Tension isn’t always something you want to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes to mini skid steers, it’s important to maintain. Operators have found that track tension is a top priority to help sustain mini skid steer performance and longevity on most jobsites. But in order to make sure that track tension is adequately maintained, regular inspections are needed. Here’s how and why you should check the track tension on a Vermeer mini skid steer.
Why it’s important
Typically, new tracks can see the most wear during the first 20 hours of operation, so an early inspection is a good idea.
Spring mechanical tensioners help maintain track tension over time, meaning adjustments are typically not necessary more than once a month. But it’s important to spend daily inspection time making sure you’re operating within the right range of tension specified in the machine’s operator’s manual. Failing to do so can have costly long-term effects.
“If your tracks are too tight or loose, it can allow tracks to come off the frame, rollers or idlers,” said Cole Chesnut, Vermeer applications specialist. “It’s efficient to get them back on if you have the right tools in the field, but rollers, idlers and sprockets on the ground drive will see a shorter life if they’re not operated at the right tension.”
Mini skid steer tracks naturally loosen during normal operation over time, and an experienced operator can usually feel differences in machine vibration and sound during operation, indicating adjustment or more serious maintenance is required. And when adjustment is required, be sure not to overtighten, as that can also cause tracks to slip off rotors and result in premature failure.
“Our tracks have steel cords and bars running through them inside a rubber outer layer. Our goal is that our system is efficient for operators to adjust and maintain,” said Chesnut. “Rollers and idlers will see shorter life if they’re too loose or tight. If you’re overtightening them, you’re putting excessive pressure on the shaft of the ground drive motor and that can lead to a hydraulic issue.”
How to do it
Here’s how to check your track tension daily and adjust it accordingly. For more information, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines in the operator’s manual.
First, if you have one, use the gauge shipped with the mini skid steer to check the track tension. Insert the gauge through the slot in the shield in front of the tracks and align the front of the gauge with the track tension fork. Then, align the fork at the rear of the gauge to capture the spring compressor plate. The fork width inside to inside is equal to the maximum tolerance allowed for track tension.
If the track tension falls outside of this measurement, plus or minus, adjust the spring tension accordingly. To adjust the track tension, first remove the tensioner locking plate. Then rotate the tensioner adjustment nut until the spring length is equal to 7-3/8 in or 19 cm. After that, repeat the same process for the opposite-side track.
If the track cannot be tightened any further, reaching maximum adjustment range, you will have to replace the entire track.
Here’s a visual guide to help you check track tension:
Always refer to the product’s operator’s and/or maintenance manual for safety messages and further instructions.
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