By Mike Slusark
Spending a few hours a month maintaining your log loader’s undercarriage can help prevent days of downtime. It’s easy to train your operators to ensure these steps are done correctly.
Always consult your machine’s Operation & Maintenance Manual for recommended maintenance at determined service intervals. The intervals are typically identified by machine hours. Here are some general guidelines from Doosan Infracore North America, a log loader manufacturer.
Smart Operation Slows Wear
Preserving your log loader undercarriage starts with how it is operated. Avoiding frequent high speeds, excessive reverse operation, track-spinning, and counter-rotation will help extend the lifespan of your machine’s undercarriage. Taking wide turns and traveling with idlers in the front, especially up and down slopes, will also help reduce wear on the machine.
Dealer Maintenance Kits
Lance Turgeon of Foleyet Timber 1986 Ltd. in Timmins, Ontario, builds logging roads and harvests timber hundreds of miles deep into northern Ontario. His local dealer, ReadyQuip Sales and Service, would take hours to reach him if a machine breaks down, so keeping up on maintenance is critical.
Before Lance’s crews head into the forest, his dealer provides them with a kit that includes the following:
“Downtime is what kills you, and that’s where our dealer comes to the rescue,” Lance says. “The service we receive from them is second to none. It sets them apart.”
Log Loader Service Position
Before doing any work on your log loader, park it on firm, level ground. Put the attachment on the ground and run the machine on low idle for five minutes while the engine cools. Turn off the engine and release the hydraulic and tank pressure. Before doing any maintenance work, place a sign on the cab door that says not to operate the machine. This simple step could prevent a major accident.
When your operators are doing their daily greasing, have them walk around the machine, clear out mud or ice from the tracks, and look for any visible signs of damage to the undercarriage. Logging veteran Brian Dhooghe, owner of RCD Timber in Hoquiam, Washington, sets this expectation with his team.
“Each night my crew members complete a routine walk-around inspection, checking the tracks to see if any components look out of place,” Brian says. “They also take the time to clean and inspect the undercarriage for excessive wear as well as look for damaged or missing components. Downtime is what hurts us most in this line of business, so we are as preventive as possible.”
Checking Track Tension
Frequently checking track tension is another way to slow log loader undercarriage wear. The proper track tension for your machine can depend on the model you’re operating, the style of tracks you have equipped, and the conditions of the terrain you’re operating on. Consult with your dealer to determine the measurement that is right for your log loader. Too much slack in a track could cause it to come loose. Tracks that are too tight can cause accelerated wear.
Measuring the tension of your log loader tracks requires two people, with the log loader parked on even terrain. One person should be in the operator’s seat and the other will be measuring the track.
The proper, safe procedure is to jack up one side of the machine — consult your Operation & Maintenance Manual for instructions on where the jack should be placed on your machine. After the machine is raised on the jack, have the operator turn the track backwards 1 or 2 turns. The person on the ground measures the distance between the bottom of the side frame and the top of the lowest crawler shoe. Tension is increased by adding grease to the appropriate zerk and reduced by bleeding grease off. Measure and adjust as needed on both sides of the machine.
Yearly Service/2,000 Hours
At this service interval, most manufacturers recommend changing the travel motor oil. Failure to change this fluid, or operating with insufficient fluid levels, is the main reason final drives fail.
This oil is very hot when the machine is operating, so shut everything down and let the log loader cool down. Park the machine in the service position. Before removing the motor case, loosen the plug slightly and let the air escape. This will help prevent oil from shooting out suddenly. Replace the travel oil and plugs, and then repeat this process on the other side of the machine.
Check with your dealer before welding the frame of your log loader — it could affect your warranty coverage. If you are welding the loader, turn the log loader off and disconnect the battery. Do not apply more than 200 volts continuously; and connect the grounding cable within one yard of the area to be welded, with no seals or bearings between the area being welded and the grounding point. If the grounding cable is connected near instruments, pins, or hydraulic cylinders, they can become damaged.
Telematics for Limiting Downtime
Most log loader manufacturers now offer telematics technology that makes it simple to remember maintenance intervals. These systems even offer satellite connectivity so you can receive notifications when you’re out of range of cellular service. If your operator is responsible for machine maintenance, they can receive notifications directly to their phones that tell them when maintenance is due and what needs to be done.
In addition to helping with preventive maintenance, telematics systems can notify your operators when internal sensors in your loaders detect issues that could lead to major machine failures. At the same time, these systems can immediately notify your dealer of the issue, so that they can dispatch a field service truck if necessary.
You can track telematics data on a computer web browser or using an app on your smartphone. Your dealer has access to your machine’s telematics data too. Frequently, dealers contact customers if they receive an alert that something is wrong with the machine. Better yet, dealers can proactively contact you if they see that your log loader is nearing a service interval or a part needs to be replaced.
Following these log loader maintenance tips will help ensure that your equipment is running properly and you’re able to stay productive.
Mike Slusark handles Strategic Comm-unications for Doosan Infracore North America, Des Moines, Iowa.
Road builders are commonly known as heavy-duty excavators. Road builders have the same undercarriages as log loaders, so many of the tips that apply to log loaders also apply to road builders. Since road builders operate in especially difficult terrain, more frequent maintenance may be necessary. Check with your local dealer for more details.
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