Preserve & Protect

A few years ago, progressive contractors had a mantra: You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow. Such aggressive tactics can be a good thing, but they can also be a brazen method in uncertain markets. Today, smart companies are heeding another philosophical approach to business — longevity is due to good timing.

It’s a point of fact that sometimes yesterday’s tools are all we have access to, but that doesn’t mean you have to give notice, pack up your equipment and go home. A well thought out and executed plan can give a company, a crew and their machinery the staying power to construct a long-lasting business. By utilizing the machines you have right now in your fleet, your company can manage old assets into new advantages.

To employ such a reliable fleet of used construction equipment, maintenance will need to become a company-wide priority. Engines, tires, hydraulic hoses, filters, fans, oils, greases, fuels — all of these systems, parts and supplies must be checked, protected and preserved to keep the corporate machine running. So in this issue of Compact Equipment, we’ve compiled a catalogue of articles that deal with maintenance and longevity tips for owners of small machinery. Clever companies know when to buy new and they know when to maintain. If your business is in a hold pattern when it comes to purchasing replacement machines, read this roster of repair and support articles to keep your equipment rolling onto jobsites throughout 2009 and beyond.

Keith Gribbins is managing editor of Compact Equipment, based in Peninsula, Ohio.

Diesel engines are the backbone of any piece of compact equipment, and ensuring they’re maintained properly will keep them operating like new. Engines that are smoking, running rough, misfiring, hard-starting, consuming excessive fuel or are just not performing up to expectations can oftentimes be fixed by performing routine preventive maintenance.

“No matter what size of equipment you own, it’s extremely important that your engine is well-maintained for top performance, so paying attention to your engine’s fuel, lubrication, air filtration and cooling systems will help to provide a long service life,” says Paul Schmitt, aftermarket sales manager with John Deere Power Systems, manufacturer of industrial and marine diesel engines and drivetrain components.

Fuel System

Maintaining an uncontaminated fuel flow is critical to ensure the proper operation of your diesel engine. When performing fuel system maintenance, remember to clean the fuel tank cap/vent and ensure the cap is functioning and venting properly.

Check for water and sediment in the fuel. Inspect the fuel filter daily and drain the water as required. If water is present, treat the fuel tank with a biocide to clean any microbial growth that may be present. And don’t forget to check your outside storage tanks.

Check for bent, kinked or dented supply or return lines that might cause a restriction. Above all, use quality fuel. Fuel contaminated with water, sediment and debris is the greatest cause of fuel injection system failures.

“Today’s high-pressure, common-rail fuel systems are much more sensitive to fuel chemistry than previous fuel systems,” says Schmitt. “John Deere recommends the use of specifically designed fuel conditioners that will prevent hard deposit formations on injectors and will help to increase engine performance.”

Engine Oil

Lubricants are critical in protecting vital engine components. Following the compact equipment manufacturers’ lubricant and change interval recommendations and using high-quality lubricants can protect machinery and help it run better.

“Lubricants are formulated to meet the demands of specific types of engines and their operating conditions, and heavy-duty diesel engines are no different,” Schmitt says. “Using quality oils and filters specifically designated by your diesel engine manufacturer can extend the life of your engine.”

Unfortunately, all lubricants gradually lose effectiveness during operation due to chemical and physical changes in the lubricant. The deterioration process is accelerated by contaminants from external and internal sources. More frequent changes are recommended when operating in extreme environments such as very hot or dusty conditions. Using high-sulfur fuels in diesel engines will also reduce the useful life of the engine oil.

Air Filtration System

Making sure your engine receives an unrestricted flow of clean air is imperative for proper operation. Therefore, it is important to:

  1. Inspect the entire air-intake system for openings that could draw in unfiltered air (loose clamps, cracked hoses, etc.).
  2. Using the correct replacement filter is critical. Contaminated air bypassing the filter seal is a common cause of premature engine failure.

