Prime Source knows the challenges of maintaining heavy equipment well, and we're eager to share information that helps prevent mishaps. Consider these tips for undercarriage maintenance.
Most experts recommend setting up a routine for checking the undercarriage and tracks. This should be done after each use if possible but at least once daily. Ideally, a machine should be inspected at the end of the day when work is finished so it's ready for the next morning and so debris in the track and undercarriage don't have a chance to harden and/or freeze overnight.
Plan to check and/or service all parts of the undercarriage and track, including:
The undercarriage inspection is essential to revealing other issues before they become big problems. You will notice an oil or other fluid leak and are more likely to find loose parts or other potential issues before they become big problems.
Along with daily inspections comes the duty of keeping the undercarriage clean. A shovel, stiff brush or rod helps remove the large, hard chunks of materials such as concrete, rocks, dirt, minerals, wood and other debris. A quality power washer is another tool that essentially clears dirt and build up from all the cracks and crevices on the underside of a machine.
How equipment is operated can make a difference in preserving and protecting the undercarriage. For example, a lot of operation on slopes causes more wear and tear than operation on a flat surface. Mushy, muddy, rocky and other kinds of environments each have their challenges from dust and heat to large objects and freeze-packed debris in the track.
The undercarriage of each machine may differ, but, typically, a piece of equipment with a rubber or steel track will have a number of parts that sustain high wear and should be checked routinely: the sprockets, bottom rollers and front and rear idler. It isn't a bad idea to check them daily, too, but at least make sure they are checked at regular intervals and changed when they appear worn.
Sprockets tend to deteriorate the fastest, so keeping a close eye on them helps you see when to change them. Each idler tooth should have a rounded shape to it, and, if an inspection reveals some teeth that look misshapen, pointed or hooked, it's probably time to replace the sprockets.
A well-oiled undercarriage works in favour of cleanliness by pushing dirt out. Oil within the bushings literally enables smoother operation and makes less room for debris to enter the system.
The machine manual or a professional technician can help find the grease points on your particular machines for recommended daily lubrication. Grease fittings accept lubrication more easily after use when equipment is warm than before use when it's cold.
The tension of the track is another key to a healthy undercarriage and must be neither too tight nor too loose. Technically, the tension should be set to the factory specifications in the manual, but most experts acknowledge that a slightly looser tension is sometimes used for soft ground.
Tension too tight can blow out bushings, but tension too slack will cause slippage and may even cause the track to detach. Proper adjustment of the tension also puts the equipment at maximum capacity and operating power.
A well-tuned machine creates efficiency and enables operators to do quality, precision work. Consider the big picture while paying close attention to the big three of tracked-equipment maintenance:
Those are important, but any machine has many more parts that need attention not only on the undercarriage but in the cab, middle and within the bottom and track. Regular maintenance and service, as well as needed repairs, are not an added expense but a protection of your investment. Safeguard against accidents and job-site delays. Most of a machine's elements are essential to its operation:
All regularly scheduled maintenance works toward the same goal to reduce downtime, idle personnel, delays on job progress and repair costs, as well as increase safety. Daily inspections, regular oil and filter changes, hydraulic check-ups and parts replacements all contribute to smooth-running machines and fewer unpleasant surprises.
Experts advise that equipment owners and managers train basically everyone who operates the machines regularly or occasionally. If everyone knows how to inspect and clean, it will be easier to achieve best practices.
Good maintenance records can not only help ensure quality operation, they can also help predict when the track and other components might be due for replacement. Tracking takes a bit of record-keeping but can pay off in the data it yields about the life of undercarriage parts and how the various track treads perform.
Prime Source offers a full range of services to keep all kinds of tracked and wheeled heavy equipment running at its best. Our expert professionals can help with parts, maintenance, service, repair, equipment sales, specialty welding projects and consultations on everything from the everyday basics to the complex, hard-to-solve issues.