5 Simple Final Drive Maintenance Tips

5 Simple Final Drive Maintenance Tips

View All Parts From This Machine: John Deere 724J Wheel Loader
View Parts

Every week, the H&R technicians pop the covers on final drives from recently salvaged machines and witness first-hand the effects of a solid (or not so solid) maintenance plan on a final drive. No final drive will last forever, but the difference between a final drive that can be rebuilt and a final drive that is headed for the scrap pile often comes down to how it was cared for in the field. 

But maintaining the final drives on your excavator, dozer, or other tracked construction equipment isn’t just about making sure they last as long as possible, keeping a final drive well maintained and running properly will benefit your entire machine.

As a leading supplier of new and reconditioned final drives, we understand the time and costs associated with replacing a final drive aren’t insignificant, so we’ve put together these short tips to help you extend your final drive’s life and to keep your machine running well.

How Often Should I Inspect My Final Drive?

If there’s one rule to maintaining your final drive it's simple: Inspect it often. When you catch an issue early, you can change the cost of repair from the time it takes you to remove and replace a final drive to the time it takes you to tighten a connection. At a minimum, you should give your final drive a quick, daily once-over and look for the easy to spot signs. Not every issue will announce itself loudly, but when one does it’s a clear sign that something needs addressing.

When it comes to inspecting your final drive, here’s our 5 fast tips for final drive maintenance.

Maintain a Clean Final Drive and Undercarriage (At Every Stage)

At its most basic, keeping your final drive and your undercarriage clean is about keeping your final drive in view since leaks and other issues can hide behind layers of dirt and grease. Routinely taking time to blast off dirt and debris is the best way to unmask troubles and make sure if they do show up, you’ll spot them right away.

Cleanliness, however, isn’t just for something to practice in the field. At all times you should work to avoid the opportunities for contamination in your final drive including when adding oil or servicing your final drive. Nobody wants to discover their maintenance actually created issues, and taking care to maintain a clean work environment is one of the best ways to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Caterpillar D6M final drive
Caterpillar has stamped this final drive with simple labels to indicate fill, drain, and level -- but the final drive and the undercarriage might be hiding issues under layers of dirt and debris.

Check for Leaks in Your Final Drive and Watch Levels

A leaking final drive not only leads to a loss in productivity of the final drive, it also leads to a dramatic increase in how fast internal parts will wear out. The gear oil inside of the final drive reduces friction and dissipates heat and due to the constant movement of gears inside the drive even a short span in a low oil environment can be catastrophic. 

The process of checking your gear oil level can be unique to your manufacturer, but generally it will involve either using a fill line on the final drive that should be positioned horizontal to the ground and removing a plug or using two or three plugs set to certain degrees to indicate the proper fill. 

In a common two plug system, the bottom plug will be the drain plug while the side plug is used for checking levels -- if the plug is removed and oil flows out the system is properly filled. In a three plug system, the third (top) plug is used for adding oil.

If you don’t know your exact technique, check your operator’s manual for how to check the final drive’s gear oil level -- that’s the sure shot for being positive you’re doing it right.

Change Your Final Drive Gear Oil On Time

You’ve probably already established a routine for how often you change the hydraulic oil on your equipment, but since most final drives in heavy construction equipment have a separate fluid housing you’ll need to make sure you’re not neglecting maintenance on this oil.

The general rule for gear oil is about once a year, but the actual frequency is determined by the operating conditions under which your machine is working, and, again, your operator’s manual should have insight about the best frequency for your machine.

When you change the oil on your final drive take a minute to examine your spent oil, too. By taking a close look for discoloration and even rubbing a little oil in your fingertips to feel for metal particles you can spot issues inside of your final drive before they develop further. If you do catch discoloration or metal, a specialist can help diagnose the problem with a sample of the oil.

Hitachi final drive
This final drive -- from a Hitachi 230LC excavator -- indicates the up, level, and drain. To put the final drive into the proper position an operator would need to move forward until "UP" pointed up and the level plug was horizontal with the ground.

Change Your Filters on Schedule

While some final drives have their own filter, any final drive connected to the machine’s hydraulic system (like in an excavator) will be affected by the quality of the machine’s hydraulic oil. Keeping your machine’s hydraulic oil clean and replaced on time will reduce the strain on your final drive and your machine overall.

Final drive parts
An H&R technician has disassembled a final drive and is inspecting the internal parts and replacing worn parts before rebuilding the final drive.

Be a Thoughtful Operator

Because of the forces your final drive is working under and its location on your machine, how you operate your machine can have a great effect on the longevity of your final drive. Being thoughtful about avoiding impacts to your drive system while in reverse, minimizing times operating under maximum loads or at full output, and even being mindful of the conditions in which you’re working can all add to the life of your final drive.


If you’ve made it here, you’re a few steps further in starting and keeping a good maintenance schedule and while no final drive will last forever that schedule will hopefully keep your final drive running well and you out of the shop for as long as possible.

If your final drive has reached the end of its life (for whatever reason, we don’t judge), we’re here to help with a nearly-unmatched inventory of new and rebuilt final drives for construction equipment -- all backed by a great warranty, industry expertise, and helpful customer support.



Final Drive Image Gallery

Komatsu D51EX final drive
The final drive on this Komatsu D51EX crawler dozer has an oil level plug that should be horizontal with the ground to check and add oil and a bottom drain for removing and replacing oil.
Caterpillar 850C final drive
This Caterpillar 850C final drive has an overworn and mud-loaded sprocket impacting its effectiveness and raising questions about what it looks like inside, as well.
Caterpillar 320F final drive
When a final drive fails it can lead to an immediate stop in work and delays while a replacement is found -- a little extra care and a watchful eye can catch issues early.