A mini excavator is only as good as its tracks. That’s why, when it comes time to replace them with a new set of rubber tracks, it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. This “mini” purchase will have a huge impact on equipment performance and return on investment for years to come. Fortunately, the selection process doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow these four tips to make sure you are on the right track:
1. Get the Right Size
Finding the right replacement tracks starts with getting the right size. Too often, mini excavator owners end up with tracks that are either too small or too large for the machine. Even the best tracks won’t perform well if they’re not the correct size. Additionally, the wrong size tracks can wear out the undercarriage excessively. To identify the correct size, an operator can refer to the existing tracks on the machine. This information can be found stamped on the rubber. Also, it’s a good idea to verify the size with the track manufacturer. Many of these companies deal exclusively with replacement tracks and tires, and they have the experience to ensure a proper fit for their customers.
2. Consider the Application
After identifying the track size required for the mini excavator, it’s time to determine what type of tread is needed for the jobsite. There are a wide variety of tread patterns available, and the track manufacturers will generally provide recommendations on what tread patterns to use for different applications. In addition to different tread patterns, rubber tracks can be purchased with non-marking rubber compounds, which are ideal for certain applications like landscaping, in which the operator wants to avoid making black rubber marks on surfaces.
3. Check the Track Construction
When it comes to rubber tracks, the old saying, “you get what you pay for,” generally applies. Cheaper tracks on the market typically have less rubber and use only a single rubber compound for the entire track. On the other end, premium tracks have multiple layers — each one serving a different purpose to significantly improve performance. These rubber compounds can take years of research and development for track manufacturers to perfect, and some formulas have been proven to extend track lifespan by as much as 50 percent. Here are a couple of other factors that affect the quality of rubber tracks: cabling technology (the use of non-overlapping continuous steel belts) and tread pattern (which impacts track wear and overall durability).
4. Rely on a Good Reputation
When selecting a track supplier, it pays to ask around. Other mini excavator users will often be able to recommend certain track manufacturers based on their previous experiences … both good and bad. Consider the warranty. Not only is the length of warranty important, but it’s also important to know how well a manufacturer handles warranty claims and customer support.
And consider product handling. If the manufacturer doesn’t store or handle rubber tracks properly in the warehouse, the tracks may start to wear before they even get installed on a machine.
George Zafirov is the Marketing Manager with McLaren Industries, based in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.