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Five Tell-Tale Signs It’s Time for a New Steel Undercarriage

Five Tell-Tale Signs It’s Time for a New Steel Undercarriage

By: Hannah Comeau
November 1, 2023

Your heavy machinery is the backbone of your business, and the undercarriage is its foundation. Ensuring it is in optimal condition is crucial for your equipment’s performance and longevity.

If you’ve been using the same steel undercarriage for some time, you might wonder if it’s time for an upgrade. A worn-out undercarriage can hamper efficiency and compromise stability and safety, while a new undercarriage can significantly extend the overall lifespan of your heavy machinery.

Understanding Your Undercarriage

A heavy machinery’s undercarriage is the component that allows the machine to move and supports its weight. It includes tracks (big, metal chains), wheels, and other parts that make contact with the ground. It’s an essential part of machinery like loaders or excavators, especially when they operate in challenging environments like construction sites or mines.

Over time, with regular use, the undercarriage undergoes wear and tear. As these machines often handle heavy loads and work in rough terrains, parts of the undercarriage can become damaged or worn out.

If a machine’s undercarriage isn’t in good shape, it can lead to bigger, costly problems or even safety issues. The machine might not move efficiently, consume more fuel, or parts might break down, stopping work altogether.

When It’s Time to Replace the Undercarriage

The undercarriage, which is constantly in contact with the ground, faces wear and tear more than any other part of heavy machinery. Detecting problems with the undercarriage of your heavy machinery is important to ensure efficient operation and prevent more significant issues.

Here are five signs that it might be time for a replacement:

Uneven or Excessive Wear: If you notice that the inside or outside of your tracks are wearing out faster than the other side, it could be a sign of a problem with your undercarriage. Uneven wear can affect machine stability and lead to costly repairs if not addressed.

Rollers are a pivotal part of the undercarriage system. If they show signs of flat spots or if the roller flanges are worn out or bent, it’s a clear sign of excessive wear.

Damaged or Missing Parts: Regularly inspect components like sprockets, rollers, idlers, and track shoes for wear or damage. Check for cracks, dents, or broken parts. Look for signs like worn-down teeth on sprockets or flat spots on rollers. Any fluid leaks around the undercarriage components, especially hydraulic ones, are a red flag.

Track bolts are critical to holding your machinery together. If they’re missing, sheared off, or damaged, it’s a sign that it may be time for a replacement. It compromises the structural integrity of your equipment and can be a safety hazard.

Loose Track Tension: An optimally functioning undercarriage will have an appropriately tight track. If the track becomes too loose, it can easily derail. Conversely, if it’s too tight, it can accelerate wear. A noticeable sag in the tracks between the sprocket and the front idler might indicate wear or tension issues.

Abnormal Noises and Vibration: Listen for unusual sounds when the machinery is in operation. Grinding, squeaking, or other unexpected noises can be a sign of wear or misalignment. If you feel more vibration than usual when the machine is running, it could be due to issues with the undercarriage components.

Warm Joints: Warm joints are a sign that certain areas of the track are experiencing more friction than the others. Check to see if any joints are warmer than others. This can be measured in two ways—use the back of your hand and make a note of any joints that feel hotter than nearby joints or use a thermal gun.

Remember, the key is early detection. Regularly inspect your undercarriage and be on the lookout for these signs.

Benefits of a New Steel Undercarriage

While spotting excessive wear is essential, understanding the benefits of an upgrade can help you make an informed decision.

Cat® undercarriages are designed with the highest quality materials and rigorous testing to ensure they last. They’re resistant to rust, corrosion, and wear.

A new undercarriage provides smoother operation. It reduces the drag on your machinery, ensuring it runs efficiently – saving on fuel and operating costs. A worn-out undercarriage is also a safety risk. Upgrading ensures that your equipment is stable, reducing the risk of derailments or other accidents.

While the initial investment might seem significant, a new undercarriage can save money in the long run. It reduces the need for frequent repairs and maintenance, and by improving efficiency, it can cut down on operational costs.

Plus, a new undercarriage can significantly boost its resale value if you ever decide to sell your machinery. It indicates to potential buyers that the equipment is well-maintained and in good working condition.

Investing in Quality Cat Undercarriages

Cleveland Brothers has a variety of steel undercarriage offerings. Cat has a portfolio of undercarriage options designed for different applications and budget requirements. While they cater to different performance needs, both our General Duty and Heavy Duty undercarriages come with interchangeable components.

Designed primarily for tasks in low-to-moderate impact environments, General Duty undercarriages offer a reliable solution for various projects. This design consideration provides operators with increased adaptability and potential cost savings. A diverse range of track shoe options is available to cater to distinct applications, ensuring optimal functionality for each project.

Heavy Duty undercarriages are built for the toughest tasks in the most challenging environments, including construction, pipe laying, demolition, scrap handling, and forestry. These undercarriages are fortified to withstand rigorous applications’ wear and tear. Our Grease Lubricated Track (GLT) technology ensures every track joint is effectively sealed, maintaining the grease between the pin and bushing – significantly reducing internal wear, enhancing durability, and increasing longevity.

Trust in the unmatched quality and performance that Cat brings to the table and give your equipment the foundation it deserves. If you would like to learn more about steel undercarriages, contact our team of experts!