Every incremental improvement in productivity helps you run your business more profitably. So when you purchase attachments, you want to make sure you’re creating the optimal pairing with your machine. Keep these six tips in mind when selecting work tools.
1. Know before you go.
Help out the attachment experts at your equipment dealer or rental store by coming with the information they need to make solid recommendations. Be prepared to talk about the type of material you’ll be working in (bring a sample if you can) and cycle time requirements. Know the specs—equipment model numbers, configuration, tipping load, lift/weight capacities and any other basic information—for all machines that may work with the attachment. Also make note of each machine’s optional, retrofit or specialized features (e.g., changes to hydraulics, tires, engine, etc.).
If your attachment requires hydraulics, know your machine’s hydraulic flow (gpm) and pressure (psi) output capabilities and understand the auxiliary hydraulics. Not all machines have a third or fourth hydraulic function capability, but many attachments require this. Finally, if you have a quick coupler, know the brand and model—and bring the serial number and a photo for reference if available.
2. Select the best machines for attachment use.
Choose a machine and a coupler configuration that offers good visibility from the operator’s seat to the attachment. A few notes about couplers: The universal coupler interface and low-profile side plates of mechanical quick couplers allow the most tools to match properly while keeping out dirt and debris. Hydraulic quick couplers have a rocker switch in the cab that controls two hydraulic cylinders, allowing the operator to change tools in the cab. The hydraulic cylinders control the vertical wedge pins that lock the tool in place.
3. Check out the flow specifications for the hydraulic circuit.
Hydraulics not only provide power to the ground, but also enable lifting and tilting and run the auxiliary circuit, which drives attachments.
The criteria for “high-flow” or “standard-flow” may differ from one manufacturer to another, so know what’s required and how your machine is equipped. Typically, high-flow circuits exceed 26 gallons per minute and 3,300 psi. High-flow machines designated “XPS” (33 gallons per minute at 4,050 psi) are capable of maintaining maximum pressure, regardless of attachment speed or working conditions, at low or high idle. The typical flow for a standard-flow machine is 22 gallons per minute.
4. Understand the type of attachment you need—fabricated or hydromechanical.
Fabricated attachments are the most universal. A machine from one manufacturer can attach the buckets or forks made by another manufacturer with little trouble, since they don’t require additional hydraulics to operate.
Hydromechanical attachments include multi-purpose buckets, mulchers, hammers, augers, grapples, rakes and other tools powered by the machine’s auxiliary hydraulics. Most equipment manufacturers recommend that machines use hydromechanical attachments from the same manufacturer. Why? Hydraulic hose hook-ups and fittings are of the same strength and brand, ensuring a proper match and tight fit to reduce leaks and loss of pressure. Machines and attachments are designed to work as a system, and these pairings help maximize horsepower and hydraulic capabilities.
5. Match the attachment configuration to the machine.
Equipment manufacturers may offer a tool in a variety of configurations. Direct drive or planetary drive augers, for example, are available for standard hydraulic flow machines. These configurations help maximize the capabilities of the hydraulic circuit in medium-duty applications. A high-flow planetary-driven auger on a high-flow hydraulic machine is appropriate for extreme-duty applications. The high-flow configuration is designed for maximum torque, and the hydraulic hoses and seals are built to withstand the additional pressure and maintain a leak-free connection.
Generally, a machine with high-flow hydraulics can operate attachments designed for standard-flow machines, but the reverse (high-flow tools with a standard-flow machine) is not recommended. A standard-flow machine’s hydraulic system can’t supply the flow needed to operate the tool properly.
6. Not sure what you need? Rent.
When in doubt, renting is a good way to determine the best attachment option. You can experiment with different tools or tool-machine combinations to see what yields the most efficiency gains. You may also discover that a single machine with multiple tools costs less than two machines on the job.