Extend The Life Of Your Undercarriage & Reduce Maintenance Costs
As much as half your total maintenance expense for any piece of crawler equipment comes from its undercarriage. That makes it easy to understand the value of working to reduce maintenance costs. Paying close attention to proper set-up and operation procedures will boost productivity and extend the life of the undercarriage, not only reducing costs but increasing return on your equipment investment.
Here are some things you should do to significantly reduce maintenance costs.
The right equipment
Shoe width depends on working conditions – you want to maintain flotation and function using the narrowest shoe possible. If the shoe is too narrow, the crawler will sink and the back end can slide during turns. Excess material will accumulate on top of the shoe, then fall into the link-roller system. This can shorten link life, because tightly packed material around the roller frame wears against the links. The carrier roller can actually stop turning altogether.
Using a slightly wider shoe keeps the material a little farther from the system. It also provides better flotation.
On the other hand, too-wide shoes are prone to bending and cracking. They can:
- Increase wear on all components
- Cause prematurely dry joints
- Cause shoe hardware to come loose – increasing shoe width by 2” increases bushing stress by 20%
Track tension is critical. Too loose, and you get whipping at higher speeds that unnecessarily wears sprockets and bushings. Too tight, and you’ll not only waste horsepower but put the entire undercarriage and drive train under undue stress.
The key to proper tensioning is to do it under working conditions. Operate the crawler for at least a half hour first, so the track gets the “feel” of the environment, then coast it to a stop rather than braking. If conditions change during the work day, readjust tension.
Proper balance is essential, too. If it’s off, it can:
- Make the machine perform as if the shoes are too narrow
- Cause premature wear and tear on the undercarriage
- Make it impossible to fine doze
- Give the operator a rocky ride
Balance the crawler on smooth, level ground, equipped with the attachment you will be using. That way you can achieve even track roller wear from front to rear, minimal track link rail scalloping and ideal track flotation with the least slippage.
Operating best practices
- Start every shift with a walk-around inspection, looking for abnormal wear patterns as well as loose hardware, dry joints or leaky seals.
- Even a season operator will tell you it’s tough to feel track slippage until it reaches about 10%. That increases wear (especially on grouser bars) while reducing productivity. Decreasing the load will help avoid track spinning.
- Switch turning directions, alternating if possible, so tracks wear evenly. Otherwise you’ll wind up with more track miles on the outside track. (Newer machines measure track wear in miles in both forward and reverse, not hours of operation.) If you can’t alternate directions, check for undercarriage wear more frequently.
- Slow down – higher operating speeds cause undue wear.
- Operate in reverse as little as possible, to reduce bushing and sprocket wear. (Reverse wears bushings no matter your speed.) Use adjustable blades reduce the need for reverse operation.
- Keep tracks clear of debris as much as possible during your shift and always clean them at shift end.
When working on a level surface, be aware that:
- Front idler and roller wear increases when you’re dozing, because it shifts weight forward.
- Rear roller, idler and sprocket wear increases when you’re ripping, because that shifts weight backward.
- Loading wears both front and rear components more than the middle, because it shifts weight back and forth from front to rear.
On uneven terrain:
Work downhill, letting gravity take some pressure off the tracks. Working uphill causes more stress.
Alternate directions when working a hillside to achieve even track wear, because the downhill tracks are under more pressure. If alternating isn’t practical, rotate tracks from one wide to the other.
Check inner track wear more often if you’re doing a lot of crown work. Conversely, check for outer track wear more often if you’re doing vee work (working in a depression).
To reduce maintenance costs, make sure someone qualified is in charge if regularly measuring, monitoring and predicting undercarriage wear, so you can detect and correct problems early. That way you’ll ensure the longest life and lowest per-hour operating costs.