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Final Drives: 4 Important Maintenance Tasks

Final Drives: 4 Important Maintenance Tasks

Jan 18th 2018

We know that your final drive performance is very important, so we broke down its maintenance into four key tasks. If you keep up with these maintenance tasks, you will extend the life of your drive, save money in repairs, and keep your equipment running more efficiently.

Maintenance Task #1: Checking for Leaks

Leaks can be detected quickly if the operators practice a daily walk around. There are two types of leaks that can occur on a final drive: a hydraulic leak and a gear oil leak. Gear oil leaks can be detected by checking for oil behind the sprocket or dripping on the tracks in a tracked machine. A gear oil leak is usually tied to the mechanical face seal (aka, duo cone seal or floating face seal) and needs to be addressed ASAP.

Bobcat Skid Steer

Hydraulic leaks involve a very thin fluid (the consistency of brake fluid) that comes from either a leaking hose (which is a relatively easy fix) or a problem in the hydraulic portion of your final drive. If it isn’t due to a leaking hose, it is most likely a clogged case drain filter. If you find an excessive amount of fluid leaking, its probably going to be hydraulic fluid because there are only a few quarts of gear oil in a typical final drive.

Maintenance Task #2: Checking the Gear Oil

Experts say you should check the gear oil level in your final drive about once every 100 hours of operation. Here are some guidelines on how to do that:

  • 1. When you look at the cover plate of your final drive or travel motor, you should notice two or three plugs. Arrange your final drive so that one plug is at the 12 o’clock position and the other plug is at the 3 o’clock position, as shown in the image.
  • 2. Carefully remove any debris, dirt, mud, sand, soil, etc. from around the plugs so that the gear oil isn’t contaminated as you remove the plugs.
  • 3. Remove both plugs slowly. You may need to strike the plugs with a hammer to loosen them. Keep in mind that the upper plug is for venting purposes and the lower plug is level with the ideal amount of gear oil needed.
  • 4. If the drive has sufficient gear oil, the oil will be level with the 3 o’clock opening, with just a small amount draining out. If the gear oil is low, then you need to add additional oil through the 12 o’clock opening until it begins to run out at the 3 o’clock opening.
  • 5. Once you have finished topping off the oil, replace both plugs.
  • A good rule of thumb for topping off the gear oil in a final drive is “half full is full.”

    Final Drive Oil Level

Maintenance Task #3: Changing out the Gear Oil

You should change out the gear oil (also known as gear lube) at least once a year. It’s best to do this when the oil is warm because it will be much easier for it to drain out. Here are the steps needed to change out the gear oil:

  • 1. Arrange the final drive so that the plugs are in the 3 o’clock and the 6 o’clock position. The 3 o’clock opening is for venting while the 6 o’clock opening will allow the oil to drain out.
  • 2. As before, clean out any debris from around the plugs and remember that you may need to strike the plugs with a hammer to loosen them. Remove both plugs, starting with the bottom plug first and then slowly removing the top plug.
  • 3. As the oil is drained out from the plug in the 6 o’clock position, make sure there are no metallic shavings or metal flakes in the oil. The presence of metal in the oil is indicative of a problem inside the gear hub which means your final drive needs to be serviced.
  • 4. When you are ready to add the fresh gear oil, arrange the final drive so that the openings are in the 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock position.
  • 5. Add fresh gear oil through the 12 o’clock opening until it begins to run out the 3 o’clock opening. DO NOT mix different types of oil.
  • 6. Once you’ve finished adding the oil, replace the plugs.

If you don’t change out the gear oil regularly, you may run low on gear oil, which will do a great deal of damage, and you will experience deterioration in your gear oil that prevents it from doing its job.

Case drain filter maintenance

Maintenance Task #4: Checking the Case Drain Filter

About 90% of final drives and travel drive motors are going to have a case drain filter. It is on the return line to the hydraulic tank and filters out impurities from the hydraulic fluid. If this filter is not checked/changed on a regular basis, it can become clogged, causing a tremendous pressure build-up in the travel motor, and eventually catastrophic damage.

To check the case drain filter, you start by locating the case drain line. Look for a small line next to the in and out hydraulic lines on your final drive or travel motor. Follow the case drain line until you find the filter, which usually looks like an aluminum canister about 3.5” long and about 1.25” in diameter.

Next, remove the filter from the drain line, plug the drain lines to avoid potential contamination and loss of hydraulic fluid, and then take a look at the filter. To inspect the filter, unscrew the hex nut and pull out the tapered sintered-bronze filter element and the springs that are holding it in place. If the filter element is no longer bronze colored, it needs to be replaced.


There are four important maintenance tasks for a final drive that, when performed as regularly, can save you thousands of dollars in repairs:

  • regularly checking your final drive for evidence of leaks
  • checking the levels of gear oil on a regular basis
  • changing the gear oil on a regular basis
  • checking/replacing the case drain filter on a regular basis

If you take the time to perform these simple maintenance tasks, your final drive will last longer and perform better, saving you both time and money in the long run. It doesn’t matter what that final drive is on — whether its a compact track loader, multi-terrain loader, or mini-excavator, these are the tasks you don’t want to forget!

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CAT SSL Hydraulic Motors

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