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6 Tips on how to properly maintain your material handler undercarriage

Doosan expert provides tips on how to extend undercarriage life by following routine maintenance procedures

Inspecting material handler roller.
Inspecting material handler roller.

The undercarriage of tracked heavy equipment, such as material handlers, consists of many moving components that need to be maintained for them to function properly. If the undercarriage is not routinely inspected and maintained, it can easily cost you valuable time, money and potentially decrease the track’s lifespan.

By following these six tips, outlined by Mike Stark, Doosan material handler product specialist, you can get better performance and life out of your material handler’s steel track undercarriage when working in recycling and solid waste applications.

Tip No. 1: Keep the undercarriage clean

At the end of each workday, material handler operators should take time to clean out scrap metal, solid waste or 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, the faster 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 manufacturer’s undercarriages are designed for easier track carriage cleanout, helping debris fall to the ground rather than become packed in the undercarriage.

Tip No. 2: Routinely inspect the undercarriage

It is important to complete a full undercarriage inspection for excessive or uneven wear, as well as look for damaged or missing components. According to Stark, if the material handler is being used in harsh applications or other challenging conditions, the undercarriage may need to be inspected more frequently.

The following items should be inspected on a routine basis:

  • Drive motor
  • Drive sprockets
  • Idlers and rollers
  • Rock guards
  • Track bolts
  • Track chains
  • Track shoes
  • Track tension

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.

Tip No. 3: Follow basic practices

Certain recycling and solid waste tasks can create more wear on material handler 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 material handler 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.
  • 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 material handler’s turning direction can extend undercarriage life.
  • Select the correct shoe width: Choose the proper shoe width by considering the weight of the machine and application. It’s a good idea to choose the narrowest shoe that supports the machine and choose a wider shoe only if it is necessary for the application.
  • Pick the correct grouser: Consider the application before choosing the number of grouser per shoe. Typically, the higher number of grousers the track has, the more contact the track will have with the ground, vibration is reduced and the longer it will last when working in more abrasive conditions like in scrap yards.

Tip No. 4: Maintain proper track tension

Incorrect track tension may lead to increased track wear, so it is important to adhere to the proper tension.

“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 track-tensioning procedures.

Tip No. 5: Use steel tracks in abrasive applications

Steel tracks should be used when ground conditions are severe, such as recycling and material-handling applications, which could damage or cut rubber tracks.

Tip No. 6: Adhere to proper loading procedures

Your material handler 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 six 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.

Inspecting material handler drive motor.
Inspecting material handler drive sprocket.
Inspecting material handler idler.
Inspecting material handler rock guard.
Inspecting material handler track bolts.
Inspecting material handler track chain and tension.
Inspecting material handler track shoes.