Eli5: Why do some excavators have wheels?

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I’ve always seen excavators running on tracks, but this morning while driving through a major highway upgrade I saw 3 excavators which were running on wheels. What constitutes the need for wheels, and how does it limit the machine in terms of where it can go/what it can do?

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Wheels are much faster then tracks as there is far less rolling resistance. This means that the excavator can move fast between different job sites without any help. So it is no surprise that highway workers prefer them over tracked excavators. The problem with wheeled excavators is that they are no good off road. A lot of work sites are located in muddy places where the wheels will just dig into the mud. The tracks are able to distribute the weight over much more ground so that the excavator does not sink into the mud, or at least is able to dig its way out of a hole much easier. But they can not go faster then walking pace. So they can not move quickly out of traffic or across a site and if you need to move them far you have to load them onto a truck to get there in any reasonable time.

Anonymous 0 Comments

To add to this, metal tracks would tear up and destroy asphalt and concrete. They use rubber tires mainly to protect the surface they are probably working on.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Generally speaking, wheels are faster and lower maintenance, but they provide less traction so they are generally used for loaders and transporters