Address these common issues with track maintenance and achieve longer life, more uptime and greater ROI.
by Brant Kukuk
Demand for stand-on skid steers has grown in recent years, with contractors and a new wave of pandemic-era DIYers seeking the versatile machines for a wide range of jobs. The increased demand is putting a renewed focus on maintenance in rental yards to make sure these compact loading machines are always available when they’re in stock.
A defining feature of stand-on skid steers is their track systems. These systems have their own unique maintenance needs, which if properly addressed, can mean the difference between having a machine that’s ready for the next renter rather than one that’s sitting idle, waiting to be repaired.
Here are seven common maintenance mistakes to avoid to maximize the uptime and readiness of your stand-on skid steer fleet.
Mistake 1: Incorrect track tension
Separation of the track rubber from the track system is the most common cause of downtime for stand-on track loaders. It’s critical to ensure the track is properly tensioned every day and before every stand-up skid-steer is rented out.
There are different ways to check track tension, depending on the model.
On machines that use a grease-based track-tensioning system, use a special gauge to check track tension. A gauge reading in the green indicates the grease pressure is good and the track is properly tensioned. A reading in the red indicates the grease pressure is low and it’s time to pump more grease into the grease cylinder. After adding the grease, start the machine, drive it forward one machine length and then recheck the track tension.
While a loosely tensioned track is the more common problem, an over-tensioned track can also cause issues. It can stress the machine’s rollers, motors and other undercarriage components, which can eventually lead to downtime. An over-tensioned track can also require more horsepower to run, which can hurt a customer’s productivity.
On machines that use a bolt to tension the track rubber, make sure the bolt is screwed in securely to achieve the proper tension. This may require more time and effort than a visual inspection with a gauge – which means people sometimes procrastinate doing it – but it should still be done daily to assure availability.
Mistake 2: Ignoring track rubber condition
Just like not checking the wear on your car’s tires can result in a flat tire, ignoring the wear on a stand-on skid steer’s track rubber can cause downtime.
Watch for exposed cords in the rubber. If you see them, then there are likely broken cords within the rubber, which makes it more difficult to properly tension the track and can lead to the track rubber falling off.
Keep an eye out for metal embeds coming out of the track rubber. This is another sign that it’s time to replace the track.
Mistake 3: Operating with sprocket wear and tear
Another component to monitor for signs of wear and tear is the track system’s sprockets. If you notice the teeth on the sprockets are becoming smaller, then it’s time to replace them. While you’ll likely discover this issue with a visual inspection, you can also hear it. Narrow sprocket teeth can cause the track system to make loud clicking noises when the sprockets become misaligned with the track rubber.
Because smaller sprocket teeth can prematurely wear track rubber, it’s recommended that you also replace the rubber when replacing the sprockets.
Mistake 4: Not checking for roller bearing play
If the bearing play on a stand-on skid steer’s rollers becomes loose, dirt and debris can get into the rollers and damage the bearings. Over time, this can result in machine downtime.
To avoid this issue, lift the machine off the ground and check the rollers after about every 50 hours of machine runtime. If the bearing play is loose, tighten the castle nut to keep the roller tight.
Mistake 5: Skimping on replacement parts
When buying replacement parts, don’t go online; go to your dealer. OEM replacement parts are recommended because they’re designed for your machine and their quality is typically proven with rigorous testing.
In an effort to save costs, some rental companies buy cheaper replacement parts in place of OEM parts. Some even turn to online auction sites in hopes of getting parts at the lowest possible bid.
But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. When you purchase aftermarket parts online, you don’t know where it’s coming from or the quality of parts that you’re getting. What may seem like a cheaper alternative to OEM parts may ultimately cost you more in the long run in the form of lower machine availability and more replacement parts.
Mistake 6: Keeping a dirty track system
Clean machines don’t just look better; they can last longer. Routine cleaning of the stand-on skid steers’ track systems can help prevent dirt and debris from getting into the rollers and damaging them. To help keep track systems clean and issue-free, wash them with a hose on a weekly basis and after machines return from renters.
Mistake 7: improper machine operation
You can’t control how customers will use your stand-on skid steers once they leave the rental yard, but you can promote proper machine operation to help reduce the wear and tear that happens to your machines on job sites.
Stand-on skid steers are best suited for use on soil-based job sites with minimal rocks and debris. Operating the machines on concrete or asphalt can accelerate rubber track wear. Advise customers to keep the machines off hard surfaces. If it’s necessary for a job, educate customers on how to run the machines on hard surfaces and avoid sharp and quick turns.
Also, advise customers to avoid driving the machines with the track edges pressed against hard walls or curbs. Similarly, advise them to drive over curbs slowly. Driving over curbs at full speed can stress and damage the track system’s rollers. Customers should also avoid operating the machines on corrosive materials like salt and fertilizer.
Good maintenance is good business
Maintenance issues shouldn’t be a sudden surprise on your stand-on skid steers. By conducting regular maintenance checks, using OEM-quality parts and ensuring proper machine operation, component issues will most likely develop gradually over time meaning you can spot them early and plan their repair.
In addition to following good maintenance practices, consider making maintenance part of the decision process when buying new machines. Designs are constantly evolving to ease maintenance.
For example, even the gauge for checking track tension is being designed out. Soon, you will be able to check track tension just by looking at an indicator on the machine’s track system. Newer stand-on skid steers also offer telematics that can track machines, making it easy to know when it’s time to do certain maintenance checks.
This lifecycle approach to track maintenance can help you keep your stand-on skid steers at the ready for customers.
— Brant Kukuk is the compact equipment product manager at Ditch Witch. Article origianlly appeared on ProContractorRentals.com