Let It Snow: A Helpful Guide to Picking Your Machine in the Wintertime
by David Caldwell
Ready or not, the snow will start falling soon as the seasons change and cooler temperatures begin to build. As we transition from summer into the fall/winter seasons, it is important to be prepared for the snow and ice. With this in mind, let’s take a look at various machines and how they can be utilized to their maximum potential.
Often referred to as the “Swiss army knife” of the construction industry, skid steers are an invaluable piece of equipment to many contractors and landscapers during the winter months. With compact dimensions, an ability to turn and operate in very tight spaces, and increased travel speeds and traction capabilities, skid steers are ideal for snow removal. They have the ability to be fitted with a wide range of snow removal equipment that includes spreaders, plows, pushers and snow buckets. When equipped with a high flow option, skid steers are able to operate attachments like snow blowers and angle brooms that often require increased hydraulic flow with greater efficiency.
When using a skid steer loader during the winter months, the operator should be mindful of his tire pressure. As temperatures drop and it gets colder, tire pressure will also drop and should be checked regularly. The decrease in tire pressure will diminish the skid steer’s ability to push material and lift to full dump height.
To improve the performance of a skid steer loader in snow removal applications, it may be wise to consider purchasing a set of tires designed specifically for winter applications. Ideally, tires for snow removal will be much narrower (generally 6 ½ to 8 inches wide). The standard skid steer tire is typically over 10 inches wide. With narrower tires, ground pressure will increase and result in better traction for turning and pushing. Additionally, snow tires are also taller, which will translate to higher ground speeds. An aggressive tread pattern, studs or chains will also improve the loader’s traction – allowing it to get a better bite in snow and ice.
Compact track loaders are also capable snow removal machines, but there are several items to be mindful of before putting one into service. The operator should be aware of the increased operating costs associated with using a compact track loader. Not only do you have the cost of the track, but the conditions will place additional wear on undercarriage components (sprockets, idlers, rollers). Therefore, it is critical to keep the undercarriage clear of ice and mud that can build up – causing rollers to seize up and not turn. If the machine is not inspected regularly, this can result in accelerated wear and damage to undercarriage components and result in costly repairs and downtime.
To achieve maximum performance, the track loader should be equipped with the right track. If it is equipped with a common wide block-style tread pattern, it can easily break traction – leading to slippage and longer stopping distances. Utilizing a track system specifically designed for winter applications will provide the best results. A snow-type track will feature a more aggressive lug pattern, providing better traction, reduced stopping distances, and improved efficiency and performance.
A track loader that is maintained properly and equipped with the appropriate track will perform well, and it can be equipped with the same attachments used on skid steer loaders. Compact track loaders deliver exceptional tractive forces, allowing them to push and turn well. By having greater flotation characteristics, the operator does not have to be as concerned with getting stuck or damaging sensitive areas.
Compact Wheel Loaders
Compact wheel loaders also deserve strong consideration for a multitude of reasons. For starters, the operator can easily enter and exit a compact wheel loader and the enclosed cab provides a spacious environment with unobstructed visibility to the front, rear and sides of the machine.
Further enhancing the versatility of the compact wheel loader, many are now equipped with universal skid steer attachment couplers or can be equipped with a universal skid steer attachment bracket – allowing it to accept a wide variety of skid steer attachments. Additionally, compact wheel loaders often deliver higher operating capacities, faster cycle times, better reach and dump height, and excellent fuel economy (lower HP engines). Plus, they articulate, resulting in less tire wear and damage to sensitive areas and surfaces. Locking differentials are also handy and can be engaged to reduce tire slippage and enhance traction performance.
A compact wheel loader can also be equipped with a road gear or high-speed travel that allows it to reach travel speeds in excess of 24 mph. The increased travel speed can greatly improve efficiency, and is an option worth considering if you are working on larger jobs. It’s perfect when you need to move the machine from one side of the site to the other, or if you plan to ride the loader from jobsite to jobsite.
Since many snow contracts involve the removal of snow at night, a compact wheel loader features light packages that include low and high beam lights, front and rear work lights, and directional indicators, making them ideal for work after dark. Light packages are critical to improving jobsite safety and increasing visibility and jobsite awareness.
Snow removal can be an outstanding income stream in the colder months. Having the right machine will improve comfort, performance and efficiency, and provide you with greater peace of mind. Be sure to review the complete lineup of Takeuchi skid steer, compact track and compact wheel loaders so you can be in the know and make an informed decision. Finally, review the instructions for proper operation and maintenance of your Takeuchi product as outlined in the Operation and Maintenance Manual. Above all, stay warm and safe!