6 Simple Tips To Maintain Your Track Machine’s Undercarriage
Manufacturers estimate that 50% of machine costs stem from undercarriage upkeep and repairs. There are many moving parts that need to be maintained in a piece of tracked heavy equipment to avoid additional costs and extend its lifespan. The great news is, undercarriage maintenance doesn’t vary much with different machine sizes and isn’t time consuming or expensive. So, once you’ve gotten your team in the habit of doing it, it should be smooth sailing.
The undercarriage includes the tracks, track links, chains, pins, idlers, rollers, track pads and sprockets. This is a huge part of what makes the machine function, so its in the owner’s best interest to properly maintain it.
Here are a few key things to check for and best practices moving forward:
How To Prevent Undercarriage Problems
Problem #1: Debris Stuck in Undercarriage
Letting dried mud, rocks, and other debris build up increases wear on your machine. When debris gets packed in tightly around the final drive it can cause damage to the main seals, potentially leading to expensive repairs. The added weight of the debris on the machine can also increase fuel usage.
Solution: This is a no brainer – clean it. At the end of the day check the undercarriage and clear out any debris. If you are struggling to clear it out, use a hose or pressure washer to get in there.
At a minimum, you should inspect your undercarriage at least every 1,000 to 2,000 hours for loose hardware, leaky seals, dry joints, damaged track pads and abnormal wear patterns. If you have been cleaning it regularly it will be easier to see any problems.
Problem #2: Uneven Wear & Tear
This is common if you work on softer surfaces or unlevel areas. It may not seem significant to have an operator that’s right-hand dominant or left-hand dominant constantly running the machine. But you will notice after 2,000 or 3,000 hours that side of the machine has worn faster. This misalignment can cause major problems with your track links, idler flanges, track and carrier roller flanges, and sprockets.
Solution: Regularly checking and adjusting alignment is key. Turning in only one direction wears out one side of the machine faster than the other. Alternating turning direction can prevent uneven wear. Try to avoid quick or aggressive turns, instead make an effort to do slower, wider turns.
Problem #3: Worn Pins, Bushings and Sprockets
Solution: After 1,500 to 2,000 hours of operation you will need to turn the pins and bushings on older machines. Newer machines sometimes have rotating bushing that eliminate the need to do this. You will know if they have been turned because the top half of the bushing will be noticeably worn.
While you’re there, check the teeth on the rear sprockets. If they are worn to a sharp point you will need to replace them soon.
Generally, when the pins and bushings need to be turned you will also need to replace the sprocket teeth. They usually wear at about the same rate.
Problem #4: Packing
Packing locks up undercarriage parts which prevents them from properly engaging. This often leads to higher loads and excessive wear.
Solution: The simplest solution is to clean the undercarriage often. Center-punched shoes can help in wet sand, clay or snowy conditions.
Be careful when using roller guards. They can trap debris and worsen the impact on your machine. If possible, only use them in high-impact underfoot conditions.
Problem #5: Incorrect Track Tension
When the track tension is to tight it takes more effort to turn the track, which wastes fuel. It also causes added load on the machine’s contact area, which wears down the components.
But if the track tension is too loose you will notice instability, the track could also derail. This will put stress on the bushings, sprockets and other components of the undercarriage.
Solution: The sweet spot seems to be around 2” sag. To determine stretch/pitch, Move machine in reverse until chain is tight, measure distance between 5 pins, divide by 4 this gives you an average to compare to factory limits.
When you’re working in muddy conditions its good to give some slack, when you’re working in rocky or hard sites its best to tighten it up.
Track tension should be checked after 10-15 hours of use. If it is a new track, experts recommend adjusting tension again after 30 minutes of use.
Problem #6: Wrong Shoe Size
Kind of a Goldilocks situation. If the shoe is too narrow the tracks will sink into the dirt eventually causing wear from packed debris on the roller frame. But, if the shoes are too wide they won’t perform well on firm or rocky ground and there’s a possibility of them bending or cracking.
Solution: The goal is to find the narrowest shoe width that will allow your machine to function and offers the level of flotation needed for the job.
What to Do If You Already Have Fault Codes Displaying
Proper maintenance has a direct impact on the useful life of the machine. But if your machine has got fault codes displaying or already has damage it may require a little extra TLC. On top of providing useful maintenance information, Diesel Laptops is the industry leader in off-highway equipment repair information, diagnostics and training. You don’t have to figure out repairs by yourself, use the helpful tools and resources created by the Diesel Techs at Diesel Laptops. Click here to view their user-friendly Off-Highway Diagnostic Kits or talk to our team for more information!
Angaeli covers all things Off-Highway as a part of the marketing team at Diesel Laptops, from construction and agriculture machinery to heavy equipment diagnostics.
My role has brought me to The National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green OH, had me trekking through farms in Gilbert, SC and even sent me to a construction theme park in NJ. I spread the word about new ways that Diesel Laptops serves the Off-Highway community, and work with diesel techs to help them discover heavy equipment repair options.