Excavator Track Repair: What I Learned Workamping #42

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my first lesson in excavator track repair. Apparently I never shared the story and photos from my excavator track repair adventure, deep in the forest above Vickers Ranch. The summer of 2021 was our last season workamping at our favorite ranch job. I certainly hope it was not our last. But it was yet another summer of hard, rewarding work, and learning.

I’ve learned plenty of useful things on the ranch. Check out our ranch workampers video for just a few of the daily tasks you might enjoy workamping on a ranch. I certainly enjoy it. Both the work, and the learning. I never thought, however, that I might learn excavator track repair.

excavator track repair
What’s wrong with this picture?

The Hitachi EX200LC is one heavy piece of heavy equipment. Specifically, the ol’ Track Ho – as we call it on the ranch – hefts an operational weight of 44100 lbs. With a vertical reach of 30+ feet, it’s just what you need to lift a dead horse. And with nearly a 20′ digging depth, it makes installing an Agridrain about as easy as it can get. (Which isn’t that easy, when the lake is already full). Therefore, it was the perfect tool for another lake expansion project on the upper ranch. But as usual, getting there is half the job.

How To: Excavator Track Repair in the Forest

Throwing the track on an excavator can happen with the most experienced operators. Especially when you take it where most experienced operators would never go. Regardless, excavator track repair on a piece of equipment this size is a major pain. My first job was to clear a path so we could get Old Red up close, with the winch and all the tools. Lots of tools: really big wrenches and punches, pry bars, shovels, chains, grease guns, and three strong guys…

excavator in forest
Almost There!

Clearing the way in the woods is much easier with the track ho! But it’s nothing my good friend Manuel Labor can’t handle. I cleared a path using nothing but a chainsaw and my aching back. We were then able to get the Jeep close enough to get to work on our excavator track repair project.

excavator in forest
Let the Excavator Track Repair Begin!

How to Fix Thrown Excavator Track

If you’re not careful, you can throw the track off any excavator. Maneuvering too tightly on rough terrain can do it. Letting lots of mud and rocks to build up in the tracks is another mistake. All of the above is a certain way to get yourself in a mess like this. Thankfully we have an expert ranch mechanic on the job. And this was not his first excavator track repair job.

excavator track repair
Where to begin with excavator track repair?

The Hitachi holds 4980 psi of hydraulic system relief valve pressure. The first step was to relieve that pressure and release tension on the track tensioner. Talk about a dirty job. But somebody’s gottta do it! This created more slack in the track. And that allowed us really begin our excavator track repair.

excavator track repair
Giving the winch a workout.

If at first you don’t succeed, pry pry gain.

Next, we cleared as much muck out from around the track rollers. Not an easy task when the muck has dried rock hard. Then the fun really began. We tried rocking the track back onto the rollers. This meant lifting the track by supporting the excavator with the boom. We slowly inched the thrown track forward while three of us heaved up with large pry bars. “Richard Pryors” on this ranch.

thrown excavator track
Getting Thrown Excavator Track Back onto Roller

We succeeded in getting the thrown track back onto one roller. The last remaining roller wasn’t so cooperative. With one of us at the helm, we attached the winch and pulled the track while wrestling the Richards. We succeeded in getting the thrown track back up onto the roller, and then back off.

thrown excavator track
Broken Excavator Track Link

It wasn’t long before we discovered the cause for the thrown excavator track. A broken link on the track allowed for too much flex in the adjoining plates. that would definitely need to be welded before this Track ho was going anywhere. But first, this meant getting the track back in alignment. And that meant getting the thrown track back onto the rollers. To do that, we needed to take the track off. Once we had the top of the track off, we should have been able to lift it back onto the rollers.

Should being the key word here…

excavator track repair
Remove retainer pin to repair thrown excavator track.

How to Remove Excavator Track

To remove the thrown excavator track, you first must find the kingpin. That’s holding the master link together. Then you need a really big hammer and lots of brute force. That’s where Paul comes in handy. We positioned the excavator so the retainer pin in the master link was at the front of the track. Then we lifted it just enough to take a bit of weight off. We removed the retainer clip and punched out the massive pin. It finally came out as I wrestled the track to rock it back and forth. Note to self: Don’t lose that clip!

Excavator Track Repair Tip: We used the boom to lift the track and put it back in place. That was the easy part. We attached a cable to the bucket and wrapped it around the track. We could then easily position the thrown track back onto all the rollers. Well, easier at least. This excavator track repair was no easy job.

hitachi excavator
How to throw track off excavator.

After leaving the ranch, I wondered if my new excavator track repair skills might ever come in handy. Then I pretty much forgot all about it. Obviously, since I never wrote about it. But not really, since it really was quite memorable. And then, while staying at my brother’s property just a few months ago, it happened. He was cleaning up his yard with a mini excavator digger.

I noticed he had stopped the ho, and braced it up on one track with the boom. Luckily the rubber tacks on his little toy were much easier to maneuver. He released the hydraulic pressure on the track plunger. I jumped in and gently inched the track around while he pried it onto the rollers with a long bar. As a result, one more excavator track repair mission accomplished.

Courtesy of Tata Hitachi

For the record, I’ve learned much more than 42 things workamping. The most important thing I’ve learned ranch workamping over the years is how to tune my critical thinking skills. When you’re out in the woods, far from the shop, you often need to get the job done. Whatever that job may be. You take all the tools you may possibly need, and then some. And then you make do with what you got to git ‘er done. Even if that means making a major excavator track repair.

How to Find Ranch Workamping Jobs

We found our favorite ranch workamping job in Workamper News. We’ve returned for at least nine out of the past 15 summers. Save on your subscription with Promo Code AGRE6207. The sites for farmandranchjobs, wwoof, and aghires are just a few of the many more resources we list for finding ranch work in our comprehensive workamping guide, Income Anywhere!

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