How to extend the life of your undercarriage
The most expensive part on a tracked dozer or excavator is the undercarriage, representing 50% of the machines owning and operating costs if improperly maintained. While scheduled maintenance can help you keep an eye on abnormal wear, proper use of the machine can extend the life of your undercarriage naturally. These operation tips from the experts will help your tracks go the distance!
Keep your undercarriage clean
Materials and debris can build up, especially in certain climate conditions, and cause abnormal wear over prolonged operation. Regular washes prevent damage caused by contaminants, which can be severe depending on what type of material your machine is working with.
Avoid high speed tracking
It might be tempting to get around faster but tracking at high speeds can elevate track temperatures to an unsafe level and can cause premature wear. Slow and steady wins the race to prolonged track life.
Alternate your passes
Side-hill operation can accelerate wear on the links on just one side when overused. Tracks will last longer when you work downhill rather than uphill. It is recommended to alternate sides to avoid uneven wear. If your machine constantly works on crowns or in depressions, check for inside or outside track wear.
Avoid unnecessary reverse operation
While tracked dozers and excavators can be operated in reverse, it wears bushings and sprockets. Stick to forward operation and reserve reverse motion for easy positioning.
Keep your right track tension
Adjust and test your track tension as needed. Tight tracks can increase war on brushing, sprockets, links and idlers. Track alignment that is too tight can increase undercarriage system strain and cause premature wear.
Check your track alignment
When tracks are not properly aligned it can cause component wear. Check your track alignment frequently during heavy use.
Do not slip
Slipping the track can cause premature wear on components and the track itself. It also reduces production and increases fuel consumption. If your track is slipping, decrease your load to prevent excessive wear and stress on grousers.
Minimize sharp turns and counter-rotations
Sharp turns or counter-rotations are sometimes unavoidable at the jobsite, but these maneuvers stress your tracks from brake use on a single side. This causes uneven wear over time. If operators cannot alternate turning directions, regularly check for wear on the turning side; rotating tracks can help extend their life through uneven wear.
Choose the right shoes for the job
Using the wrong shoe width can increase wear and strain on links, pins and brushings. Always use the narrowest shoes possible, while still achieving proper flotation in the material your machines is working in to reduce wear. Your shoes should also prepare your machine for underfoot conditions in a variety of environments. Use center-punched shoes without roller guards in muddy conditions to reduce packing or pick up some extreme service shoes and carrier rollers for highly abrasive conditions.
You can read more about track maintenance & general adjustments in Caterpillar’s Undercarriage System Management Guide or reference your model Operations and Maintenance Manual for in-depth parts and service information to maximize your productivity. The good news is your Cat undercarriage is custom-built for a machine-specific match and works as a cohesive system to improve service life! Just remember that even the most efficient undercarriage system eventually wears down. When it does, we’re here to help!