Three Factors That Increase Rubber Track and Undercarriage Wear – and How to Soften Their Impact

Cat® rubber tracks are designed and built to be robust and long-lasting as integral parts of the undercarriage system on compact track loaders (CTL) and mini excavators. They deliver unmatched suspension, traction, flotation, speed, productivity, and versatility in a wide range of environments. CTL and mini excavator owners can maximize both rubber track and undercarriage productivity, service life, and value by following the detailed, recommended service guidelines in their machine’s Owners Maintenance Manual (OMM), and by better understanding the causes that lead to increased wear.


The three factors that most impact rubber track and undercarriage wear are application, underfoot condition, and operating technique.

The application – or how the machine is used –  has a direct influence on track and undercarriage life. Tough applications, such as excavating and dozing, require maximum torque and horsepower that can accelerate sprocket and track wear. In comparison, trenching and finish grading require less power, and correspondingly, cause less wear.

Underfoot conditions are the types of material you work in. In general, the more abrasive the material, the faster components will wear. Rocks, concrete, construction or demolition debris, and other jagged materials can cause accelerated wear as compared to working on soft dirt, grass, or landscaping.

Operating techniques – such as counter-rotating, traveling at high speeds, and operating on slopes – can all increase the rate of track and undercarriage wear, and lead to higher operating costs. Consider making three-point turns instead of counter-rotating, operating at lower speeds, and working on level ground, when possible. For unavoidable slope work, remember that Cat CTLs are designed to operate continuously on slopes no greater than 3-to-1, which is defined as having one foot of rise for every three feet of run, or equivalent to an 18-degree slope.


Approach transitions at 90 degrees – a transition is any place where there’s an elevation change, such as where a level surface begins to slope, a curb, or ledge. When traveling over transitions, do so with the machine at 90 degrees – perpendicular – to the transition and avoid situations where one of the machine’s tracks is not fully supported by the ground.

Backdragging – use only enough bucket pressure to level the material without raising any part of the undercarriage off the ground. Using the bucket to raise the undercarriage increases premature wear on the track and rear roller wheels.

Track Tension – Proper track tension is required for maximum performance and service life. While some slack in the track between the drive sprocket and front roller wheel is normal, refer to the OMM for specific guidance on checking and adjusting track tension.

Clean the Undercarriage – depending on the underfoot conditions, a daily or weekly cleaning is recommended to remove mud, gravel, debris, and other abrasive materials trapped in the undercarriage and to prevent premature wear.

While using a CTL or mini excavator for tough applications or operating it in harsh underfoot conditions can’t always be avoided, the key to maximizing track and undercarriage component lifespan is to recognize these wear factors, follow the tips for preventing wear, and make adjustments whenever possible to minimize wear.

For all your replacement track and undercarriage parts needs, visit or call your local Carter Machinery store for assistance.