Rubber Tracks vs Rubber Pads

Which is better – Rubber Tracks or Rubber Pads?



Introduction to Rubber Tracks...

As a market leading supplier of spare parts for excavators to the plant hire industry, we often get asked by customers as to the benefits of rubber tracks versus rubber pads.


More and more manufacturers are offering their diggers on Steel tracks rather than on rubber tracks which is the more traditional option.  This is particularly the case on excavators from 5 ton upwards.  SPS can offer rubber pads to fit onto these steel tracks.


Rubber tracked excavators first made their debut in the early 80’s and became popular due to their compact size and adaptability.  As machines became more popular, the rubber track industry was also developed.


Early rubber tracks were made in a long length, then the ends were overlapped and joined.  This initially caused issues with the rubber track pulling apart under extreme tension.


More recent advances have led to the tracks being manufactured as a continuous loop (Sometimes known as Jointless Track Technology or J-track), which eliminated the risk of the tracks pulling apart.


Some of the benefits of rubber tracks are as follows:


  • Relative low cost
  • Quick to change
  • Lighter weight for situations where weight is a constraint
  • Smoother tracking, particularly on smaller excavators


Some of the disadvantages of rubber tracks are as follows:

  • Once a rubber track snaps, it cannot be repaired like a steel track can
  • Rubber tracks can be difficult to dispose of due to environmental legislation (although SPS offer an industry leading track recycling scheme - click here for more info!)


Introduction to Rubber Pads...

Rubber Pads are a more recent development in the excavator market.  First developed in Japan where steel tracked excavators are the norm, but also extensively used in urban environments, rubber pads offered a way to protect delicate surfaces from damage caused by steel tracks.


3 different types of rubber pads were developed, and gradually over the years, 2 types have remained popular as follows:


Roadliner Rubber Pads 

Roadliner pads or City pads as they are sometimes known, bolt directly to the steel track chain, in place of where a steel track pad is normally fitted.


Whilst they were originally very popular, they have generally fallen out of favour due to the fact that it is difficult to retain so much strength of the pad when compared to standard steel pads.  SPS would not generally recommend using this type of rubber pad, except in some very specific circumstances where weight limits are an issue.  Our sales team are more than happy to discuss your requirements further if you give them a call on 01430 828945.

Bolt-On Rubber Pads 

Bolt-on style rubber pads have become the pad of choice for 5 ton and 8 ton mini excavators.  These pads bolt down through the steel track pad, and retain the strength of the steel pad + give the protection to delicate surfaces.


The K-Series pad supplied by SPS takes this protection one step further!  Offering 32% increased wear resistance than other pads on the market, these pads minimise spare parts costs for plant operators.


Some other features about the K-series bolt-on rubber pads:

  • All K-series rubber pads use dome head nuts for securing the pads, to make removal easy at a later date if required.
  • These pads are available for most common 5 ton, 8 ton and 13 ton excavators on the market
  • These pads are available in 400mm, 450mm and 500mm widths.


Clip-On Rubber Pads 

The second style of rubber pad that is also very popular is the Clip-on style pad. 


These pads are typically used on 13 and 20 ton excavators, but we can also offer versions to suit 8 ton excavators as well.


The benefits of Clip-on rubber pads is that they are very quick to fit, as they just clip over the existing steel pads.  In particular, the K-series rubber pad supplied by SPS has a fixed clip to one end of the pad which means that only one end of the pad has to be secured which halves the fitting time.  This also has the added benefit of being like the bolt-on pads where the strength of the steel track shoe is retained.


Some of the overall benefits of all types of rubber pads are as follows:

  • Increased durability due to the fact that steel tracks last 2-3 times the life of a rubber track
  • Flexibility to change between steel & rubber depending on application
  • Lower lifetime costs compared with rubber tracks


Some of the disadvantages of rubber pads are:

  • Higher upfront cost compared with rubber tracks
  • Increased fitting time compared with rubber tracks
  • Rubber pads normally increase the weight of the machine.

So what is the verdict? Rubber Tracks or Rubber Pads?

So finally, what is the verdict - are rubber tracks or rubber pads the best for me?


This is a difficult question to answer, but our recommendation is that on diggers which are 4 ton and below stick with rubber tracks - you will struggle to get much benefit out of switching to rubber pads.


For machine 5 ton and upwards, we feel that operators or fleet managers should take a serious look at rubber pads.  Some key considerations are:


  • How quickly are you replacing your fleet? If you are changing your fleet around the 2 year mark, then you may be best to stick with rubber tracks.  In a typical plant hire environment, a rubber track will last 18 - 24 months.  If you are changing your fleet around this point, then you won’t really get much benefit out of running your machines on rubber pads.  If you swap your fleet after this point then it could be a different story.
  • If you are running machines on demolition type sites, or a lot of rubble and hardcore, then having machines on rubber pads allows you to remove the pads for these applications and switch back when that job is finished.
  • Cash flow - rubber pads have a higher upfront cost. Typically you will be looking at 1.25 to 1.75 times the cost of a rubber track but rubber pads will last approx 3-4 time as long as rubber tracks, so over the lifetime of the digger you will see significant savings.


For machines 13 ton and up, rubber pads are really the only viable option, due to the weight of the machine being too heavy for the rubber track.


I trust this article is of interest to you, and we would love to hear feedback from the industry.  Please feel free to email your viewpoints to


We look forward to hearing from you!


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