A Complete Overview of Rubber and Steel Tracks
Rubber Tracks Vs Steel Tracks and the Things You Should Know Before Making a Purchase
Rubber and steel are in plain view everywhere around us but oftentimes goes unrecognized. They're in your headphones, work boots, car seats, the tracks of your excavator, and many other daily items you use but rarely consider what they're made of. When it comes to purchasing tracks for your vehicle, many factors must be taken into account. Considering whether to buy steel or rubber tracks for your mini excavator is a big decision. Money is a crucial factor in the decision-making process but there are other considerations that may influence the final purchasing outcome. Here are the pros and cons of each option.
Benefits of Rubber
Rubber is a flexible and innovative product that has a wide array of uses. Before buying new tracks for your mini excavator or skid steer, here are some things you should know about rubber:
- Southeast Asia typically produces natural rubber
- The commercial rubber used in automotive tires, soles of shoes and rubber tracks is most commonly an artificially created product and not natural rubber
- The elasticity of rubber tracks allow it to resume its original shape after riding through rough terrain
- Rubber has a wide array of uses in commercial and consumer applications, including construction projects
- Rubber is one of the best insulators because it typically keeps a neutral temperature despite extreme temperatures in its surrounding environment
- Rubber trees have a healing process when they are wounded that creates latex which then leads the tree to create natural rubber
Benefits of Rubber Tracks
There are many benefits of rubber tracks but ultimately, the terrain of your worksite will dictate the kind of tracks your machine will require. Although rubber tracks can show more wear in a shorter amount of time and need to be replaced sooner, they are more affordable and work better on job sites where dirt and grass surfaces make up the terrain. Here are some more benefits:
- Extremely affordable
- Work well in wet and muddy conditions
- Cause the least ground damage compared to steel tracks
- Neighborhood friendly and don't cause loud cluttering
- Can be driven at higher speeds
- Provide a comfortable ride for the operator
- Causing fewer vibrations during operations leads to longer machine life
- Great for construction and industrial applications
Negative Aspects of Having Rubber Tracks
While rubber tracks have many advantages and benefits, there are some less than savory facts about them that may deter many from purchasing and utilizing them. As stated above, the terrain of your job site and application of your vehicle will largely determine the type of track you'll want to use, but there are other factors to take into account, and here are some the downsides associated with rubber tracks:
- More likely to get stuck requiring a more aggressive tread pattern
- Not great with durability, resulting in more frequent replacements and operator downtime
- Less than ideal traction in snow
Rubber Tracks and Their Types
When selecting rubber tracks, things like job site conditions, cost, and type of equipment being used are taken into account. The four types of rubber tracks commonly installed on Bobcat or John Deere machinery are:
- Staggered Block Tread is a tread style designed for paved highways and gravel and doesn’t cause much damage to lawns.
- The Multi-Bar Tread is a rubber track that provides its operator excellent traction in a wide variety of terrains including freshly fallen or loosely packed snow.
- The C-Lug tread offers great traction in many different kinds of surfaces due to its C-shaped notches in each block.
- Lastly, the straight bar thread tracks are best known for the ideal traction they provide in rough terrain. This tread pattern option will offer excellent maneuverability in muddy and rainy conditions and will make your JCB, Case or Kamatsu less likely to ever get stuck.
Reasons Rubber Tracks Are Worth Purchasing
- Rubber tracks cost less to maintain and have a longer service life
- You can operate your machinery at higher speeds when using rubber tracks
- Rubber tracks are much less noisy than steel tracks
- Rubber Tracks aren’t as expensive as steel tracks
- Rubber Tracks will cause less damage to the ground
Facts About Steel
Steel tracks are a popular choice for skid steers because they are easy to keep from corroding and handle heat and pressure well.
- China, Japan, and the United States are the top steel manufacturers
- When buying steel, almost all of it will contain a little-recycled steel
- More than 2 million people are employed by the global steel industry
- Carbon dioxide levels have been reduced significantly due to the steel industry reducing its energy consumption
- most desktop computers are made of about 25% steel
- Since the Eiffel Tower is made of steel and iron which expand with heat, it grows 6 inches taller in the summer
- Steel has magnetic properties which prevent millions of tons of iron ore from being wasted and recycled instead
- Steel roofs will last over 50 years compared to traditional roofs that last only 17 years
Cons of Steel Tracks
There are probably far more supporters of steel tracks than there are detractors because, at the end of the day, steel tracks are an excellent product regardless of these few less-than-desirable points we are about to share. Once again, budget, terrain, and application are the determining factors on whether the steel tracks are a good option for you.
- Steel tracks are much more expensive than rubber tracks
- Steel tracks do offer the best traction but that comes at a price. They will tear up whatever ground they come in contact with.
- Create a loud clattering noise when in operation that will disturb the neighborhood
- Steel tracks will cause the vehicle to operate at lower speeds
- Will cause large vibration throughout the vehicle they are being used on which results in lesser service-life
Choosing The Right Steel Tracks For Your Vehicle
When choosing a set of new tracks for your mini excavator or skid steer you must take measurements of its steel shoe width. Also, measure the inner guide of the steel chain and use the manufacturer supplied documentation to assist with measurement. Excavators or skid steers equipped with steel tracks perform great in agriculture, forestry, construction, demolition, recycling, and waste management applications. Steel tracks are great for job sites where broken glass, chemicals or chunks of concrete can be common obstacles. Rubber tracks often times won't deliver as good of results in these conditions especially if sharp debris is abundant.
Reasons To Purchase Steel Tracks
There are many reasons why steel tracks will work great on your mini excavator or skid steer. Among those reasons, excellent traction on loose ground conditions due to the weight of the tracks is the most desirable factor. The weight of steel tracks is much heavier than rubber tracks thereby enhancing traction and providing stability and floatation. Other reasons operators chose steel tracks are:
- Added counterweight
- Durability and improved treadwear
- Self-cleaning design
- Easily removable by one person
- Ideal traction in slippery and wet conditions including hilly terrain
- Steel tracks rarely get damaged, unlike rubber tracks
When it comes to making a purchasing decision on whether to go with steel tracks or rubber tracks, the pros and cons should be weighed. Having all the information will aid you in making a fully informed decision that will result in the ideal outcomes you seek.