Which is better, steel or rubber tracks?

Steel Undercarriage Melbourne. As we sell many rubber and steel tracks we often get asked this question. Which is best, rubber tracks or steel tracks? The answer to this depends on a number of criteria:

What is the machine currently fitted with and is it working?

In other words, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  If your machine is happily running on steel or rubber tracks and you are getting good wear life, then my advice would be to leave it as it is.  Converting from steel to rubber or vice versa can sometimes be problematic so don’t risk it unless you have to.  For example, many machines have different track spring tension settings between steel and rubber track machines.  Other machines run alternate sprockets, idlers or even rollers.  Unless the correct parts are fitted and adjustments made, you could experience problems such as de-tracking or excess wear.

What is the application?

As a rough rule of thumb, my standard advise is that steel tracks are the best option for rough, rocky or demolition applications whereas rubber tracks are best suited to general applications, especially those involving paved or grassed surfaces. Another application that steel tracks can be of benefit is in steep or hilly terrain where de-tracking is an issue.  Converting to steel can often solve this issue.

Heavy sand can also cause problems with de-tracking and track binding, putting a lot of excess load on final drives.  In this situation, using steel tracks (without rubber pads) run loose can save a lot of potential issues.  However, as a general rule, for excavators 4 tonnes and under, rubber tracks are often the most cost effective option. There is a large range of rubber track pads available to fit almost every machine make and model these days if steel tracks are the best option, but paved surfaces are in the road!!

How much tracking do you do?

At the end of the day, steel tracks on mini excavators are a dry pin, steel on steel assembly.  In applications involving high tracking rates (over 40% of operating time) this can result in high wear rates.  Rubber tracks tend to last longer than steel tracks in this situation.

When in doubt!!

Ask!! If you have any questions, concerns or unusual applications, feel free to give us a call.  We are always willing to discuss your situation to see if we can come up with a solution that best suits your needs.

Ash Collins