Cooling System

Drain and flush the engine’s cooling system and refill with fresh coolant at the recommended intervals found in the operator’s manual.

Also, make sure to:

  1. Routinely inspect the cooling system for any signs of corrosion, debris or physical damage.
  2. Replace radiator hoses that are cracked, soft or swollen.
  3. Check for bent radiator fins and straighten as needed.
  4. Inspect the fan blades for damage and the fan belts for excessive wear or slippage. Replace as needed.

Nathan L. Huss is a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, based in Des Moines, Iowa.

As all compact equipment operators and maintenance managers are aware, proper maintenance of equipment leads to a longer useful life. They also recognize that this maintenance includes the entire piece of equipment, including subsystems such as the air and fuel system on the diesel engine.

Proper maintenance of the air system is essential to longer engine life. If not maintained at regular intervals, dust can enter an engine and cause extensive damage and even failure. Diesel engine manufacturers produced literature as early as the 1950s to help explain how dust ingestion impacts the life of an engine. As diesel technology has changed, the impact of dust on an engine remains the same. Engines could not tolerate dust 50 years ago, and they still cannot tolerate it today, as upward of 150 gal of air per second passes through heavy-duty diesel engines.

What Is a Dust Out?

A “dust out” is the ingestion of hard particles into the engine that leads to rapid wear of the power cylinder components. The particles that enter the engine and accelerate ring and liner wear come in multiple forms, including: Silicon Oxide (sand or dirt particles) or Aluminum Oxide (aluminum particles). Both of these particles are much harder than the power cylinder components (pistons, rings and liner). The dust particles can range in size from 2 microns to grains of sand, all the way up to small rocks, and as little as 2 oz of dust can severely impact expected engine life. This dirt or dust that is ingested into the engine does not exit out the exhaust; it is embedded into the softer components such as liners and piston ring lands.

The softer material, pistons and liners, allow the dust particles to become embedded and act as a carrier for the abrasive materials. When the abrasive material becomes embedded in the piston ring, it begins to wear the bottom side of the piston ring creating ring wear, ring flutter and consequential breakage. This dust damage is magnified as an engine is operating at 1,400 rpms; the ring passes over the dust particles embedded in the liner 2,800 times per minute.

Air System Components

Components that are affected by dust include:

  1. Air Filter Housing
  2. Air Filter
  3. Intake Piping (Suction and Pressure Side)
  4. Charge Air Cooler
  5. Turbocharger
  6. Engine Intake Manifold
  7. Cylinder Head
  8. Power Cylinder Components (Piston, Rings and Liners)
  9. Air Compressor

Root Causes of “Dusting”

Three things cause “dusting.” First are incorrect maintenance procedures to clean your air filters. This includes washing the filter, cleaning filters with air, shaking a filter to dislodge dirt, using an excessive change interval, blowing out the empty air filter housing with air and allowing an open air system to sit open in unsatisfactory conditions. Due to these incorrect procedures, engine and filter manufacturers do not recommend any type of air filter cleaning. The second cause is assembly quality such as incorrect clamp torque, clamp placements and pipe alignments. The last cause is incorrect equipment repairs over time including replaced parts due to maintenance.


To avoid repeating dust out failures, clean the air filter housing with a damp cloth once the filter has been removed. Do not reuse a filter once it has been removed from the housing and do not attempt to clean filters by hitting them against the tire or blowing them out with shop air. Complete the important daily intake system checks by looking for loose or missing clamps and checking the contact between the intake system and other equipment components such as cracked pipes and filter minders.

For more questions reference your engine manual under air filter maintenance guidelines and understand your air filter change instructions, as well as your intake system maintenance guidelines.

Clint Schroer is the off-highway communications manager for Cummins Inc., based in Columbus, Ind.

Nobody likes experiencing a flat tire in a great economy. But when times are tough and repair costs are high, it hurts even more. Now, more than ever, tractor owners need to do everything possible to ensure that their tires deliver their full service life.

