No Hydraulic Pin Press? No Problem! Learn to Change Excavator Tracks Yourself

  • Written by Luis
Heavy mechanic sitting next to an excavator with title text "How to change excavator tracks without a hydraulic pin press"

Knowing how to change the track on the excavator can help you easily perform repairs while out in the field or when working in remote locations.

Some mining companies, large companies and dealerships use a hydraulic pin press for the task. Yet one isn’t needed to change the tracks. Instead, you can use the following tools and steps to change the track.

How to Change Excavator Tracks Without a Hydraulic Pin Press

Tool List

  •     Track pin driver
  •     20lbs Sledgehammer
  •     Chains
  •     Several Pry bars
  •     Punch
  •     Snap ring pliers
  •     1/2 inch drive ratchet with deep 24mm socket
  •     Grease gun
  •     Block of wood
  •     Grease
Tools needed to change the track on a large excavator laid out on the ground

Step 1: Find the Master Pin

You want to bring the machine up into the air and find the master pin. There is only one pin on the entire track. When it is pulled out, the track will split open. On the outer side of the tracks, the master pin is just a dot. On the inner side of the tracks, the pin has a snap ring that holds it in. The master pin is a tapered pin, so it must come out in the inner side of the track. It also has to go back in from the inner side.

Close-up of the outer side of steel tracks showing the master pin compared to a regular pin

Step 2: Remove the Snap Ring

Once you find the master pin, you can remove the snap ring and set it up to slack the track off and drive the master pin out. Sometimes the snap ring is easy to remove. Other times, the master pin puts pressure on the snap ring as you can use the pin driver to push the pin in a little bit further to relieve the tension and take out the snap ring.

Close-up of where to find the snap ring on an excavator

Step 3: Release the Track Tension

With the snap ring removed, you can take the slack off the track by removing the track adjuster grease valve. You can take out the grease valve while the machine is in the air, or when it is on the ground. With the machine in the ground, there will be less pressure on the grease valve. Use a 24mmdeep socket to remove the valve. You don’t have to remove the grease valve all the way, yet you can allow more of an opening for the grease to come out.

Pointing out where to remove the grease valve in an excavator track

Step 4: Bring the Idler in to Loosen the Track

Lift the machine up. On newer tracks, the idler will go in easily to loosen the track. On older tracks and machines, the idler may not go in all the way. You can use a bar between the sprocket and track to add more tension as the operator runs the machine’s track backwards so that the idler comes in.

Step 5: Punch the Master Pin Out

Line the master pin up in such a way that it is comfortable to swing a hammer without damaging the machine. Put the machine on the ground so the track stays tight when swinging the sledgehammer. You will use a driver to help knock the pin out. Have someone hold the driver as you swing the sledgehammer to knock the pin out. Always wear safety gear and be aware of your surroundings so as not to injure anyone. Once the master pin is out, inside the track are two rings. You do not want to lose the rings as you will need them later for the new track.

Two heavy duty mechanics demonstrate how you can remove the master pin from an excavator using a pin driver and sledgehammer

Step 6: Line Up the New Rubber Tracks

Place the new track on the ground lining it up with the machine. Then walk the machine forwards until the old track is off the machine, then walk it back onto the new tracks. The new tracks go on in a specific way. You want the male end of the link on the track, which is narrower, to go at the front and the female end of the link, which is wider, at the back. An alternative way to get the machine on the track is to use the bucket to pivot the machine from front to back onto the track.

Step 7: Placing on the Track

Demonstrating how to use the excavator bucket and a chain to replace the track on an excavator

You can use the machine to place the track on the top of the sprocket. Use a punch to hook it into the hole and connect the chains. Hook a long chain to the bucket lining the chain length along the machine where you want the track to go. As you walk the machine, the bucket will pull the chain and as the track will go over the sprocket and idler. Once the track is where you want it, use a block of wood to push the bottom of the track up so it will meet the upper part of the track to connect the two ends together.

Step 8: Put in the Master Pin

Heavy duty mechanic hows you how to re-install the master pin on an excavator

Place the washers back into the bottom inside of the track. You can use some grease to hold the washers in if they don’t stay in place. Then line the link holes together. Put in the master pin. Then use the track pin driver and sledgehammer to knock the pin in. You want to only put the master pin in only up to the point where you can place the snap ring back in.

Step 9: Adjust the Track Tension

Heavy mechanic squatting next to the track of a large excavator

Place the grease valve back in and pump in the grease. Add enough grease to tighten the track. Run the machine to check the tension and add more grease if necessary.

For more information about replacing tracks on the excavator, contact Fortis HD.

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