Working in deep mud. Traveling through abrasive sand. Pushing snow. Maneuvering on uneven terrain. Handling these difficult conditions is all in a day's work for many compact track loaders.
"While uneven terrain, slopes and muddy or snowy ground conditions can be very challenging and tough on skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders are designed and built to handle these types of conditions," says Jodi Gulbraa, product marketing specialist, Terex ASV. "Correct operation of your compact track loader will ultimately determine overall efficiency and performance of the machine."
"Contractors have found unbelievable numbers of applications to test the versatility and performance of a compact track loader," adds David Steger, product and training manager, Takeuchi. "This is fueled in part by their size and the availability of attachments. But the main factors are the traction and power delivered by these workhorses. These aspects often result in the machine being placed in very demanding conditions? while still providing the productivity other machines can only dream about."
The tracks and undercarriage (rollers, idlers, sprockets and track chain) are primary reasons why a compact track loader can successfully navigate in rugged applications and conditions.
"The undercarriage is as important to the machine as the attachment or engine, [since] it is the combination of components that brings the machine to its assigned task," says Dave December, brand marketing manager, New Holland. "Without the undercarriage, a compact track loader can do limited work."
However, track and undercarriage components can also be negatively affected by the applications to which they are subjected.
"When you compare a compact track loader to other machines, those components most susceptible to [decreased] durability and longevity are the ground-engaging pieces, such as the cutting edges, tracks, etc.," says Mike Fitzgerald, Bobcat. "That's where most of the [repair] cost will be incurred. When you look at the overall machine - the structures, the engines, the hydrostatics, the hydraulics, etc. - those are built to take the duties of what customers do in the normal working world... Tracks, rollers, idlers, sprockets - components like that will be the most costly and most frequent repairs you will run into."
With that in mind, manufacturers focus on building durability into those components.
"We've gone through several different internal component designs," Fitzgerald asserts. "When we started in the track business, our rollers and idlers were castings with serviceable bearings. Bearings have been changed to bushings that are permanently sealed and lubricated. The track carriages are solid mounted to the frame so that we get good connection for long-term durability."
New Holland offers a tapered track frame to shed mud and other material to keep the track system clean and minimize damage to the undercarriage while working in muddy conditions. An elevated drive sprocket also increases component life by keeping the motor assembly out of material and moisture.
Still, it's important to clean the undercarriage regularly. Mud can work its way into every nook and cranny, and can cause damage if left to harden.
"Rollers are not allowed to turn," says Steger. "This causes damage to critical components, keeping abrasive material in constant contact with wear surfaces, accelerating undercarriage wear and accumulating around motors and in the belly pan of the machine. [It acts] as an adobe-type insulator that keeps heat in the component, raising its operating temperature."
Clean out the undercarriage thoroughly and often when working in wet conditions. "This is especially important when working in cold areas, because what is mud or snow during the day can turn to a block of ice overnight, leaving your jobsite frozen in time," says Steger.