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M1 Abrams Track Throwing


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Walter_Sobchak #1 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:24

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Over in the Tank Lore Modern Vehicles section, someone posted a rather absurd PDF by military "reformer" Pierre Sprey in which he criticizes the M1 Abrams for easily shedding it's tracks.  I dug into this a bit deeper, and this seems to be a commonly repeated complaint by the reformer crowd in the 1980s. An example of this is the 1990 POGO report "The Army's M1 tank: Has it Lived Up to Expectations?" which states:

 

Block Quote

In addition, the M1's suspension and track system suffers from a propensity for throwing the track off the tank.  In particular, the armor that covers the top of the track system has a habit of trapping mud, snow and sand around the drive sprocket (the wheel which actually moves the track), which causes it to throw the track off the tank.  Despite the Army's insistence that this problem has been solved, it was recently cited in a British Army review of the M1 tank.7  That article cites:

- Poor suspension when compared to the excellent system on the Challenger (British main battle tank)
- Short track life
- Rear skirting plate allows mud to build up around sprocket, thus encouraging a thrown track

 

I have found most of the claims made by the 1980's era "reformer" crowd to be a bit dubious.  I was just wondering what your experiences were regarding the track system of the M1 and whether thrown tracks were actually a serious issue or not. 

 



The_Chieftain #2 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:45

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The rear skirts were modified years and years ago due to the mud buildup problem.. That is a very old document. We also have a newer track type in service since then.

Blackhorse_Six_ #3 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:47

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In my experience, this "propensity" to throw track had more to do with track tension and speed more than anything else.

 

This problem was noted by Chrysler/GDLSD engineers and Army evaluators during testing at the various proving grounds to which the M1 was sent.

 

Additional training in tank-handling, more attention to track tension and the addition of the anti-shed ring on the drive sprocket greatly reduced the problem.

 

Later-on, the anti-shed ring was no longer necessary, RE: Post #2

 

Bernice Street Plant



Trooper_Lefty #4 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:49

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At Fort Bliss from '91-'93, I had a problem with the sand collecting around the rear sprocket and popping off the track of the LT's tank. I don't know if it was the way I was driving or what, but I don't recall it happening on the other ones I drove. The gunner was usually riding in the TC's hatch and watching for it to happen so we could walk it back on without actually throwing the track. I don't remember it happening with the others in the platoon either, so maybe it was just something about that tank. Other than that, the suspension was great and we didn't have any problems about track life.

CarnageINC #5 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:51

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I was a M1A1 tanker in the 90's.  I have 10 years experience and I have to say this is utter [edited].  Of course if you don't do good track maintenance and keep your track tension up your going to throw your track in certain conditions.  Any tank will do that.  Will it just throw track for no good reason....no it will not.  I've heard that the old track on the M1 had its problems with the center guides being to small or fragile.  But that was rectified by the time I got on the tanks.

 

Is the skirt system on the Abrams optimal...no, in my opinion it is not.  Especially the little skirt on the rear of the tank.  Its flimsy and does allow a lot of mud to build up.  Normally it gets ripped apart anyways if you don't clean out around your sprockets.  Bad thing is, if you don't have them on your tank, you get very large rooster tails when at high speed and it will start flipping mud back onto your engine deck and turret.  Will this cause a track to be thrown, no. 

 

Track is thrown when your tension is to weak and you get a lot of mud and gunk on the inner inside of the track when doing sharp pivoting turns.  If you don't clean out the sprocket, it has holes in them to allow mud to escape, then all the gets pushed up into the sprocket and it pops.  Can a good driver avoid this...yes.  Experience matters.  But you do have to do clean out your sprockets when your doing maintenance.

 

As far as track life...I have to say you can replace a lot of end connectors on the track from time to time.  But again, keeping up with maintenance is key.


Edited by CarnageINC, Jun 10 2014 - 17:04.


ZombieFlanders #6 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:54

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what chieftain said.

 

i read in a book that ive had since i was a kid that this was definitely an issue in early M1s in the 80s, but experimentation with different skirt cover types over the drive sprocket and other small modifications fixed it.



