Big Skid Steer Pays off on Small Details

March 25, 2016

Case Construction Equipment has been indelibly linked with two products over the years—backhoe-loaders and skid steer loaders. It invented the first factory-integrated backhoe-loader in 1957, and was an early skid steer competitor for Bobcat (Melroe), after purchasing the Uni-Loader brand in 1969.

The Case skid steer pedigree has been somewhat uneven, however. After years of producing the “1800 Series,” which included the bulletproof 1845C, a unit still seen on job sites today, Case skid steers were given several new identities. Each hoped to improve on what came before, but the 1800s proved a difficult act to follow.

There were the XTs in 1997, the 400 Series in 2005, and the Alpha Series, beginning in 2014.

The advent of the Alpha Series marked the fourth different name for the product offering in a span of 18 years. It can be a red flag when a manufacturer continually renames a family of machines, but recent times have seen renewed stability and additional investment in the iron.

The 90-horsepower SR270 is the largest radial-lift unit in the nine Case skid steer models comprising the Alpha Series, noteworthy for being the first set of skid steers in the industry to use SCR technology to address Tier 4-Final emissions guidelines.

While other manufacturers and a number of engine makers postured against SCR and spent their marketing dollars to back EGR technology, Case was a bold early adopter of SCR among construction OEMs, leveraging CNH Industrial’s Fiat Powertrain (FPT) worldwide experience with SCR in on-road and agricultural applications.

Construction Equipment made the trek to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 649 near Peoria, Ill., to have operator/instructors Brad Walker and Jimmy Trockur test the SR270 and provide a glimpse into the current state of Case skid steers.

The day of the test was cold and clear, but recent rains and snow melt left the test area muddy and challenging.

“To be honest, I was disappointed this morning when I saw it was a rubber-tired machine instead of a tracked machine,” Trockur says. “I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be much fun,’ but I was impressed how it got around. It did well.”

A wide stance

There’s no doubt traction and stability were part of the goal when Case designed the SR270. It immediately catches the eye with its long, wide stance and cab-forward design. The “PowerStance” wheelbase, as the company calls it, contributes to an overall length of 147.5 inches (with a low-profile bucket). The over-the-tire width with spec tires is 69.6 inches. Inside the cab, it’s 35 inches from window to window. 

“It’s the largest radial-lift skid steer in the industry,” says Scott McElroy, Case product sales training manager for skid steers and compact track loaders, who gave  Walker and Trockur a walk-around.

And it can get heavier and slightly wider. McElroy says up to 300 pounds of optional counterweights will give operators another 100 pounds on the already high 2,700-pound ROC. “The counterweight attachment points are already there, it’s easy to mount those,” McElroy says.

“A problem with skid steers is that they usually try to make them a little light, so you don’t have that stability as far as cutting,” Walker says. “I had no problem cutting material in what I was working on.”

Walker and Trockur dug into somewhat soft—but heavy and wet—earth that still held about 4 inches of frost. They put a pad down, did some back-dragging, charged piles, roaded with full loads, and dumped into a 3-ton material box with 40-inch sides.

“The weight and balance are good,” Walker says. “I don’t know what it would be like with that extra 400 pounds on the back, but I’m sure it would balance it out even more. I also went over to a slope and worked the slope a little bit to check, and there was no problem with stability. The wider stance that it has is good.”

Trockur was impressed with the stability, as well. “These are less-than-ideal conditions; I’d like to get it in dry conditions, but I think it would be great. The first thing I tried to do was get a full bucket, road at a pretty good speed going forward, and stop suddenly.

“I wanted to see if the bucket would hit the ground, and it didn’t. A lot of skid steers would rear-up,” Trockur says. “On two different occasions, we’ve had apprentices back on their tires when they’d stop too suddenly with the bucket high, and on its face it goes. With this one, I don’t think it would be an issue.”

Ride Control

Ride Control, a feature most often reserved for backhoe- loaders and wheel loaders, is standard on the SR270. Both operators tested it at high speed over bumpy terrain with a full bucket.

“I rode it both ways, on and off, and what a difference,” Trockur says. “So many times you’re carrying dry sand to a material box, and by the time you get there, you’ve lost half of it. With Ride Control, you’re still going to have it. It’s not just operator-friendly—you’re going to get more material to the job, going fast.”

