A compact track loader is a beast of a machine, with the ability to tackle literally hundreds of tasks. To keep your loader working in beast mode, there are several easy maintenance checklist items you can perform in your shop, on the jobsite or just about anywhere your machine is parked. And you came to the right place to learn all about them!
First Stop... The Undercarriage.
While there are many benefits of operating a track loader, these machines come with a special set of guidelines to keep the undercarriage in tip-top shape. Not to worry, all it takes is a few minutes at the start of your day to help ensure longer track and component life.
Daily Track Inspection – Before operating your loader, always inspect the tracks for any signs of wear or damage, such as deep cuts or embedded objects.
Inspect the sprockets for wear – Periodically measure the sprockets. To extend the life, some OEMs offer drive sprockets that can be rotated from one side of the machine to the other.
Inspect the track tension – Periodic adjustment of tension is necessary in order to avoid damage and maximize service life. Tracks that are too tight can cause power loss and bearing failures. Loose tracks can cause lug damage and derailment. Follow these simple steps to check and/or adjust the track tension:
Step 1: Drive the machine in reverse to release any tension in the track system.
Step 2: Lift the front of the machine off the ground using the bucket attachment so that the track is a minimum of two inches off the ground.
Step 3: Raise the arm bars to engage the parking brake and disable the hydraulic functions.
Step 4: With the help of another person, measure the track sag at the middle of the track roller. Measure the distance from the bottom surface of the flange on the roller to the inside top surface of the track. Then refer to your machine OMM to see if this measurement matches the tension specifications for your loader.
Step 5: If adjustment is needed, remove the undercarriage access panel and use a grease gun to apply pressurized grease to the grease fitting on the cylinder. Re-check the tension and replace the access panel when it reaches your OMM specs.
Now It’s Time to Add Machine Walk-Arounds to Your Morning Routine
If anything, you’ll get some added exercise, right? In all seriousness, daily inspection and maintenance items for the rest of the machine are also extremely important to help avoid downtime. Fortunately, your morning walk-arounds should be quick and painless, especially if you are operating a loader designed with serviceability in mind. Be aware, some manufacturers require you to remove panels and often use tools to get to daily checks. Our advice, look for a loader that makes it easy. Here’s a quick checklist:
Fluid checks – Check the oil level. Check the coolant level. Also, be sure to check the hydraulic oil level and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) level, if your machine requires it. Refer to your OMM for appropriate levels and add fluid, if needed.
Greasing points – Greasing your loader in the appropriate points and recommended intervals will help prevent bearing and axle wear. The greasing point locations will vary based on the machine model, so it’s important to refer to your OMM to make sure you’re inspecting and maintaining all of them.
Fuel water separator inspection – Each day, check your fuel water separator for any indication of water in your fuel. If any is detected, refer to your machine OMM and drain the water before operating.
As you complete your morning walk-arounds, be sure to also remove any debris you find on the undercarriage, within the engine compartment, around the cooling pack, and between the lift arms and attachment. Failure to perform daily machine inspections and recommended maintenance intervals can result in diminished performance and faster component wear. But hopefully, now that you’re armed with the checklist above, you’ll be ready to put your DIY skills to work and keep your loader performing at its best! To learn more about Cat® Compact Track Loaders, visit Cat.com or contact your local Cat dealer.
We’d like to hear about your machine maintenance and service routines:
What type of machine service or maintenance items do you usually perform on your own?
What type of items do you usually ask your dealer or service professional to perform?
I’m an Attachments Product Application & Sales Support Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have been with Caterpillar for five years including roles in the field as a dealer sales support representative and marketing support in the skid steer and small wheel loader product groups. I graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Agricultural Business and Economics. Our goal is to provide a full portfolio of attachments for our customers to be more productive and versatile with their machines.
I am an Industry and Application Rep for Caterpillar. I graduated from NC State with a dual degree in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science, concentrating in Leadership and Environmental Technologies. I focus primarily on the relationships between customers, dealers, and the product specialists for the Building Construction Products division. Growing up on a tobacco and beef cattle farm, I have several years of machine operation experience and agricultural knowledge. Thomas Jefferson said it best in that, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
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I am a North American Product and Application Specialist for Caterpillar. In this role, I have had the opportunity to represent Caterpillar at various trade shows and train customers on new Small Wheel Loader content. I graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and have spent the past 15 years with Caterpillar in various engineering roles. Growing up in the Mid-West, I have always loved the cold and the unique activities winter enables. Unfortunately, I had to give those up when I moved to North Carolina. I don't care what people say, you never get used to a hot climate.
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