Keep Those Tracks Rolling: Essential Crawler Cranes Undercarriage Maintenance

Crawler cranes are invaluable on construction sites, providing the heavy lifting capabilities required for the biggest jobs. However, these complex machines also require diligent maintenance to stay in safe, reliable working order. Having the right crawler crane parts on hand is crucial for completing repairs quickly and minimizing costly downtime. In this guide, we’ll cover key maintenance tips, common parts replacements, and where to source high-quality aftermarket Crawler Cranes Undercarriage Maintenance.

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Crawler crane undercarriage maintenance

The undercarriage is the base of a crawler crane, providing stability, support, and mobility. It consists of key components like:

  • Track shoes – steel plates that protect the track chains from ground wear. They need to be replaced periodically as they wear down.
  • Track rollers and carrier rollers – wheel-like parts that guide and support the track chain. Rollers can wear over time and need replacement.
  • Sprockets – gears that drive the track chain movement. The sprockets connect to the travel motors.
  • Idlers – wheels that maintain proper tension on the track chain. Idler wear can cause chain slack.
  • Track chains – heavy roller chains that allow crawler movement and bearing load. Chains elongate over time and need adjusting or replacing.
  • Travel motors – hydraulic motors that power and steer the crawler tracks.

Inspecting and replacing worn crawler crane undercarriage parts is essential preventative maintenance. Loose or damaged components can cause track derailment, mobility loss, and machine instability. Check track tension and wear frequently and replace components like shoes, rollers, and chains as needed. Keeping the undercarriage in top shape improves safety and uptime.

Essential Preventative Maintenance for Crawlers

Beyond the undercarriage, crawler cranes have many components that require routine inspection, lubrication, and maintenance. Here are key areas to cover:

  1. Swing system – The swing motors, drives, gears, and brakes control crane rotation and require lubrication. Check for any slippage or noise indicating worn components.
  2. Hoist/winch – Inspect wire ropes, drums, sheaves, and other hoist parts for damage or wear. Lubricate bearings and keep components properly adjusted.
  3. Hydraulics – Check hydraulic fluid levels, change filters per the manufacturer’s specs, and inspect hoses/fittings for leaks. Repair any leaks immediately.
  4. Structural – Inspect for any cracks or damage to structural components like booms, outriggers, crawlers, and operator cabs. Repair or replace as needed.
  5. Electrical – Check wiring harnesses for wear/damage. Inspect connections and control boxes for corrosion. Replace burnt out lights.

By sticking to scheduled maintenance checks and procedures, you can avoid many crawler crane breakdowns and ensure maximum uptime. Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific make and model.

Do Crawler Crane Parts Require Special Handling?

Crawler crane parts often have precise engineering and weight considerations. Components like track shoes, rollers, and undercarriage parts require proper storage and handling:

  • Store parts indoors and off the ground to prevent rust/corrosion
  • Use lifting equipment for safe part transport and installation
  • Carefully inspect parts upon delivery for any damage
  • Handle parts with care to avoid nicks, dents, or scratches
  • Install parts correctly following manufacturer’s specs

Aftermarket or salvaged crawler crane parts may not always meet OEM specs. Work with a reputable supplier who tests and certifies replacement parts to ensure they won’t impact performance and safety. Avoid improvising or rigging inferior parts – it’s not worth the risk.

Choosing Between Aftermarket, Used and OEM Parts

When sourcing crawler crane parts, you have several options:

  • OEM Parts – Made by the original manufacturer to exact specifications. Most expensive but best for critical components.
  • Aftermarket Parts – Produced by third parties to match OEM parts. Offer cost savings over OEM. Quality can vary.
  • Used/Refurbished – Previously installed parts removed and refurbished. Greatest cost savings but more variances in quality.

Combining OEM parts for vital systems like the engine and hydraulics with quality aftermarket parts for general maintenance can optimize costs. Consult manufacturers about using aftermarket replacements to avoid potential warranty issues.

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Value Crane

Work With a Trusted Crawler Crane Parts Supplier

Having a reliable partner for crawler crane parts ensures you get quality components when needed. Look for suppliers with:

  • Extensive parts inventories and fast turnaround.
  • New, used, OEM and aftermarket parts options.
  • Certified parts that meet spec.
  • Competitive pricing and bulk order discounts.
  • Experienced sales staff to assist you.
  • Convenient ordering like online parts lookup.