CarnageINC #7 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 16:54

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View PostBlackhorse_Six, on Jun 10 2014 - 10:47, said:

 

In my experience, this "propensity" to throw track had more to do with track tension and speed more than anything else.

 

This problem was noted by Chrysler/GDLSD and Army evaluators during testing at the various proving grounds to which the M1 was sent.

 

Additional training in tank-handling, more attention to track tension and the addition of the anti-shed ring on the drive sprocket greatly reduced the problem.

 

The anti-shed ring was later no longer necessary, RE: Post #2

 

Bernice Street Plant

 

I heard horror stories of those anti shed rings!!!  Those seem to contribute to the problem, trapping in more mud, not allowing it any place to go.  So glad I never had to mess with those!



No_Quarter25 #8 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 17:07

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I drove the M1 in 1983-1986. 64th Armor Brigade. "We Pierce"

Of course they were brand new then, and inexperience with the tank made my whole Company throw tracks constantly.

I was the only one that could boast about not throwing a track; Till one rainy day I made a sharp turn up a hill and threw them both.



CarnageINC #9 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 17:20

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View PostNo_Quarter25, on Jun 10 2014 - 11:07, said:

I drove the M1 in 1983-1986. 64th Armor Brigade. "We Pierce"

Of course they were brand new then, and inexperience with the tank made my whole Company throw tracks constantly.

I was the only one that could boast about not throwing a track; Till one rainy day I made a sharp turn up a hill and threw them both.

 

Bravo sir....your hard learned lessons in the mid 80's helped us 90's tankers out immensely!  Thank you for all the hard work you guys did to find all the flaws in the system! :wink:

 

Which battalion where you in?  Just curious, 1-64 AR was my first home and my most favored unit I served with.



Walter_Sobchak #10 Posted Jun 10 2014 - 17:45

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Thank you all for your replies, that is much more than I expected!  Reading through the stuff put out by the 80's/90's era "reformer' folks, it seems their primary tactic is to take information for a very mature system, such as the M60A3, and then cherry pick information and stats that compare favorably to whatever teething problems were being experienced by the newest system, the M1.  Any new system is going to have issues.  Heck, from what I have read, both the M47 and the M48 had all sorts of unexpected issues when first introduced.  The M60 was a bit less troublesome since it was essentially an upgrade of the M48, but even it had issues that took a while to resolve.  In particular, I seem to remember the air intake filters being a problem on the M60.  Oddly enough, I didn't see a single mention in the reformer complaints about the M1 concerning its air filter issues, although from what I understand, this was a legitimate issue in early models.  Funny how tricky something like air filters can be...

 

 



Blackhorse_Six_ #11 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 15:28

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Air filters can be a PITA on any model ...

 

it's a matter of how they are designed, how they are loaded, and how they are seated against the intakes.

 

The M60 series started-out with side-loading filters, which weren't too bad, but a short guy had to fight with them a little bit to get them seated in the field. In the Motor Pool, there was usually some roller stairs to stand on fpr better leverage. The top-loaders just dropped right in and sealed when the covers were tightened-down.

 

Every battalion and squadron submits oil samples from every vehicle to a national lab for analysis on a quarterly schedule. Varying levels of dirty oil are reported back to the owning units (the lab also checks for metal content pertaining to engine and transmission wear). Recommended corrections, often pertaining to air filters, are recommended in the report.

 

At the moment, I cannot remember any stand-out problem with air filters on the M1 except that the very early filter seals were not strong enough, which allowed sand and other particulates into the engine. Of course, once the seal is broken, airflow bypasses the filter entirely. This problem wasn't so much the material quality of the seals concerned, but rather with the framework of the filter itself, and it's inability to resist warping when the air filter had degraded to "x" percentage of efficiency and began to vacuum-collapse the filter and scrunch the filter frame, which lifted the seal ...



Echo_Sniper #12 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 19:43

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But isn't it true that the M1 burns through tracks faster than other modern tanks?

