Extend the Life: Undercarriage Maintenance

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Training operators to spend a little extra time inspecting your undercarriage components each day will increase their productivity and maximize the overall life of your undercarriage. Since the majority of tracked equipment’s maintenance cost goes towards undercarriage upkeep, following these tips can help minimize wear and lower total operating costs.

Track Maintenance

The single largest contributor to premature wear and failure of tracks and components is improper track maintenance. Keeping proper track tension on your steel or rubber tracks ensures top performance, extends the life of the undercarriage, minimizes downtime and reduces wear on the track drive components. If tracks are too tight, it accelerates bushing wear, and if they are too loose, it can create instability and even cause tracks to derail. Generally, you should slacken tension for muddy conditions and tighten it for rock and hard ground conditions. Slack measurement varies by machine, but check your operator’s manual for guidelines.

Undercarriage Tips

Undercarriage components work together as a system. If possible, try to run your machine to destruction and replace all components at one time. If, for example, you replace your chain but leave your old sprockets, the sprockets will wear in the chain at an accelerated rate. You can save time and money by replacing mating parts at the same time.

Keep it clean! When mud, rocks, soil and debris build up in the undercarriage, it can cause accelerated wear to all of your components and prevent proper drive train operation.. Enough mud can eventually dry and lock up rollers, which will wear them flat and eventually destroy the track.

Reduce to a minimum the reverse movement of your machine. Reverse operation of the machine can accelerate wear of the sprockets and chains by 35-40%.When the machine moves in reverse, 85% of the load on the track chain is concentrated near the top of the sprocket, just where the bushing rotates against the sprocket tooth. This wears out the reverse-drive side of the sprocket tooth quickly.

Inspect bottom rollers periodically as excessive wear will damage & shorten the life of the chains. Measure the remaining depth of the flange, if the wear is in excess of 60% of original depth, it’s time to change out the rollers. In addition, when wear is beyond 60% the hardness of the steel is depleted. The soft metal remaining will wear at an accelerated rate. Visually inspect to make sure the rollers aren’t rubbing against the pins and pin bosses.

Limit operating at high speeds and sharp turns, as both will accelerate undercarriage wear. Make wide and gradual turns whenever possible.

Work up and down on slopes. Always going in one direction on a slope or hill will accelerate wear to all of your components. If conditions allow, always work straight up or down a slope.

Know the weight capacity of your mini excavator or skid steer and their rubber tracks.Try not to overload the machine or run them in extremely harsh conditions.

Store rubber tracks away from direct sun and weather elements when you store them.

Alignment of the top roller with the sprocket and front idler will increase the life of your chains by 10-15%. It will also prevent the tracks from jumping the sprockets. One method of ensuring proper alignment is to break the track, and then run a string from the center of the sprocket tooth over the top roller to the center of the idler center shoulder. Adjust the components as necessary if all three points are not centered.