Bobcat Loader Troubleshooting

by Wesley Tucker
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Bobcat is one of the leading manufacturers of skid-steer loaders and has steadily improved its products over more than 50 years. The compact, powerful machines are great for moving heavy loads in and around all sorts of job sites. The Bobcat’s small width and maneuverability allows it to transfer materials quickly and efficiently. Troubleshooting a Bobcat loader means looking at the engine, the hydraulics and the electrical/control systems, as most problems occur with those components.


The Bobcat loader has a rear-mounted diesel engine. If the engine won't start or is not operating properly, start by checking the fuel system (tank, fuel lines and fuel filters). Diesel fuel filters need to be changed on a regular basis, more often in dusty work environments. Make sure the fuel flows freely from the tank to the fuel injectors. Check the injectors for clogging if the engine is not operating smoothly.

Glow plugs warm the combustion chambers so the engine will start properly when it is cold. The glow-plug lead wires are placed on each side of the engine. Check their connections to be sure they are snug.

Also, make sure the throttle cable is secure to the throttle body. Just follow the cable from the accelerator to the throttle body on the top front of the motor. Those cables can work themselves lose.


If the loader won’t operate correctly, check the hydraulic fluid level. Do not overfill the reservoir; hydraulics work best with the exact amount of fluid in the system.

Check the hydraulic fuel filter. If it’s clogged and fluid can’t flow freely, power to the loader will be reduced.

Be sure the hydraulic pump (located in front of the engine) is operating to specifications. The pump could be direct-drive on the engine or belt driven, depending on your model; if it's belt driven, make sure the belt is tight and not frayed or worn.

Check the fittings for all the hydraulic lines for leaks or poor fits. Do those examinations when the hydraulic system is pressurized and the engine and pump are operating. Pinhole leaks are more apparent when the fluid is under pressure (the pressure is high, so wear safety goggles and gloves to prevent injuries).

Check all the seals and fittings to the control valves. Make sure the valves fully open and close.

Control system

If the joystick controls for the loader and steering are not responding, be sure that all the connections are secure. You may need to replace the joystick control circuit board (located in the joystick arm rest) if the problem continues. Also, make sure the connecting wires from the joystick to the hydraulic pump and actuators are connected. Slow response can indicate control system malfunctions.

There are safety switches throughout the Bobcat on various panels and the driver's seat. Any malfunction of those switches can cause problems. Check the switches for good connections and proper operation. Excessive battery drain can also indicate a bad circuit.

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