Take Care of Your Undercarriage, and It’ll Take Care of You

Critical advice on the points that matter most for minimizing dozer track cost in selection, operation and maintenance

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By Lonnie Fritz, Senior Market Professional, Construction Industries, Caterpillar Inc.

If you run dozers on your jobsites, then you know that undercarriage has the potential to eat into your profits. On average, it represents about half a dozer’s owning and operating costs. But choosing the right product, then operating and maintaining it properly, can keep those expenses down and your dozer working more productively. Start with these tips:

Undercarriage selection tips

Prior to choosing an undercarriage system for your dozer, ask yourself these questions to help decide which Cat undercarriage is the right fit for your work and your machine:

  • How long will I own this machine?
  • How many hours a week will I be using this machine?
  • What are the typical ground/soil conditions?
  • What are the impact conditions?
  • What attachments are on my dozer?
  • What are the grades/slopes on my job site?

Undercarriage isn’t one-size-fits-all. You have to match it to the application and ground conditions to get the most life and money out of your investment. At Caterpillar, we offer three options for dozers:

General Duty is best for utility jobs, general or light-duty applications and low-to-moderate-impact conditions.

Heavy Duty Extended Life (HDXL) with DuraLink is ideal for high-impact, high-production jobs and applications, including forestry and waste.

Cat Abrasion, the newest addition to the portfolio, performs better and lasts 50% longer than HDXL in high-abrasion, low-to-medium-impact conditions — think sand, gravel, clay and mud.

Undercarriage operation tips

Don’t overlook the role your operators can play in extending undercarriage life and reducing overall dozer costs. Encourage them to:

  • Avoid high speeds, which generate more wear on links, rollers, idlers, bushings and sprockets.
  • Alternate turning directions to reduce wear on side rails, rollers and idler flanges.
  • Work downhill rather than uphill whenever possible and alternate sides when on hills.
  • Decrease the load if track slips occur to prevent excessive nonproductive movements.

Undercarriage maintenance tips

Just like other dozer systems, your undercarriage benefits from ongoing preventive maintenance. Add these steps to your regular routine: 

  • Include undercarriage in your operators’ daily walkaround inspections. They should keep an eye out for cracks and damage to the tracks, loose hardware and oil leaks. Document your observations and capture photos using the CAT Inspect App for simple, seamless and proactive communication to maintenance staff.
  • Clean your undercarriage regularly. Letting debris build up accelerates wear and can even increase fuel costs — hauling around that added weight reduces fuel efficiency. This video offers some good tips on how to clean your undercarriage, manually or with a water cannon.
  • Grease your undercarriage daily to lubricate the bushings on your undercarriage frames. Proper greasing also helps push dirt out, so there’s less to clean.
  • Maintain proper track tension by following the procedures in your owner’s manual (or ask your equipment dealer). Too-tight tracks increase wear on bushings, sprockets, links and idlers.

Your dozer’s performance rides on its undercarriage, and the decisions you make can mean the difference between maximum productivity and profits or excessive wear and costs. Choose right, then treat your undercarriage right, and it’ll return the favor.