“One thing we do at Michelin is try to help customers get the maximum potential out of their equipment, and that means running their tires at the proper air pressure at all times,” says Bob Rees, marketing product manager for Michelin North America Agricultural Tires.

Air pressure maintenance is crucial for several reasons, Rees emphasizes. It’s quick and easy to check and maintain, and it’s the simplest way to extend the life of your tire. First, a properly inflated tire helps prevent damage over the road, in the field or on a jobsite. Over-inflated tires wear on the shoulders, while under-inflated tires wear on the inside and can be more prone to puncture, Rees says.

Second, today’s larger farms require larger, more powerful equipment. But heavier equipment requires technologically advanced tires that can distribute the weight of the large equipment evenly in order to reduce soil compaction. Tire companies do this by engineering tires to carry weight at air pressures as low as 6 to 8 psi, Rees says, and when a tire has pressure that low, even a little change in pressure can be problematic.

“If you want to run the very low air pressures to get that maximum performance, keep your eye on those air pressures. Check them probably once a week, particularly as temperatures change,” Rees says. “Because temperature changes of 10 degrees can give one psi difference in the tires, and when you’re only running at 6 or 8 psi, that’s pretty significant.”

Third, maintaining proper air pressure will help you reap benefits in equipment performance by improving traction and fuel efficiency regardless of task and reducing soil compaction in agricultural operations. Taking a few moments to check your tire pressure routinely can help your business significantly.

“Always check your pressures in the mornings, when it’s the coolest part of the day. Make sure there’s no debris or damage in the rim area. Make sure there’s no cut of any significance in the sidewall. Make sure there’s no damage in the tread area that may become a problem,” Rees says. “Pay attention to your tires and you’ll enhance your return on your investment in this very important piece of equipment.”

Michael Burroughes is the director of marketing for Michelin North America Agricultural Tires, based in Greenville, S.C.

With today’s recovering economy, many savvy contractors are holding onto equipment longer in an effort to maximize the value of their investment. Inevitably, with their extended hours of operation, these machines will wear down and likely require major repairs. The questions are: When you’re already trying to manage your costs, how much do you really want to invest in an aging machine? And how long can you expect those repairs to last?

For situations like this, a rebuilt part can offer a nice alternative to purchasing new original equipment (OE). Rebuilds are a more budget-friendly option — but only if the repair can hold up. After all, the goal is to extend the time of these older machines in the field, not in the shop. The difference is all about the process. Remanufacturing (also known as Reman) is an extremely thorough process where used parts are disassembled, cleaned, meticulously examined, restored and tested against original specifications to deliver like-new performance. When compared against most rebuild practices, the difference in quality is easy to see.

For example, with most rebuilds, parts are only disassembled to the point of failure and then, only the failed part is replaced. Yet problems stemming from a failed part can often impact surrounding parts. To avoid future problems, you need to address every component. With Reman, parts are completely disassembled and each and every component is checked against strict OE specifications. Any failed parts are refurbished and machined to like-new quality or replaced with 100 percent genuine OE parts where necessary. As an added bonus, the Reman process updates early generation parts (whenever possible) to the latest engineering specifications resulting in a repair that can actually improve the performance of older equipment. Little perks like this can also help to increase the resale value of your machines when choosing Reman over rebuilds.

It’s worth noting the risk of choosing a rebuild or repair instead of Reman. These processes depend on reverse-engineered data and may use parts with differing quality and makeup. These slight differences attempting to work together in your machine can lead to premature failure. Due to the immense stress of construction equipment’s inner workings, parts demand exact engineering to perform to the levels as designed by the manufacturer. A seemingly minor difference in machining can lead to major problems when put under a heavy load.

