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Special thanks to Jeff Lind and the rest of the Caterpillar® team for their support in creating this article!

You've probably seen skid steer loaders, and maybe a multi terrain loader, around commercial construction sites or landscaping projects. Their small size and maneuverability allows them to operate in tight spaces. Their light weight allows them to be towed behind a full-size pickup truck, and the wide array of work-tools makes them very flexible.


Photo courtesy Caterpillar
The Caterpillar Skid Steer Loader (SSL)

Skid steer loaders are used to dig and move landscaping and building materials. But the machines can also grade, jackhammer cement and load trucks, as well as many other tasks, which we'll see later.

When ground conditions are soft or more traction is required, the tracks on the multi terrain loader make it the logical choice of machinery.


The Caterpillar Multi Terrain Loader (MTL)

The Caterpillar Skid Steer Loader and Multi Terrain Loader are neat machines. Since they are powered entirely by hydraulic pumps, there is no mechanical transmission.


Photo courtesy Caterpillar

Complete Skid Steer Simulator!

Drive a complete 3-D Skid steer simulator -- with the keyboard, one joystick or two joysticks!

The simulator runs in a browser using Shockwave 3-D (which you can download for free). You need to have a decent Pentium 3 or Pentium 4 machine for smooth animation, and a fast Internet connection is helpful (but not necessary) because the simulator file is about 2.5 megabytes when it first downloads.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll learn how the various systems on the Caterpillar Skid Steer Loader and Multi Terrain Loader work, and we'll get some insight into some of the engineering that goes into designing and building these machines. But first, let's check out some of the things these loaders can do and learn how to control one.