External Controls Make Skidsteer More Useful
Glen Farmer, Palisade, Colorado, can often be seen walking his Bobcat around his farmstead and even up to the door of his machine shop.
Farmer says his 741 Bobcat skidsteer is one of his most useful tools. "It's really stable and can lift just about anything I need to lift," he says. "The 2-cylinder diesel engine makes a tank of fuel last so long I sometimes forget to fill it up."
Even so, he felt the machine could be improved. "I use it to move machinery and parts to my shop, and often have to use a chain to fasten something to the bucket. I also use it for a portable hoist to hold heavy parts I'm trying to put in place. Since I almost always work alone at the shop, every time I needed to raise or lower the bucket, or move the machine just a little to reposition something, I had to climb in and sit down," he says. "I'm a coward when a bucket is above ground. I avoid going under one."
That often meant climbing into the seat from behind, through the back of the roll cage.
He'd been trying to come up with a way to avoid this hassle and, he says "One morning I woke up with a picture in my mind of just what I needed to do. I got up, went to the shop, and went to work on it."
Farmer's idea was to add external controls for every control on the loader, so he could maneuver and manipulate it without having to crawl in.
He cut a hole through the undercarriage frame on the left side of the loader and ran linkages to the throttle, the hydrostats for the left and right wheels and the hydraulic valves that control the arms and bucket. Later he added a shaft connected to the parking brake, so he can set or release it. "I added a safety latch to the brake arm, so the vibrations of the machine can't accidentally release it."
He made a throttle lever out of a 12-in. length of 1 1/4 by 1/4-in. strap iron. He used 1/2-in. pipe to make levers for right and left wheel hydraulic lift controls. All of the external controls are located in a bank centered between the wheels on the left side.
"With the external controls, I can do everything from the ground that I can if I'm in the machine. I actually do walk alongside the loader as I'm moving something around."
To those who might worry about the safely of walking along beside a moving, riderless skidsteer, Farmer says, "OSHA probably wouldn't like it. The manufacturer might not, either. I'm aware of the potential danger and I don't let anyone else use the external controls.
"When I move dirt and gravel, dig holes, pull tree stumps, etc., I always ride inside the caged cab, using seat belt fastened. On rough, hilly ground, I use the safety bar across my lap," he says.
"But having the controls actually makes the way I use the machine safer for me," Farmer continues. "It seems safer to me to be able to control it externally than to have to get in and out of it with a load on the raised arms, or try to get on or off the machine with the bucket raised part way."