But without a doubt, one of the most convincing reasons to choose remanufactured parts from your equipments’ manufacturer over rebuilds is the warranty coverage. Most repairs and rebuilds only offer limited warranties and only on the repaired part. On the other hand, because Reman parts are tested and built to operate like OE parts, they typically offer “same-as-new” coverage.

Whatever option you decide to go with when you need a repair, consider the benefits of using a certified OE dealer to do it. Their mechanics have been: trained on the products; they have the right diagnostic and special tools required to do the job; they have access to all the latest repair and service information; and they can typically complete the repair in less time than a mechanic that isn’t certified to work on the machine.

Jamie Collins is the marketing manager for service repair parts at CNH Parts & Service, based in Racine, Wis.

These days, users of diesel-powered compact equipment increasingly find themselves caught between the rock of ever more stringent emission requirements and a very hard place where recession-diminished cash flows meet steadily rising operating, maintenance, repair and replacement costs. In this environment, it makes good economic sense to keep existing legacy engines operating as long as possible, and the use of remanufactured components, is a key strategy for reaching that goal.

In its most basic form, remanufacturing takes a used component and returns it to original or better specifications. This often means a remanufactured component will outperform an original component because the remanufactured parts meet current specifications that did not exist when the original was produced.

That is an important consideration for emission-sensitive components. With legislative requirements changing every few years, remanufacturing will provide one of the few cost-effective sources for the officially “obsolete” parts users will need to keep their existing engines running.

Better yet, remanufactured components typically cost 60 to 70 percent as much as a new one and carry a comparable warranty. The cost advantage comes mainly from the fact that remanufacturing routinely recovers about 70 percent of the material and 85 percent of the energy used in producing a new component. It is essentially a no-waste recycling process that benefits both the user and the environment.

Andrew Wright is a Power Exchange Product Group manager for Perkins Engines, based in Peterborough, United Kingdom.

Areas that represent the biggest impact to the bottom line should almost always take priority for a construction company, and fleet management software can help contractors focus on ways to save and earn more money. The first step toward implementing a fleet management system is to thoroughly assess the current operations and identify those areas in need of improvement. From this assessment, a list of requirements pertinent to selecting a solution that will solve the contractor’s challenges and reduce operating costs will come to light.

Second, it must be understood that fleet managers and their staff will likely have to change their current processes somewhat. Too often contractors look for fleet management software that exactly mirrors their current processes. If their current processes are that good, then there is no need for a new system.

Next, a staff member needs to be made the owner of the fleet management system with that person becoming an expert on its uses. This individual will be responsible for training others and developing new uses. Finally, the contractor needs to establish the key measurable operational aspects and continually monitor how effective the staff is in controlling those measures.

“It’s not fleet management software that requires a dedicated fleet manager; it’s the nature of the fleet and the information that needs to be processed that requires a dedicated fleet manager,” says Steve McGough, COO for HCSS (a software developer for infrastructure, heavy/highway and utility contractors). “Software is a tool that should be used to solve your business problems, if you cannot process all the information currently, you need software to help.”

There are a couple ways for a contractor to unify the fleet: 1) Install common technology on each unit in the fleet. So if you have an aftermarket system, it’s easiest to install that hardware on the new or new-to-you machines. 2) Extract common data points from the different systems and unify the data within an enterprise business system. This would be additional software that works in tandem with the existing fleet management software. Before choosing a costly and time consuming solution, it’s best to talk with your existing fleet management service provider beforehand. They can offer advice and guidance on how to go about uniting your fleet.

“It has been difficult for fleet managers to unify their fleets,” says McGough. “There are some partnerships out there between equipment and service providers, but there are only one or two companies who share that information with others. The ideal solution would be to have a fleet management solution that integrates all your different manufactures into one system automatically for you. If that is not possible, having the ability to export information from the hardware manufacturer and importing it into the fleet management software is the next best choice. If either of those in not possible, the fleet manager is stuck with managing the fleet across the various systems.”

