You’ve bought quality tracks made precisely to OEM specifications for your machine. They’re an ideal fit and you’ve made checking proper tension part of your utilization routine. And you faithfully clean both tracks and undercarriage before putting your machine to bed. Yet from the very moment those tracks on your compact track loader (CTL), mini-excavator, or other tracked vehicle were made, they began to age. Their clock began ticking.
Once on your machine and put to use, a host of antagonists have united to end their useful life – abrasive surfaces, exposure to the sun, inclement weather, and damaging chemicals, in league with Father Time. It’s something we just have to accommodate for in our equipment costs. No matter how meticulous a machine’s operators and owners have been, there comes a time when tracks eventually must be replaced.
How much we delay that time is an individual judgment call that must take into consideration operational performance and safety, upfront cost vs. a loss of productivity, and even philosophy of use.
Your end-of-useful-life analysis, for instance, might vary slightly depending on your type of tracked equipment and its function. Rubber tracks give both mini-excavators and CTLs excellent flotation and mobility for use in a wide variety of ground conditions. But cleat wear and the resulting loss of traction have a greater impact on the CTL’s productivity while scooping or dozing.
The same tread wear on a mini-excavator you might judge will yield just a little longer use can, on the other hand, represent an unacceptable tradeoff for your CTL in operator frustration, profit lost to increased task completion time, and damage to undercarriage components due to more aggressive use.
Aside from what the tracks are called on to provide, here’s what you should look for to determine replacement, starting with first signs of the end of a cost-efficient useful life and moving toward more obvious indicators.
Completely worn off treads still provide flotation but offer no traction. Depending on traction requirements, you might want to schedule replacement when your tracks are worn down to less than one-half to one-third of their original depth.
If you have space to store them, you can set aside tracks that are worn down but in otherwise good condition as “backups” in case of urgent need, such as a premature track failure. The backup will prevent excessive downtime until the replacement tracks arrive.
Surface damage is easy to spot while cleaning tracks. Most often it’s not a material defect but degradation from exposure to the elements, sunlight, and hot days. It can also result from job site conditions. The damage may even be due to sharp rocks or other objects tearing chunks out. Tracks that have missing chunks, are cracking, or are spalling need replacement.
Remember how important it was to choose tracks that fit your machine precisely?
Rocks, gravel, dirt, and debris that lodge themselves along the lugs and sprocket gaps tend to enlarge the points of contact over time. The widening gaps only leave more room for debris, causing an increasingly sloppy fit with subsequent loss of performance. Chunks of material and even whole lugs may be missing. If ignored, it will eventually lead to derailment, the track shifting off its rollers.
This is a safety concern, as well as a risk of significant damage to undercarriage parts. Missing or damaged cleats call for track replacement.
If cracks form in the rubber, you run the risk of water corroding the inner steel cables leading to a track failure.
When worn on the inside to the point rubber has worn off, exposing rubber-embedded steel cable and bars, the tracks should be replaced.
Keeping these signs in mind as you perform regular track maintenance and inspection is critical to knowing when your tracks have reached the end of their useful life.
When it’s time for your tracks to be replaced, make sure you know how to choose the right ones. Give us a call at Dominion Equipment Parts or click the button below.
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Dominion Rubber Tracks are available for all mini excavators, compact track loaders and tracked Carriers. Our replacement undercarriage parts include a fully stocked line of sprockets, rollers and idlers, manufactured to the highest quality control standards. Dominion Equipment Parts is also the exclusive OEM parts distributor for Morooka Rubber Track Carriers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America.