What is a Skid Steer?


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Bobcat S175 Skid Steer in the field

Bobcat S175 idle in the field - most likely used to carry mulch to a housing development.

Even if you’ve never been on a farm or at a construction site, you may have heard of people talking about a skid steer or a skid loader before. So, what exactly is a skid steer, and what does it do? You’ve come to the right place for that information. Here at Loader Parts Source, our employees have been working with skid steer parts, providing service and advice, for over 50 years combined. 

What is a skid steer? 

Skid steers are machines equipped with tools designed to assist in labor and operate using differential steering. What primarily makes them different from other heavy equipment is the small size and the movement. Thanks to differential steering, which means the machine turns by moving the wheels or tracks on each side at different speeds, skid steers are capable of completing a zero-radius turn. These differences, along with the various compatible attachments, make the skid steer very proficient for people in the agriculture, construction, and landscaping industries. 

How Does a Skid Steer Work? 

No matter what attachments you might add to a skid steer, it uses the same mechanisms to operate. Skid steers use hydraulic power to move both the wheels/tracks and the attachments. Gear pumps are the power source for your attachments. The type of gear pump required mainly depends on your machines options, such as attachments. For your movement, drive pumps manage the flow of hydraulic fluid that enables the drive motors to give specific levels of power to either side.

Most skid steers use a lever system to determine how much hydraulic pressure is applied. If you want to go forward, you would push both handheld levers forward. If you want to turn to the right, pull back the right level and push forward the left and vice versa for the left. Foot pedals are usually used to control the lift and tilt of the attachments. Be sure to read the safety manual and get proper training before trying to operate a skid steer.

 Where did they come from?

There are many brands of skid steers, but the Bobcat Company has the claims to the first ever model. In 1962, the first Bobcat-branded skid steer was released with 15.5 horsepower and an 1100 lb. capacity but the idea for the machine was first implemented in 1957. While looking for a way to clean turkey barns faster, brothers Louis and Cyril Keller created a model with 6 horsepower. They made seven machines in that year and were hired the following year by the Melroe Manufacturing Company. Other equipment companies, such as Caterpillar and John Deere, eventually caught on, creating their own models of the skid steer.

How much does it cost?

When looking for a skid steer to purchase, you should consider what you are going to primarily use the machine for and what stage your business is in. If you are newer to the business or looking for cheaper options, your best bet is to buy used with more logged hours as these machines will likely be several thousand dollars cheaper. They may need maintenance and should be carefully inspected before purchasing. Buying new might be recommended for people with a large existing fleet that have a schedule of regular business. Whatever decision is right for you, you will be looking at spending between $20,000 and $80,000 for a machine.

Here at Loader Parts Source, we are always happy to serve skid steer operators with fast, easy, and fair parts as well as advice. If you buy a used machine, be sure to browse our inventory when the time for maintenance comes around. Our service representatives are available if you have any questions about your skid steer, whether it is troubleshooting an on-going issue or if you need advice on an installation. We also have a database of tech tip videos for free.


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