The benefits of fleet management software greatly outweigh the upfront intimidation of new technology. The plethora of new fleet management software — offered by aftermarket gurus like Borg Solutions, Topcon, HCSS, Intergis, Earthwave Technologies and DPL America, as well as OEMs like Komatsu, Caterpillar and John Deere — doesn’t replace the staff fleet manager. For a fleet manager looking to improve efficiency and increase productivity (and who isn’t in today’s economic market?), fleet management software provides the tools to do so.

“I think the best question that can be asked of a fleet manager is how they measure and control operating expenses,” says Lance Massey, director of Channel Management for Borg Solutions. “This will quickly demonstrate to a contractor those managers who truly understand the impact fleet operating costs have on the bottom line and those who simply are minding the store.”

In addition to the machine operation, GPS tracking can be employed to keep an eye on where your machine is, in addition to what it’s doing. Using geofencing, or geozones, allows the fleet manager to set up invisible fences that confine your equipment. Using the fleet management system’s software (either hard disk-installed or Web-based), a square or circle, depending on the system, perimeter will be set and alerts will be sent when the equipment leaves that defined area. It allows a fleet manager to monitor when equipment is on or off the job. This in turn, allows for analysis of material deliveries, routes and use of equipment on the job accurately. Not to mention the ability to set up alerts if the machine leaves a designated area in the case of a theft.

When all is said and done, you’ll have made a significant fleet management investment. Some service providers offer monthly subscriptions — ranging from $10 per month to annual subscriptions of $360 per year, depending on features, account preferences, etc. Then there’s the hardware cost for the physical GPS units, which is generally a one-time payment of $200 to $800 per unit, depending on how advanced a system you’d like.

Jason Morgan is an associate editor of Compact Equipment, based in Peninsula, Ohio.

Back in the day — actually not very far back — a fleet management system consisted of a person, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a lot of phone calls and a lot of guesswork. Preventive maintenance was determined by less practical reasons such as work schedules. Mistakes were common and things got missed. End result was often a piece of equipment that needed substantial repair.

With today’s economy, companies don’t have a lot of room for inefficiency. If one machine breaks down on a job, that job’s profit is gone. Companies find it necessary to maintain and sometimes extend the life of older equipment. Implementing software-based fleet management systems allows fleet managers to track and provide real-time data on the equipment used in the field, thus improving the longevity of its fleet.

“We had clients coming back to us asking about equipment lifecycle and replacement cycles,” says Tim Worman, product manager of commercial vehicles for Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc. (IMT). “We saw a need to develop a system where our clients could keep track of how much money they were spending on older vehicles.”

IMT manufactures mechanics and lube trucks, as well as articulating and telescopic cranes. To address the needs of its customers, IMT developed the ValuePlus Fleet Management (VPFM) program, a Web-based application that conveniently helps customers keep track of vehicle and equipment component performance.


GPS technology can monitor all equipment vehicles used in the field. These programs capture all the important cost and usage data fleet managers need to reduce operating expenses, maximize vehicle and equipment component use and develop efficient replacement cycles. From a computer, fleet managers can see vital information on a vehicle, including hours and method of use, mileage and vehicle location.

“The beauty of these systems is that they treat each piece of equipment differently based on many factors,” says Worman. “Maintenance and parts replacement schedules can be determined by the type of application and environment the equipment is used in.”

Productivity increases when fleet management systems are integrated. Fleet managers and dispatchers can see what vehicles are in service during the day and can quickly respond to business needs. This can turn around profits almost immediately.

Theft Prevention

Equipment theft is an all too common problem on construction jobsites. It is estimated that $1 billion worth of construction equipment is stolen each year. Since most fleet management systems use GPS, a secondary benefit can be theft prevention, either theft of an entire vehicle or a component on the vehicle.

Making Decisions Based on Consistent Data

Fleet management systems cannot replace human ingenuity and know-how. Fleet management systems merely provide fleet managers with the right information and tools to make the best decisions for their company.

