachments and their recommended maintenance include:
- Pallet forks: Inspect forks before each use for damage or wear that requires immediate attention
- Plows: Inspect for loose hose or fittings, and check the blade for wear or cracks
- Tillers: Lubricate the bearings and inspect tines for damage
- Trenchers: Check for worn teeth and proper chain tension in order to reduce the amount of binding
In addition to reading the manual, a general best practice for keeping attachments operating effectively is greasing them daily. Each day as the attachment is used, the renter should utilize a grease gun to pump grease into the attachment until excess is visible. To simplify maintenance routines, some Ditch Witch attachments are grease free.
Other important considerations include the attachment lock pins for the loader arms, which should be checked whenever an attachment is installed. These pins are responsible for engaging the attachment. Rental owners and renters can ensure a proper installation by checking whether the bottoms of lock pins are visible under the attachment receiver plate.
In addition, renters should examine where the hoses couple to the machine for dirt or debris. Contaminated quick couplers can lead to hydraulic system failure even for machines designed to filter the fluid coming from the attachment.
Staying Vigilant When Track Hits the Job
Equipment only remains productive when it’s in good working condition. Rental centers should encourage renters to inspect equipment before the start of each day on a job to make sure it’s working properly.
The Ditch Witch organization has a checklist for inspecting equipment. By checking off the items, such as leaks, loose fittings and hardware, an operator is better prepared to maintain a safe jobsite.
Outstanding Performance Made Easy
Keeping attachments in working order and maintaining a regular maintenance schedule for hydraulic systems directly impacts the productivity of a mini skid steer. When operating properly, the mini skid steer delivers exceptional performance and productivity for a wide variety of jobsites – from compact landscaping to larger underground construction jobs.
For more information, visit Stand On Skid Steers | Ditch Witch – Directional Drills, Trenchers, Vacs, & Skid Steers
Ditch Witch is a trademark of The Charles Machine Works, Inc.