Determining the worth of a compact track loader involves a thorough look in and around the equipment, but it’s what’s underneath that matters most. A tracked machine’s ability to perform in a variety of conditions is its main benefit over wheels, so it’s important to know that it will improve productivity from top to bottom.
Rigid or suspended?
Most undercarriages are either rigid-mounted or suspended. Each has pros and cons, depending on the application and desired comfort level. Rigid-mounted systems have little-to-no suspension, and therefore the effect of every bump is transferred through the entire machine and to the operator. This style of machine tends to cost less up front than suspended systems.
Full suspension systems — offered by ASV — absorb much of the vibration before it gets to the operator or the attachment. This means less material loss and wear, plus faster speeds over rough terrain. The most advanced option is a dual-level system — available on larger ASV models — that combines independent torsion axles and flexing bogie wheels to minimize vibrations to the machine and operator for improved comfort while maximizing ground contact.
Open or closed?
Another consideration of a compact track loader undercarriage is whether it features an open or closed design, which affects ease of maintenance. Closed undercarriages feature enclosed designs. The metal enclosure protects undercarriage components to some extent; however, any dirt, rocks or sticks that make it inside the undercarriage can become trapped, accelerating wear.
ASV CTLs feature an open-design undercarriage. This style is self-cleaning, so while debris may get inside, the open design allows it to fall out naturally during operation. Field tests have shown open designs can extend service life of some components by as much as 50%.
What’s the track made of?
The majority of CTL manufacturers offer steel-embedded undercarriages made mostly of steel components. Steel-embedded rubber tracks average a 1,000-hour lifespan, but can reach 2,000 hours in the right conditions and if well maintained. Some manufacturers offer all-steel tracks to prolong wear life in specialty applications. Heavier and more expensive, the tracks are best suited for demanding applications such as demolition.
ASV builds tracks with fiber-reinforced industrial rubber compounds, and wheels with heavy-duty polyurethane and rubber. This combination allows the tracks to excel in flotation and durability, making them ideal for most conditions. The average all-rubber track life is about 1,500 to 2,000 hours but can be as high as 5,000.
A few undercarriage features can reduce the risk of track derailment. Many manufacturers create tracks with lugs only on the inner edge of the bogie wheels, while ASV includes track lugs on the outer edge as well, which virtually eliminates track derailment by guiding the wheels.
What moves it?
The type of drive system components can also affect maintenance, operating costs and performance. External drive systems feature sprockets that move steel-embedded tracks via steel teeth that protrude through holes in the track. These systems involve 90% of drive torque moving through only one or two sprocket teeth at a time, accelerating teeth wear and creating steel “hooks” over time, which can reduce track life.
ASV compact track loaders use internal drive sprockets featuring replaceable steel rollers that fit with molded rubber lugs to move the all-rubber track. There is no direct wear between rollers and track lugs in internal drive systems, and replaceable sleeves mean operators don’t need to change out the entire sprocket when individual rollers are worn down.
Bogie wheels greatly affect flotation and, therefore, performance in soft underfoot conditions. ASV’s all-rubber-track undercarriage machines have as many as four times more ground contact points in their tracks than the steel-embedded-rubber models offered by other manufacturers, resulting in lower psi and extra flotation on steep, slippery and wet ground and giving contractors more control on snow, ice, mud and slush.
Remember that a compact track loader is more than just its horsepower or feature-packed cab. Different undercarriage designs can mean varying levels of comfort, performance and — ultimately — return on investment.