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By Allison McNeal
The undercarriage of tracked heavy equipment, such as log loaders, consists of many moving components that need to be maintained to function properly. If the undercarriage is not routinely inspected and maintained, it can easily cost you valuable time and money and potentially decrease the track’s lifespan.
By following these five tips, outlined by Mike Stark, Doosan log loader product specialist, you can get better performance and life out of your log loader’s steel track undercarriage when working in forestry applications.
At the end of each workday, log loader operators should take time to clean out dirt, sticks, and other debris that may lead to undercarriage buildup. Regardless of the application, if the undercarriage is dirty, it needs to be cleaned. If the undercarriage is not routinely cleaned, it will lead to premature wear on components. This is especially true in colder climates.
“If operators neglect to clean the undercarriage and are working in a colder climate, the mud and other debris could freeze,” Stark says. “Once that material freezes, it can start to rub on the bolts, move undercarriage components, loosen track guides, and seize up the rollers, leading to potential premature wear and then failure later on. Cleaning the undercarriage helps prevent unnecessary downtime.”
In addition, debris can add additional weight to the undercarriage, therefore reducing fuel economy. Shovels and pressure washers can be used to help clean the undercarriage. Many manufacturers’ undercarriages are designed for easier track carriage cleanout, helping debris fall to the ground rather than lodging in the undercarriage.
It is important to complete a full undercarriage inspection to check for excessive or uneven wear and damaged or missing components. According to Stark, if the machine is being used in harsh applications or other challenging conditions, like driving over stumps, the undercarriage may need to be inspected more frequently.
The following items should be inspected on a routine basis:
During a routine machine walk-around inspection, operators should check the tracks to see if any components look out of place. If so, this could indicate a loose track pad or possibly a broken track pin. In addition, they should inspect the rollers, idlers, and drives for oil leakage. These oil leaks could indicate a failed seal, which could lead to a major failure in the rollers, idlers, or track drive motors.
Always follow your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual for proper undercarriage maintenance.
Certain jobsite tasks can create more wear on log loader tracks and undercarriages than other applications, so it is important that operators adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended operating procedures.
According to Stark, some tips that can help minimize log loader track and undercarriage wear include:
Make wider turns: Sharp turns or pivoting the machine can lead to accelerated wear and increase the potential for de-tracking.
Minimize time on slopes: Constant operation on a slope or hill in one direction can accelerate wear. However, many forestry applications require slope or hillside work, so when moving the machine up or down a hill, make sure that the drive motor is in the correct position to reduce track wear. According to Stark, the drive motor should be facing the back of the machine for easy maneuverability up a slope or hill.
Reduce unnecessary spinning: Train your operators to make wide, less aggressive turns. Track spinning can lead to accelerated wear and decrease productivity.
Alternate turning direction: Alternating log loader’s turning direction can extend undercarriage life.
Select the correct shoe width: Choose the proper shoe width by considering the weight of the machine, application, and geographical location. For instance, if your machines are working in the Pacific Northwest, it may be beneficial to use narrower shoes because they are better suited for hard soil and rocky conditions.
Choose the correct grouser: Consider the application before choosing the number of grousers per shoe. A single or double grouser may work well in forestry applications but may not work well in other applications. Typically, the higher number of grousers the track has, the more contact the track will have with the ground, vibration will be reduced, and the machine will last longer when working in more abrasive conditions.
Incorrect track tension may lead to increased track wear, so it is important to adhere to the proper tension. As a general rule, when your operators are working in soft, muddy conditions, it is recommended to run the tracks slightly looser.
“If steel tracks are too tight or too loose, it can quickly accelerate wear,” Stark says. “A loose track could cause the tracks to de-track.”
Stark advises referring to your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual for correct log loader track-tensioning procedures.
Tip No. 5: Adhere to proper loading procedures
Your log loader operators should follow basic operating procedures—outlined in your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual—to minimize excessive wear and track degradation. Improper operating procedures can cause stress to the track shoes and track links.
The undercarriage consists of expensive components, so adhering to these five undercarriage maintenance tips, as well as proper track maintenance outlined in your manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual, can help keep your overall cost of ownership down and extend the life of your tracks.
Following these five tips will definitely help you extend undercarriage life.
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