On The Level: How to Choose the Right Track for Your Compact Track Loader
On The Level: How to Choose the Right Track for Your Compact Track Loader

How to Choose the Right Track for Your Compact Track Loader

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr | Social Media & Content Manager

That rubber track on your compact track loader has a specific purpose, and it’s important to choose the right tread for the job. For some applications you need minimal ground disturbance, and for others it’s all about traction. So how do you know you’re making the right choice? This month we caught up with Cat® Compact Track Loader specialist Kevin Coleman to put together a comprehensive track selection guide. 


Keeping your tracks in good condition is an important part of equipment maintenance for compact track loaders. “The better you take care of your machines, the longer individual components are going to last,” says Kevin. “When you run a machine efficiently, keep it clean, and follow the Operations & Maintenance Manual (OMM) recommendations you’re going to see longer life from your tracks.” You can find the OMM for your machine in the pouch behind the seat; this document provides details on machine maintenance and service.

It’s a good practice to incorporate machine walk arounds at the beginning of your workday. On Cat Compact Track Loaders, you’ll find a service chart inside the rear door that illustrates scheduled service intervals and maintenance points.

It’s important to clean and grease the undercarriage daily to maximize component life, as well as inspect the track for any signs of damage. Also check the track tension, which you can find specific guidelines for in your OMM. 


Proper maintenance is key to get the most out of your Cat® D3 series Skid Steer Loader or Compact Track Loader. This video reviews the basic daily maintenance steps you should take to keep your machine in top working condition.

Cat® Skid Steer and Compact Track Loader D3 Series | Daily Maintenance Overview

Intervals for track maintenance vary depending on the application, the operator, soil conditions, climate, and condition of the undercarriage components. This is why keeping an eye on track tension daily is so important – it can really help you maximize the service life of your undercarriage components. Be sure to check track tension with the machine on a level surface and supported so that the entire track is 2 inches above the ground.

Tracks that are too tight can cause:

  • premature failure of the tracks
  • power loss
  • bearing failures

Tracks that are too loose increase the possibility of:

  • a track derailing
  • track damage due to drive lugs misfeeding on the drive sprocket

Check this video for additional guidance on track maintenance and adjustment, and always remember to refer to your OMM for guidelines specific to your machine model.


Track maintenance is key to getting the most out of your D3 series Compact Track Loader. This video provides a quick demo of how to check and adjust the track on a Cat® Compact Track Loader.

Cat® Compact Track Loader D3 Series | Track Maintenance and Adjustment


You can expect an average lifespan of 1,200 to 1,500 hours from your rubber tracks when properly maintained, but there are a few factors that can affect track life. Kevin explained that there are 4 main categories of impact on track life:

  • application
  • operating techniques
  • underfoot conditions
  • maintenance practices

“Your track life is going to vary depending on several inputs. Application has an impact because wear on components is very different on various job sites and when handling different materials.”

You’ll also see differences in track life depending on how your operators handle the machine. “Tracks are naturally going to wear faster if you have someone constantly moving at high speed, making aggressive turns and counter-rotations vs. making gentle turns.  Spinning tracks, when pushing into a pile for example, will also accelerate the track wear.”

In terms of underfoot conditions, the wear over time is going to be different for those who work primarily on grass vs. dirt. vs. rock vs. snow. And again, it all comes back to maintenance practices – remember to clean and inspect the undercarriage, and maintain proper track tension to get the most life out of your rubber tracks.

Kevin says, “What it comes down to is that you need to replace your tracks when the tread no longer provides the performance you expect. If you’re not getting good traction on the job or if your track has been damaged to the point that it no longer holds tension, it’s time to go shopping.”


When you’re in need of new tracks for your machine, it’s important to know your options and find the best fit for your model and working applications. Here are two considerations:

  • block vs. bar tread
  • general duty vs. heavy duty
What’s the difference between block and bar tread?
  • Block
    • Good, durable track
    • Great for a wide range of applications
    • May not be the best option for snow removal
  • Bar
    • Good all-season track
    • Does very well in snow
    • Low ground disturbance
    • Leaves behind a good finish
    • Gives the operator a better ride on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt

What’s the difference between general duty and heavy duty tracks?

The main differences between general duty and heavy duty tracks are expected service life, low or high hour operation (respectively), and pricing.

The general duty rubber tracks are a parts option for customers that have lower hour accumulation and are looking to lower their owning and operating costs.

Heavy duty tracks are offered in either narrow or wide track widths and either the bar or block tread patterns. When choosing between the narrow or wide track width, consider the applications in which the machine is most often used. Is low ground pressure with better floatation required? If so, you’ll want to choose a wider track option. If the application demands the narrowest overall machine width, you may want to choose the narrow track option.

Check in with your local Cat dealer for more information on the track options available to meet your needs.


If you’re looking for additional resources to help you make a track choice for your compact track loader, we’ve got you covered. As always, we encourage you to contact your local Cat dealer to discuss your specific applications and available options.

If you know what you want and are ready to buy now, check out myparts.cat.com to order online directly. You’ll want to navigate to the rubber undercarriage section, or you can search by serial number.

You can find additional resources such as purchasing guides, quick reference guides, and undercarriage application guides on this track selection reference page.

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Blog author Dani Watson
Blog author Dani Watson

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr

Social Media & Content Manager

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr exercises her storytelling expertise as a social media & digital strategy manager. In this role, she not only helps Caterpillar connect with their audience, but helps customers connect with the brand.