“Compact track loaders are an expensive investment, but provide an excellent return if maintained properly,” says Michael Shebetka, product manager at Takeuchi. As with any tracked machine, CTL undercarriage expenses can be the 800-pound gorilla on the maintenance cost spreadsheet. CTL manufacturers agree that improper track tension leads to most undercarriage issues.
“Over-tensioned tracks can lead to accelerated track wear from the inside out, accelerated bearing, roller, and sprocket wear, and up to a 15 percent loss in fuel efficiency due to the huge effort to turn the over-tensioned track,” says Brian Rabe, senior product manager, skid loaders/track loaders, Manitou Americas (Gehl/Mustang).
“Under-tensioned tracks can lead to accelerated track wear all the way around and also can result in tracks coming off a machine during operation,” Rabe says.
“Maintaining proper track tension will increase the life of not only the track, but also other undercarriage components such as bearings, seals, idler wheels, and mid wheels,” says Kevin Coleman, CTL product expert at Caterpillar.
“We recommend checking track tension once per week as part of your regular maintenance routine,” says John Deere product marketing manager Gregg Zupancic.
Dirt and debris are factors, too.
John Dotto, brand marketing manager for Case, says, “It all comes down to where the rubber meets the road. Try to keep the job site clear of common debris—busted up concrete, rebar, and other items that could tear up the tracks, and fill in any curbs or bumps with gravel. Those extra steps on a job site can minimize unnecessary wear on the tracks.”
Daily inspections also play a vital role. “Keeping your undercarriage clean will increase the life of the component seals, bearings, and other moving components in the undercarriage,” Coleman says. “Pay particular attention to cleaning between roller and idler wheels and around the sprocket, where material can easily accumulate.”
After the elbow grease required for track cleaning, don’t forget the actual grease.
“Cat rubber-track loader undercarriages use front and rear torsion axles for suspension that require daily greasing,” Coleman says. “Regular greasing of torsion axles is important to ensure the suspension system will continue to provide a comfortable ride and improved load retention while reducing shock and vibration throughout the machine.”
Coleman says the main wear items on a rubber-track undercarriage are drive sprocket components and the track. “While the roller wheels will need to be replaced eventually, the track and sprocket are the most commonly replaced items,” he says.
“When replacing track, it’s a good idea to inspect the sprockets to determine whether or not sprocket replacement is required,” Coleman continues. “Sprocket teeth wear on opposing sides in forward and reverse. When drive sprocket wear is noticed, these may be exchanged from one side of the machine to the other to offer additional wear life for the undercarriage, lowering maintenance and repair costs.”
Don’t skip scheduled maintenance, either.
“During busy times of the year it’s often easy to put off your scheduled maintenance tasks in favor of keeping a piece of equipment working on the job site,” says Eric Dahl, loader specialist for Bobcat. “Too often, though, this will deliver a short-term gain but at a much higher long-term cost. Skipping routine maintenance can cause serious damage to your machine and can result in much higher repair costs and longer periods of downtime.”