Choosing the Right Machine Tracks
Choosing the Right Heavy Equipment Tracks
Reading time: 7 min
Many of the most commonly found machines on construction sites, like excavators and bulldozers, use tracks instead of wheels. The tracks you choose for each piece of equipment mean more than you might think. Not only do they affect the mobility of your machine, but the price, longevity and many other factors play a role in the selection, as well. Choosing the best machine tracks means you need to take a lot of information into consideration.
The tracks you choose for your equipment will impact its performance and maintenance needs. Hence, be sure to consider these factors and check your owner’s manual before making any decisions.
Purposes of Heavy Equipment Tracks
Not every track is built the same. In fact, most of them serve different purposes for different terrains, weather conditions and projects. Depending on what type of work you do most often, the tracks that will work best in your case will differ.
However, the ideal service for any machine track is to help your equipment operate more efficiently. Tracks help remove pressure on the ground and provide stability to heavy pieces of machinery, improving mobility and passability. Hence, the right tracks will help your heavy equipment perform better, whereas a poor choice of tracks could affect the equipment's performance.
Depending on the work you do, you’ll need to select different tracks to support your equipment. If you operate in severe weather, you need tracks to support that. If you work in landscaping, you’ll need less aggressive tracks that won’t damage the ground below you.
Overall, machine tracks help your machines operate. Choosing the best option for your projects and terrain will influence how well your machine operates when you need it most.
Track Material Options
When it comes to materials, you have a few options for your tracks. The most common track materials are steel, rubber or a hybrid mix. Let’s compare each option.
Steel is the most common track material today. That’s because it's strong and durable, often lasting for a long time without the need for constant repairs. In comparison to other track options, like rubber, you’re much less likely to face any setbacks due to the material breaking or degrading over time.
If you’re working in any tough environment, steel is an ideal option. It can take a real beating and withstand both extremely hot and cold temperatures.
- Durable, lasts over time
- Works on any terrain without issue
- Works in any temperature
- Stabilizes the machine for increased balance
- Easy to store and balance
- More expensive than other tracks material
- Can damage the surface they work on
- Loud on certain grounds
- Can be uncomfortable for operators - doesn’t absorb ground shock and might lead to back or shoulder issues
Rubber tracks might surprise you. While steel tracks could seem like the more promising option, rubber has become much more common. This is because they outperform steel tracks in some areas.
While steel tracks are heavy and difficult to maneuver, rubber tracks have more flexibility and provide better grip. They can also operate on more terrains, where steel tracks would be destroyed from steel-on-steel contact. Excavator tracks are often made of rubber, since mobility is a top priority and terrain may not be so smooth. Check out our collection of rubber tracks to find the right ones for your needs.
- More affordable than steel
- More comfortable for the operator, better shock absorption
- Can operate on a wider range of terrains without being damaged
- Faster than their steel counterparts since they weigh less
- Not as durable, may require repairs or replacement
- Less traction on certain grounds
- Not useable in all temperatures (can become brittle in the cold and too malleable in the heat)
Hybrid tracks are a mix of both steel and rubber and try to remove the cons of each option. They offer the long-term durability of steel with the comfort of rubber. Essentially, they are made to give operators the best of both other options, with an affordable, stable machine track.
Hybrid options are often a great match for backhoe tracks or machinery that operates in both heavy conditions and brittle, dirt-filled areas. Equipment that needs the best of both can benefit from a hybrid mix.
- More affordable than steel tracks
- Better durability than rubber tracks
- Increased traction on most ground types without causing damage
- More likely to need repairs or replacing than steel tracks
- More expensive than rubber tracks
Types of Machine Track Patterns
Not only do tracks differ in what they’re made of, but the pattern imprinted on the track affects their operation, as well.
Each track pattern has its own strengths and weaknesses, similar to the track material. Based on the work you do, the land you work on, the temperature you work in and other factors, you need to choose your track pattern accordingly.
The patterns all interact with the ground differently, providing different grips, movability, durability and comfort for the operator. By choosing a track pattern that works best with the work you do most often, you can avoid some repairs down the line.
Here are some of the most common track patterns, as well as what they’re most optimal for:
Durable tracks that work equally well for on- and off-road conditions. Designed to move smoothly and best for clay, mud, asphalt, concrete, gravel and sand.
Straight Bar Tracks
Designed for max traction and to avoid getting stuck in challenging terrains. Allow you to pivot at low and high speeds without scarring the ground below. Best for wet or muddy conditions.
Best for moving between hard and soft surfaces, like pavement and loose gravel. Also great for snowy conditions or areas with different seasons.
Designed to operate smoothly while maintaining a consistent level of contact with the ground. Best for grass, asphalt, gravel and dirt conditions.
Other Factors to Consider when Choosing Heavy Equipment Tracks
And that’s not all. Other factors influence the tracks you need for your equipment that match both the machines and your needs. This can become increasingly difficult depending on your machine, like a track loader. Track loaders need to be able to operate in varying environments, like dirt and asphalt, but also need to be quite maneuverable without causing damage to the operator.
For example, the size of your machine might impact the track options you have based on suppliers. If your machine is too large or too small, you may not be able to find certain types of tracks that fit.
Tracks also differ in speed, maneuverability and comfort, as mentioned before. Comparing these between your options will help you find the machine tracks that suit your work best.
The belt you choose to match your tracks is also a factor. Considering price and operability, you may choose to select a steel or rubber belt to match your tracks.
Price may also play a factor. How much you are willing to pay, both upfront and in repairs, will change the type of tracks you look at.
Picking machine tracks doesn’t only mean comparing material and pattern. In fact, all of these small differences can make just as big of an impact, and need to be considered before you decide on an option.
Working With The EquipmentShare Shop
We know choosing machine tracks can feel like a hard task. With so many factors to consider and so many variables depending on work and location, there might not be a clear answer.
While rubber excavator tracks might benefit you in some cases, steel tracks might make sense if you operate in extreme weather conditions. Taking all of this information in is crucial to making the decision that works best for you.
Luckily, we’re here to find answers to your questions. If you need help deciding on heavy equipment tracks or patterns, reach out to one of our parts experts who can help make your decisions easier. Or, check out our article on track loader maintenance tips so you can choose the right parts for durable, long-term success.
BACK TO PARTS IN DEPTH