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Maintenance Tips For Your Excavator's Undercarriage

by Erik Evans

Whether you own or rent your excavator, it's important to keep it in the best shape possible. After all, a well-maintained machine is one that'll give you top-notch service throughout its working lifespan. That means looking at just about every aspect of your machine, from top to bottom.

The bottom is especially important, as it contains much of the hardware critical for forward motion. The following discusses the importance of undercarriage inspection and maintenance, as well as several tips for checking and repairing worn or defective components.

Good Undercarriage Maintenance Equals Good Ownership

There's a lot riding on your excavator's undercarriage, both figuratively and literally. Nearly every moving component that's a part of the undercarriage is a wear item, meaning it'll eventually wear out and require replacement. For instance, the upper and lower rollers, as well as the front idler and drive sprocket, are responsible for most of the work and hold the most weight, making them prime candidates for all types of wear and tear.

Knowing when to service and replace these parts is a necessary part of proper maintenance. Unfortunately, many companies defer their maintenance schedules in an attempt to save time and minimize their operating costs. The end result usually achieves the opposite, as deferred maintenance often results in more expensive and more time-consuming repairs.

First Things First

In addition to a general walk-around of the excavator itself, Equipment World suggests beginning your undercarriage inspection with the tracks, specifically for any signs of wear and tear, abnormal and otherwise. Daily track inspections can help easily-preventable failures from occurring due to age or strenuous usage.

Track tensioning is another important aspect that should be checked on a regular basis. The track should have the right amount of tension as specified in your excavator's maintenance manual. An overly-tightened track can cause excess friction and rob the machine of power, while a loose track can not only throw around rocks, gravel and other loose material, but it may even come loose during use.

Cleanliness is also important when dealing with excavator tracks, especially in demanding environments where clay or dry dirt (or snow and ice during the winter) can become packed within the tracks and prevent the rollers from turning. A good track spade comes in handy when clearing compacted dirt and debris from the tracks.

Other Inspection Areas

Of course, the tracks aren't the only part of the excavator's undercarriage that deserves attention:

  • Take a close look at the top and bottom rollers, as well as the track guides and track pads. All of the rollers should be intact, accounted for and in proper alignment according to manufacturer specs.
  • Check carefully for oil leaks around the final drive, idlers and rollers. Most idlers and rollers are designed to be permanently lubricated and sealed from the factory, which makes complete replacement of the failed part mandatory. The final drive can be lubricated and resealed, but care should be taken to avoid dirt and debris contamination.
  • Watch for accelerated wear on the sprocket by examining the teeth up close. According to Equipment World, a typical sprocket loses its rounded teeth profile as it wears down, culminating in a pointed shape. Worn sprockets should be replaced before installing new track.

Dealing with Rubber Tracks

Many of the latest small excavators use rubber tracks due to their reduced noise and increased flexibility on a variety of surfaces. However, rubber tracks lack the overall durability of their steel counterparts. This makes it essential to inspect the tracks on a regular basis.

Particular attention should be paid to the rubber surface itself, which could be worn down over time through abrasion on rough terrain. Make sure the cuts do not reach the steel belting holding the track together. Otherwise, moisture infiltration can cause corrosion to form.

Taking care of your excavator's undercarriage can help it provide faithful service to your job sites for months and even years to come. For more tips, you may want to contact local excavation contractors