Steer 'Em Right

July 1, 2000
On any given day, a rental center might have several customers renting skid-steer loaders. Some of these customers are contractors trained to operate

On any given day, a rental center might have several customers renting skid-steer loaders. Some of these customers are contractors trained to operate a loader; others have little or no operating experience. Both types can pose a threat to the rental center's loader fleet. If the customer does not know how to operate the loader or misuses it, the loader could come back to the rental yard damaged. If the customer does not safeguard the loader from theft, it might not be returned at all.

Several skid-steer loader manufacturers have addressed these concerns by adding features such as keyless start systems, loader shutdown options and function lockout control. Individually, each function is a bonus to skid-steer loader owners; combined, they provide rental center owners with cost-efficient equipment protection.

The right start To combine operator-requested features that protect skid-steer loaders from theft, operator misuse and failure, Bobcat Co. developed the "Deluxe Instrument Panel" for the electronic system of its G-Series line. Available as a factory-installed option or field-installed upgrade, the panel gives rental centers and their customers an easy-to-use operator interface with theft protection and diagnostic information.

Before the creation of the Deluxe Instrument Panel, skid-steer loader customers asked for a keyless start option that protected the machines from theft. Bobcat initially developed a field-installed keyless start kit with which users entered a password before the engine would start. The kit became so popular that Bobcat included the keyless start system in its Deluxe Instrument Panel, which offers more security because the keyless start feature is linked to the entire electronic system. Without a password, the loader cannot be started, driven or hydraulically operated.

A loader stores up to nine passwords - eight user passwords and an owner password. To start the engine, the operator must enter a password. With a user password, the operator can run the attachments, set the clock, use the tutorials and monitor the loader's numerically displayed vitals - fluid pressures, temperatures and engine rpm. The owner password can lock and unlock certain loader functions and change and delete user passwords. In addition, by changing user passwords, rental center managers can prevent previous customers from running the machine without authorization.

Stop the abuse Bobcat also included in the panel a system that prevents renters from misusing the equipment. Rental centers can lock out certain functions, such as high-flow hydraulics, to prevent customers from engaging features unnecessary for an application. An inexperienced customer, for instance, might rent a skid-steer loader for home improvement work but might inadvertently run high-flow hydraulics on a standard-flow attachment. This could overheat the loader and damage the attachment. If the rental center knew the customer's application required only a standard-flow attachment, the manager could lock out high-flow and prevent the customer from damaging the loader.

Rental center managers also can lock out the high-range function on a two-speed machine if a customer's application does not require moving the loader far. If, for example, a customer will dig in a confined area with the loader, the machine will not have to be run at a high speed, which would cause unnecessary wear and tear. A rental center can protect the machine in these conditions by using the Deluxe Instrument Panel to lock out the high-range speed function.

A machine's shutdown system deters customers from harming the loader. The system monitors the loader's vitals, including engine oil pressure, hydraulic oil temperature, hydrostatic charge pressure, battery voltage and engine rpm, and displays the information in bar graphs on the LCD panel. If the panel reads a measurement over the specified range, the loader will shut down to avoid failure. A rental manager could instruct a customer about maintaining a loader running in extremely dirty applications, but if the customer doesn't follow directions, the machine might overheat. A machine equipped with the Deluxe Instrument Panel would automatically shut down in this case because the coolant temperature reading would be too high. If the loader were restarted, it would operate for up to 30 seconds to allow the skid-steer to be loaded for maintenance but would continue to shut down until the problem was resolved.

Panel perks When warning messages appear during operation, the user can view the panel's help menu to pinpoint the problem. After diagnosing the problem, the menu gives three possible solutions to fix the loader. Additionally, any warning messages and shutdown codes activated during the life of the rental contract are logged in the panel's memory. A service department can download the information to find exact shutdown times to speed diagnosis and reduce downtime.

The panel also offers on-screen tutorials about topics such as engaging attachments, and the information can be viewed in six languages - English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Dutch. Other features include a digital tachometer, digital clock and a job clock that records the engine run hours and can be reset with the owner password.