By establishing a go-to supplier for parts like crawler crane undercarriage components, track shoes, hydraulic pumps, and electrical parts, you gain convenience and peace of mind knowing replacement parts are a call or click away.

Let’s recap some of the key points covered about maintaining crawler cranes and sourcing replacement parts:

  • The undercarriage takes a beating and needs frequent inspection/parts replacement.
  • Follow scheduled maintenance procedures for all systems to maximize uptime.
  • Handle crawler crane parts carefully to avoid damage during transport or installation.
  • OEM parts offer the best quality but have the highest cost. Aftermarket and used parts can provide big savings.
  • Finding a trusted supplier for crawler crane parts ensures you get the components you need quickly and affordably.

Keeping crawler cranes in optimal operating condition requires diligence and using quality parts. By following proven maintenance procedures and working with a reliable parts supplier, you can safely maximize the productivity and lifespan of your valuable cranes. 

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Proper Crawler Crane Operation Techniques

Crawler cranes provide indispensable lifting capabilities on jobsites. However, they also pose serious risks if not operated properly. Adhering to safe operating procedures is crucial. Here are key guidelines for crawler crane operators:

Pre-Operation Inspection

  • Thoroughly inspect the crane and test all functions before each use.
  • Check the crawler undercarriage for proper track tension and signs of wear or damage.
  • Examine structural components including the boom, jib, outriggers, and swing mechanism for cracks or malfunctions.
  • Inspect the hoist rope, sheaves, and hook for any fraying, twisting or signs of damage.
  • Ensure all controls, gauges, cameras, horns and safety devices are functioning.
  • Check fluid levels including for fuel, hydraulic oil and coolant. Top off if needed.
  • Examine tires, crawlers and travel mechanisms for cuts, embedded debris or improper inflation.
  • Ensure access ladders, walkways, railings and steps are clear and undamaged.
  • Consult load charts to ensure lifted loads will be within rated capacities.

Proper Lifting Practices

  • Clearly communicate planned lifts with ground crew using hand signals and radio communication.
  • Take time to properly rig loads, using quality slings/chains sized for the load weight.
  • Carefully check underneath objects for proper balance and lift points before hoisting.
  • Lift loads slowly and steadily. Avoid sudden jerking motions.
  • Keep loads close to the ground when moving the crane.
  • Never leave suspended loads unattended. Gently lower to the ground when stopping.
  • Watch for overhead electrical wires and keep safe distances.

Traveling Safely

  • Fully extend outriggers for added stability when traveling. Retract before picking loads.
  • Keep the boom retracted and oriented to the rear while moving the crane.
  • Travel slowly to avoid track/tire damage or shifting loads.
  • Use a spotter when visibility is limited. Travel with jib/load trailing to improve visibility.
  • Ascend and descend grades cautiously. Traverse grades sideways for optimal stability.
  • When traveling on soft ground, lay down boards, mats or plates to prevent sinking.

Knowing Load Limits

  • Consult load charts to ensure lifts do not exceed rated capacities for the crane and rigging.
  • Consider boom length and angle, which can reduce capacity substantially.
  • Factor in load dynamics like swinging or sudden movements which increase forces.
  • Check ground conditions. Softer conditions increase outrigger pressures, reducing capacity.
  • Account for deductions needed for non-centered loads in pick-and-carry operations.
  • Be conservative with load estimates, especially when lifting personnel or sensitive objects.

Mastering Setup Requirements

  • Fully extend outriggers with pads on firm ground to level the crane.
  • Use outrigger floats when bearing surface pressures require distribution.
  • Follow manufacturer procedures for any blocking, mats or cribbing under outriggers.
  • Only set up on ground that can bear applied outrigger and crane forces.
  • Keep the crane level within 1% of grade to avoid undue side loading.
  • Correctly mate counterweight configurations to lifted loads.

Proper Shutdown & Securing

  • Park on level, solid ground with outriggers extended but off the ground.
  • Fully lower and secure the boom on the boom cradle.
  • Disable all controls and take precautions against unauthorized movement.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for relieving hydraulic pressure.
  • Shut down and secure the engine against accidental start-up.

