Skid steer trencher attachments are commonly thrown into the “I’ll get to that later” pile because they have few moving components. However, a lack of regular maintenance and inspection will result in a significant lack of performance.
“On average, it takes less than 30 minutes to learn all the proper maintenance and upkeep of a skid steer trenching attachment,” says Dave Aldrich, dealer development and service manager for Bradco Attachments. “While it doesn’t take long to perform the actual maintenance checks, the importance is very high. Improper maintenance can cause excessive wear on ground contact parts, overheating of the machine, and costly bearing and headshaft damage to the trencher attachment that can be easily avoided.”
Before You Start, Check The Basics. Before your trencher touches the dirt, match the tooth type and pattern with your soil type. Talk with your dealer or manufacturer representative about the soil type you will be digging into. Then, choose the proper teeth for your application:
- Cup: The most common teeth chosen for skid steer trencher attachments. Ideal for good digging applications like black dirt, loam, moist clay, sand and sandy clay.
- Shark: Ideal for rocky, abrasive or compact conditions like caliche.
- Frost: Ideal for the most extreme trenching applications like coral, frozen ground and fracturable rock.
One of the most commonly overlooked maintenance requirements is the appropriate adjustment of the digging chain tension. If the tension is too loose or too tight, it will cause excessive wear on the sprockets, idler bearings and chain. For many skid steer trenching attachments, there is a full adjustment on the boom so you can set the proper tension. When tensioned, put the trencher attachment in the horizontal position and check the sag of the chain. The typical maximum sag is about 1-1/2 inches. Always check your manual first because boom styles vary.
Your Daily Inspection Checklist. Unlike a dedicated trenching machine, a skid steer trenching attachment has very few moving parts. It is hydraulically driven so there are no pivot points, belts, pulleys or clutches, and there are fewer bearings and pins. However, the trencher must still be inspected each day before use. While you should be sure to reference your manual for specific maintenance checks, here are some of the basics that apply to most models:
- Eye Test: Walk around your machine and look for noticeable loose bolts, cap screws, fittings and bearings and confirm all safety shields are in place.
- Hoses: Inspect all hydraulic hoses to make sure they haven’t been damaged or pinched by the skid steer frame. Since skid steer trenching attachments often dig at 60- to 90-degree angles, hose pinching is possible. Pinching may cause hose rupture, collapse or restriction, often resulting in leakage and/or overheating of the hydraulic system.
- Chain Tension: Check the sag distance while in the horizontal position.
- Leakage: Examine the idler wheel and headshaft area for excessive grease leakage to diagnose damaged seals.
- Greasing: The headshaft should be greased after every 8 hours of use with high-quality SAE multi-purpose grease. Note: Some models have a sealed headshaft and don’t require greasing.
- Teeth: Inspect the digging chain to make sure all teeth are in place, in good condition, and the hardware around it is secure and tight on each link.
“Because tooth wear depends mostly on the soil type, a daily tooth wear check is critical to ensure maximum trencher performance,” says Aldrich. “A set of teeth can last as little as 10 hours or exceed 100 hours depending on your soil. Once the teeth are at about 50% performance, the trencher will lose more in performance than it would cost for a new set of teeth. Plus, it will cut better, putting much less stress on the trencher components and skid steer.”