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Whether you are renting a skid steer for the first time, or are a regular operator that sits in one everyday, there are various things to bare in mind when using one of these powerful vehicles.

Safety is obviously a number one factor, and we will look closely into that today. However, we’ll also cover some simple tips for you to remember.

For instance, correctly maintaining the skid steer and how to use one in a way that doesn’t damage your lawn are all important considerations. We shall look at those and a whole lot more.

‘Safety first’ as they say; so let’s cover that now.

Part 1: Important safety tips when operating a skid steer

Confidence behind the wheel

Know what everything does: this may sound rather obvious but you should familiarize yourself with all the controls and various functions both inside and out of the skid steer.

If you are a bit rusty, or are using the vehicle for the first time, take things very slow. Practice at half speed while you get to grips with everything.

On the flip side of this, never become complacent just because you feel you could operate a skid steer with your eyes closed.

Being overly confident and not paying attention to what you are doing is a far more dangerous scenario that having a beginner at the helm.

Basic safety rules exist for a reason

There are a number of rules that should be adhered to when working with or around equipment such as a skid steer.

For instance, you should always shut off the engine before exiting the machine.

You should never walk under the raised arms, or behind the machine if someone else is operating it.

All operators should also wear hearing protection.

These are all obvious points to make, however it is rather disheartening how many ‘professionals’ fail to abide by them. Overall it is just bad form to be lazy in this regard.

Nobody likes a wise guy

Continuing the safety complacency angle, those that think a skid steer is a toy shouldn’t be behind the controls.

Never lift or carry passengers in the bucket or any other attachment. Nor should you encourage anyone hitching onto the sides of the cabin or rear.

Failing to wear your seatbelt is also far from big or clever. The belt will save you in case the machine rolls over.

If you have to suddenly stop for whatever reason the belt will also help prevent a nasty collision with the roll bars or any other hard surface within the machine.

Preparation is key

We will go over important ways to ensure your skid steer is up to the job in hand and how to check equipment in a follow up article.

However, needless to say this is an important part of any safety routine when using heavy machinery.

Another issue to prepare for however, is to know exactly where and what you will be digging.

This may involve calling the utilities company before you start to ensure there are no pipelines or waterworks in the area you plan to work.

Careful planning will help you have a simple and stress free day of work with the skid steer.


Part 2: Top Tips on Using a Skid Steer

Clearing the area

The average skid steer as awful visibility towards the rear. They also have large blind spots on either sides (made worse depending on the height of the arms and the kind of attachment you are using).

To help reduce the risk of hitting any thing or one while operating the machine, you should clear as much as possible from the work area.

Make sure dogs, children and anyone else unessential to the job in hand is safely elsewhere.

The same applies for any garden furniture, equipment, cars, boats and anything else that might be in and around your outside space.

If you can move it out of the way, do so. It will make life easier to you.

Take care of your lawn

Skid steers turn based on their wheel differentiation. In other words, one wheel will spin faster than the other in order to move the vehicle in a certain direction.

This causes wheel spin (and skidding) that will churn up your lovely lawn in no time.

To minimize this as much as possible you should make long, wide turns when on terrain you want to maintain.

Wet soil is worse than dry, so if you can work when the ground is hard and dry.

Protect with plywood or ground mats

It goes without saying that a skid steer is a heavy piece of kit.

To protect sidewalks, walkways and patios it is good practice to lay down planks of plywood.

Avoid driving over septic mounds, tanks or drain fields if you can.

Careful with that load

Skid steers can feel unstable when the bucket is fully loaded. If the arms are raised high on a full load you can lose control.

For this reason, when you transport any load, keep those arms low, (with enough ground clearance to avoid collision with the floor).

If you find yourself working on a slope, the heavy side of the machine should always face uphill.

Whether you have a full load or not, you should avoid traversing hills sideways.

The safest position is to face either up or down the hill, depending on whether your bucket is full or not.

Using a skid steer bucket

On the subject of the bucket, let’s take a closer look at how you actually use one.

When pushing the attachment into a pile of dirt, drive into the pile with the bucket straight before tipping it back. (A good technique is to wiggle the bucket up and down slightly so that you can move further into the dirt pile)

Then, when lifting the bucket tilt the bucket down a few degrees. If you don’t do this the dirt will spill over the back and straight on top of the skid steer, (which is an embarrassing mistake to make).

When its time to dump that load, give the bucket a little shake by tapping the controls. This will help free up any dirt that has stuck to the sides of the attachment.

(You should also take a look at the bucket occasionally. If the sides are wedged with dirt, you will be working a less than full efficiency).

Have a shovel at hand to dig out any excess dirt that might be slowing you down.