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The Most Common Problems for Skid Steers and How to Address Them

The Most Common Problems for Skid Steers and How to Address Them

An orange skid steer parked near some trees on a jobsite

The Most Common Problems for Skid Steers and How to Address Them

Reading time: 5 min 30 sec

Introduction to Skid Steers

Skid steers are compact machines designed to maneuver in tight spaces where larger equipment cannot reach, making them ideal for tasks like earth moving and loading.

Their name comes from their unique steering mechanism, which operates through differential steering. Skid steers don’t have a traditional steering wheel or front-wheel turn. Instead, they steer by skidding or dragging their fixed-orientation wheels across the ground, which allows for sharp turns. The compact size of skid steers, often not much wider than a standard vehicle, enables them to operate in areas that would otherwise require manual labor.

While skid steers are widely used on construction sites, they are prone to certain performance and maintenance issues. In this guide, we’ll go over the most common problems for skid steers and how to address them, helping you get the most out of your investment.

Hydraulic System Issues

A skid steer’s hydraulic system is critical for lifting heavy loads and operating attachments. Common issues with a skid steer’s hydraulic system include loss of pressure, slow hydraulic functions and unusual noises during operation.

Addressing these hydraulic issues effectively requires regular maintenance and inspections. First, regularly check the hydraulic fluid levels and quality. Contaminated or low fluid can lead to unreliable performance and increased wear on components. Leaks can often be traced back to faulty seals or cracked hoses, which need to be replaced immediately to prevent further damage.

To prevent hydraulic system problems, consider maintaining a routine replacement schedule for the system’s wear components. Hydraulic hoses, O-rings and seals should be inspected regularly and replaced at the first sign of wear or according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. 

Additionally, the hydraulic filters should be changed regularly to keep the hydraulic fluid free from contaminants, protecting other components in the system.

Engine Problems

Like all heavy equipment components, a skid steer’s engine is susceptible to a variety of issues that can negatively impact performance. Common engine problems include overheating, poor fuel efficiency, difficulty starting and uneven engine performance.

Maintaining the engine cooling system is the key to preventing overheating and ensuring the health of your skid steer. Regularly check the coolant level and top it up as needed. It’s also important to inspect the radiator and clear any debris that may obstruct airflow, such as leaves, dirt or dust.

To keep the engine running smoothly, fuel filters and air filters should be changed according to the manufacturer's guidelines (and more frequently in dirty environments). Worn or clogged filters can increase engine wear. 

Tire Wear and Tear

Tire maintenance is an important aspect of keeping your skid steer in good working condition. Regularly inspecting your machine’s tires is one of the best ways to ensure tire wear doesn’t get out of hand. If possible, check tires daily for signs of damage like cuts, punctures or uneven wear patterns.

Initial signs of tire wear or damage can include visible tread wear, exposed cords or blisters on the tire’s surface. Uneven wear, often caused by improper inflation or misalignment, can lead to reduced traction and handling, making the skid steer difficult to operate. Ignoring these warning signs can result in premature tire failure, potentially increasing maintenance costs.

Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can also cause uneven wear and tear, reduce traction and impact fuel efficiency. To ensure that your machine’s tires are properly inflated, use a reliable tire pressure gauge to check the pressure at regular intervals, especially when there are significant temperature changes.

Electrical System Issues

The electrical system in a skid steer powers a number of essential functions, from starting the engine to operating the lights and sensors. Common electrical system issues include battery failures, faulty wiring and malfunctioning lights. 

A battery may fail due to age, poor maintenance or extreme temperatures, leading to starting problems or intermittent power supply. Faulty lighting, which is sometimes caused by damaged wires or blown fuses, can compromise safety, especially in low-visibility conditions.

To prevent malfunctions, regular inspections are key. It is crucial to check all electrical connections periodically for signs of corrosion, wear or looseness. Connections should be clean and tight to ensure optimal conductivity and reduce the risk of electrical failures.

Within the skid steer’s electrical system, several components may need to be replaced over time. Batteries should be tested regularly and typically replaced every three to five years, depending on usage and maintenance. Fuses and light bulbs are also common components that may need frequent replacement due to regular wear. 

Keeping a regular maintenance schedule and replacing these components as needed will help maintain the operational efficiency of your skid steer and prevent unexpected downtime.

Attachment Failures

Skid steers are popular, in part, due to their ability to work with a range of attachments. Buckets, forks, augers and breakers are all commonly used with skid steers. Attachments enhance the capabilities of skid steers, allowing them to perform a range of tasks, from digging to lifting and more.

However, attachments can also cause problems if not properly maintained or fitted. Common problems include operational inconsistencies where the attachment doesn’t perform as expected and coupler issues, which can prevent attachments from securely connecting to the skid steer. These problems may stem from hydraulic malfunctions or wear and tear of the mechanism.

Regular Preventive Maintenance for Skid Steers

Regular preventive maintenance is the best way to maximize the lifespan and efficiency of your skid steer. By adhering to a consistent maintenance schedule, you can prevent mechanical failures, reduce downtime and minimize costly repairs.

Daily Maintenance Tasks:
  • Visual Inspection
  • Check Fluid Levels
  • Clean the Machine
Weekly Maintenance Tasks:
  • Inspect and Clean Filters
  • Battery Maintenance
  • Test Safety Features
Monthly Maintenance Tasks:
  • Grease Joints
  • Tire Pressure and Condition
  • Inspect and Tighten Bolts and Fittings

Final Thoughts

While skid steers are known for being reliable, it’s critical to consider the unique problems that make caring for these machines a challenge. To keep your skid steer in working condition, it’s important to implement a preventive maintenance plan that takes into account the unique needs of this machine.

Timely maintenance and the replacement of worn-out parts can not only ensure the smooth functioning of your equipment but significantly reduce the likelihood of repairs and downtime. Proactively replacing parts like filters, seals, tires and hydraulic hoses before they fail can prevent more serious issues down the line.

The EquipmentShare Shop offers a comprehensive selection of OEM and aftermarket parts for skid steers. Whether you're in need of routine replacement parts or more specialized components, the EquipmentShare Shop can help ensure your equipment stays in working condition. Don’t see the particular parts your machine needs? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts for personalized assistance.

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