Skid Steer – Wheels vs. Tracks: What’s The Difference (2023 Comparison)
Skid steer loaders (also known as skid steers) are a staple on construction sites because of their ability to perform almost all kinds of construction tasks. But there’s often a debate among construction engineers on which is better, a wheeled skid steer or a tracked skid steer.
While both types of skid steers may have their differences, pros, and cons, they are both helpful for performing various earth-moving tasks. If you’re looking to buy one for your construction site, you may be wondering what their differences are and which is best for your needs, and that’s what this article is about.
Wheeled skid steers are four-wheeled vehicles designed to aid construction works. They are designed to work well on terrains like concrete or hard surfaces because the wheels are not made to be challenged. Instead, they roll along such grounds without interference.
On the other hand, tracked skid steers run on two parallel tracks instead of wheels. They are typically similar to wheeled skid steers and perform the same functions, but their weight and added traction make them excellent for working on uneven or slippery terrains.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a skid steer loader is the terrain you’ll use it in. Each type of skid steer suits a particular terrain better. Thus, choosing the wrong skid steer for your work site can negatively affect your work progress.
The remaining parts of this article will explain everything you should know about the two types of skid steers, including their pros and cons.
Wheeled Skid Steer Overview
As the name denotes, wheeled skid steers are four-wheeled vehicles designed to handle some construction tasks. Their wheels are mechanically locked in synchronization on each side.
This mechanism means that the left-side drive wheels can be driven independently of the right-side drive wheels.
Wheeled skid steers are versatile and can be useful for different tasks on the construction site. They are also useful for other tasks like landscaping, forestry, and agriculture. This skid steer was the only skid steer available until track skid steers were invented.
Wheeled skid steers also come in various sizes to suit different applications. They can also help you handle work that doesn’t call for heavy-duty equipment.
Uses of Wheeled Skid Steer
Some of the most popular uses of wheeled skid steer loaders include:
The design of this type of skid steer makes it excellent for working in narrow areas. During demolitions, you’ll need to work in narrow areas. So, it’s easy to see that this type of skid steer works best for it.
Besides, they come with demolition shears that make for easier demolition of concrete, drywall, and other materials.
Wheeled skid steers are designed to work on hard concrete. So, it’s not surprising that they typically perform road building and maintenance tasks.
Besides, they are designed to allow for the attachment of pavement millers and cement mixers which are vital implements for tasks like grading, patching, paving, etc.
3. Snow removal
Buckets are the most common attachments in all types of skid steer. These buckets are typically designed for snow clearance and debris removal.
You can also get a snowblower or a snowblade attachment to ready your skid steer for serious snow removal.
4. Grading and backfilling
The unique design of wheeled skid steers also sets them apart for aerating, leveling grounds out, and filling in holes. The bucket attachment is always available for these tasks.
But you can also use a grading bar or a rake attachment to handle leveling jobs. You can also use them to scoop up rocks during the ground leveling process, so you don’t leave big trenches behind.
5. Agricultural works
It goes without saying that wheeled skid steers are very useful for agricultural work. They are great for tilling and most other tasks we’ve mentioned. The bucket attachment can also work to clean barns and stables.
Some farmers even go as far as purchasing a bale attachment which is typically used for the movement of hay bales.
Pros of Wheeled Skid Steer Loaders
- Wheeled skid steers are great for working on level surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, or hard-packed dirt. Their wheel design means they can move faster on these surfaces than a track skid steer. Therefore, they are the obvious choice when you want to cover more grounds in such territories.
- Wheeled skid steers are typically cheap to purchase. Tire designs do not cost as much as track designs, so the overall cost is generally less.
- Wheeled skid steers are also typically known for their versatility. Their ability to work with several different attachments makes them a one-time purchase that can handle different tasks.
- The compact size of this type of skid steer makes it a top choice when construction engineers are looking for machines that are easy to maneuver. Besides, the steering mechanism is also different from most heavyweight agricultural and construction equipment.
- The equal weight distribution among all four contact points can also be a problem. For instance, the operator may struggle with operating the machine on muddy surfaces.
- Tires are also prone to wear and tear compared to tracks. So you shouldn’t be surprised if some or all of the tires begin to wear after a few years.
Wheeled Skid Steer Loaders Vs. Tracked Skid Steer: Where Wheeled Wins
The importance of wheeled skid steers has grown since their inception in the 1950s. But where exactly does it perform better than its tracked counterpart? Here are some points you may argue for wheeled skid steers.
1. Hard surface heroes
Wheeled skid steers beat wheeled skid steers on hard surfaces like pavements and concrete. They are easier to move and can be maneuvered at full speed.
Additionally, their tires are designed for such terrains, so it’s not uncommon to see them wear out rather slowly.
2. Winter Worker
Most heavy-duty machines designed for hard floors and concrete will work comfortably in snowy conditions. The four wheels on this skid steer allow it to exert more ground pressure than track loaders.
Thus, they have better traction, which is an important feature for efficiently removing ice and snow. It’s also common knowledge that most snow removal occurs on concrete and asphalt, so tire wearing will not be a cause of concern.
3. Elevated operations
As a construction engineer, you’ll often need to operate on variable surfaces like rocky, uneven construction sites. Tires help to elevate your operation in such places.
The extra clearance that tires offer will help to reduce the likelihood of obstructions from stones, rocks, mud, and other debris that can damage the machine’s undercarriage.