Adhering to Responsible Maintenance Practices

Proper maintenance keeps crawler cranes operating safely and productively. Key aspects include:

  • Following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and procedures.
  • Using factory authorized parts and components for repairs and replacement.
  • Keeping detailed maintenance logs to track completed work.
  • Properly torquing bolts and connections to spec levels.
  • Ensuring safety mechanisms like boom stops and limit switches function properly.
  • Testing brakes, clutches and other key systems after adjustments or repairs.
  • Cleaning and lubricating components at specified intervals.
  • Checking fluid levels, pressures, leaks and filters regularly.
  • Monitoring meters and warning lights to catch problems early.
  • Inspecting tires, outriggers, crawler shoes and other wear parts frequently.
  • Repairing or replacing any damaged, severely worn or defective components.
  • Conducting thorough post-repair testing prior to returning cranes to service.

Avoiding Misuse That Can Compromise Safety

  • Do not operate beyond rated load limits for any crane configuration.
  • Refrain from using the crane as a winch for pulling or dragging objects.
  • Avoid side pulls that can twist and destabilize the crane.
  • Do not pull at extreme boom angles which increases stress.
  • Refrain from abruptly swinging heavy or shifting loads.
  • Avoid traveling with suspended loads or while boom is raised.
  • Never crane climb or operate on steep slopes.
  • Do not alter or disable safety mechanisms or overrides.
  • Do not use makeshift rigging like chains and straps with unknown capacities.

Maintaining Proficiency Through Training

  • Complete accredited crane operator training like CIC or NCCCO certification courses.
  • Refresh knowledge by re-taking courses prior to certification renewal.
  • Enroll in manufacturer training on new equipment models.
  • Participate in employer and informal on-the-job training.
  • Study operator manuals to stay up-to-date on procedures.
  • Mentor less experienced operators on proper techniques.
  • Practice emergency procedures like load releases on non-critical lifts.
  • Work to exceed minimum training requirements through continuous learning.

By making safety, proper operating procedures, responsible maintenance and training a top priority, crawler crane operators can maximize productivity while protecting themselves, their crews and equipment from harm.

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Common Crawler Crane Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Crawler cranes boost efficiency with their heavy lifting capabilities, but they also come with significant hazards if improperly used. Here are key risks and ways to mitigate them:

Tip-Over Hazards

Tip-overs occur when outrigger forces are exceeded, such as by overloading or crane movement on slopes. Prevention includes:

  • Carefully evaluating ground conditions and using proper outrigger blocking.
  • Staying within load chart limits for all boom angles.
  • Avoiding swinging loads that can cause sudden force spikes.
  • Keeping the crane level and the load plumb.
  • Taking extra precautions on soft or uneven ground.

Electrocution Dangers

Crane contact with overhead power lines causes many operator and crew fatalities. Control risks by:

  • Identifying line locations and maintaining 20 ft minimum clearance.
  • Having a dedicated spotter watching clearances.
  • Using non-conductive tag lines instead of ropes.
  • Covering load suspended points that may contact lines.
  • Planning complex lifts to avoid line proximity.

Struck-By Accidents

Personnel being struck by lifted loads, booms or swinging counterweights can occur. Reduce risks through:

  • barricading swing areas and limiting ground crew access.
  • Maintaining visibility with proper ground markings, cameras and spotters.
  • Giving audible warnings before starting movements.
  • Moving slowly and cautiously.
  • Never lifting personnel except with proper man baskets.

Boom and Rigging Failures

Boom or rigging failures under load can cause catastrophic collapses. Avoid through:

  • Regular boom inspections for signs of damage or metal fatigue.
  • Proper assembly and disassembly by qualified operators.
  • Using adequately rated rigging components.
  • Avoiding shock loading from sudden stops, starts or load jerks.
  • Staying centered within load chart capacities and limits.

By taking proactive measures to address common hazards, crawler crane operators can protect themselves, ground crews and equipment from harm.

Tips for Optimizing Crawler Crane Jobsite Productivity

Crawler cranes deliver essential lifting abilities but also require significant operating skill to maximize jobsite productivity. Here are useful tips:

Plan Lifts in Advance

  • Survey the worksite and formulate a lift plan accounting for ground conditions and obstacles.
  • Determine rigging needs based on load weights, dimensions and lift points.
  • Map out crane positioning and boom placement for optimal reach.
  • Identify potential hazards like power lines and excavations to avoid.

