Skid steer loaders, the "Swiss Army Knives" of machines, use a wide range of mechanical and hydraulically powered attachments to accomplish varied tasks. Skid loaders, having sophisticated auxiliary hydraulic systems, are compact, highly maneuverable, and range in rated operating capacity (the weight that can be safely lifted and transported) from 500 to more than 4,000 pounds.
Skid-steer loaders are typically four-wheel vehicles with the wheels mechanically locked in synchronization on each side, and where the left-side drive wheels can be driven independently of the right-side drive wheels. The wheels typically have no separate steering mechanism and hold a fixed straight alignment on the body of the machine. Turning is accomplished by differential steering, in which the left and right wheel pairs are operated at different speeds, and the machine turns by skidding or dragging its fixed-orientation wheels across the ground. The extremely rigid frame and strong wheel bearings prevent the torsional forces caused by this dragging motion from damaging the machine. As with tracked vehicles, the high ground friction produced by skid steers can rip up soft or fragile road surfaces. They can be converted to low ground friction by using specially designed wheels such as the Mecanum wheel. Skid-steer loaders are capable of zero-radius, "pirouette" turning, which makes them extremely maneuverable and valuable for applications that require a compact, agile loader. Skid-steer loaders are sometimes equipped with tracks instead of the wheels, and such a vehicle is known as a multi-terrain loader.