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Mechanics Corner: Proactive undercarriage maintenance

Allison McNeal for Progressive Dairyman Published on 09 March 2017

One of the hardest-working parts of a compact track loader is its undercarriage. However, in order for the moving components 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 life span.

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By following these six tips, outlined by Chris Girodat, Bobcat agriculture marketing manager, you can get better traction, pushing power and life out of your compact track loader’s undercarriage when working in agriculture applications.

Tip No. 1: Keep the undercarriage clean

Operators should take time at the end of each workday or shift to clean out manure, dirt and other debris that may lead to undercarriage buildup. If the undercarriage is not routinely cleaned, it can lead to premature wear on components. This is especially true in colder climates.

According to Girodat, if operators neglect to clean the undercarriage and are working in a colder climate, the manure, mud and debris will freeze. “Once that material freezes, it can start to rub on the bolts, loosen the guiding and seize up the rollers, leading to potential wear later on,” he says. “Cleaning the undercarriage helps prevent unnecessary downtime.”

In addition, debris can add additional weight to the undercarriage, reducing fuel economy. Shovels and pressure washers can be used to help clean the undercarriage. And many manufacturers offer undercarriages designed for easier track carriage cleanout, helping debris fall to the ground rather than become packed in the undercarriage.

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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. According to Girodat, if the machine is being used in harsh applications or other challenging conditions, the undercarriage may need to be inspected more frequently.

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 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 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.

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Tip No. 3: Follow basic practices

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

According to Girodat, there are a few things you can do to help minimize track and undercarriage wear:

  • Make wider turns – Sharp turns or pivoting the machine can lead to accelerated wear and increase the potential for de-tracking.

  • Avoid harsh environments – Abrasive materials can cause damage to tracks.

  • Reduce unnecessary spinning – Track spinning can lead to wear and decrease productivity.

  • Pick the correct number of grousers – Consider the application before choosing the number of grousers per shoe. Typically, more grousers on a track means more contact with the ground and less vibration, which can lengthen the life of the track when working in more abrasive conditions.

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 track loader’s performance by selecting a track that matches your needs and the application. For instance, wide tracks are a good choice when lower ground pressure and flotation are desired.

If your operators are looking for increased ground pressure, added traction and pushing force, they should choose a narrow track. Your local equipment dealer can help you select the right rubber track for your application.

Tip No. 6: Adhere to proper digging procedures

Operators should follow basic operating 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. It consists of expensive components, so adhering to these six undercarriage maintenance tips, as well as proper track maintenance outlined in your manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual, can help keep your overall cost of ownership down and extend the life of your tracks.  end mark

Allison McNeal is with Two Rivers Marketing.

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