Tracking Tracks Drives Crawler Excavator Longevity
In order for your heavy equipment dealership to grow and thrive, you have to increase sales. That includes selling parts for repairs and replacement as well as new and used machines. But in order to secure long-term customer loyalty, you must partner with customers to help them get the longest use and greatest ROI from their equipment. For crawler excavators, tracking tracks is critical.
Unscheduled downtime is deadly. Proper track adjustment and careful inspection to detect wear can directly affect the season’s productivity, so it literally pays to monitor crawler excavator tracks carefully.
Innovative technology cannot replace humans
At least not yet. Telematics and related diagnostic systems have given equipment owners and operators a huge boost when it comes to preventive maintenance and detecting some kinds of problems before they get out of hand. But even the most sophisticated electronics can’t give you the insight that comes from inspecting your crawler’s undercarriage and components using human eyes and hands.
In fact, personal inspection remains so important, many OEMs provide detailed information about how to inspect and what to measure. For instance, Hitachi and others offer workbooks for their construction and mining excavators that allow easy wear tracking of undercarriages and swing bearings. Taking measurements and recording them keeps maintenance on track (so to speak) and reduces the chance of an unpleasant surprise due to improper track adjustment.
Tracks that are out of adjustment wear faster and unevenly.
If your excavator’s manufacturer doesn’t provide a workbook to use for inspecting and measuring tracks, you can create your own checklist/chart tool using the OEM’s specifications. Using a formal-but-simple tool assures consistency and timeliness, and it can be an excellent training tool.
What should you look for?
Bushing and sprocket wear are often caused by poorly-tensioning. Compare chain link wear to bushing external wear by feeing the bushing for uneven wear. Use a caliper to measure thickness. Then, get as close to the pin as you can and measure the height of the chain link. Your goal is to compare wear on the hardened steel surface of the two components.
The ideal time to turn pins and bushings is when the link is worn 50% and the lower face of the bushing (the side that typically engages the sprocket) is worn 100%. While that is the goal, experts warn it is better to turn the pins and bushings as you near those wear limits, rather than risking dry joints by waiting until you reach the 50%/100% ideal.
Experts also warn against using machine age as an indicator of track wear. For example, if you’re considering purchasing a used machine, focus on checking the track tension, or how much sag there is between the idler and the forward carrier. Proper tension indicates consistent maintenance. In the field, tension should be checked as part of the daily inspection, particularly if operating conditions change from dry to mud, clay to sand, etc.
Also look to see if the tracks are clean or there is material packed around them. Crawler excavators should carry a small space for operators to use to clear material that gets trapped, and this should be done daily as well.
Check the height and side wear on sprocket teeth. Worn teeth may indicate the machine has been working in side-sloped condition, but it might also indicate operator behaviors that are causing undue wear. For instance, repeatedly turning to one side or using one corner of the blade can push bushings out of alignment and unnecessarily wear on shims that provide support for idlers, rollers, and track frames.
As with many other aspects of construction equipment, daily inspection is an easy way to detect impending problems before they morph into expensive repairs that take machines out of service. The few minutes it takes to do the inspection pales in comparison to lost work time for equipment and operators.
Your dealership benefits, too.
The crawler excavators in your dealership’s rental fleet need to deliver top performance and ROI, too. By combining technology and human insights, both you and your customers can get the most from your equipment, boosting productivity and profitability.