Floating face seals are essential components of travel motors or final drives, playing a crucial role in various heavy equipment, from skid steers to compact track loaders. These seals are responsible for sealing the gear oil on the planetary side, while also preventing harmful contaminants from entering and damaging the bearings and gears. In this article, we will explore five important things you should know about floating face seals and the maintenance of track drives.
Floating face seals, also known as duo-cone seals, dual-cone seals, toric rings, mechanical face seals, or main seals, consist of two matching halves. Each half comprises a seal ring and a toric elastomeric ring, which acts as a secondary sealing element. The seal rings possess precision ground/lapped faces that mate with each other, while the elastomeric ring forces the two seal halves together, ensuring an effective seal.
Although floating face seals are designed to withstand extreme conditions encountered in construction and earth-moving equipment, they have a finite lifespan and need to be replaced periodically. Extending the lifespan of these seals involves diligent cleaning to remove debris from around the face seal, using a hose or pressure washer. Neglecting cleaning tasks can lead to the accumulation of abrasive contaminants, significantly reducing the seal's longevity.
When a floating face seal fails, it results in a leak behind the sprocket, compromising the tight seal it once provided. This leak allows gear oil to escape, leading to damage and corrosion on the planetary side of the final drive. Additionally, abrasive materials such as mud, sand, concrete, dirt, and other debris that accumulate around the final drive and undercarriage gain access to the precision gears and bearings in the travel motor. The mixture of contaminants and gear oil forms a thick, unpleasant sludge that hampers lubrication, causing excessive heat, abrasion, erosion, scarring, scratching, gouging, and ultimately leading to the malfunctioning of the final drive.
Floating face seals can fail due to various factors. One common cause is exceeding the rated lifespan of the seal, necessitating its replacement with a new one. Another prevalent cause is the displacement of the seal due to the accumulation of contaminants around its exterior. This process gradually damages the o-ring, weakening its ability to hold the seal faces tightly together. Over time, debris infiltrates the seal faces, further exacerbating the problem. Damaged o-rings can be easily identified by their shredded appearance, indicating a need for immediate attention.
To prevent premature failure of your face seals, it is crucial to regularly clean the undercarriage of your machine using a pressure washer. This simple maintenance step can save you significant repair costs down the line. Additionally, if you notice frequent top-offs of gear oil or observe gear oil leakage behind the sprocket, it is an indication of seal problems that require immediate replacement. Addressing these leaks promptly will help you save money by avoiding more extensive damage.
In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of floating face seals and their maintenance is crucial for the optimal performance and longevity of your heavy equipment. Regular cleaning, timely seal replacements, and diligent attention to any signs of failure will ensure that your travel motors or final drives continue to operate smoothly, saving you time, money, and potential headaches in the long run. So, take care of your floating face seals, and they will take care of your equipment!