“The first thing a fleet manager should do is compare the expense vs. utilization reports between units across the fleet,” says Worman. “This is a great tool for finding the best and least performing units in the fleet and making operational changes accordingly.”

Dawn Buzynski is a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The life of a mini excavator’s hydraulic hose is a grueling existence. Hydraulic hoses are the veins for your compact machine’s hydraulic system, powering everything from its arm to its attachments. Like our own circulatory system they work in a harsh and unseen environment and are often left neglected.

Even more so on compact equipment that is designed to work in cramped quarters where space is an issue, which often means that the hydraulic systems on a machine like a mini excavator are smaller with little component parts fitted into an even tinier serviceable areas. Just like regularly checking the lubricant level or the grease points on your mini ex, mechanics and operators need to occasionally eyeball the unit’s hydraulic hose system as well, inspecting for abrasion, wear, tear and site damage.

Hydraulic hose failure on any piece of equipment can bring it to a standstill in seconds and can take a long time to repair. A quick visual inspection of the high-pressure hoses on your equipment before it is dispatched to a jobsite or before it gets rented out can save a lot of headaches and downtime.

To reduce the downtime on site of your fleet of mini excavators and other equipment, you can take some basic steps before the equipment leaves your facility. First off, carry out a visual inspection of the exposed hoses on your equipment and get the damaged or worn ones replaced before they leave your facility. If you can easily see these hoses they are the ones that are most likely to be damaged externally and are the ones most susceptible to wear.

Identifying Hose Failures

There are six common hose failure scenarios. Once identified, the solutions for repair are straightforward.

Abrasion: The hose has failed with clear signs of rubbing on the outer cover.

  • Solution: Check to see if the hose can be re-routed. Use clamps to hold the hose or use a hose guard on the replacement hose as additional protection.

Excessive Heat: The hose cover and/or the inner tube are brittle to the touch and have a cracked appearance. The hose is not flexible at room temperature.

  • Solution: Choose a hose that has the correct temperature rating for the application and provide additional protection with heat shields or fire jackets.

Excessive Pressure: The hose has burst cleanly with no random wire breakage or cover abrasion.

  • Solution: Verify the system operating pressure and correct setting. Choose a hose that meets or exceeds the pressure rating for the application.

End-Fitting Blown Off: The end-fitting has blown off the hose either with or without the ferrule, with no other external damage evident.

  • Solution: Ensure the correct assembly procedures have been followed. Refer to your product’s catalogue for guidelines. Ensure that only the correct parts have been used and never mix components from different manufacturers.

End-Fitting Broken Off: The fitting has broken off leaving some or all of the fitting tail inside the inner tube and the ferrule still attached.

  • Solution: The fitting has broken off due to outside influence. Try to identify the source of this outside damage and eliminate by re-routing the hose or correctly routing the hose in the case of a poor previous repair. Always re-use any brackets that are provided by the manufacturer.

Incompatible Fluid: The inner tube is deteriorated, swollen and the outer cover may be peeling off.

  • Solution: Establish the correct hose for this application, referring to the chemical compatibility chart for guidance.

Replacing a hydraulic hose on a backhoe, tractor or mini excavator might seem like a small job. However, big problems — and big costs — can result when the wrong components are used to make the new assembly. The safest assemblies are made with hoses, fittings and crimping equipment from the same manufacturer. It is an unsafe practice to mix and match components from different manufacturers. Doing so can increase the risk of assembly failure, including pinhole leaks — the result of which can be a life-threatening injection injury. Components from different manufacturers should never be combined to create hose assemblies except in rare instances when both manufacturers have approved the exception in writing.