Prep the Jobsite Properly

  • Clear travel paths by removing debris, closing excavations and flattening surfaces.
  • Place proper outrigger cribbing if needed to distribute weight.
  • Review requirements for mats if traveling over soft or low bearing surfaces.
  • Ensure firm, level footing for crawler cranes of adequate size.
  • Set up barricades and delineate swing areas.

Use Best Rigging Practices

  • Select slings, straps, spreader bars, or lifting beams sized for the load.
  • Avoid makeshift rigging and use certified components with marked capacities.
  • Follow proper sling angles, hitches and connections.
  • Use non-conductive tag lines instead of standard ropes near power lines.
  • Pad sharp load edges to avoid rigging damage.

Communicate Effectively

  • Review hand signal use to coordinate ground crew movements.
  • Confirm radio channels and contingency plans for communication loss.
  • Designate a primary signal person to direct the lift.
  • Clarify roles for traffic control, spotters and flaggers.
  • Notify nearby personnel prior to initiating movements.

Crawl Slowly and Cautiously

  • Map a clear path prior to traveling a crawler. Address ground obstructions.
  • Travel slowly without sudden acceleration or stops.
  • Approach lifts cautiously, hoisting just above the ground initially to check balance.
  • Swing, boom up/down and travel with precision to avoid swinging loads.
  • Never rush or improvise – follow the lift plan.

Proper planning, communication, rigging and controlled operation enables optimal productivity. By working efficiently while prioritizing safety, crawler crane operators can deliver results without incident.

The Critical Role of Proper Track Shoe Maintenance

Crawler crane track shoes take a pounding during operation as they bear the brunt of ground contact forces. These steel track shoes protect the chains and provide traction, but wear out over time. Proper track shoe inspection and maintenance is essential.

Finding the Right Parts for Your Crawler Crane Chassis A Guide for Owners and Sellers

Inspecting Track Shoes

  • Check shoes daily for cracks, breaks, deformation, or missing sections. Damaged shoes can fail under load.
  • Measure shoe thickness periodically. Replace when worn below manufacturer minimums.
  • Ensure shoe bolts are properly torqued. Loose bolts lead to cracks and breakage.
  • Identify any track shoes with uneven wear, indicating potential undercarriage alignment issues.
  • Replace shoes in full sections for even weight distribution. Staggered replacement causes imbalances.

Proper Track Shoe Handling

  • Use care when removing and installing shoes to avoid personal injury. Wear protective equipment.
  • Inspect new replacement shoes for damage prior to installation.
  • Only use shoes rated for the crane make and model per OEM specs. Improper shoes affect performance.
  • Use appropriate equipment for lifting and moving shoes, avoiding damage. Store indoors when possible.
  • Dispose of worn shoes properly. Their tonnage makes improper disposal hazardous.

With frequent inspection and timely replacement, track shoes can protect undercarriage components despite harsh operating environments. Don’t cut corners on proper shoe maintenance.

Optimizing Crawler Crane Operation Through Undercarriage Maintenance

The complex mechanical systems of a crawler crane undercarriage enable mobility under immense loads. However, wear is unavoidable for components like track chains, rollers, and sprockets. Proper maintenance optimizes undercarriage performance and longevity.

Routine inspections, scheduled preventative maintenance, and timely parts replacement are essential to maximize undercarriage life. By diligently following manufacturer recommendations for lubrication, inspection intervals, wear tolerances, and servicing procedures, operators can identify issues early and avoid unexpected breakdowns. Investing in genuine OEM parts for critical components is wise to ensure proper fit, operation, and safety.

Keeping detailed maintenance logs and records for each crawler undercarriage facilitates managing long-term upkeep and tracking wear patterns over time. Patience during repairs and reassembly is key to proper installation and adjustment. Incremental improvements in maintenance practices based on past issues can optimize reliability.

A well-maintained undercarriage directly impacts crawler crane performance and safety on demanding jobsites. The rigorous inspection and maintenance required pays dividends through consistent uptime and productivity over years of operation. By making undercarriage care a priority and utilizing genuine OEM parts, operators get the most value from their crawler crane investment.
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