There are few pieces of equipment on the farm that do as much work as a skid steer. However, if not properly maintained it can easily start on fire. It doesn’t seem to matter how many hours are on the machine, it can still start on fire whether it is being driven or parked in the barn.
What causes a skid steer to catch fire?
The skid steer is a compact piece of equipment that has a tight engine compartment which tends to catch all sorts of dust, silage, straw, manure, sawdust and other debris found on the farm and in the barn. Once these materials dry out or come in contact with oils they become highly combustible and easily set on fire. Hydraulic hoses can burst and spew hot oil that takes very little additional heat to flash and burn. Electrical wiring that is not maintained can become abraded and cause the spark that sets the fire.
Skid steers are a relatively small piece of equipment with a big price tag. Any piece of equipment needs preventive maintenance to continue to work for you. In many cases, the skid steer is not as well maintained as larger equipment, proportional to the numbers of hours it works over its lifetime.
The key to preventing fires is to maintain and keep the skid steer as clean as possible.
Here are some recommended guidelines to help prevent fires to your skid steer:
- The operators need to check the oil and the engine compartment at the beginning of each day. Take the time to blow the engine off to remove any dust or dirt. This may require some training and follow up to assure it is being done correctly.
- Once a week, your best operator should be tasked with a complete cleaning of the machine and engine compartment. This will require taking a high pressure power washer or steam cleaner to remove any debris and oil in the engine compartment, radiator and cab. Be sure to get into those small areas where debris accumulates.
- Following the cleaning, take a close look at the electrical connectors for any frayed, abraded or loose wiring. Any oil buildup should be investigated and leaks corrected.
- Carefully inspect the hydraulic lines for cracks and leaks. Don’t use your hand as a hydraulic pressure leak can cut through flesh.
- Do not park the skid steer near a pile of silage or hay. Many fires start after the units are parked.
- Just in case, have a portable fire extinguisher attached to the skid steer with a minimum rating of 20-B:C. This is a big extinguisher, not the little cylinders you may have put in your personal vehicle. Remember to mount it where it will be accessible and go over how to use it with the operators.
Once you create a routine habit of cleaning and maintaining your skid steers, you can anticipate many years of valuable production from this equipment.
For more farm safety tips, contact your local agent.