Who's Driven a Bobcat?

I’m borrowing/renting a Bobcat from a neighbour tomorrow. (Model may not be exactly as shown.) I’ve never driven one of these things in my life. My wife is worried; I’m not. I imagine it must be quite intuitive.

Please tell me that a normal guy with good coordination and motor skills should be able to figure this out? The neighbour is leaving the keys in it for me with no additional instructions.

Since I think the OP is looking for personal experiences, this might be better served in IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Safety first. Skidsteers have many pinch and entanglement points, and you don’t want to find them with your pink bits. READ the cab decals. Familiarize yourself with the controls before turning the key. Futz around on a hard surface away for anything you could damage until you learn how sensitive the pedals, levers, and joystick are. You’re a n00b. If someone needs to talk to you, shut the machine off and concentrate on your conversation, then go back to machine operation. Finally, if you’re doing any excavating, I hope you’ve called the underground utility locating service, and have allowed the mandatory time to pass. Digging up buried service can be deadly and expensive.

Bobcats are fun. Too much fun for n00bs. Too much fun in even a small piece of construction equipment can lead to Bad Things. Go back and follow danceswithcats advice. Twice. Do it yet again, every time you get back in the cab.

Seriously, refamiliarize yourself every time - read the decals, they’re there for a reason - people pay in blood to get those stickers put in place. Gently work the controls until you’ve got your mind fully in-sync with what the machine is doing. Then go back to work. Old hands may pop into one and take off, but you’re not an old hand, and you’re not going to be one before the job is done. Cock-sureness will cause grief.

You will very quickly find some level of confidence - this is normal. Bobcats are easy to learn. When you’re just begining to get confident, is when you’re most dangerous to yourself and everything around you. Don’t show off. People will be more impressed with a well-done, accident-free job. Showing off will only scare and irritate people, and convince your wife that her worries were fully justified.

If the machine starts to ‘buck,’ STOP what you’re doing. Do not try to correct the bucking - what’s happened is that you’ve gotten behind the action-reaction curve, and instead of correcting the problem, your control inputs are increasing the problem. Center the joystick controllers, and let the machine stop bouncing. Collect your thoughts, and start again, more slowly. the fastest way to start an out-of-control ‘buck’ is by too-rapid control input. If you simply stop, the machine will also stop.

Especially when backing up. Visibility is different than you’re used to. Don’t get tunnel vision, and PAY ATTENTION TO YOU SURROUNDINGS.

Enjoy operating the equipment. Bobcats are fun, even if you follow my old-fogey advice. Better the fun be tempered with satisfaction of a job well-done, than by an “Ah, Shit!” Do it right, and you can strut your stuff and play “Mr. Studley” all you like, afterwards, with the job done and no accidents.

Good luck, and have fun!
It’s there for a reason. You’ll really want it, if the machine starts to buck!

In addition to what the others have said, set the throttle about 150% higher than you think it needs to be. Especially if you are moving with a load; if the throttle isn’t high enough the bucket will drop.

On some tractors, as you lower the arm, the bucket will rotate so that the forks (if you are moving pallets around) are always at the same angle. On others, as you lower the arms, the bucket will tip forward, make sure to watch for that. If you are having trouble making the bucket arms move properly, or it the pedals are not sensitive enough, increase the throttle.

Also, there is a huge blind spot behind you, and to your sides, and you really can’t see too well to your front either (with a load).

Every slight dip in the ground will feel ten times worse in the skid-steer, so be careful with tippy loads.


I’ve spent countless hours cleaning barns and moving tons of feed using a bobcat. Once I rolled it onto it’s back and almost shit myself. The safety bar is there for a reason. I had detached the bucket and was switching to a different one. Totally changes the balance.

You didn’t say what you would be doing so I wouldn’t worry, just be really careful if you have to change impliments.

n00b on and have fun.

I’m going to get it in about 10 minutes. I’m back-filling my newly installed pool. Apparently I’m to back-fill about half way, than get the pool topped up with H2O, and then I need to complete the filling and try and level off the surrounding area. Then build a fence. Then do some patio stones or something. Perhaps some gardens, a retaining wall…

I’ll check back. If I live.

Love’em. Bobcat’s are very fun once you get the proper training. I considered buying one a while back with a friend of mine, but instead settled on a used john deer backhoe.

Have fun, wear your seatbelt incase you tumble, many people do. It’s all part of the experience.

I haven’t driven one for 8 years, but the advice above seems in good order.
Carry your load low until you are ready to dump it. Be sure you come to a complete stop before dumping the load. Especially if you have to raise the bucket high. Otherwise you could end up in the pool, and you don’t want that.

When you watch a highly experienced pro zip around and do things at high speed, remember that that will never be you. Ever.

So, who’s laying odds whether Leaffan ends up driving into his new pool? :wink:

I did some havoc with a bobcat several years ago in some very wide open spaces - enough experience to know I wouldn’t trust myself with anything requiring any attention to detail or avoidance of anything costly.

Was talking to a friend who sells and services various equipment. He said the most frequent claims they see with bobcats are slip and falls. Peoples’ boots get all muddy, and they slip and injure themselves climbing onto the machine. So you might want to pay a little extra attention to scraping your boots…

I got here too late to offer any advice, but will just say that I’d never driven one before my first time and I had no trouble with the front end loader (I’d driven quite an assortment of other machinery), but the post hole auger had me stumped until I figured out that side to side movement of the joystick made it rotate. I didn’t see any instructions that outlined this, but after I got it going I could sure dig some holes.

My “Whoops!” moment came when I decided to drive over a (small!) pile of dirt I’d been scooping up and attack from the other side. That thing pulled a wheelie and stood right on its tail, scared the crap out of me. Just lowered the bucket all the way to shift the CG and it dropped right back down on the tires and off I went.

Speaking of wheelies…

In the early/mid 90’s, I was stationed with a buncha SeaBees, and learned quite a bit about light construction equipment. My favorites, by far, were the Bobcats. One of the Equipment Operators, a young 3rd Class, was an absolute ace when it came to operating them. He could do wheelies on demand, get one up on it’s back wheels and drive it that way for considerable distances. I once saw him drive one in a wheelie half way 'round the block, a distance of well over a quarter mile. He could do piriouettes in a Bobcat up on its hind wheels. Fortunately, he was also a damned good mechanic, and spent a LOT of time under the equipment, rather than showing off.

Had a LOT of fun in those things. But then, I had instructors who were really good. Took me a few mistakes (none serious - I never tumbled one!) to learn that while the EO-3 could make one dance, it wasn’t a good idea for us lesser mortals to try.

I’ve driven quite a variety of skidsteers in my younger days. They don’t take long to get the handle of, pay attention to the good advice in this thread and you’ll be all right.

I’ll never forget the day I put a skidsteer in the bottom of a 25’ deep lake, though


Didja do good, Leaffan?

Late posting, but someone else will be needing the same info later.

It’s been said before but bears repeating many times.

Keep the load low!

When it starts to buck, let go of the controls.

While it can turn on a dime, it will shred your turf doing so. Make wide turns where practical to save yourself time having to refinish where you were driving.