Solve Your Early Track Wear
BY Buck Storlie
Have you pulled ground personnel into the training center to talk about the way they operate auxiliary equipment? Ultimately a machine is only as good as it’s treated. Contractors want the greatest bang for their buck, so it’s in your best interest to train equipment operators on operation and cleanliness to optimize equipment longevity.
Compact track loaders (CTLs) are one of a jobsite’s most versatile pieces of equipment, so when it comes to the machines’ rubber track undercarriages, these tips couldn’t be more applicable. Simply taking the time to implement these steps can help contractors get a lot more mileage from their machines. That saves money in service and replacement costs, and reduces downtime.
Improper or aggressive operation is a major contributor to excessive wear. In addition, certain applications result in much higher wear than others. Counter-rotations, or sharp changes of direction, are a big cause of premature undercarriage wear. This is especially true when driving over highly abrasive material, such as shale, granite or ragged materials commonly found on demolition sites. Not only do counter-rotations often lead to cuts in the track, they also result in material build-up on the tracks’ outer edge that gets into the undercarriage.
Spinning the tracks can result in cuts in the rubber and unnecessary undercarriage wear. Jobs involving a lot of abrasive material, such as demolition, scrap and quarry applications, usually cause extra wear. The potential damage is much greater so it’s especially important to avoid counter-rotating and spinning in these applications.
Teach and practice careful operation and take a few minutes every day for cleaning and inspection.
To minimize damage, train operators on proper operation before they use the equipment. Encourage operators to use three-point turns. Operators should also avoid spinning the tracks, especially on abrasive surfaces.
Drivers should regularly clean a CTL’s undercarriage; its cleanliness directly impacts the wear rate. Closely inspect undercarriages regularly.
The average rubber track life is about 2,000 hours but can be as high as 5,000 if maintained well. Neglecting a rubber track can result in a wear life as low as 500 hours.
The track tension should match what is listed in the equipment manual. A loose track can result in derailment or ratcheting, which is lugs skipping over sprocket rollers. A track that’s too tight can accelerate wear on bearings, wheels and sprockets.
Examine the outside of the track for deep cuts, about 4 inches or larger, that dig into the core of the track where the inner cords are embedded. Bad cuts, such as this, may get worse and make track replacement necessary. Check the tread depth. Rubber track manufacturers generally produce tracks to be usable until there is no tread left. When wear makes it difficult to properly tension tracks, then it’s time to replace them.
Look at the drive lugs to be sure they still fit well with the sprocket rollers. A track isn’t usable if lugs are worn down so far that they continually skip over rollers when the track is properly tensioned. This usually happens when about 50 percent of the lug is gone.
Drive wheels wear similarly to the tracks and lugs. Replace a wheel when two-thirds of its rubber is gone. Also, look at the sprocket rollers about every 50 operating hours. Rubber track undercarriages use steel outer roller sleeves that cover steel pins on the sprocket and engage with the lugs. Replace sleeves when they are 50 percent worn or when they show signs of cracking. The steel sprocket pins can be rotated 180 degrees during sleeve replacement to prolong their service life, as the pins are stationary and typically only wear on one side.
Buck Storlie is the product line manager at ASV Holdings Inc., Grand Rapids, Minnesota. His 23 years with the company give him the expertise to manage product testing, reliability and field issue resolution.