Editor’s Note: This Q&A originally appeared in AG Track Talk to provide answers that farm equipment dealers have about farm track technology. This series features a trending question followed by an abridged version of the answers. For the complete answers, check out www.agtracktalk.com
Rob Schultz, Marketing Communications Americas, Continental: To start, here are some basic definitions:
Before doing fieldwork, we always recommend inspecting track and undercarriage components to ensure there is no obvious damage or blatant alignment issues. Visual indicators of misalignment include the following:
Another indicator of misalignment, when driving the machine, is vehicle vibration.
To test for misalignment or poor tracking, another method is to perform a temperature check. Using an infra-red temperature gauge, you simply check differentiation in guide lug temperature from one track to the next.
To take an accurate track temperature check, we recommend the following:
It is important to re-run equipment after one side of machine is tested — that will prevent lugs from cooling down, providing inaccurate reading.
As always, we recommend you discuss all findings from above test procedures with certified ag track dealer, not only to confirm misalignment, but also to provide next steps on how to correct.
Lastly, overheating of the tread lugs and carcass can be caused by roading at high speeds, for long durations, under heavy loads; also influenced by high ambient temperatures and uneven road surfaces. Once overheated, the internal rubber loses physical properties and lessens the track’s ability to resist general wear and tear. In order to avoid track damage due to overheating, the customer should follow the vehicle manufacturer operator instructions.
In short, proper maintenance coupled with above pre-field checks can not only reduce downtime, but also play key role in attaining maximum track life.
Eric Halstead, Eng: Rubber Tracks Technical Expert/Agricultural Products, Soucy Track: These days, we can find track systems on many different type of farm equipment — tractors, carts, planters, sprayers, etc. One of the most important verifications on any track system is the alignments of the tracks. We all know that a faulty alignment will bring many issues and affect the durability of multiple components including the wheels, the idlers, the bearings, and the rubber track itself.
Alignment of tracks must be done on regular basis, even on new vehicles, as there is a lot of factors that could induce misalignment. Let’s start at the beginning.
A well designed track will have proper combination of cables and steel or fabric plies, accurately positioned in the belting, to make the track “neutral,” meaning the tracks will not have a natural tendency to turn neither left or right. The quality of the manufacturing process will determine the repeatability of this neutrality from track to track. A poor process will lead to movement of the reinforcement structures inside the track before curing and will greatly affect the track self-alignment behavior.
The track system geometry and dynamic movement will also influence the alignment of the tracks. Things like the shape of the wheels or the sprocket, the rigidity of the frame, the spacing of the components, the tensioner design, will all play a role in the ability of the track to be easily aligned and stay aligned over time.
Other factors will influence track alignment, and are more variable. They will change from one vehicle to another, varying with load on the axles, road conditions, implement being pulled, etc. For example, a heavily loaded axle will tend to create camber on the axle, and the track systems may no longer be perfectly perpendicular to the ground, creating a movement of the track outward. The track alignment system is used to compensate this kind of situation.
On most vehicles, there is an adjustment system to align the tracks. Two types of alignment systems are the most common: Rudder & Toe-In Toe-Out.
The Rudder type is a system that will pivot only the front axle of a track system and force a longer perimeter on one side of the track which will normally push the track toward the short perimeter side.
A Toe-In Toe-Out alignment system is different. The entire undercarriage can be pivoted to compensate for other factors. For example, if a vehicle is heavily loaded, and the rear tracks tends to move outward, the undercarriage can be pivoted outward, in order to minimize the friction of the drive lugs or guide lugs on the support wheels. This is a toe-out adjustment.
Both systems work fine, but the toe-in/toe-out approach could affect the vehicle on both sides, and it is preferred to make symmetrical adjustments whenever possible to avoid having one corner of the vehicle with a strong toe-out and the three other corners toed-in. A neutral and parallel initial position is where the process should start, and small movement on both side should be applied until the alignment is reached.
There are only a few methods to determine if a track is misaligned. The most popular and efficient is by measuring the temperature of each side of the guide lugs, determining a differential temperature. The friction created by a misaligned track will make the side of the guide lug increase in temperature, while the other side will stay cooler. An infrared temperature measurement gun is the easiest way to measure lug temperature and can be purchased anywhere.
The steps for measuring lug temperature are as follows:
Remember that this procedure has to be repeated when the usage conditions of a vehicle are changing significantly, especially on the rear axle. A proper alignment will insure a long life out of your tracks and lower the risk of failure in the middle of a field.
If you have more questions, you can contact Soucy experts, they will be happy to provide details on the alignment procedure.
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