Wheel Loaders Offer Versatility, Adaptability

wheel loader

Wheel Loader (Photo Courtesy of the US Department of Defense and in the public domain)

If you are considering purchasing a new or used forklift, you might consider a wheel loader instead.

A wheel loader — which is also known as a front end loader or bucket loader — is one of the most widely used vehicles used in construction, materials handling and other industries today. It is noted for its extreme versatility and payload capacity, as well as its ability to perform multiple tasks at a low cost.

Many Potential Applications

While most wheel loaders are used for construction, they also can be used for materials handling, digging, load-and-carry, road building an site preparation. Some wheel loaders can even be used for waste hauling applications. Among the biggest manufacturers or wheel loaders are Caterpillar, Deere & Co., Komatsu, Volvo, Case, Kawasaki, New Holland, Hyaundai, JCB and Scaeff.

A wheel loader is basically a pivoted frame which is usually articulated and with the engine mounted over the rear wheels. Its cab or canopy usually rests over the front or rear end frame. The pivot arrangement of the vehicle is what gives it the capability to maneuver and work in small turning circles.

Wheel loaders generally are marketed according to their horsepower. Compact wheel loaders have 80hp or less. Other categories include 80 to 150 horsepower, 150 to 200 horsepower, and 200 to 250 horsepower.

How Wheel Loaders Work

Power to a wheel loader is provided by a diesel engine through a torque converter and power shift gears to drive the wheels. Most wheel loaders are  four-wheel drive — which requires that all the wheels be the same size — although there are some two-wheel drive models available. Rear wheel drive enhances the vehicle’s digging capability while front wheel drive enables better traction when carrying a full bucket.

Other considerations when purchasing a wheel loader are bucket type, which can be cutting edges or teeth, tires and their ability to provide traction, tipping load and counterweight, speed, and breakout force, which is the most-quoted specification for wheel loaders and provides an indication of the vehicle’s digging capacity.

Wide Variety of Attachments

Wheel loaders can be fitted with all kinds of attachments, making them one of the most vesatile heavy machinery around. Front end attachments include:

  • Standard bucket
  • Forklift attachment
  • Light materials handling bucket
  • Clamshell bucket
  • Side-swivel bucket
  • Hi-tip bucket
  • Material pusher
  • Tree removal attachment
  • Tree spade
  • Branch cutter
  • Rotary mower
  • Mulcher
  • Embankment mower
  • Sweeper
  • High-pressure spray attachment
  • Front-mounted ripper
  • Auguer
  • Trencher
  • Asphalt cutter
  • Concrete mixer attachment
  • Snow blade
  • Snow blower
  • Work platform
  • 3-point adapter

Rear-end attachments include a trailer that has either overrun braking, compressed air brakes, as well as a ball-type or jaw-type tow bar, and a tipper. Salt spreaders — both electric and hydraulic — also are available for many models.

Now there are even electric wheel loaders that function with the same capacity and versatility as diesel models. There are also new attachments such as grapples forks and buckets that allow the vehicles to be used for everything from demolition to tunneling.

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