The undercarriage design of a track loader contains some of the most critical components of the machine. It is also subjected to the brunt of the punishment in extreme operating conditions.
While the life expectancy of a compact track loader’s undercarriage depends on many factors, including application, ground conditions and operating practices, the ability to extend the life of a machine’s undercarriage falls largely on the operator. So does minimizing the cost of ownership. However, Takeuchi has implemented many advantages to help maximize the life of their machines and make it easier on the operator.
The Takeuchi Advantage
There are many key advantages to the Takeuchi compact track loader undercarriage system. For starters, rubber tracks provide flotation for working in muddy or difficult conditions, providing all-weather versatility. Another advantage is double reduction planetary drives. These are exceptionally powerful and are positioned rearward, which allows more contact points between the sprocket and the track, delivering unparalleled traction forces and better track durability. Also, forged steel mandrels reinforce the track to the outer edge to reduce stress, while large front idler rollers with larger bearings reduce shaft speed and improve longevity.
One of the biggest advantages in Takeuchi’s undercarriage design is that it uses steel-to-steel contact between the track and rollers, which allows the track loader to have greater durability when working in extreme conditions. This means less worry for the operator when working on gravel and rock as the material is either crushed or kicked out.
Rigid Undercarriage Vs. Suspended Undercarriage
There are two types of undercarriages — a rigid undercarriage and a suspended undercarriage.
In a rigid-mount frame, the left and right track frames are fixed to the main frame by bolting or welding on. A suspension undercarriage uses movable track frames supported by torsion springs, or in some cases rollers suspended by a leaf spring.
The rigid undercarriage is most like a dozer that was built for grading or pushing, which is where Takeuchi’s solid steel structure and integrated cross members come into play. The lower boom stops also play a critical role in the grading and pushing ability of a machine. Takeuchi track loaders provide a positive, vertically positioned stop that allows better weight and power transfer between the attachments and tracks. This differs from other designs that can allow a movement or promote a rearward weight transfer away from your grade. Simply said, a solid mount equals solid stability.
The soft side of the suspended undercarriage can be accomplished on solid mount undercarriages by properly adjusting the deluxe suspension seat, which is standard on the Takeuchi track loader. For operators traveling over rough terrain, they may also consider the ride control option that suspends the boom with an accumulator for improved operator comfort and better material retention.
There are unique advantages to both a rigid undercarriage and suspension undercarriage. There are fewer moving parts with a rigid undercarriage, which calls for less maintenance. With fewer moving parts, the rigid undercarriage is more durable and easier to maintain than suspension track systems. Pound for pound, rigid undercarriages have a higher rated operating capacity and tip load than suspended undercarriages. However, suspension undercarriages typically provide a smoother ride for hard surface or long travel applications by reducing shock and vibration throughout the machine.
Key Considerations for Track Loader Undercarriage Systems
The undercarriage will be a large portion of the operating and maintenance cost over the life of the machine, so taking the time to closely evaluate and understand each machine is more of an investment choice. Choose poorly and it will drain your profits. Choose wisely and you will reap the benefits of durability, uptime and increased production.
A key considerations is how the undercarriage is constructed. Look at how much steel is used (thicker steel equals higher strength). Also check the size of the rollers (larger diameter equals slower turns, which results in longer bearing life). Larger components typically mean larger bearings, which result in greater capacity — especially with the front roller.
Finally, make sure to look at all the models that are offered by a brand. If the components are the same size on both the small and large loaders, that should raise a red flag. Instead, look for matched sizes that are optimized for the task. In real estate, it’s location, location, location. For track loaders, it’s durability, durability, durability.
The best operators know how to get the most performance out of a track loader while still doing their best to minimize wear on a machine. By taking good care of your machine’s undercarriage, your track loader, in return, will take good care of you.