It was once a common practice in the heavy equipment industry to run a set of tracks until they failed or came apart. This was in part due to a lack of properly trained operators and to a greater extent the fact that excavators were designed more for ease of production rather than serviceability. Thankfully, both of these situations are no longer the case.
You can’t eliminate undercarriage wear. All of its components are wearing parts but with appropriate care, you can minimise impact on both your maintenance costs and fuel bills.
Below we have put together a few tips to help maintain your excavator undercarriage.
Keep it clean
It goes without saying that clean tracks will wear at a slower rate than ones packed with abrasive dirt and sand. When practical, digging out around your tracks when setting up will help minimise the amount of debris they pick up. Most importantly clean your tracks as best you can as part of each move and pressure wash them at as often as possible.
Keeping tracks clean will not only prolong their life, it will lower your fuel usage. Plus a presentable machine looks better to your customer and shows you care about your machine as much as you do about doing the job right.
Watch your setup
Climbing over curbs, small cliffs, setting up on slopes or having to reverse frequently places a lot of strain on your tracks and drive motor. If you climb slopes, keeping your drive motor to the rear will provide better traction and manoeuvrability.
Keep tracks properly adjusted
Tracks that are too lose can cause slapping and excess edge wear on parts while too much tension can place pressure on the entire undercarriage and drive system of your excavator. Every machine is different so check your owner’s manual for proper adjustment procedures and make them a part of your standard preventive maintenance routine.
Take regular measurements
Take regular measurements of your undercarriage and track its wear. Pin & bush turns (on large machines), roller rotations and the replacement of sprocket rings to maximise overall component life while minimizing the cost of repairs. Knowing what to service and when will reduce unexpected downtime and can increase the life of your tracks by 60 percent. Even one worn out top or bottom roller will prematurely wear out chains and other components. That can equate to thousands of extra working hours between replacements.
Undertake regular inspections
Daily checks of your machine are essential to ensuring a long machine life and key to reducing maintenance costs. Whilst most operators check oil levels and the like, a quick inspection of the undercarriage can identify anything that requires attention before it becomes a problem. Check for any leaks, and investigate them early. Ensure all bolts are in place and tensioned correctly. Loose segments or track plates can cause significant avoidable costs.
Lastly are the purely human factors that can help extend the life of your excavator’s undercarriage. Long sweeping turns place much less stress on parts than tight turns or corkscrewing. Quick jerking motions with the boom cause torsional strain on the entire drive system. All of which adds up to greater wear in less time.
As they say in the military, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and more cost-efficient.
Plan your job
Saving time is the same as saving money. Taking some time at the start of the job to think through the most efficient way of completing the job makes sense to most operators. As undercarriage replacements can be one of the highest maintenance costs on an excavator, consider how you will conduct your job.
Reduce travelling distances of the machine, by considering the layout of the work to be undertaken and apply some forward thinking. This includes avoiding driving the machine over long distances, and breaking up the distance with stops to cool down. Overheating of track link assemblies, rollers, idlers etc will increase wear.
Earth moving equipment is expensive to own or lease and when not properly maintained the repair bills can be an even greater drain than the initial investment. By following these few tips on how to properly maintain your excavator undercarriage and links you will go a long way toward maximising your profits and reducing your cost.