A common misconception is that fittings that look the same will perform the same. The truth is that fittings that look alike may perform quite differently. Manufacturers specifically design and test their components to work together. Another misconception is that all crimping machines are the same — as long as the crimp looks good and is close to the recommended diameter, the hose assembly will be safe. The truth is that a manufacturer’s crimp specifications rarely, if ever, support a different manufacturer’s hose and fitting combinations. When making a hose assembly, only use a crimping machine that has been approved by the manufacturer of the hose and fitting.

Taking time to identify the right parts is the best way to avoid using the wrong ones. Generic “knock-off” hoses and fittings have become more prevalent in recent years. Laylines on hoses and stampings on fittings designate, among other things, type, size, working pressure, age and manufacturer. Never use a hose or fitting of unknown origin as its quality could be suspect.

Remember, hoses and fittings have been designed, manufactured and tested to work together for a reason — ignoring this guidance can put your employees in harm’s way. Besides injection injury, the possible consequences of hose failure include the fitting blowing off, violently “whipping” hoses, ignition of sprayed flammable fluids and suddenly moving or falling objects otherwise held static by fluid pressure.

For business owners, the high cost of hose failure can include down time, medical bills, increased insurance premiums and equipment repair and replacement as well as contamination cleanup, EPA fees, OSHA penalties and — in some cases — litigation. Taking care not to mix and match components is one way for contractors to avoid these expenses. Establishing a replacement schedule for aging hoses is another.

Questions about hose, fitting and crimper compatibility should be addressed to the manufacturer’s local distributor or to the manufacturer directly. To best alleviate concerns, however, choose a single manufacturer for all your hose assembly needs.

Doug Honig is the marketing services manager for Parker Hannifin Corp.’s Hose Products Division, based in Wickliffe, Ohio.

Did you know that as much as 25 percent of the original purchase price of a compact dozer is spent on the undercarriage? And that nearly half of all the money spent on maintaining a compact crawler during its lifetime is spent on the undercarriage? With the undercarriage being such a major portion of the owning and operating costs of a machine, proper care isn’t only wise, it’s necessary in order to maximize your return on investment.

When operating dozers, environmental and human factors are highly variable, making undercarriage wear nearly impossible to predict. However, by taking your machines in for regular maintenance inspections and understanding the factors that cause wear on undercarriages, you can combat that unpredictability. And for every wise contractor interested in maximizing the lifespan and productivity of their machines, that’s an important lesson to learn.

Maintenance Factors

Trust the pros. Nobody knows a machine better than the manufacturer. Always choose the professionals at your local dealership for inspections. They have the knowledge, tools and experience to efficiently and thoroughly identify and address any potential problems. When a repair is needed, they’ve got the best parts to get the job done right.

  1. Name Brand Components — With the undercarriage being such a critical component of a machine’s performance, never compromise on quality with generic repair or replacement parts. Unusual and unnecessary wear will occur with “will fit” components that aren’t engineered specifically for your machine.
  2. Repair Balance — If possible, don’t unevenly mix new and old components. The new components will quickly wear to match the worn profile of the older components.
  3. Cleanliness — Materials that pack on and around undercarriage components cause unusual and unnecessary wear, especially if they are abrasive. Clean tracks as needed with a shovel and hose or pressure washer — it’s worth the effort.

Configuration Considerations

Keep in mind that at the time of machine purchase some configuration decisions such as track gauge and pitch are fixed and cannot easily be altered. Other configurations should be considered to ensure you’re not putting undue stress on the undercarriage.

  1. Track Tension — Track tension is the primary curable cause of unnecessary track wear. Tight tracks put undo stress on all components. Check track tension at least once a shift — more often if the materials change or get wet and begin packing.
  2. Track Shoe Width — This is important! Use the narrowest shoe available that will still allow the shoe plates to stay above ground (i.e., flotation).
  3. Rock Guards — Guards protect the track from material getting in between components. These are best for drier, rocky conditions but shouldn’t be used in situations with severe material packing.
  4. Sprocket Types — Relieved sprockets wear best in severe packing conditions.

