How long will my rubber tracks last?

There are many factors that determine how long your rubber tracks will last.  If you are comparing to your original tracks when your machine was brand new, then you must take into consideration that the entire undercarriage was brand new when the hour meter started counting.  When the sprockets and rollers are all brand new then the tension and alignment are perfect which will minimize wear.  When it comes to the parts, the sprockets are the biggest factor to consider when evaluating wear and lifespan of your rubber tracks on your second, third and even fifth set of rubber tracks.

Changing the sprockets with the rubber tracks can increase lifespan of the rubber tracks by 20% alone.

Sprocket wear is measured in millimeters, so most of the time it is too difficult to recognize the amount of wear on your sprockets until you have a new one to compare to side by side.  If you have worn five or six millimeters into your compact track loader sprocket, then you should definitely change your sprockets.  Once you wear beyond the hardened depth of the sprocket then the rest of the tooth will wear quickly and that will cause significant damage to the drive links in the track.  If you see any kind of hooking or c-shape in your sprocket teeth, then you are well beyond the wear point.  Once the sprocket has uneven wear in comparison to the track links then the point of contact is not properly aligned, and the sprocket will start accelerating the wear at the bottom of the track link.  If the uneven wear continues you will lose hundreds of hours off the lifespan of your track.  That is a significant risk to the lifespan of the rubber track. Installing new tracks on worn sprockets is highly discouraged.

If your idlers are showing uneven wear they should also be changed when you change the rubber tracks.  If the rollers and idlers continue to show even wear then you may have a serious issue with the alignment of the track frame, or some operator issues we’ll talk about later in this article.  Otherwise, you can keep running your rollers and idlers until they wear to a point in which you can no longer properly tension the track.  The tracks do not typically stretch because they are held together by continuous steel cords.  When it becomes difficult to tension the track it is typically due to the wear around each of the idlers and other undercarriage parts as opposed to actual stretching.  If the track is still in good shape, but will not properly tension then that may be easily resolved with a new front idler.

Treat your machine like it is new every day!

The other major factor to consider when comparing to your original set of rubber tracks is the break-in period when your machine was new, you took more caution on the first several jobsites and eased the machine up and down curbs.  You took extra caution during loading and unloading on the trailer.  Not only that, but you likely cleaned the undercarriage every night for at least the first few weeks, right?

Cleaning the undercarriage daily can prevent damage from debris from causing continued damage to your rubber tracks. If something is caught in your undercarriage, then high speed operation can create extensive damage over time.  Actually, high speed operation is also something you should avoid in general because the high-speed steel on steel wear can also make your tracks wear out too quickly.

Yet another factor that can actually be the most important, is the operator.  Rental machines that have untrained and unskilled operators may only get three hundred hours out of a new set of tracks due to unfortunate operator error.  Trained operators of compact equipment know that operating across inclines causes severe damage to an undercarriage.  They know to avoid jumping concrete curbs.  They know to balance out turns so that one side of the undercarriage does not take on all the wear.  Trained operators avoid tricks for Instagram views that destroy their undercarriage (you know what we’re talking about).  Seriously, planning your job site ahead of time and knowing the potential dangers of the jobsite can help you avoid dangers like exposed rebar and sharp rocks.

Knowing the jobsite is important to preventing damage to your machine. If you plan in advance, you can minimize trips across the jobsite and reduce the number of hours the machine is required on the job overall.  Every morning you should check the machine for track tension and new wear issues.  You should grease all the proper grease fittings, but you should also evaluate the jobsite for any new risks or dangers now that dirt has been moved around.  Look for shade on the jobsite.  Parking the machine in the shade can prevent sun damage that can also dry out the tracks and reduce the number of hours you get out of your tracks. Park in the shade any time you can, but any extensive periods of down time you should park the machine indoors or at least out of the direct sunlight. Extended periods of direct sunlight can cause unnecessary cracks in the track surface.

You have to avoid the obvious conditions such as rocky terrain and debris.  Don’t operate on concrete or finished surfaces or job sites covered in scrap or rebar. Sharp turns and skidding should be avoided no matter which surface you are currently operating. At this point we are assuming you have some experience with the machine and know the basics of proper operating techniques.

So, we really haven’t answered the question directly.  The reason is because there are just too many factors involved in equation.  That is why warranty statements are so vague in the industry.  So many of these factors reduce the number of hours your track will last but also void your manufacturer’s warranty in many cases.

Typically speaking an aftermarket track will last about 80% of your original manufacturer’s track with all other factors being consistent.  How do we keep those factors consistent?  The one controllable factor is being vigilant in your daily safety routine not only during operation of the equipment but also during the storing and hauling of the compact equipment.  Accidents happen frequently in construction which can cause costly damage to your tracks and undercarriage but making good decisions and properly preparing daily can help you reach above average life expectancy.  When you think about it, buying the expensive name brand track because of a life expectancy doesn’t make sense with this many risk factors.  The truth is that the quality of aftermarket rubber tracks is increasing every year but there are less reputable distributors that continue to offer lower quality track options that truly hurt the reputation of the market.  Rely on us, with by far the most industry experience, to bring you the best track for your money.  In the last twenty years we have seen customer that were happy with five hundred hours on their compact track loader tracks because they knew their jobsite conditions were not ideal.  We have seen customers with over two thousand hours that still were not happy.  So experience and time will help manage your expectations, but we want to help you get as many hours as possible from each set of tracks, no matter what your jobsite conditions you encounter.  Let us know what specific questions you have and let our experienced customer service team direct you to solutions that maximize the lifespan of your rubber tracks and maximize the value of our products.

Factors to extend the life of your tracks:

  1. Treat your machine like it is brand new, no matter how old it is. Washing it frequently and tensioning the tracks daily.
  2. Careful loading, unloading, and trailering.  Use caution when tying down the machine and do not strap the machine around the tracks.  Use caution unloading and loading, especially if you are using steel ramps that can cut the tracks.
  3. Store the machine in the shade to prevent drying the tracks, especially if you are storing it for long term such as winterizing.
  4. Change all worn parts at the same time you change your tracks for even wear.

If you need new tracks or undercarriage parts please click over to our Rubber Track Online Ordering Catalog