Keeping Your Rubber Tracks Like New

rubber tracksWhen it comes to using heavy equipment, it is no secret that keeping rubber tracks in good repair can be a challenge.  However, it is critically important to keep maintenance up on them, because the costs of replacement are just too high (especially if you’re still paying retail price and not contracting through a dealer like OnTrac, who averages about a quarter off the list price on tracks for nearly every brand and type of heavy equipment.

To help you get the most out of your purchases – and keep your tracks working and looking like new – we scoured the Internet to find the best knowledge resources we could, then put our heads together, brainstormed a collection of maintenance tips came up with this handy guide to rubber track maintenance.  Let’s get started.

  1. Get the right kind of tracks.  This seems like it’s too obvious, but you would be shocked to learn how many folks out here order the wrong rubber tracks – either for their equipment, or for the surface on which they’ll be operating.  If the equipment will be operating on mud or on uneven terrain, you might need a different tread pattern to give it maximum grip; if the surface is particularly rough, such as sharp, rocky terrain, gravel yards or agricultural areas with leftover stubble, rubber tracks might not even be the best solution – you might have to go with steel.
  2. Make sure the tension is correct.  Without maintaining the right tension, you’re increasing the amount of wear on your tracks (while decreasing your equipment’s efficiency and effectiveness.)  The owner’s manual has all the information you need about rubber tracks – but you can also get the information you need from your dealer or distributor.
  3. Watch your turns.  Your operator should be fully versed in the operation of whatever heavy equipment he or she is using, but a gentle reminder never hurts:  Donuts and turns that are hill-traversing, zero-radius, or particularly fast or sharp wear out the tread unevenly, as does driving the equipment at a higher speed.
  4. Keep your undercarriage in good condition.  You know how tough it can be to keep large objects out of the undercarriage, and to keep it clean and ready for use every single time (especially in places with a lot of mud or on surfaces packed with debris, like grass or crop fields).  Luckily, there is already a handy guide to keeping your undercarriage totally clean and in good repair – which will also help to keep your treads like new.
  5. Rotate the tracks.  To keep the tread wear even, switch them from side to side every now and then.
  6. Forget Armor-All.  If we had a dollar for every time we saw people “maintaining” their rubber tracks with Armor-All (which is designed for tires, not heavy-duty industrial rubber) we’d have retired already.  Ask whomever manufactures your rubber tracks for their list of approved protectants.
  7. Never leave you rubber tracks sitting out.  If you’re not using the machine, the rubber tracks should come off, and go into storage somewhere that is cool and dry.  If tracks are left out in the sun, or in wet, muddy areas, they run the risk of damage or uneven wear.
  8. Always replace rubber tracks in sets.  If one of your rubber tracks breaks or is damaged, you have to replace both of them.  This is a tough one, because it is expensive, but it’s a crucial part of keeping your rubber tracks – and your equipment – in tip top shape.  Running a new track on one side and an old track on the other can cause alignment problems for large equipment like asphalt pavers and excavators, and you’re definitely not going to get even tread wear if you don’t replace your tracks in sets.
  9. Never overload your machine.  There are all kinds of great reasons not to exceed the weight capacity of your equipment, including avoiding engine damage and keeping safety at the forefront of your operations.  However, exceeding the capacity of not just your machine, but your rubber tracks, can lead to costly repairs and damage.

There you have it – nine tips to help keep your rubber tracks working like new.  Did we miss any?  Want to share your thoughts?  Let us know in the comments.

Featured images:

Gabe Coeli has recently started working with rubber tracks and has some tips on how to keep them clean and new.

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