Operational Factors

Equipment operation is the most controllable way to minimize the rate of undercarriage wear. Though every operator and jobsite is different, there are basic operational habits that can be addressed that will have a major impact on extending undercarriage life.

  1. Tight Turns — Tight turns put torsional loads on the undercarriage. Avoid them if possible or at least alternate turning left and right.
  2. Speed — Wear increases dramatically as machine speed increases. The savings in undercarriage life more than make up for the added time it takes to arrive.
  3. Reverse Operation — Conventional tracks will suffer three times the wear in reverse as they will in forward.
  4. Track Spinning — Never spin the tracks. There is no productivity gain to offset the wear incurred.
  5. Ripping — Ripping puts stress on a machine in the opposite direction from that of dozing. To minimize wear, alternate ripping and dozing within each cycle.
  6. Slot/Crown Operation — Working in a slot is like traveling in a U-shaped trench. Crowns are the opposite of slots but the wear is similar. Stress is put unevenly on each track shoe. Minimize both these types of wear by swapping chains from side to side during maintenance inspections and flipping rollers 180 degrees.

By understanding what causes wear on your undercarriage, you can learn how to reduce wear and increase undercarriage lifespan thereby lowering your operating costs and boosting the overall productivity of your equipment.

Larry Kapellusch is product marketing manager of CE Components for CNH Parts & Service, based in Racine, Wis.

A compact track loader and its dedicated track undercarriage are built to plow through tough ground conditions. Spend most of the day covered in dirt and mud and even the toughest track undercarriage will need more than a little maintenance. While there are many parts and pieces to an undercarriage, a popular component that is often missed is the outer sprocket sleeve tubes, which are located in the sprocket cage above the idler and bogie wheel frame. The following article deals with outer sprocket sleeve tubes specifically for Caterpillar and Terex/ASV compact track loaders.

Drive Roller Check

With your hand, grab a drive roller that is not in contact with the track. Cock the roller cross ways, if you see a gap of 3/16-in. or greater, replacement should be considered.

Why replace? Drive lug failure or drive roller retaining bolt failure could occur. As the drive rollers wear, the space or slot between them create a shock load to the retaining bolt. At high speed travel, the roller slaps the lugs instead of a smooth impact. If you are breaking drive roller retaining bolts, this is a likely cause. In extreme cases of wear, the rollers will become out of time with the lugs, also breaking retaining bolts for the drive rollers and drive lugs.

Drive Cage Roller Replacement Tips

You can change the drive roller and/or bolts in about 30 minutes per side or less with two people. Raise one track off the surface 6 in. or more, open the rear engine door and raise the cab. Turn the drive roller retaining bolt from 9 to 11 o’clock. Remove the nut and tap the bolt toward the body of the machine. Using a marker, draw a circle around the head of the bolt; you are preparing to drill a 1-in. hole.

Inspect the inner side of the body for wiring or hydraulic lines; if all looks clear, drill a 1/4-in. hole. Shine a light on the hole from the outside and take another look inside. If there are no clearance problems, drill a 1-in. hole. The hard part is now done. Loosen all drive roller bolts and have a helper start the engine and rotate the tracks slowly. Line up the head of the bolt with the hole and slide the bolt back into this hole. Install new rollers and slide the bolt back through. Install the nut hand tight. When all is replaced then torque all bolts to the machine’s specification. (Please refer to you owner’s manual.)

Drive Roller Outer and Inner Flange Inspection

Inspect the wear at the inner and outer rings, specifically where the drive roller and bolts are. At the outside edges, if worn, more than 50 percent of the wheel thickness, the bolts may rip out. One solution without having to remove the track is to take a welder and build up this area about 3/16-in. thick or back to its original thickness and about 1 in. on each side of the bolt. Note: If you are using composite, outer sprocket sleeves as shown in the picture, remove them before you start to weld.

Larry Bair is the president and inventor for Bair Products Inc., based in Louisburg, Kan.

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