Product Review, Rubber Tracks, TVH, Undercarriage

TVH: Replacing rubber tracks, when and how

rubber tracks

 

Is your mini excavator or compact track loader ready for action or on the brink of unplanned downtime? The TVH Australia team breaks down the tell-tale signs of wear and guides you through the art of replacing rubber tracks in a few easy steps.


The lifespan of rubber tracks can vary significantly, with well-maintained tracks serving anywhere from 1500 to 2000 working hours. However, vigilance is key to determining when to order replacements. Here are four indicators that it’s time:

Four signs it’s time to replace

  1. Constant loss of tension: Tracks naturally stretch over time. If you find yourself continually re-tightening, it’s a clear signal that replacement is on the horizon. Over- tensioning in response can hasten wear, so always adhere to manufacturer guidelines.
  2. Cracked tracks: Regular inspections might reveal cracks in the rubber, which can lead to corrosion and track failure. Cracks are more common when machines are used on rough terrain or operated incorrectly, so monitor closely under these conditions.
  3. Slipping tracks: Tracks that slip over the sprocket wheels suggest they’ve stretched too far or that the sprockets themselves are worn. Ignoring this sign can lead to regular detracking or damage to the rubber and metal links.
  4. Visible metal links: Dirt build up can push metal links out of the rubber, necessitating immediate replacement. Prevent this by cleaning tracks and undercarriage daily.
Check the tension of tracks every day, and never over-tighten. Image: TVH

New tracks and undercarriage made simple

Once you’ve established it’s time to replace your rubber tracks, trusted technical support will come in handy to find the right parts.

A lack of international standards for track measurements means that every brand has its own system for undercarriage parts, so reaching out to experts like TVH Australia will help steer you right.

Customers can make use of TVH’s e-shop to explore a wide range of tracks and undercarriage parts. Here, you can search for parts using OEM part numbers, or use the lookup function to search by machine make and model.

Once you have your new parts in hand, follow these simple steps for a flawless installation:

1. Be prepared: Before embarking on the replacement process, ensure you have a clean, flat workspace. Debris, dirt, and obstacles should be cleared. Position the machine safely and have a colleague on hand, with both of you wearing the necessary safety gear: boots, glasses, gloves, ear protection, and high-visibility vests. Be sure to have the right tools on hand, including the machine’s manual, sockets and a torch wrench, wooden blocks, a metal bar, and grease to suit the machine. A forklift will also come in useful, if available.

2. Lift the machine: Use the blade or arm to lift a mini excavator, or blocks of wood for a compact track loader. Ensure the tracks are elevated off the ground for ease of removal.

3. Empty the grease cylinder: This step relieves tension from the tracks, making them easier to remove. Access the cylinder through the inspection hatch and push out the grease. Typically, this process will automatically move the idler into the undercarriage, but it can sometimes become stuck. In this case, placing a wooden block between the track and sprocket and having a colleague slowly reverse the machine can help move the idler into position.

Be wary of cracks in rubber tracks during your daily inspections. Image: TVH

4. Remove the old track: For a mini excavator, with tension relieved, the track can be easily lifted off the idler and sprocket. For a compact track loader, you’ll need to use a metal to run the track of the sprocket and rear idler. Place the bar under the top of the track and have your colleague move the track backwards to loosen it. A forklift might be necessary to move the heavy rubber tracks out of the way once removed.

5. Inspect the undercarriage: With the track off, inspect the idler and rollers for wear. Consult the machine’s manual for acceptable wear levels and replace parts if necessary.

6. Replace the sprocket: New tracks warrant new sprockets to avoid uneven wear and potential detracking. Remove the old sprocket, clean the drive motor contact surfaces, and secure the new sprocket with a torque wrench.

7. Install the new track: Position the new track correctly, with v-shaped treads pointing towards the sprocket when under the machine. This orientation assists in dirt expulsion and traction improvement. With the new track in position, place it on the sprocket of the mini excavator. Have your colleague pull the other side over the idler. Then, use a metal bar to help lift the hanging rubber track over the frame of the undercarriage, making sure the teeth of the sprocket run between the links of the track. For a compact track loader, first lift the track on top of the sprocket. Put the track over the front idler and use a metal bar to lift it over the back idler. Keep the metal bar at hand to work the track links onto the teeth of the sprocket. Alternate working on the back idler and sprocket to get the track in the correct position.

8. Refill the grease cylinder: Adding grease re-tensions the track. Refer to the manual for proper tension levels and adjust accordingly to prevent over-tensioning or slack.

9. Check the new track: Move the track forwards and backwards to ensure it’s seated properly, and the undercarriage parts are aligned. Recheck the tension and make any necessary adjustments. Secure the inspection hatch to complete the installation.

10. Consider replacing both tracks: For balanced wear and optimal performance, especially for compact track loaders, replace both tracks and sprockets simultaneously. A mismatched set of tracks can create issues for fine finishing and grading.

Tracks slipping over the sprocket wheels can cause continuous detracking. Image: TVH

Keep on track with ongoing maintenance

Routine checks and understanding when to replace rubber tracks are as integral to your machinery as the tracks themselves. Daily inspections are a small investment of time that can save significant costs in the long run. By promptly addressing wear signs and maintaining proper track tension, you extend the life of your tracks and undercarriage parts.

And with the proper knowledge and tools, replacing rubber tracks can be a straightforward process that safeguards your machinery’s operational readiness and prevents costly downtime.

Keep your equipment on solid ground by staying ahead of wear and mastering the art of track replacement.

To explore a wide range of parts and accessories, visit the TVH e-shop: www.eshop.tvh.com

The information provided is intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought at the time of track replacement.

 

 

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