The top maintenance tips to keep your compact track loaders running smooth

July 28, 2023 -  By
Experts say consistent maintenance checks lead to a clean and smooth-running machine. (Photo: Bobcat)

Experts say consistent maintenance checks lead to a clean and smooth-running machine. (Photo: Bobcat)

To maximize the life of a machine, limit downtime, save on repairs, improve efficiency and prevent injuries, operators must prioritize compact track loader (CTL) maintenance and remember these tips.

Follow maintenance checklist

Operators should adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual for daily, weekly, monthly and service-hour intervals, says Kyle Newendorp, product specialist for Vermeer.

He recommends checking the following items daily: engine oil, hydraulic fluid, coolant levels, air cleaner and track condition. Operators should also fill the fuel tank and grease the machine — specifically the boom pivot and park brake, he adds. Weekly items include checking fuel lines, clamp bands and track tension.

It’s also important to keep the loader clean, especially the tracks.

“Once you get abrasive debris inside them, internal components may experience premature wear, especially when it gets between the roller and the track itself,” Newendorp says.

Check tracks for uneven wear

If certain components wear down more quickly on the tracks, it will affect the entire machine’s productivity, says Lee Padgett, product manager for Takeuchi. Operators should look for and repair tears, cuts or punctures — as well as leakages from the travel motors, hoses or rollers.

Machines with high-flow hydraulic systems require the same checks as standard CTLs. However, they tend to run high-flow hydraulic attachments, which can increase the hydraulic temperature and decrease the oil lifespan, he says.

To avoid costly mistakes, operators should regularly clean the belly pan and replace dirty filters, instead of only cleaning them.

“Using compressed air to blow the filters out will damage them and allow dirt ingestion, resulting in engine damage,” Padgett says.

Grease machine

Regular maintenance should include routine greasing. A lack of grease will cause premature wear, says Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager for John Deere.

“When greasing, it is important to see the grease come out slightly from the pins to ensure they have been sufficiently greased,” Gribble says. “Greasing the machine at the end of the day can be beneficial while all the joints are free to ensure proper lubrication.”

Undercarriage maintenance

Much of the CTL’s owning and operating costs tie to undercarriage maintenance, says Jeff Jacobsmeyer, product manager for Case Construction Equipment.

“An undercarriage is made up of countless moving components that work together and rub up against each other, which creates an opportunity for friction and wear,” he says.

Operators should inspect the tracks and the undercarriage structure for signs of new wear or damage.

“Pre- and post-operation, you want to clean the tracks and remove as much material as possible,” Jacobsmeyer says. “This is also critical in cold-weather climates where material may freeze overnight.”

Adjust tension and sag

Operators also should maintain the proper track sagging specifications shown in the manual, Gribble says.

“Tracks that are too tight can lead to excessive wear, and tracks that are too loose can leave the machine unstable and the track can come loose from the sprocket,” he says.

The most important undercarriage interval item to monitor is track tension, says Mike Fitzgerald, marketing manager for Bobcat. Operators should check the owner’s manual for the proper track tension ranges and instructions.

“While other undercarriage components may not need a daily inspection, regular monitoring of idlers, rollers and sprockets can help identify potential problems,” Fitzgerald says.

The sprocket should also be checked periodically by examining the teeth, he adds.

“A good sprocket tooth has a rounded end, while a worn tooth is more pointed,” Fitzgerald says. “This is especially important to check when installing a new set of tracks.”

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