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Six tips to extend undercarriage life

By Allison McNeal


One of the hardest-working parts of a compact excavator or compact track loader is its undercarriage. And for the moving components — such as the idlers, rollers and sprockets — to function properly, the undercarriage must be maintained and kept clean. If the undercarriage is not routinely inspected and maintained, it can easily cost you valuable time and money — and potentially decrease the track’s lifespan.

By following these six tips, outlined by Bobcat Marketing Manager Chris Girodat, you can get better performance and life out of your compact excavator or compact track loader’s undercarriage when working in a variety of landscaping applications.


Tip No. 1: Keep the undercarriage clean.

Operators should take time at the end of each workday to clean out dirt and other debris that may lead to undercarriage buildup. Regardless of the application, if the undercarriage is dirty, it needs to be cleaned. If the undercarriage is not routinely cleaned, it will lead to premature wear on components.

In addition, debris can add additional weight to the undercarriage, reducing fuel economy. Many compact equipment manufacturers offer undercarriages that are designed for easy track carriage cleanout, helping debris fall to the ground rather than become packed in the undercarriage. And shovels and pressure washers can be used to help clean any remaining debris from the undercarriage.


Tip No. 2: Routinely inspect the undercarriage.

It is important to complete a full undercarriage inspection for excessive or uneven wear, as well as look for damaged or missing components.

The following items should be inspected on a routine basis:

  • Drive motor
  • Drive sprockets
  • Main idlers and rollers
  • Rock guards
  • Track bolts
  • Track chains
  • Track shoes
  • Track tension

During a routine machine walk-around inspection, operators should check the tracks to see if any components look out of place. If so, this could indicate a loose track pad or possibly a broken track pin. In addition, they should inspect the rollers, idlers and drives for oil leakage. These oil leaks could indicate a failed seal, which could lead to a major failure in the rollers, idlers or track drive motors.

Always follow your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual for proper undercarriage maintenance. Following the proper maintenance procedures will help reduce the risk of unplanned machine downtime.


Tip No. 3: Follow basic practices.

Certain landscaping tasks can create more wear on tracks and undercarriages than other applications, so it is important that operators adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended operating procedures.

According to Girodat, some tips that can help minimize track and undercarriage wear include:

  • Make wider turns: Sharp turns or pivoting the machine can lead to accelerated wear and increase the potential for de-tracking.
  • Avoid harsh environments: Rough asphalt or concrete or other abrasive materials can cause damage to tracks.
  • Reduce unnecessary spinning: Train your operators to make wide, less aggressive turns. Track spinning can lead to wear, and decrease productivity.
  • Select the correct shoe (track) width: Choose the proper shoe width, also known as track width, by considering the weight of the machine and application. For instance, narrower excavator shoes are better suited for hard soil because they have better soil penetration and grip. Wide excavator shoes typically work well in soft underfoot conditions because they have more flotation with lower ground pressure.
  • Pick the correct grouser: Consider the application before choosing the number of grousers per shoe. Typically, the higher number of grousers the track has, the more contact the track will have with the ground, and the less vibration there will be — and the longer the track will last.


Tip No. 4: Maintain proper track tension.

Incorrect track tension may lead to increased track wear, so it is important to adhere to the proper tension. As a general rule, when your operators are working in soft, muddy conditions, it is recommended to run the tracks slightly looser.


Tip No. 5: Tailor your track to the job.

Optimize your compact excavator and compact track loader’s performance by selecting a track that matches your needs and the application. For example, wide tracks are a good choice when lower ground pressure and flotation is desired, such as operating on established surfaces. If your operators are looking for increased ground pressure and added traction and pushing force, they should choose a machine with a narrow track. Some compact equipment dealers provide non-marking tracks to avoid leaving marks on finished concrete. Your local compact equipment dealer can help you select the right rubber tracks for your application.


Tip No. 6: Adhere to proper digging procedures.

Operators should follow basic operating and digging procedures — outlined in your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual — to minimize excessive wear and track degradation.


The undercarriage makes up a large portion of track replacement costs, with expensive components. So adhering to these six undercarriage maintenance tips, as well as proper track maintenance and operation outlined in your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual, can help keep your overall cost of ownership down and extend the life of your compact equipment tracks.


Allison McNeal is with Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa. Article provided by Bobcat Company, West Fargo, North Dakota.

This article appears in the May/June issue of Landscape and Irrigation, available May 26.

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