Walker agrees. “The Ride Control was awesome; I’ve never seen it on a skid steer,” he says. “A skid steer is usually a very bouncy environment. I prefer to use my foot control for my throttle on most skid steers, and on this one I could pin the ears back, hold that Ride Control, and road very smoothly.”

The Case Ride Control is activated by a small blue button on the front of the right-hand joystick. “Once you get a bucket of material and you lift your loader arms 6 to 8 inches off of the mounting point, you push the button and it will settle into Ride Control,” McElroy explains.

However, unlike backhoes and wheel loaders, the button must be held down to keep the feature engaged. The operators questioned it, initially.

“The button’s in a good position where it’s easy to hold, but I don’t understand why it’s not something you press on and off,” Walker says. “I’m sure there’s a reason for it. You’d turn it off when you go into cut to grade so your cylinders wouldn’t move, but it worked very well.”

Trockur elaborates further. “I kind of like the button hold, because when you’re doing bucket work it’s going to aggravate your grading,” he says. “I like the idea that it’s there only when you need it. When you cross some ruts, you use it. I’d maybe like to see it on the other side of the stick so I could use my thumb, but I’d get used to it.”

Productivity features

The thumb side of the right-hand joystick features a detent thumb switch for a float function, one of several items engineered into the SR270 to boost operator productivity and comfort. They are concepts more familiar to wheel loader users.

“I don’t see float much on skid steers,” Walker says. “I’m not usually a person to use a float, but for cleaning up that little bit of slop out there, it worked really nicely.”

There’s also hydraulic self-leveling. “The self-leveling feature works in the up position, so you have to make some corrections coming down,” McElroy says. This did not concern the Local 649 operators.

“The self-leveling worked well,” Walker says. “In the lifting position, it held capacity good at full dumping height. That’s a good feature so you don’t dump material all over the place.”

Case put electric-over-hydraulic controls in the SR270. “We call them EZ-EH controls because we can simply adjust the speed and control settings,” McElroy says. “There are 9 preset control and speed settings that can be changed with the machine on or off.”

A single rocker switch allows operators to switch between H- (traditional Case) pattern and ISO-pattern controls for operation. “All you have to do is make sure the machine is in park, hold a yellow rocker switch to your selection, wait for an audio beep, and the pattern is changed,” McElroy says.

The machine arrived off the trailer on H, but both operators preferred the ISO pattern. “I’d need to fine- tune the controls a little more,” Trockur says, “but it’s user-friendly, it’s easy to do. It’s probably just a minor adjustment, but I’d like the boom to drop a little slower,  yet keep the bucket speed. In an hour running it, you’d overcome that—you might not even notice it.”

McElroy notes that operators can change the speed and control settings to low, medium and high. “Under the Custom setting, you can consult the operator’s manual, go in, and set it to many different control and speed settings. It might take you a little extra time. But with the 9 presets, you can usually get what you want.”

Impressions from the cab

Both Walker and Trockur were pleased with the cab, which Case says is the widest in the industry. All of its skid steers, from largest to smallest, have the same cab dimensions. The loader arms were deliberately set low to aid visibility, and the screens on the sides are thinner than previous models. The entrance point was also lowered.

“It was real easy to get in and out of, I had three points of contact with no problem,” Walker says. “It’s easy to turn around in the cab to get seated without having to bump off the walls. And it’s a very comfortable cab.”

When Trockur saw the unit for the first time, he noted the size of the machine was something he’d have to get used to. “I was kind of biased at first, but I think I could learn to like it,” he says. “I thought it looked kind of funny with all that stuff hanging off the back, but the visibility is as good as I’ve ever seen on a skid steer. I’d have to get used to all that behind me. It’s also as easy to access as I’ve seen any skid steer during my time.”

Walker praises the visibility, as well. “With those arms down low, you could see outside really well. You can probably see 16 feet behind you, straight back. And over the sides, over your shoulders, it was real simple to see, which is a big plus on a skid steer.”

Overall, the size and weight of the machine seem to be assets when they need to be, and the small details and features round out a productive package for operators.

“I like it,” Trockur says. “I think it’s a cool machine. Case has got something here.”