4. Minimal maintenance
As pointed out above, wheeled skid steers are generally cheaper than track loaders. But it’s not just at the point of purchase that this cheapness is felt. Track skid steers generally require more frequent (and more expensive) maintenance compared to wheeled machines.
Thus, you’d spend more replacing tracks, sprockets, bogie wheels, and idler wheels than you’ll spend maintaining wheeled loaders.
5. Trouble-free transport
Wheeled skid steers operate at higher speeds than track skid steers – especially when working on hard surfaces. So, most engineers naturally move towards them when they need a machine for large construction sites or areas where they’ll need to cover more distances.
Wheeled skid steers are also popular for their weights. They weigh significantly less than track loaders, making them easier to move from site to site.
6. Fuel efficiency
Speaking of lightweight designs, wheeled skid steers are generally lighter than track skid steers because their wheels are designed to feature less weight. So moving is easier.
Another thing that this lightweight design directly Influences is fuel consumption. Wheeled skid steers are significantly more fuel efficient than track loaders.
Tracked Skid Steer Loaders Overview
Tracked skid steer loaders are similar to Wheeled skid steers in looks and physical design. But there’s one significant difference – they use tracks to move instead of wheels. However, most other parts of both machines are similar.
Their tracks mean that they typically have better weight distribution compared to wheeled loaders. This makes them better suited for soft grounds, like snow, mud, and loose soils. Tracked loaders will move on these surfaces without sinking in.
Like wheeled skid steers, tracked skid steers are universally compatible with most CAT work tools, including trenchers, stump grinders, and brush cutters.
Uses of Tracked Skid Steer Loaders
The versatility that comes with track loaders makes them one fastest-growing equipment in the construction industry. Adding a track loader with the right attachments to your fleet can take your work to a new level.
However, the key to selecting the right-tracked skid steer for your work is knowing how you’ll use it. That said, here are some of the most popular uses of track loaders:
Tracked skid steers are designed to work on soft grounds. Carrying equipment and materials in such conditions can be significantly different, and that’s where this type of skid steer comes into play.
However, we recommend you consider a vertical lift rather than a radial lift skid steer for this task if you want to achieve a higher reach.
Tracked skid steers are useful for earth-moving tasks like digging, trenching, and excavating. There are so many attachments designed for these tasks, depending on the task you’re handling.
With the right attachments, you can use a track loader to dig anything from barrow portholes to building foundations.
3. Trucks unloading
Tracked skid steers are also useful in warehouses. It’s compatible with fork attachments, so you can always use this attachment to move pallets and other materials.
We also recommend going for a vertical lift instead of a radial lift if you’re buying a skid steer for lifting materials and placing them in a warehouse.
Pros of Tracked Skid Steer Loaders
- The design of this type of skid steer loader means that it features a broader weight distribution and lower weight transfer to the ground. Thus, their typical use on muddy, wet, snowy, and loose grounds. So when they are used on these surfaces, tracked skid steers just float.
- Tracked skid steers feature lower gravity compared to their wheeled counterparts, making them steadier on slopes.
- Tracked skid steer loaders offer smoother rides than their wheeled counterparts. They are also popular for the lift force they provide on soft surfaces and don’t compact soils.
- Most tracked skid steers feature a standard flow package that can accommodate most hydraulic attachments. So they are the best place to look at if your work will require many attachments.
- Tracked skid steers are not great for use on asphalt or concrete surfaces.
- They generally require more cleaning and maintenance compared to wheeled skid steers.
- Although they don’t spoil easily, replacing the tracks can be a problem when damaged.
Wheeled Skid Steer Loaders Vs. Tracked Skid Steer: Where Tracked Wins
Tracked skid steers were invented much later than wheeled steers. So some of their features exist to cover for the lapses of wheeled skid steers. But where exactly do track loaders perform better? Here are some areas worth considering.
Tracked skid steers offer exceptional comfort compared to wheeled skid steers, especially with some models designed to offer superior suspension, shock absorption, and overall operator comfort.
Wheeled skid steers do not maneuver bumps and uneven surfaces smoothly, making trips uncomfortable for operators.
Generally, track loaders feature more horsepower and hydraulic flow than most other types of heavy-duty machines. Their designs make them heavier than wheeled steers, but that doesn’t translate to ground pressure. So they won’t compact the soil so much.
Both wheeled skid steers and track loaders are excellent in maneuverability and tight-access operation. So, construction engineers typically prefer them to other heavy-duty equipment.
Which One Should You Choose?
Wheeled skid steers and tracked skid steers are both heavy-duty equipment designed to make construction tasks easier. However, the primary difference between both machines is how they move.
Therefore, the environment they are being used in can seriously affect how they work. For example, wheeled skid steers are not suitable for driving over soft grounds and uneven terrains. On the other hand, tracked skid steers are great for working on muddy grounds and soft soil.
Wheeled skid steers are advantageous on hard grounds. Their wheel design means they can move faster on such grounds and will have an easier time making tight turns.
Conclusion: Skid Steer – Wheels vs. Tracks
There you have it – a detailed look at some of the obvious differences between a wheeled skid steer loader and a tracked skid steer. Both machines are similar in terms of operation and use. However, there are still some differences worth knowing.
Especially since these differences affect how they work and where they function best. We’ve also reviewed some of the pros and cons of both types of skid steers so you’d know what you’re investing in beforehand.