 

Might be wrong though...



ren9999 #13 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 20:43

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speaking of track wear on the Abrams... i seem to recall hearing that there were speed limiters installed on the abrams tank, significantly lowering the top speed, because going above the newly reduced top speed would wear out the tracks so fast it wasnt worth it. is this correct?

 

the other thing i once heard was that the abrams could run on any combustible liquid, alcohols like vodka were mentioned. probably not true, but... i cant be sure


Edited by ren9999, Jun 11 2014 - 20:46.


Audie_L_Murphy #14 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 21:05

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So, I'm going to assume that the early models of the M1 carried a small & large repair kit & maybe even a toolbox to quickly repair those nasty tracks!

CarnageINC #15 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 21:36

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View PostEcho_Sniper, on Jun 11 2014 - 13:43, said:

But isn't it true that the M1 burns through tracks faster than other modern tanks?

 

Might be wrong though...

 

When you say 'burns through tracks' I think your mistakenly thinking that tracks are like car tires.  They wear out all at once and then there done for.  This is not so.  The biggest wear you will see on tracks are the end connectors.  These are what helps keep each track pad connected to another.  Those are what the sprockets grab to move the tank.  They take a lot of abuse and do wear out.  They are mostly replaced over time during maintenance checks.  Anytime a crew in the field is out of action, that is a maintenance check time.  This is just for M1's, its for all heavy combat vehicles.

 

The next biggest parts that wear out are the center guides and the actual pad itself.  Pads wear out like end connectors, at different rates.  You used to be able to maintain your track life longer by replacing out the most worn or damaged pads, the older track sets had that ability.  Those were phased out for the new all in one pads.  Those, in my opinion, had a good life span.  To be honest, during my time in we didn't do a lot of hard surface travel like the boys did in Iraq.



CarnageINC #16 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 21:46

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View Postren9999, on Jun 11 2014 - 14:43, said:

speaking of track wear on the Abrams... i seem to recall hearing that there were speed limiters installed on the abrams tank, significantly lowering the top speed, because going above the newly reduced top speed would wear out the tracks so fast it wasnt worth it. is this correct?

 

the other thing i once heard was that the abrams could run on any combustible liquid, alcohols like vodka were mentioned. probably not true, but... i cant be sure

 

Yes, during peace time the tanks had engine governors that limited them in top speed performance.  This is mostly do to how hard speed is on tracks.  It kept maintenance and fuel costs down, in addition for safety factors.  I can honestly say during my time as a driver on the M1A1HA I have had my tank above 55 mph on flat open ground before.  Horse power varies a lot from tank to tank due to engine wear and tear, transmission, fuel and how clean your V packs were.

 

An yes, the turbine engine can run on various fuels in a bind, I have no clue on alcohols to be honest.  I don't know where or why you would ever want to use that much booze to run a tank...i would rather have a humongous party with that much booze!



CarnageINC #17 Posted Jun 11 2014 - 21:50

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View PostAudie_L_Murphy, on Jun 11 2014 - 15:05, said:

So, I'm going to assume that the early models of the M1 carried a small & large repair kit & maybe even a toolbox to quickly repair those nasty tracks!

 

LOL...I would say any model of the M1 needs all that stuff...if only it were that easy to fix....click...select track....bing....keep moving....WOOT!  LOL



collimatrix #18 Posted Jun 12 2014 - 03:10

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View PostEcho_Sniper, on Jun 11 2014 - 20:43, said:

But isn't it true that the M1 burns through tracks faster than other modern tanks?

 

Might be wrong though...

 

I would be surprised.  The tracks are basically the same design, and made by the same company as the tracks on leo 2, leclerc challenger 2 and ariete.



Dominatus #19 Posted Jun 12 2014 - 03:41

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View Postcollimatrix, on Jun 11 2014 - 22:10, said:

I would be surprised.  The tracks are basically the same design, and made by the same company as the tracks on leo 2, leclerc challenger 2 and ariete.

NATO standardization seems to result in very big defense contracts sometimes.



collimatrix #20 Posted Jun 12 2014 - 04:51

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I'm not clear on whether they're literally the same, interchangeable model of track, or whether nobody wants to go through the bother of designing tracks and just asks Diehel to make something that fits.




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