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Tips for Purchasing a Used Skid Steer (Plus 6 Walkaround Tips)

Skid Steer Loaders: New VS Used 

Skid steer loaders are an incredibly versatile piece of equipment, but not everyone that needs one is in the market for a brand new one.  In this blog post, we are going to discuss some tips for purchasing a good quality used skid steer.



Interesting in more information about skid steers and track loaders? Take a look at some of our other Shop Talk blog posts ...

Do Some Research on Brands

new-versus-used.jpgBefore you buy a skid steer -- new or used -- you should do some background research on the brands you'll be considering.  For example, how expensive are the replacement parts and whether or not they are easy to get.  Parts that are hard to get, even if the cost is reasonable, can end up costing you more money in the long run due to extra down-time for your machine.  You also need to consider how much the replacement tires are going to cost, because you'll eventually need to replace them.




Consider Age, Hours, and Usage

You should also stick to machines that were used part-time as opposed to full time.  Consider this:  full-time use for a typical skid steer is about 6 hours per day, or 30 hours per week; a skid steer that has been worked part-time usually clocks about 15 hours per week.  If a 2-year old skid steer has 1,500 hours on it, it hasn’t been worked full-time.

Here's a useful tip about hours and horsepower:  the larger the machine, the longer it can go before a total engine overhaul is Introduction-to-torque-density-001.jpgnecessary. 

  • As a rule of thumb, an 80 hp machine won't require an engine overhaul until its passed 8,000 hours;
  • a 40 hp machine, on the other hand, will likely require an overhaul after about 4,000 hours.

Also, note that older machines with fewer hours are typically going to be a better deal than newer machines with more hours primarily because the newer machine was likely worked very hard in a short amount of time, which means more wear and tear are likely.

Also note that a skid steer used on a farm or for snowplowing doesn’t suffer the same kind of abuse that is inevitable when its been used for construction projects.


What to Check on a Walkaround

Here are some specific things to look for and ask about when doing a walkaround of the skid steer you are thinking about purchasing.

Tip #1: Skid Steer Booms

As you start a walkaround on the skid steer, check for cracks or welds on the booms (also known as arm loaders) – cracks or damage that has required welds can be dangerous.  Also notice if the booms are bent, which signals very heavy use and check the boom hinge points and pivots to see if they are loose or tight.


Tip #2: Skid Steer Wheels and Tires

skid-steer-tires-002.pngAs you take a look at the wheels, take the time to check for an axle seal leak.  If there is evidence of one, you might want to lift the machine
up and check to see which wheel is leaking and verify that the bearings aren’t out.  Next check the wear on the tire treads -- typical skid steer tires should last about 500 hours on average.  Note if there are any signs of uneven wear or damage to the sidewalls.


Tip #3: Skid Steer Leaks

Keep an eye out for evidence of leaks, especially around the final drives.  A leaking final drive can lead to very expensive repairs, and can signal that the machine was not correctly maintained.  Also take a look under the machine for evidence of leaks.  The belly pan should not wet with oil

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Tip #4: Skid Steer Cab

skid-steer-loader-cab.jpgOne of the major things to check when looking over the cab is the ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structure):  make sure that there is no damage to it that could prevent it from adequately protecting the operator.  Also make sure the grab handles are securely fastened to the cab.  All safety equipment, lights, and alarms should be fully functional.



Tip #5: Skid Steer Engine

Check the engine oil.  If it is low on oil, there might be a leak or it might not have been maintained properly.  If the oil if it so thick that its tarry, that is not a good sign and definitely indicates that maintenance has not been kept up on the skid steer. 

When you get inside the skid steer, you should be able to turn the key and hear the engine it start up.  Remember that it is normal for a diesel engine to smoke for a few seconds after you start it, but if it is still smoking at 10 seconds then that machine has some serious engine problems.  You should also rev it up and check that it sounds normal.

Tip #6: Skid Steer Hydraulics

You want to keep an eye out for hydraulic leaks, of course, but keep in mind that it is OK if there is a little bit of hydraulic fluid around theheavy equipment lubricants- Texas-final-Drive.jpg auxiliary hydraulics – this is to be expected.  Don't forget to check the appearance of the hoses and watch out for damage, repairs, and scuff marks.

Once you have the skid steer running, lift boom up – it should not go back down by itself!  If you let go and it starts to sink down by itself, that is not a good sign.  If the bucket starts to turn all by itself, that is also not a good sign.  You should also be able to lift machine off the ground using the bucket or the boom and, again, it shouldn’t lower itself.


Used Skid Steer Loader General Tips

Be prepared to spend enough time on the machine to make sure it doesn’t lose power or overheat -- some problems might not manifest automatically.  You also need to have it inspected by your own mechanic.  Finally, if the machine isn’t very old and already has a new paint job, that might be an indicator of very heavy use.


Don't settle for a skid steer with a welded boom, oil or hydraulic leaks, missing operator protection, a smoking engine, etc.  Problems like this can be expensive to repair, and some of them may be dangerous for your operators or those working around the machine.  You can get an excellent deal on a used skid steer if you know what to look for!  


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Topics: Heavy Equipment 101, Skid Steers

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