Track Tension Adjusting and Maintenance Tips

Adjusters are designed to absorb shock, provide proper track tension, and protect track systems and idlers. It's critical to maximize track life by maintaining proper track tension.

Adjusting Tension

Improper Tension

Loose tracks can allow the tracks to come off the machine. Over-tightening can cause power loss, excessive strain or wear on the final drive, or torn tracks. It can also stretch the rubber track. Contaminants could deteriorate the rubber, causing a similar issue.

How to adjust

Track tension is controlled by a track adjuster. Tension adjustments are made by pumping or draining grease through the track adjuster valve.

Jason Goodson, Regional Service Manager for Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas shares some easy steps for achieving proper track tension for your crawler excavator. He writes that you should first turn the upper part of the excavator, pointing the boom perpendicular to the travel direction and the arm perpendicular to the ground. Keep the bucket at ground level. Elevate the track on one side above the ground. Then, on the lifted side, run the travel, allowing the track to revolve several times. This helps to knock away debris and loosen the binding links. Stop the tracks and turn on the safety. While remaining in the cab, have someone measure the track at its lowest point, from the bottom of the frame to the upper face of the track shoe. See if it matches the recommendations in your manual.

He goes on to say that the grease inside the adjuster cylinder helps to maintain tension. Using a grease gun, insert more grease to tighten the track . Release grease with a wrench to loosen it. Be sure to use proper safety equipment, as grease is under extreme pressure and could cause injury.

Inspect adjuster valve periodically

Make sure your adjuster valve is working properly. Visually check it. If the valve shows signs of leakage, bring your machine in for repair. Leakage can lead to a loss of track tension and increased wear.

 

Match Tension to Operating Conditions

Adjust Track Tension On-site

Make tension adjustments on the job site. The shop might have properly tensioned the track, but it could become too tight when packed with mud.

Test Packing Conditions

To match track tension with the specific packing conditions of the job site, run your machine for a short while on the job site. Make the necessary adjustments after this evaluation.

Make frequent adjustments

Weather changes can change the packing conditions of the job site throughout the day. Tension adjustments made during these changes can help reduce track wear and costs.

Do Not Operate Your Machine with Frozen Tracks

If you try to use power to force the tracks to move, you could destroy them or damage your final drive.

 

Operation

Avoid Abrupt Turns and High Speeds

Do not make abrupt or aggressive turns. They place unnecessary stress on the track and undercarriage.

Continuous turning to the same side can cause uneven wear. Try to alternate the direction when turning. Increased speeds cause more wear on the undercarriage, too. Use the slowest speed as possible for the job.

Driving over curbs puts excessive stress on the tracks, which can cause de-tracking. Even if the tracks don't de-track, the stress could cause the rubber to crack. Once cracked, chunks of rubber break off and parts are exposed to moisture. This leads to corrosion and track failure.

Avoid Excessive Reverse Operation

Reverse operation wears tracks much more quickly than forward operation. Tracks and undercarriage components are designed for forward motion. Don't operate in reverse unless necessary.

Avoid Repetitive Operation on the Side of a Hill/Slope

This will cause accelerated, uneven wear of undercarriage components. Unless the job requires otherwise, climb slopes straight up and down. Don't travel unevenly with one track on a slope and the other on a flat surface.

Caterpillar’s Undercarriage Management Guide shares:

"Working uphill shifts the weight and load balance to the rear, causing higher wear on rear rollers and increasing forward drive side sprocket and bushing wear. Working downhill shifts weight and load balance forward causing a relatively higher wear rate on front track rollers and idlers. Working on a side hill shifts the weight and load balance to the downhill side of the machine. This increases the wear rate on the components and parts on the sides that are on the upper side of the hill. Working on a crown shifts the load to the inboard components, increasing wear on inner links, inner roller, idler treads, and grouser ends. Working in a depression shifts the load to the outboard components, increasing wear on outer links, outer roller, idler treads, and grouser ends."

Don't Operate in Corrosive, Abrasive or Contaminant Material, Such As Fuel, Oil, Fertilizer, Manure, Chemicals, or Salt

These can cause the rubber to deteriorate. Look for oil and grease that may drip from the machine onto the tracks, too. If the tracks are exposed to any of the above materials/elements, rinse them as soon as possible.

Inspection

Have your undercarriage inspected annually by a trained technician to catch problems early.

Maintaining Track and Undercarriage

Clean the Undercarriage

Mud will harden and cause premature wear on the inside surface of the track and potentially cause additional problems with lines and hoses.

You can use a pressure washer to remove the mud. A shovel can be used, too. Cleaning is especially important in colder temperatures. If you don't take the time to simply clean the undercarriage, the recoil mechanisms can fail and the track cables can break.

Caterpillar’s Undercarriage Management Guide, also shares information on packing, which happens in most applications, preventing normal operation. There are some things you can do to help prevent the dirt and debris from packing into your components and increasing the wear on your equipment:

  • "Use center punched shoes in certain situations to help relieve extrudable materials such as wet sand, clay, or snow."
  • "Clean out your undercarriage as often as possible. Garbage, twigs, stones, and demolition debris cannot be extruded through the center punched shoes."
  • "Use roller guards only when necessary because they may trap debris and increase the effects of packing. They are designed primarily for use in high-impact underfoot conditions."

 

Check Sizes

Track size needs to match the machine's hp. Slippage and wear damage happens when there is more hp than track tension.

Rotate Regularly

Rubber tracks should be rotated for even tread wear. When it's time to replace the tracks, do both at the same time. Replacing only one track at a time may cause alignment issues and damage the undercarriage.

Store Tracks Properly

When the tracks are not in use, store them in a cool dry environment. Avoid direct sunlight. Covering can extend the track life. To prevent folds, allow them to rest on their sides. If the tracks are left on the machine, operate the vehicle at least once every couple of weeks for a few minutes to help maintain flexibility and hold their proper shape.

Highway and Heavy Parts provides a wide range of Track Adjuster Assemblies, recoil springs, seals and components for use on a broad range of popular applications.

These components are all constructed of superior quality materials to maximize wear life and to meet OEM specifications. Our parts are manufactured to rigid quality standards and inspected to ensure a proper fit and function in field.

Our adjusters and recoil assemblies are engineered to provide proper tension, excellent service in demanding applications and extreme operating conditions.

Track frame components we provide include:

Still have questions? Give our techs a call at 844-215-3406 with any of your diesel engine problems! Or, you can request a quote online!

Originally posted October 21, 2015, Updated April 9, 2019