The state of a machine’s undercarriage has significant effects on its performance and lifespan. An undercarriage that’s well cared for helps maximize power, stability, and safety while minimizing the operational expenses of the heavy equipment over the course of its life.
Two keys to benefiting from healthy undercarriages are a thorough, proactive approach to preventive maintenance and following operational best practices. Use the undercarriage maintenance tips below to protect the machines in your fleet and your bottom line.
The Basics of Undercarriage Preventive Maintenance
- Inspect undercarriages daily. Operators must closely examine the undercarriage of their machines every day. Look for problems like damage and uneven or excessive wear (including on the drive sprockets and track pads), buildup of dirt or debris, and missing parts or components. Also look for proper clearance between the track chain and idler roller. Damage and wear may indicate—or quickly lead to—larger, more complicated, costlier problems with the equipment.
- Check track tension daily, preferably while the equipment is in its working conditions. If tracks are tighter than they should be, it increases wear on components and lowers power and fuel efficiency. If tracks are too loose, it also leads to component wear, contributes to instability, and may trigger track derailing. Adjust the sag to the manufacturer-recommended measurement for every piece of heavy equipment. Keep in mind that sand, mud, and snow can cake on the undercarriage and increase tension. When working in these conditions, or if working conditions change during the day, check the tension more frequently.
- Clean the undercarriage at the end of every day. Caked-on dirt, debris, snow, and other material can increase track tension, affect component function, and take a toll on the condition of an undercarriage in various other ways. And these problems quickly and easily compound if they’re not addressed. Daily cleaning is an essential part of preventive maintenance, and is even more critical in below-freezing conditions, when substances can freeze up inside the track.
- Ensure proper track alignment. Nothing can mess with undercarriage components quite like track misalignment. Protect the equipment’s track links, track and carrier roller flanges, idler flanges, sprockets, and rock guards from undue wear and damage by keeping a close eye on track alignment.
- Follow all OEM-recommended care guidelines and maintenance schedules. This is so important to keeping undercarriages in the best shape possible and to catching and addressing developing problems before they become more serious. Be even more diligent with heavy equipment that works in particularly demanding conditions or where material often builds up on the undercarriage.
Some Operational Best Practices to Protect Undercarriages
- Make sure all operators are fully trained on the equipment they use, that they know and perform regular maintenance, and that they have access to manuals
- Always use the right type and size tracks for the ground conditions and shoes of appropriate widths for the necessary flotation
- Minimize high-speed and reverse machine operation, as they accelerate wear on bushings, sprockets, and pins
- Operators should make wide, gradual turns as much as possible to reduce undercarriage wear
- Operators should attempt to make turns in both directions equally over the course of the day, as more turns in one direction leads to faster, asymmetrical wear
- Decrease the bucket or blade load as needed to keep track spinning in check, as it promotes wear and cuts productivity
- Minimize operation time on sloped ground conditions, which increases wear on rollers, idlers, and guide lugs
- Avoid travel with tracks on uneven ground or ground with obstructions
- Excavator operators should dig over the front idler and avoid digging over the sides of the machine or the sprocket
- Use equipment with a telematics system that tracks machine usage, monitors performance, reminds you of scheduled maintenance, and immediately alerts you to problems